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Quick Tip: How to Create Orchestra Hits

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Read Time: 4 min

When you listen to 80% of the dynamic and action-oriented orchestral music, you'll notice that when used appropriately, orchestral hits can bring tense feeling to your tracks. In this short tutorial, I'll give you some advice about how to combine different patches.

Step 1: Planning Your Orchestration

When you write music for orchestra, you write melodies for more than 20 instruments. When it comes to massive musical ideas, such as these orchestral hits, this means that each instrument in a group should play a note dynamically and with tension. OK, how do you know which notes to double and how to plan your notes?

I'd suggest using your ears and insight. Just remember three things:

  1. Use spacial chords in the low-end, in order to avoid the muddy sound in the bass frequencies.

  2. Don't double unstable tones such as the 3rd or a 7th. You can see in the image above that I double the 3rd of a standart C major chord twice, but in an octave (look for E). Also, try to underline your main tone of the chord (in my case – C) and the fifth (G).

  3. Place your instruments around the octaves. Look over to the image above. The red colour represents strings, the blue brass section and the green – woodwinds. When mixing orchestral music, you can achieve great results without even using EQ. But you must place your instruments in such a way, that they don't fight each other's frequencies.

Step 2: Load the Samples and Start Composing!

Okay, after I've thought about where to put my instruments on my virtual note sheet, I can start loading samples. If you've read my previous quick tip about getting realism with orchestral samples, you'll probably know that I will choose RR (round-robin) samples. So, first I will load the strings and I'll have them play an ordinary E-minor chord.

By the way, I will load every group of instruments in a separate instance of PLAY (East West's brand new engine). The purpose of doing this is to get some space for your computer's CPU.

After that I will load the brass samples...

… the woodwinds section:

And finally, the drums:

You can see for yourself that I loaded 20 instruments and 80% of these are round-robin samples. Be aware that loading so much instruments can cause problems with your machine, especially if it is not powerful enough. You can hear all of these instruments together:

Step 3: Subtle Touches

In order to get this working well, I'll do slight humanizing and some velocity changes. Remember that you will have to be really gentle, because we don't want to get our orchestra sound like a bunch of drunkards!

You surely can notice how much the sound changed; everything sounds more spacious and more tense. Now we have to get to our final step, which is...

Step 4: Final Touches – Mixing and Balance, Effects.

The good thing about East West Quantum Leap Orchestra is that the instruments are recorded in the way they should sound like. This means that when you are using the default mic position (hall), you will listen to an orchestra as if you are on a concert. You don't have to make panorama changes to do stereo tricks and to put back instruments in the mix. Everything is already done for you.

This means that I will need to make some volume correction, to apply some effects. First of all, I'll boost my low-end drums (the gran casa). Also, I decided that in this hit I would like to hear mostly low-end instruments and mainly our E and B tones. I'll decrease the volume of the other ones, I'll tweak them a bit, I'll apply a master compressor and... et voila!

The good thing about this is that you can export various chords to .WAV files and use them in your music, without the need of loading more than 20 patches to get orchestral hits. Do your own samples, improvise!

Good luck!

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