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Hello!

I have this theme here for the new project, and I'm pretty happy with it; but I don't think I'm succeeding in making it "big" yet. I tend to think of big orchestrations as primarily still having just a few coherent parts, but those parts are assigned to blended timbres. I think I started out with that in mind here, but my ears must have gotten tired going over it time and again, and now I feel like I've just been kitchen-sinking it. Maybe some new ears on it will help. Thoughts?

Muspel Theme updated

Muspel Theme
"Owner prevented downloads and playback of this audio file."
(10-16-2022, 10:19 PM)Terry93D Wrote: [ -> ]"Owner prevented downloads and playback of this audio file."

I keep doing that! Thanks for the heads up. Apparently I can't just have it playback without also allowing downloading... Anyway, I think I fixed it.
A big part of the sound of bigness is doubling at the fifth and the octave—a bit at the third, too, but given that at the bass range this starts to muddy up the frequencies, the tendency is to favor the fifth and the octave and just sneak a third in there on an instrument or two. Take Jerry Goldsmith's theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It's very simple, usually two or three parts at once, and yet it sounds very rich and grand. If you take a look at Brad Frey's reduction, lots of doubling at the fifth and octave. (The weight of the third gets overstated bc you can't 100% display how many instruments are doubling at that interval.) 

William's "Duel of the Fates" (reduced here by David McCaulley) works similarly, as does his alternation between timbres. Look at the first minute: open in choir, and then instantly, strings ostinato with very quiet held note in the bass clarinet and motifs in the contrabass. melody first in a mix of wind instruments, dbled in octaves. Then Williams adds a doubling layer to the ostinato. Harp glissando to take us into the horn repeating that same melody—now with trombones playing a semi-canonic countermelody. Williams thickens the ostinato again, this time with winds, and adds a quiet, alternating toms pattern. When the choir comes back in, Williams changes the piece up by adding in an ostinato and trumpet flourishes. By the time you get to a minute and a half, you have two ostinatos, plus the choral motif and melody in the brass, all of it doubled across octaves.

The second component is that I think the music could do with a little bit more reverb: the size of the space the orchestra's performing in is another component, and it can go along way—after all, depending on your aims, you may not want layers and layers of octave doubling. 

(Instrument doubling can do the same thing. Flutes can blend with strings; bassoons with horns; bassoons with celli; a couple quiet horns can back up a midrange string part; a single trumpet can really make a (relatively) high horn part pop from the texture; combine a bassoon and an alto flute and you get a magical texture reminiscent of a horn; take a bass clarinet and some bassoons, and you've created an artificial horn trio; mix a piano quietly enough that you can't really make it out as a member of the ensemble and you've got something that can add a little bit of sharp attack and weight to damn near any instrument in the orchestra.)
(10-17-2022, 10:43 PM)Terry93D Wrote: [ -> ]A big part of the sound of bigness is doubling at the fifth and the octave—a bit at the third, too, but given that at the bass range this starts to muddy up the frequencies, the tendency is to favor the fifth and the octave and just sneak a third in there on an instrument or two. Take Jerry Goldsmith's theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It's very simple, usually two or three parts at once, and yet it sounds very rich and grand. If you take a look at Brad Frey's reduction, lots of doubling at the fifth and octave. (The weight of the third gets overstated bc you can't 100% display how many instruments are doubling at that interval.) 

William's "Duel of the Fates" (reduced here by David McCaulley) works similarly, as does his alternation between timbres. Look at the first minute: open in choir, and then instantly, strings ostinato with very quiet held note in the bass clarinet and motifs in the contrabass. melody first in a mix of wind instruments, dbled in octaves. Then Williams adds a doubling layer to the ostinato. Harp glissando to take us into the horn repeating that same melody—now with trombones playing a semi-canonic countermelody. Williams thickens the ostinato again, this time with winds, and adds a quiet, alternating toms pattern. When the choir comes back in, Williams changes the piece up by adding in an ostinato and trumpet flourishes. By the time you get to a minute and a half, you have two ostinatos, plus the choral motif and melody in the brass, all of it doubled across octaves.

