Last week I did an orchestral sketch in the scale of E minor. This week I’m going to do the exact same thing. Not with a melody in mind, but with a bold and full orchestral sound. That’s the thing I’m after. So I’m going to write something for the woodwinds, the brass, the strings and little bit for the percussion.
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Timestamps of the video
- 00:00 – Introduction
- 00:49 – First listening (piano and orchestrated version)
- 01:29 – Chord progression (from piano to strings)
- 03:26 – Brass (the bold and epic sound)
- 04:57 – Ostinatos (forte ostinatos for violin I and flutes)
- 07:03 – Percussion (field drum for an epic march feeling)
- 08:03 – Translation to my DAW (a trick for a smooth workflow)
- 11:30 – Ending
Let’s listen to the chord progression on the piano I started with. And then the orchestrated version I ended up with. After that I’ll take you through the different steps in my beloved sketching app StaffPad.
And when that is done, we’re going to have a closer look at the mockup I made from this sketch in my DAW Logic Pro. One with my favourite orchestral libraries.
The chord progression, what have I done? Well, I did the exact same thing as last week. I wrote a chord progression in the scale of E minor. You can see that because there is one sharp on the staff.
Now I started with the E minor chord for the first two bars. Making it very clear for the listener that I wrote this orchestral sketch in the E-minor scale.
After that I continue with the C chord, which is the sixth chord of this scale. And I end this first part of the sketch on the B minor chord, which is the fifth chord of the E-minor scale.
The second part I start with the A minor chord for the first two bars. The fourth chord of this scale. Then I continue with the G, the G major chord, which is the third one. And I end this sketch again on the E minor chord.
So this is the chord progression for this orchestral sketch: i – i -VI – v – iv – iv – III – i.
I translated this chord progression from the piano to the strings. Just like I did on the orchestral sketch no. 15 from last week. And it sounds amazing on itself.
The notes from the piano chords go to the violin II, viola, violoncello and the double bass. Not to the violin I, cause I have something else in mind for them.
Let’s listen to the strings that play the chord progression and after that continue with the next step which is about Brass.
Brass for the bold and epic sound
In this step I added the brass section. So four horns, two trombones, a bass trombone and a tuba. And in its core they’re doing the exact same thing as the strings. They support the harmony.
I doubled the tuba and the double basses. Both play staccato cq. spiccato notes in their low range. The trombones double the viola and the violoncello. And the horns and the violin II play the exact same line.
You could see the part of the horns and violin II as a melody, but for me it something else. It doesn’t really stand out. To me they also support the harmony.
Forte ostinatos for violin I and flutes
In this step I added the ostinatos. The violins I and the flutes 1 and 2 play them in forte. When I wrote these ostinatos I had a good look at the chord progression. Let me explain.
When we look at the first bar (example in the video) we see that the violins I play two E’s followed by two B’s followed again by two E’s and then a single G. These notes, the E, G, and B make up the E minor chord.
The last note of the ostinato pattern is an A. This note isn’t part of the E minor scale. I used this one to make the pattern a little bit more interesting. And I used it as a bridge to the next bar.
The second bar is a repetition of the first one.
In the third bar I played a C chord. When we have a closer look at the ostinato pattern, you’ll see that I play two E’s, two C’s, two E’s and a single G. These notes, the C, E and G make up the C chord. The last note is again an A. Same principle as in the former two bars.
I guess you know by now how I wrote the ostinato patterns.
Bold and epic field drum with a march feeling
I’m not sure what kind of ideas you get when listening to the former steps. But to me it starts to sound that we are working towards a bold epic moment in a scene.
To address that feeling a bit more I added a field drum in this step. It gives a sense of a march which I really love in this bold and epic concept.
Rebuild the orchestral sketch in Logic Pro
I try to translate every orchestral sketch that I do in StaffPad to Logic Pro. Rebuild it in my DAW with my favourite orchestral libraries. I find this a great way to learn you libraries even better. And it optimises my workflow!
About that last point, my workflow, it bothered me quite some time that the dynamic markings from StaffPad are translated as expression to a DAW environment. It should be translated as dynamics or modulation if you will.
Why? Simply said expression is nothing more than volume. It doesn’t alter the sound. Dynamics or modulation does alter the sound, so you get a more true experience of instruments playing pianissimo, piano, mezzo forte, forte etcetera.
Karl, a friend of my on Facebook, gave me a wonderful tip: you can re-assign the original input of expression to the mod-wheel with the modifier plugin in Logic Pro. Amazing! So simple and yet so effective!
In the video I show you how to do this: watch this part.