Inside the Community – Marc Bercovitz – From your Musical Idea to the Full Orchestral Score
Going from your first musical idea to the full orchestral score may look like a very difficult and complex task at first glance but in reality, it only needs a bit of organization to get it done and M.I.T.A. offers some great tools for that.
There is not only one correct way of how one should approach composition and orchestration, each task demands your attention and your taste/experience come into play as well. Let me be specific and tell you about my own individual process so, the big task does not seem so overwhelming anymore.
First of all, it depends on the musical subject! Do you want to compose something freely or do you have to follow a specific storyboard? Following a storyline often times puts a bit more pressure on your shoulders as you generally have to meet a certain deadline when the final music has to be delivered. Also, you should focus on pleasing the director as you got hired to help him bring his dream to life.
As my goal is to write music for animation, movies and, TV shows, I focus on the materials given in each M.I.T.A. lesson and limit myself to working mostly with those materials to follow a given storyline. Starting from lesson 33 in the composition course, we go into the “meat and the potatoes” of interval writing. That’s the “TNO-series”.
In order to start any composition, I carefully study the technical part of the lesson I am currently working on, and then slowly write out quite a number of exercises. This gives me better handling of the tools and techniques. Once I start to get the hang of it, I listen to the orchestral examples presented in the lesson as this allows me to progressively dive into the mood of the storyline, just like it would happen on an actual project.
Next, I start to gather material using the tools I’ve learned in the lesson. Now, I’m really throwing my ideas on the paper. No need to have them in a strict order at this stage, just let them unfold naturally as you go. This is also true for melodic ideas that might hit you during the process.
After the gathering, I usually make a choice depending on my mood and the storyboard. Here are the options:
1) I start directly and write with the full score by picking my ideas from the gathered material. That is also the moment where orchestration comes into play.
2) Sometimes I decide to spend some more time on sketching, especially when the storyboard is complex and requires quick emotional shifts in the music. However, you don’t have to stick to your sketch in the end. You are always free to expand on your ideas or even derive new material out of it. So, the sketch is always just a road map. You decide how closely you want to follow it in your development.
This all is the moment where your taste will guide you and show you how the tools can be turned and twisted to create different emotional situations, just like contrast and colors! Think of tutti against a solo, or low strings with harp against celesta plus a couple of woodwind instruments. You’ll get the hang of which tools work for different emotions.
Generally, I try to find a main melodic motif which fits into the scene and I try to repeat and re-use it in other parts of the score with various colors and orchestrational ideas. After an introduction, I write the theme based on my gathered material or the sketch, but I don’t hesitate to modify the structure and order of everything if it doesn’t completely match my melodic idea, remember that your sketch just is a road map, nothing more.
Sometimes, I even don’t use any special melodic theme, just a mood created by contrast and orchestration to describe the scene. There are no rules as long as you go in accordance with your feeling, that’s the most important point for me! Also, the music needs to flow! That’s one of the few guidelines that will help you a lot to come closer to your own taste.
I rely on orchestration a lot as it will bring your basic idea to a much higher level. Actually, you’ll be surprised how much bigger and sophisticated your idea can sound when orchestrated. Frank and I are coordinating many materials that will become available inside the membership as a dedicated course about “Concepts of Orchestration”.
I usually go to the strings section first as it sounds very homogeneous throughout the whole playable range. Next, I try to balance in the other instrument sections (woodwinds and brass instruments) so that the strings don’t overplay the piece. Sometimes, you want to give them a break and focus on other instruments that are available. You may also divide the section into its ranges and go only with the high strings for a while, it’s all about creating contrast. The woodwinds are a bit harder to write for as they can sound like an accordion quickly when focusing too much on the vertical side. Therefore, contrapuntal writing comes in very handy. In particular, the first 7 lessons of the composition course focus on that subject a lot.
Brass is great for accents, big tutti or, even lush melodies. In particular, the horns are great for strong lines. They can also sound nice against soft playing trombones in a lower register.
Hopefully, this gives you a quick look inside my process. All members can reach me directly inside the membership area and I’ll make myself available for answering your questions.
Have a wonderful day and see you inside!
Marc (M.I.T.A. member and instructor)