The second component is that I think the music could do with a little bit more reverb: the size of the space the orchestra's performing in is another component, and it can go along way—after all, depending on your aims, you may not want layers and layers of octave doubling. 

(Instrument doubling can do the same thing. Flutes can blend with strings; bassoons with horns; bassoons with celli; a couple quiet horns can back up a midrange string part; a single trumpet can really make a (relatively) high horn part pop from the texture; combine a bassoon and an alto flute and you get a magical texture reminiscent of a horn; take a bass clarinet and some bassoons, and you've created an artificial horn trio; mix a piano quietly enough that you can't really make it out as a member of the ensemble and you've got something that can add a little bit of sharp attack and weight to damn near any instrument in the orchestra.)

Thanks, Terry! Yes, the whole doubling of octaves and fifths and not so much thirds is always in my head, but sometimes I seem to ignore my own advice, as it were. I always appreciate the suggestions for tone-blending, too! Also, thanks for the examples! I never spend much time with Star Trek music, but I actually always really like it...
My old hack for this, which would be very effective in this case, is doubling the violins down an octave with horns or trumpets (and maybe also violas or celli). The violins can also be directly doubled with flute or oboe too to thicken up things.

Sometimes doing something silly like dropping an instrument an octave suddenly brings a completely different and better musical context as well. Try the low end of the violins or even switching to violas just to see what happens.

I would also consider more texture in the midrange. The piece overall is lacking a lot of middle voices, with just the violins, it feels quite vacant. I usually would compose a lot of divisi chugga chugga ostinato lines in cellos and violas in this type of context just to add texture there, but at the very least, you can add some simple brass harmonies. Tenor trombone or horn chords always thicken stuff up extremely effectively (they don't have to be loud, just richly voiced), as do divisi celli and violas, 3-4 bassoons playing harmony together, and to a lesser extent oboes and clarinets in harmony (which is a rather old sound, more classical).

I did a lot of thick heavy harmonies in this track during the brassy bits, which filled in a lot while the strings soared above:
https://samulis.bandcamp.com/track/main-menu-2
(10-19-2022, 11:23 PM)Samulis Wrote: [ -> ]My old hack for this, which would be very effective in this case, is doubling the violins down an octave with horns or trumpets (and maybe also violas or celli). The violins can also be directly doubled with flute or oboe too to thicken up things.

Sometimes doing something silly like dropping an instrument an octave suddenly brings a completely different and better musical context as well. Try the low end of the violins or even switching to violas just to see what happens.

I would also consider more texture in the midrange. The piece overall is lacking a lot of middle voices, with just the violins, it feels quite vacant. I usually would compose a lot of divisi chugga chugga ostinato lines in cellos and violas in this type of context just to add texture there, but at the very least, you can add some simple brass harmonies. Tenor trombone or horn chords always thicken stuff up extremely effectively (they don't have to be loud, just richly voiced), as do divisi celli and violas, 3-4 bassoons playing harmony together, and to a lesser extent oboes and clarinets in harmony (which is a rather old sound, more classical).

I did a lot of thick heavy harmonies in this track during the brassy bits, which filled in a lot while the strings soared above:
https://samulis.bandcamp.com/track/main-menu-2

Thanks, Sam! I always appreciate the suggestions. I'll check out your example soon, too. I spent some time updating my theme, and I've edited the original post to include it. I dropped the second violins down an octave, added a flute over the oboe that was doubling those violins before, but left them in the original octave, so maybe the melody is thicker now. Still not sure how I feel about the B theme where the cellos, violas, oboe 2 and clarinet all do a little "light chug"; it seems buried. I also changed the basses to pizzi instead of stac. I ALSO darkened the tail reverb, but that was more an experiment to see if it helps with clarity. I'll balance frequencies after I get the arrangement right.

There IS a horn pad going in the B section, but maybe it's buried. I'm thinking of trying a second treatment of this with an emphasis on separation of parts instead of trying to jam a bunch of stuff into it, just to see if the perception of "bigness" isn't in something else entirely for an idea like this.