Unlike my past projects, my next score will be live recorded by an orchestra. As normal, I will write and record everything electronically, but then it will be charted and given to live musicians to play and the results will be what is heard in the movie.

I am very excited and this is new for me. However, my main question is regarding the size of the orchestra needed. 

The budget for the orchestra, recording, venue, engineer etc. is about $40,000 american. But we will not be utilizing a full 90 piece symphonic orchestra due to costs. What number of musicians do you think will suffice, to get the quality live sound? We will have strings, some brass, wind and piano. Percussion i am on the fence. But mainly, I want to have a solid string presence. 

Any help would be appreciated. I'm trying to put together a quality group of 20-30. Is that too small?

Does anybody have an idea of a good numerical breakdown for what instruments and how many of each section?

Ex. ____ violins, ______ viola, ___ cello, ____ flutes, _____ clarinets. 

Again, I am thinking about putting most into strings and then having 1 or 2 of other instruments that will at times carry leads, like oboe etc.

Thanks in advance for any assistance. 

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  • 100% correct. I guess within the realm of what questions you've addressed, my main thought is, "How many will get it done?" 

    We want all live instrumentation and believe we have the budget to get it done with a decent sized group of players. The budget isn't massive though and I want to make the most out of it. So, my concern is along the lines of, "how many of each live instrument is needed to get the proper feel for a real proper sized orchestra."

    We don't have a budget for 90 live musicians, a conductor etc. to play for a couple 3 hour sessions. But we do have the budget for as much as maybe 35-40. (with room for hall, engineer, equipment, my composing fee etc).

    So, With that group of lets say, "35," what is a good break down of each section to fulfill the desired sound. 

    I appreciate all responses though, as the other options are a back up plan. But something I would like to avoid if possible. 

    O. Olmnilnlolm said:


    I think a few of us may have misunderstood the question, and perhaps confused each other by our responses (or maybe become confused, by concentrating on the responses, instead of the original question).  So I looked back.


    The first question was, "What number of musicians do you think will suffice, to get the quality live sound?"


    So, I believe, this is really about the MAXIMUM number of musicians the composer can get, not the minimum, to achieve literally LIVE SOUND.  It's not about reducing the size of the orchestra, or putting forth simulations, dubbed samples (whether of high quality or low quality), or using overdubs, or duplicating a set of musicians by recording and playback.


    Diane says,


    "I have the wages for this union and so I know how many each musician will cost."


    So this involves a union, and genuine living performers, really playing, and receiving a wage, as part of a team of musicians.  It doesn't seem to involve an attempt to use automation, or cost cutting techniques, or recording "tricks" to minimize the wages of actual working musicians attempting to make their living (collectively, or as individuals).


    The answer would appear to be to take the total allowable budget, and then to hire and pay as many of the musicians as can possibly be employed, in such a way as to maximize the extent of full real live sound produced, in accordance with the demands of the score.   [As opposed to cutting out violinists, and re-recording lines, then superimposing them, or such artful deceptions, however effective they might be].


    When I say, maximize the number of musicians, I don't mean creating a Mahler-esque sized orchestra, but merely one that would contain all the instruments, all the standard instruments in each instrument group (brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion, piano and extras) that would make a standard orchestra, as if one were to play a Mozart, Haydn or Beethoven symphony, or perhaps a Vaughn Williams symphony, or whatever might be suitable, short of the gargantuan sized ensemble. 



    There are composers here, like Bob Porter, with extremely keen ears, who would not be fooled by any "tricks," devised or executed in the studio, in order to blur the distinction between actual live instruments and any facsimile.  While most listeners to a film score in the theater might mistake the simulation (or duplication) for the reality, I think what Diane wants is the pure, unalloyed live performance of the score.   I believes she wants to be reasonably certain that the best ear in the theater will hear what is "live quality sound" to the fullest extent possible.


    This is my new understanding, in any case, based upon what has recently been said.


    Questions about a live orchestra performing my movie score... [please help lol]
    Hey,Unlike my past projects, my next score will be live recorded by an orchestra. As normal, I will write and record everything electronically, but t…
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