"Music is the best (Frank Zappa)"

Category: Articles in English

How to write for virtual orchestra

Virtual orchestras are an art form that has existed for a long time now. They allow composers to write music for an orchestra even if they don’t have access to one or can’t afford one. There are many ways to write for a virtual orchestra, but the most common method is to imitate the sounds of real instruments through proper notation and orchestration.

The virtual orchestra is the art of writing music for an orchestra that does not exist

The virtual orchestra is the art of writing music for an orchestra that does not exist. Since the 1970s, electronic instruments have been able to reproduce a wide variety of sounds from real instruments and even entire orchestras. Virtual orchestras can play music written for any number of instruments; there is no limit to the number or size of orchestra that can be created digitally.

With the development of digital music production, there is now a new way to write and record music for a virtual orchestra…

Writing for a virtual orchestra involves imitating the sounds of real instruments through proper notation and orchestration.

Writing for a virtual orchestra involves imitating the sounds of real instruments through proper notation and orchestration. To do this, you need to know how to write for the instruments you have and how to write for the instruments you don’t have.

Knowing how to write for instruments you don’t have will help you decide what type of instrument is best for your piece. If your piece requires an oboe but you only have a saxophone, find another way to get that sound out of your fingers! (Maybe try whistling or singing).

In order to write for a virtual orchestra, you must understand how real instruments sound

You must listen to real instruments. You need to listen to recordings of real instruments, live performances of real instruments, and virtual orchestras. Listening will help you understand how they sound and how they are played.

You can learn a lot by listening to recordings of other composers’ music that were recorded with a real orchestra or a virtual orchestra. Listen for elements such as tone, timbre, dynamics and articulation. Listen to how the composer uses these elements in his composition; how he creates tension through dissonance or uses rhythm as an effect on his listeners by often changing time signatures in his pieces during transitions between sections of the piece itself – or even in individual phrases!

A major difference between the virtual orchestra and the real orchestra is the style of playing

A major difference between the virtual orchestra and the real orchestra is its playing style. The virtual orchestra is not able to play as dynamically and expressively as a real orchestra, nor is it able to react as quickly to changes in tempo or volume. This can make it difficult for composers who are used to writing for acoustic ensembles such as symphony orchestras, which are more flexible than their digital counterparts.

Getting your ideas down on paper is the first step in composing for a virtual orchestra

Write down your ideas for the piece.

Choose a key and tempo.

Write the basic melody.

Write the harmony (optional). If you choose not to do this, follow step 5 and go directly to orchestrating your composition in step 6).

Decide on the form: ABA, ternary form (ABA), rondo or theme with variations? This choice can always be changed later if necessary. You only have one chance for a first impression!

Write or show how you want each section of your composition to be orchestrated, remembering that many instruments can play more than one role. Keep them flexible enough to fulfill their assigned role in each passage (and remember that not all sections will necessarily sound like themselves when played together – you may need to rethink this).

Think of composers like Bach who did not have high quality instruments but still composed incredible music

The great composers of the world did not have access to high quality instruments, but they still wrote incredible music. Think of Bach, who was a master composer and yet his music is still played today. His compositions were written for the instruments he had, not necessarily for what he would have wanted if he had better ones. But despite this, his compositions are still excellent!

So remember: just because you don’t have access to the best quality virtual orchestra doesn’t mean your music won’t be great! As long as it is well written and sounds good on the instrument you choose, it will probably be perfect when recorded later in an orchestra score.

The next step to successful virtual orchestration is to choose sounds that are available in digital form

The next step to a successful virtual orchestration is to choose sounds that are available in digital form. To do this, you can use tools such as Kontakt Player or Komplete 5 (or higher) from Native Instruments, which provide access to thousands of instruments and effects. These programs allow you to compose and record the different parts of your song, then play them together with one click to simulate a live orchestra concert!

Learn about new features that allow digital recordings to approach, in some cases, the sound quality of live musicians.

Learn about new features that allow digital recordings to approach, in some cases, the sound quality of live musicians.

It’s important to get the right sounds for your song and make sure they’re recorded correctly before you start arranging or playing it. You can use digital tools such as sample libraries, synthesizers and virtual orchestras to mimic the sounds of real instruments.

If you’ve recorded your songs using software on a computer, you’ll want to play them through speakers or headphones to hear how they sound together. It’s also possible to use this setup when recording multiple tracks at once by splitting a mixer into multiple outputs (e.g. : Line 1/2), sending each output in separate channels to two different audio interfaces (usually called “stereo” outputs), which allows for greater flexibility in post-production editing sessions, since only one set of speakers is needed instead of having both sets connected directly to Line inputs 1+2, which would result in having 2 sets connected together – causing feedback problems due to the proximity between the speakers).

There are many tools that can help you compose and record different parts of your piece and play them together to simulate a live orchestra performance

Virtual orchestras are becoming more and more common. You can use virtual orchestras to compose and record music, or to play your music. You can also use them to record your music, or all three!

This is great because it means you don’t have to hire someone else for your projects; all you need is a computer connected to the internet.

To remember: Virtual orchestras can be used to create incredible classical music with very limited resources if you know how to do it.

