#1
How would I go about starting to write compositions for orchestras?
I have a basic knowledge of theory and started guitar lessons to improve it. Is there a program that has various synths I could use to replicate an orchestra?
#2
If you insist upon using a program to do it, you might could do it with Guitar Pro.

Why not, just, like... write it, though?
#3
Sibelius. It's the business.

/thread, seriously.
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#4
A good professional program is Sibelius. Latest version is 5.

As for actually composing, you will need to listen to a lot of classical music and analyzing any and every detail you can find. I'll talk about this more later.

For now, feel free to message me about any questions you have.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#5
I've never heard of this Sibelius business. Is it free? How does it work?

Also, what are you trying to compose? Just out of curiousity.
#6
Don't go for GP, take like Sibelius.
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#7
Quote by Flying Couch
I've never heard of this Sibelius business. Is it free? How does it work?

Sibelius is about $400 dollars but if you know your way around the computer...

It's a very "hands-on" type of program, and while it's intuitive in some aspects, it's also tricky in others. Guitar Pro is vastly inadequate for writing orchestral music.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#8
Quote by Xiaoxi
Sibelius is about $400 dollars but if you know your way around the computer...

It's a very "hands-on" type of program, and while it's intuitive in some aspects, it's also tricky in others. Guitar Pro is vastly inadequate for writing orchestral music.
Hmm. I'll have to look into that. Thanks.
#9
Quote by Flying Couch
Hmm. I'll have to look into that. Thanks.

Check out the website for some previews.

www.sibelius.com

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#10
i've been thinking about that too. i'd probably be up for paying 400 dollars if i knew that i was going to be able to use it. does anyone know about anything that i could download for free just to get a start?
#11
i have sibbiluis
it's so hard to try and use at first, but you really gotta read through the 450pg manual.
but i have wrote some amazing pieces with it
#12
Quote by Blue Motion
i've been thinking about that too. i'd probably be up for paying 400 dollars if i knew that i was going to be able to use it. does anyone know about anything that i could download for free just to get a start?

Use torrents?
<<
>>
This is a great resource for learning proper orchestration. It's not going to help you write good music necessarily, but if you've already got your theory down, it will help you create good balance and color in the orchestra.
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#13
If you're going to write orchestral music, you NEED an ear for what goes on and know what each instrument's role is, and stick to it. An orchestra is never about it's individual parts, but how it works as a whole. There's no point putting in a violn melody if the backing doesn't fit, for example. Think of an orchestra as a symbiosis of many parts working towards a common goal, and that one part can't live without the other parts playing their role.
#14
Okay, now for some serious wall of text:

Let's start with some prerequisites to composing orchestral music:
-First and foremost, you must not only be familiar with classical music, but be immersed in it. I'm not trying to push classical music on anyone, but knowing classical music on a prepared level is essential to the art of composing and orchestrating. Even if you want to compose non-classical orchestral music, knowing classical is still a fundamental degree.
-Another thing you should have is some experience in an orchestra. That is the only way you can fully see how instruments and roles interact with each other and as a whole ensemble. If you're not in an orchestra already, sign up for a beginner orchestra at your school next year.
-You should also get familiar with each and every standard orchestral instrument. You don't have to be able to play them, but you should know how they work, what key signatures are most convenient for each, what special properties and techniques each possesses, the sound and timbre of every instrument, and other general knowledge about each instrument. Study them, wiki them, ask the instrumentalists, etc.
-And obviously, you need to know basic to intermediate theory, notations, and formal musical terms. What does "dim." mean? What kind of expression does "dolce" give off? What are marcatos for? Does "piu mosso" slow down or speed up the tempo? What are some common chords can you substitute for a major 7th? What about its inversions? How about voiceleading with a set of chords? Etc.

Now, in training and studying for composition:
-Of course, you must listen to lots and lots of music. I recommend starting with classical era music (Mozart, Rossini, Haydn, early Beethoven, etc) because classical era music emphasizes on balance and clarity of voicings and mood. This will make it easier for you to hear and realize the orchestra as a whole. The interactions between every part are relatively simple compared to other eras of classical music.
-While listening a piece of music, analyze it however you can. What are the relationships between the 2nd violins and the violas? What role does the brass section play? Is there any call-and-response techniques used in the music? How does the cello and double bass achieve a continuo? How does the orchestra work as a whole to create chordal movements? What is the harmonic structure (homophonic, monophonic, polyphonic)? How does the composer use counterpoints? What form does the piece use (concerto, sonata, rondo, fugue, etc)? What chord progression seems to be common? Where are the cadences? What kind of cadences are they (perfect, deceptive, half, etc)? Is there any modulation of key signatures? These are the kinds of analytical questions you should ask yourself and try to figure out when you listen to the music.
-Furthermore, you should not only concern yourself about the technical information in the music, but the musical side of music. How does the composer develop a certain mood? How are dynamics used effectively? Why does the melody sound so pleasing? How do the phrasings influence the impression of the moment? How does the piece develope? Look into the creative side of things.
-Buy some score books to go along with your music. I recently purchased the scorebook for Beethoven's 5-9th symphony. Now I can listen to the music while looking at the score to fully realize every aspect of those questions above. It's an essential tool for not only figuring out those questions, but seeing how a proper score should be written.
-Practice voiceleading. On guitar and piano, it's easy to lead chords with a common note. For example, a Gm7 and a Dbm7b5 both have the notes G and Bb, while the D (5th of Gm7) moves up a whole tone to E (m3rd of Dbm7b5). The effects the voice leading in these two chords is that the movement is smooth because they share common notes, and the D to E creates a melodic highlight that could be a key focus in the melody. The reason why I stress on the harmonic and chordal side of music is because I think this is where the challenge lies. Knowing how to voicelead will benefit you greatly in writing music that flows nicely.

