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AngelCityOutlaw

Choosing Instrumentation

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Just kinda wondering how everyone goes about choosing the instruments for their compositions? I personally just start with the entire thing on either a piano or guitar and then choose the appropriate instruments to play the different parts after the composition is done - even if it's an electronica tune.

I know that a lot of people don't do it that way, though. Lots of people I know just load up virtual instruments and start playing.

What do you do? Do you decide what kind of instruments and sounds you want to use before hand or do you orchestrate/arrange it later?

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Mixture of both. I typically start out knowing the main sounds I want: legato strings, staccato brass, cello solo, etc. Then, as I write, I find stuff I want to add (or remove).

Edited by Neifion

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Sometimes I just know what I'm going to use because I'm imitating a particular style, but most of the time, if one sound is inspiring enough, I just pick them as I go, as long as they go together, even in unconventional ways. For example, a normal combination is santoor + sitar + dulcimer + duduk + saz + zourna (not necessarily at the same time/rhythm), though that can be thought of before writing any song simply because of the natural middle-eastern match.

A different, much more complex and eclectic, but working combination is this set of 12 layers (without melodic components so that what this came from isn't so obvious). Maybe it'll give you ideas on what might go together, especially the trebly components.

Sometimes what you think up isn't exactly what you write out though. At times I have a whole section planned out in my head, and then maybe it turns out that I made use of about 80% of it by the time I'm done. There are times where what you actually wrote works, or maybe it just doesn't. It'll take a while, but eventually your intuition will just work for you.

Edited by timaeus222

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Usually I have an idea in my head of what a particular part of the song will sound like, which I try to recreate. After that I just slap on extra instruments whenever I think it's necessary or will sound good.

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Depending on the type of music you want to write, or what sound you want to create, you can sort of look back and see what worked for other composers. Similar to what timaeus said, ethnic and classical styles are often performed with very specific instruments, rhythms, and articulations. Modern film composers also employ certain orchestrations to achieve their goals: Hans Zimmer with his now-ubiquitous larger-than-life percussion-saturated ostinati gives that epic, gritty feeling, Thomas Newman and his dreamy piano-and-string combo provides a contemplative, film noir sound, etc. Of course, you want to develop your own sound, but looking to the big guys to get your first bearings can be helpful.

More and more, especially now that I've begun scoring some things, I find myself choosing instruments based on a mood, a feeling, a subtle motif that hearkens back to an earlier point in the narrative. It's not so much about choosing what instrument sounds good as what serves the moment, or the larger picture. I do this in my regular songs too, though not everything has to be dictated by feeling and mood. If something just simply sounds cool and it works, nothing wrong with that!

Edited by Neifion

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I usually start my songs by stumbling across a cool sound while messing around. From there, I just experiment with other sounds, and see how they work with what I've created so far. I almost never know what sounds I'm going to end up using unless they're acoustic samples, like for violin or piano. I think the most fun part is seeing what sort of weird soundscapes I can come up with with a combination of different sounds.

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This is one of zircon's layerings.

I think we should make a drinking game, take a drink every time you mention zircon in a post.

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I think we should make a drinking game, take a drink every time you mention zircon in a post.

I've been playing it all along. Cut me open and have a boozefest; i bleed pure vodka by now.

Idols are gonna be idols ;)

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