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James Semple's Blog (42)

Taking the fifth!

OK ... I HAVE to tackle this subject because I've found that it so often comes up in musical conversation and is massively misunderstood. The usage and avoidance of parallel fifths and parallel octaves

My idea is to try and get the basic understanding across of when we do and don't use these devices and most of the reasoning why. As it can be a bit of a touchy subject I had the article double-checked by two musicologists: Maria Antal and Yaiza Varona.…


Added by James Semple on February 14, 2013 at 7:17am — 7 Comments

John Williams in Love

Hey everyone, sorry it's been so long since my last blog post. I finally found a new subject that I thought would be perfect. Also apologies for the lack of formatting. I'm writing this from my phone on a train in Rome. When I get to a laptop I'll clean it up.

In this article we're going to examine a device used by John Williams in many of his love themes. In the past I've examined how he uses the harmonic minor to great effect. Here we are going to look at his usage of the melodic… Continue

Added by James Semple on November 27, 2012 at 5:30am — 7 Comments

A simple but effective reverb setup

Hi all,


I know I know it's been ages but I thought I'd quickly throw out a blog on how I set up my reverb for orchestral mixes. I used to use a really, really complicated method but of late I've settled on something fairly simple and straightforward that I feel works and gives a realistic result and uses fairly modest CPU.


I'm literally only going to use QL Spaces for this and we're going to set up some sends.


So as a starting point we might as…


Added by James Semple on March 12, 2012 at 11:18am — 17 Comments

Harmonic Mining


Yes! It's the return of my blog posts and their awful puns for titles... I can never resist them! Recently I'd been investigating some orchestral scores from favourite composers and realised that some of my favourite sounds and devices were achieved by using the harmonic minor scale as a resource but in a non-traditional way. Eventually I felt I had enough material to dedicate an entire blog post to it. Hopefully this will be…


Added by James Semple on September 26, 2011 at 5:58am — 2 Comments

The Composiums

This is just an incredibly brief blog post to say thank you so much to everyone who came along to the Composium this last weekend.

I was especially pleased to see all the new people who turned up this time and fit right into the group. Lots of excellent discussions on a variety of subjects (occasionally music even came up) ... lots of laughs, lots of drinks and some excellent, excellent food at a beautiful restaurant.

My feeling is that the next one will be in…


Added by James Semple on October 19, 2010 at 11:06am — 1 Comment

Oil and Water

As many people here know, film scores are subject to the whims of fashion. One thing I've noticed of late has been a scary comeback of an instrument that had long been absent from 'big' film scores since the late 80s.

I speak of ... the electric guitar!

Yes, once common in every score from Top Gun to The Rock this byword for 'instant cool' in movie scores has long been away.

I first noticed the return with (another Bruckheimer…


Added by James Semple on October 6, 2010 at 9:00am — 5 Comments

A new scale?

Hi everyone, I've been using a technique that I heard Jerry Goldsmith used to use. Basically he would take two chords that he was using in a progression but were from different keys. Often they would be chromatic mediants. He would then build a scale using just the notes from the chords.

So I've done this now using three chords ... Bm Cm and Ebm.

My final scale (using enharmonics) is B C D Eb F# G A#

Now I've tried to fit this to several scales…


Added by James Semple on September 28, 2010 at 5:44am — 5 Comments

Two hands, no waiting.

Hi CF,

If someone asked me what was important about 2010 for digital samples I'd really only have one reply: polyphonic legato.

You are probably going to see this couplet bandied around a lot in advertising and marketing this year and I thought it might be useful to explain what it means to us as composers working with virtual instruments.

Firstly a quick recap ... what does it mean to have legato samples? It means that we can create…


Added by James Semple on August 23, 2010 at 4:30pm — 6 Comments

Indiana James and the LASS-ed Crusade

Yeah ... I really apologise for these awful blog titles. I simply can't resist.

This post is an informal follow-up to my posts on legato strings and creating my template. Given that my legato strings post was so popular and that the strings are usually the backbone of people's orchestral templates I felt it natural to go in this direction. In a future article I'll discuss work with VSL woodwind, EW brass and various Kontakt…


Added by James Semple on July 28, 2010 at 7:00am — 3 Comments

Indiana James and the Template of Doom


Hi ... James here again with another blog about digital orchestration and what we can get out of the tools available. I'm going to start blogging about my current template and the process I've been through to get it all working. I'm hoping that I can share what I've learned and help other people to avoid the pains I've been through. This specific blog post discusses the rationale behind building templates and what I was aiming to achieve. I'll…


Added by James Semple on June 15, 2010 at 11:20am — 4 Comments

Get together in June

Hi everyone,

We're planning another get-together in London. This one is going to be on Saturday, June 12th. Again it will be an informal drink, meal and chat kind of thing.