Now, onto the actual composition part:
-Even if you start doing all of the suggestions above, you'll still have trouble in actual composition. Everyone does. Don't get discouraged. Take it very slowly, one measure at a time. Even if you're writing with a fast tempo in mind, play the piece very slowly to make sure every note and part fits well. You will often miss unintended dissonance if you go by too fast.
-When you're trying to write a part, the leading melody, for example, and you get stuck on what to do next, sing or mentally play the melody slowly in your head up to what you have. It's a good way to continuing creating the next notes in the melody with the vibe you capture in your head. Same goes for any other part.
-Remember to always play back up to what you have so far to maintain your intentions.
-Look at examples from others' works. Don't worry that much about plagiarizing. Classical music all sounds the same
-Not every part needs to be different and complex. Don't think you have to write impressive and fulfilling parts for everyone at all times. Orchestral music is about the ensemble, not for everyone to show off simultaneously.
-As a beginner, don't start with a full orchestra. Start small. A duet, a string quartet, a chamber orchestra. The smaller the media is, the easier it is to manage. Also, use lots and lots of arpeggio notes. You can't go wrong with them.

Some pieces and artists that you should listen to for inspiration and study:
Rossini: Overture to La Gazza Ladra
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 (especially II. Allegretto), and the overture to Fidelio
Massenet: Meditation from Thais
Holst: Jupiter and Mars from The Planets
Bach: Minuet in G
Brahms: Poco Allegretto from Symphony No. 3
Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride
Mozart in general
-These pieces are either simple and easy to analyze, or musically inspiring, or both.


Well, I guess that's what I've been able to come up with so far. If you have any questions, again, feel free to message me. Obviously, I threw in a lot of terminologies up there. Look them up and learn them, and learn anything that's similar to them.

Note: I'm also a beginning self-taught composer and I don't want to come off as experienced and expert at composing. I'm merely taking notes from the obstacles that I've personally ran into and think what everyone else would too.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#15
Quote by Blue Motion
i've been thinking about that too. i'd probably be up for paying 400 dollars if i knew that i was going to be able to use it. does anyone know about anything that i could download for free just to get a start?

The Sibelius home page has a trial demo.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#16
I compose various classical pieces and I've never had any formal knowledge/studying of anything the guy's mentioned above. Yes, it'll make you better understand it and take it to a whole new level, but it isn't necessary unless you want to go there.

The two programs I've been using are Finale and Sibelius. Fruity Loops can work well too depending on what you're going for.
#17
Quote by Archaon
I compose various classical pieces and I've never had any formal knowledge/studying of anything the guy's mentioned above. Yes, it'll make you better understand it and take it to a whole new level, but it isn't necessary unless you want to go there.

Well, nothing is absolutely necessary when it comes to music. But having a good, solid grasp on the ins and outs of classical music will boost your ability to compose tremendously. And I don't mean to come off as a snob, but I really think it helps a lot.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#18
Quote by Xiaoxi
Well, nothing is absolutely necessary when it comes to music. But having a good, solid grasp on the ins and outs of classical music will boost your ability to compose tremendously. And I don't mean to come off as a snob, but I really think it helps a lot.

Oh no, I don't doubt that at all. I know there are a lot of anti-theory morons on this website, but I'm strictly for studying theory. I haven't done much myself, but I know how to write something that sounds nice and stays in key.

I'm pretty good at writing piano and string progressions. Though I have a hard time with transitions between the changes I would like to make. I've got like a million little things composed, but hardly anything fully done. It's very hard for me to completely satisfy myself with a song and let it go.

I wish I could be studying music, but I'm not.
#19
i dunno but ive been told, that finale is a good program too and pretty cheap (if youre into paying for stuff)
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#20
Quote by Xiaoxi

Holst: Jupiter and Mars from The Planets

The most beautiful piece of music ever written.
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#21
You don't necessarily have to get so in touch with theory. Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) for instance didn't know how to read notes until recently. Hell, the creator of the Video Game Musicians Union of America (or something like that), Tommy from Judgment Day on G4, still doesn't read music.