You can use virtual orchestras to create great classical music with limited resources.

With a little knowledge, anyone can write for a virtual orchestra!

You can write beautiful music with a virtual orchestra, just like composers did in the past. This is an exciting way for new composers to get their ideas out there and be heard.

EDM music for stress relief

As a part of my AAPP (Algorithmic/Automatic Process Project) strategy, I wrote sixty minutes of EDM music for stress relief.

Music and musical genre

How would you define your music ? Is it contemporary, electronic, computer music…?

This is a question that many of my colleagues in the same situation ask themselves.

We are independent composers, not supported by the state, we are very little played, but we diffuse our works in the whole world, and especially, we enjoy an almost total freedom.

And in this case, it is very common to slip from one genre to another, according to the inspiration, but also to the practice.

Sometimes it is enough to modify just the timbre of a theme, of a motif, so that suddenly, it changes genre, and passes from contemporary music to film music or electronic music.

We are used to classifying music in this way, according to the timbres, the instruments used, the rhythms, the scales used…

And so, if in your compositional approach, you practice the mixture, the meeting of heterogeneous elements, it becomes relatively difficult to characterize your music. One then turns to the instruments or devices used, and one then speaks about computer or electronic music, which in the end does not mean much…

And in this case, in the world of contemporary music, which remains a small niche in the current musical production, you are quickly disqualified. Which is of little importance in itself.

Do you have examples of composers who have put forward this approach?

Yes, of course I do. I’m thinking first of all of American composers like Frank Zappa or John Zorn, who have established this sometimes unbridled eclecticism as a rule of composition. But as a listener, it’s a delight to go from one genre to another, in the same piece or on the same recording.

And others, like Ryuchi Sakamoto, are unclassifiable, succeeding with the same brilliance in an experimental piece, a pop song or an orchestral music for the cinema. One could think of the musicians of Can, or of Tangerine Dream, who at the dawn of the seventies, knew how to mix Ligeti or Philip Glass with drums and synthesizers, and reach a much wider audience than that of contemporary music.

Cultural mixing has been around for a long time, but the music establishment refuses to give it any value, even though it only reflects the reality of our practices as listeners.

While surfing YouTube or Netflix, riding the subway, shopping in department stores, we are constantly subjected to a sonic melting pot that doesn’t bother us. This is the soundtrack of post-modern existences, and the above-mentioned composers simply accept it, integrate it, without judgment.

They had predecessors like John Cage, whose multiple pieces use random recordings of popular music. Or the musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, even if, as with Cage, it remains anecdotal.

Is there a common point among all these composers?

Yes, and that is electricity. It is perhaps the last frontier that protects the reserves of academic composers. 

When you go to hear the creation of a work by a composer today, you can be almost 99% certain that everything will be electrified, computerized, digitized, the lights, the box office, the backstage, except the music: no synthesizer, no computer, no electric guitar or organ!

And yet, all the creators I mentioned earlier quickly understood the advantage of integrating these types of instruments into a modern musical composition. They are affordable, very flexible, and don’t require a decade of learning before producing a proper sound, as is the case with most classical orchestra instruments.

Isn’t there also a certain contempt for eclecticism among contemporary composers and specialized journalists?

Absolutely! To mix genres, influences, techniques would be a demonstration of an inability to create one’s own language. 

Which leads to the question: should each composer create his own language to find his personal voice?

One can doubt it. Bach and Mozart did not, technically speaking, invent much, but they pushed to perfection a language that they shared with hundreds of other composers of their time.

Technical innovation is not essential to produce an interesting work. It is only one part of the mysterious equation of a successful score that one wants to hear again.

One could even retort to all these sad gentlemen that one of their idols, Pierre Boulez, did not invent much either. He took the organization of the pitches from Webern, the rhythmics from Stravinsky, and a certain harmonic and temporal roundness from Debussy.

And the famous integral serialism was after all only the industrialization of Messiaen’s intuition in his little piece Modes de valeurs et d’intensités…

We can see that most of the objections of musical academism to an eclectic approach, and not denying the rest of the sound universe in which we live, are based on corporatism, intellectual laziness and bad faith.

But we must understand them: for the first time in the history of Western music, the composer has almost disappeared from the artistic and intellectual scene.

So everyone defends his own little business, his own little world, hoping that he too will pass into posterity.

It is striking to see nowadays that, even among educated and curious people, the names of Rihm, Sciarrino, Dusapin evoke absolutely nothing… and this sometimes goes as far as Glass, Reich, Pärt or Penderecki, although they are much easier to access than the former…

This is the tragedy of our time. By dint of intellectual terrorism, intolerance and contempt, we have disgusted the small audience that once naturally supported the innovators. The world of contemporary music, particularly in Europe, has become a sad and heavy ghetto, where works are performed less than a dozen times (with luck), then disappear never to emerge from the university documentation centers, that great cemetery of lost illusions.

It is thus quite normal that I, and many others, with the help of a computer and a powerful sound bank, give a chance to learned music, and that we try to give it back its joy, its color, its vigor, by mixing styles and genres.

We will probably make mistakes, but we will strive to embody a music that is truly alive… and of its time!

© 2021 Alain Jamot

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