One of the joys of my home studio is having the opportunity to create virtual orchestral scores. This really is a pleasure and something that would not have been available to many people as recently as 5 years ago!
Anyway, given that I don't have any formal orchestration training, I have been learning how to orchestrate with virtual mockups and lots of books on the subject (and a lot of scores!)
During this time (and I'm still learning, I have no illusions there) I have learnt to divide up the strings amongst the various choirs, how to write chords for woodwind, arrange ideas for brass, etc. Basically I have learnt to treat the virtual orchestra like a real orchestra building a sum from the constituent parts. A Bottom Up approach to composition and arrangement ...
...and now I am wondering whether this is a good idea.
A couple of recent events have started me thinking about going in the other direction: adding the melodies and harmonies as I wish without consideration of who would actually play it. After all, the average listener doesn't care how the results were achieved provided it sounds good. The success of the Gladiator soundtrack proved that realistic orchestration is not particularly important to the general public.
One of the events was going to a seminar and watching some live virtual scoring. The composer was incredibly fast and effective but was clearly not worrying about building the track up with correct numbers of instruments, etc. The final sound was more important and it definitely worked well.
The other thing that influenced me was working with some new samples from Project SAM, specifically the Woodwind Orchestrator. This really has a Top Down approach, aiming at a final sound rather than picking out the individual instruments.
Testing out some other new samples this weekend I've been trying to see how well I could effectively 'play' the orchestra. I used the Project SAM Woodwind Orchestrator mixed with Westgate Flutes plus the entire woodwind section from the Vienna Instruments Special Edition, 2 mute trumpets from East West and The Trumpet from SampleModelling.
Using a combination of various controllers (Modwheel, CC7, CC11, Breath Controller and actual key velocity) worked very well at allowing me to blend in various aspects. Particularly nice to hear the trumpets come in as I hit the keys harder.
Unfortunately I don't have anything to actually show for this at the moment but I do think this will influence the way I work in future. I'm sure I'll go through afterwards and tweak individual parts but this definitely seems like a viable option for putting down the basic outline.
Ok, so this post was more waffly with less point than most of my blogs but I'm hoping to hear from other composers on this and hear how they do things.