The idea is we meet up for drinks and then trundle along to some restaurant in the middle of London. Last time we spent the whole night swapping war stories and chattering along about music. Huge amount of fun and not an ego in sight!

If you are able to get along and are…


Added by James Semple on May 11, 2010 at 4:22am — 6 Comments

Creating realistic legato strings with samples

Creating Realistic Legato Strings With Samples

Hi everyone,

I get a lot of requests from people asking about how to get good legato strings whether they need to buy LASS, what reverbs they need, etc. In the end I thought it would be a good idea to simply write a blog about the principles behind getting good legato strings and let people try out the the techniques and see for themselves. I'm really focusing on slower…


Added by James Semple on April 21, 2010 at 7:04am — 13 Comments

LA Scoring Strings ... Full TILT!

Hi all,

Well I've realised that my LASS demos have received a lot of attention so I thought I'd post up something new with them.

Although this new piece is scored with just LASS (and a tiny dash of Cinesamples' Cineharp glissandi) it is also really demonstrating the strength of a new library of Impulse Responses called FORTI.



Added by James Semple on March 18, 2010 at 7:11am — 1 Comment

Composers' Forum Get-together in London in late February

Hi all,

I was thinking of planning a get together for members of this forum somewhere in central London at back-end of February. My current proposed date would be the evening of Saturday February 27th.

As this is a fairly short notice thing the idea would be to meet for drinks and then head out to a restaurant. Ideally this would just give everyone a chance to meet face-to-face and get to know each other. If this works out well then there's a good chance that we'll follow… Continue

Added by James Semple on January 17, 2010 at 9:21am — 17 Comments

Second wind!

Hi fellow CF-ers!

It's been a while since my last post but I've had a shot of inspiration and have decided to write another article on orchestration. This time I'm returning to the woodwind section.

The Current State of Play

I think the first thing to mention here is that my situation with regards to woodwind is different from where it was when I wrote the last article.

Firstly, I now have access to a live woodwind player of amazing capability. She's… Continue

Added by James Semple on November 27, 2009 at 11:05am — 2 Comments

LA Scoring Strings

Well this is just a quick blog post to say "Wow!"

These arrived last night and they are amazing. I'll go into more and more detail over the coming weeks.

In the meantime please take this demo put together extremely hastily. I will be refining it over the next few nights.

This doesn't even get close to showing what LASS can do but… Continue

Added by James Semple on July 28, 2009 at 4:30am — 9 Comments

Action Music 2: This time it's personal!

Hi fellow Forumlings

Well after my first action music blog post there had to be the inevitable sequel.

So ... my first post had no aspirations to be comprehensive but it tried to cover some of the basics. In this post I'd like to cover a few more tricks that I've used of late. Again there's no effort to cover all bases but more to open discussion. I'm sure I'll have further posts on this… Continue

Added by James Semple on June 22, 2009 at 7:00am — 1 Comment

Sci-fi ... and Elves?

Well it's been a while since I wrote anything about composition techniques and I thought it was time to post a new blog.

Anyone who reads a lot of these blogs will be aware that one of the main things I've always loved about film music is the specific harmonic devices employed. To date I've already covered chromatic mediants, tritones, bitonality and planing.

In this blog I want to briefly discuss a fairly simple device which is exceptionally effective for giving a sense… Continue

Added by James Semple on June 15, 2009 at 4:30am — No Comments

Lights! Camera! Action (music)

Ok, so it's been a while and I've been very busy but I thought I'd try and drop in a quick blog post about writing action/fight music.

A brief overview

Lots of action scenes take place accompanied by major themes from a film or even background songs. This is not really the kind of action music I'm looking at here. What I'm discussing in this post is classic action music - frantic, dissonant and often quite bewildering. Think of everything from Jerry Goldsmith's work to… Continue

Added by James Semple on January 19, 2009 at 11:33am — 13 Comments

The Secret Sauce

In light of my more popular blog posts I decided to really give the game away here and post up some of my favoured mix/production techniques.

A review of my commercially available music ( brought to light that the freely available music on my website is not of the quality of my current output. To this end I've decided to… Continue

Added by James Semple on October 21, 2008 at 11:00am — 10 Comments

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