Both of them are pianists, though, so they've got an upper hand on orchestration.
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#22
Quote by Archaon
Oh no, I don't doubt that at all. I know there are a lot of anti-theory morons on this website, but I'm strictly for studying theory. I haven't done much myself, but I know how to write something that sounds nice and stays in key.

I'm pretty good at writing piano and string progressions. Though I have a hard time with transitions between the changes I would like to make. I've got like a million little things composed, but hardly anything fully done. It's very hard for me to completely satisfy myself with a song and let it go.

I wish I could be studying music, but I'm not.

That sucks. If you're in college you could maybe sign up for a composition class??

I'm a high school senior but I'm set on becoming a composition major. Aka, homeless.

And yea, the problem you're talking about, is what I think you can truly make better by studying classical music in depth. I think classical music (as a whole) isn't so much about the notes and scales it uses because there's a wide variety of styles and differences in the genre. Rather, I think the heart of classical music lies in its emphasis on dynamics and phrasing. I think knowing theory isn't enough to capture that binding dimension of classical music. Also, theory cannot teach the idiomatic language of classical music, or any other musical language for that matter. The only way to do that is to listen extensively to the actual music.

Quote by Liberation
The most beautiful piece of music ever written.

I don't know about "ever written", but it certainly is wonderful. The slow movement in the middle (andante maetoso) is tearfully amazing.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#23
Quote by Xiaoxi
-Another thing you should have is some experience in an orchestra. That is the only way you can fully see how instruments and roles interact with each other and as a whole ensemble. If you're not in an orchestra already, sign up for a beginner orchestra at your school next year.
-You should also get familiar with each and every standard orchestral instrument. You don't have to be able to play them, but you should know how they work, what key signatures are most convenient for each, what special properties and techniques each possesses, the sound and timbre of every instrument, and other general knowledge about each instrument. Study them, wiki them, ask the instrumentalists, etc.
-And obviously, you need to know basic to intermediate theory, notations, and formal musical terms. What does "dim." mean? What kind of expression does "dolce" give off? What are marcatos for? Does "piu mosso" slow down or speed up the tempo? What are some common chords can you substitute for a major 7th? What about its inversions? How about voiceleading with a set of chords? Etc.
Frankly, TS, if you can play an instrument in the orchestra, I advise getting involved in one just for the hell of it. I always have fun.
Quote by Xaioxi
-Look at examples from others' works. Don't worry that much about plagiarizing. Classical music all sounds the same
-Not every part needs to be different and complex. Don't think you have to write impressive and fulfilling parts for everyone at all times. Orchestral music is about the ensemble, not for everyone to show off simultaneously.
-As a beginner, don't start with a full orchestra. Start small. A duet, a string quartet, a chamber orchestra. The smaller the media is, the easier it is to manage. Also, use lots and lots of arpeggio notes. You can't go wrong with them.
I would just like to emphasize these in particular. Especially the last one.

Another thing, TS - it'll take a while. If you're anything like me, you can churn out a blues-rock jam in a matter of hours - possibly minutes - and spend a couple of days perfectng it. Composing a piece for a full orchestra, from my experience, is a little more time-consuming. I have no idea what you're like, musically, so this may not apply to you.
#24
Quote by Flying Couch
Another thing, TS - it'll take a while. If you're anything like me, you can churn out a blues-rock jam in a matter of hours - possibly minutes - and spend a couple of days perfectng it. Composing a piece for a full orchestra, from my experience, is a little more time-consuming. I have no idea what you're like, musically, so this may not apply to you.

I think that's common for most people. Even most college composition professors who I've had interviews with while on my college music auditions warned me that composition will always be time consuming.

I remember when I was starting from ground zero, it took me about 4 hours just to write 8 bars worth of philharmonic orchestral music... Now it's gotten slightly better.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#26
I saw a 15 Gigas software that you could compose in it, and it would sound like a realistic orchestra. It was damn amazing.
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#28
Quote by urik
I saw a 15 Gigas software that you could compose in it, and it would sound like a realistic orchestra. It was damn amazing.


That was probably Hallian. (or Hallion, I've only heard it spoken. To see the word written down is a hallowed thing..).
...
#29
I just aquired Silbelius and it is an astounding program. I've been transposing a couple of guitar melodies I have and building around that using string quartets. How do I get dynamics on it?
#30
Quote by Xiaoxi

I'm a high school senior but I'm set on becoming a composition major. Aka, homeless.


Me too. Except I'm a Junior. I need to get respectable at piano and get a portfolio together before next February.
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If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich,
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With all your power,
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