Online Master's Degree Course

Orchestrating the Film Score with Live Sessions

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Authored by Jon Kull

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Course Code: OCOMP-637

Next Semester Starts January 11, 2021

Level 6 - Degree Only

Level 6

This course continues the emphasis on process as outlined in Composing the Film Score. The focus, however, will be on orchestration within the context of recording a film score, and there will be two recording sessions, each with ensembles of reduced instrumentation that are intended to be mixed with prerecorded samples and/or purely electronic elements. Such hybrid scores are a more likely scenario for the emerging film composer, and the scoring assignments are designed to mimic these conditions.

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The sessions themselves will be conducted remotely, and students will be responsible for composing, mocking up, orchestrating, preparing Pro Tools sessions, copying parts, and delivering all items electronically to the studio. They will also work with the orchestra during their recording time to ensure the performance is of a professional standard and achieves the composer’s intent. Upon delivery of the session tracks by the recording studio, they will mix their cue to completion.

Students will broaden their orchestration vocabulary, using appropriate combinations and techniques suited to specific dramatic situations and genres. They will also gain fluency in the live studio environment, responding in real time to a variety of common situations, such as changing a player’s part from the booth. Ideally the resulting product will be two recordings of their original work for orchestral hybrid ensembles that are suitable for use as promotional demo material.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Orchestrate efficiently and effectively for smaller ensembles, in a variety of styles covering a wide range of dramatic situations
  • Perform all preparatory tasks related to film score production, including: creating a representative MIDI mockup as a demo, utilizing appropriate orchestration, outputting properly formatted part extraction, and delivering record-ready stems to the session
  • Oversee all phases of production at a live orchestral scoring session, including: real-time monitoring of takes for performance quality, correcting errors in player parts, changing player parts from the booth when warranted of necessary, discussing creative and technical concerns with the engineer and conductor, and maintaining sync between prerecorded elements and the orchestra
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors Request Info

Syllabus

Lesson 1: Esthetics of Orchestration

  • From the Composer’s Perspective: Orchestration as Part of the Conceptualization Process
  • From the Orchestrator’s Perspective: A Sense of Balance
  • From the Top: The Main Title
  • Assignment 1: Plot Synopsis

Lesson 2: Sketching

  • The Old Days: Pencil and Paper
  • The Audio Takedown
  • The Age of MIDI: Mockups, Stems, and the Cleaned-Up MIDI Sketch
  • The Orchestrator’s Annotated Sketch
  • Assignment 2: Recording Project #1—Sketch and Audio Mockup

Lesson 3: The String Section; Dramatic Underscore

  • Balancing the String Section
  • Foreground/Middle Ground/Background
  • Extended Techniques
  • Strings as Underscore
  • Assignment 3: Recording Project #1—Orchestrate the Sketch

Lesson 4: Aspects of Music Preparation

  • Formatting a Score
  • Formatting Parts
  • The Pro Tools Session
  • Assignment 4: Recording Project #1—Music Prep

Lesson 5: The Studio Environment

  • The Conductor
  • The Booth Reader
  • The Engineer and Other Recording Personnel
  • Putting Out Fires in Real Time
  • Assignment 5: Recording Project #1—Upload Pro Tools Session

Lesson 6: The Orchestrator’s Perspective

  • The Composer/Orchestrator Relationship
  • Discerning a Composer’s Preferences
  • Interpreting Intent
  • Assignment 6: Recording Your Project #1

Lesson 7: Woodwinds and Brass

  • Woodwinds
  • Brass Instruments
  • Specialty Winds
  • Assignment 7: Recording Project #2—Sketch and Audio Mockup

Lesson 8: Percussion, Piano, and Harp

  • Membranophones (Pitched and Nonpitched)
  • Mallet Instruments (Pitched)
  • Other Non-Pitched Percussion
  • Scoring for Percussion
  • Orchestral Uses of Piano
  • Harp
  • Assignment 8: Recording Project #2—Orchestrate the Sketch

Lesson 9: Orchestrating the Horror and the Action Cues

  • Foreground/Middle Ground/Background in the Orchestra
  • Horror Cue Case Study: “Season’s Eatings” from Krampus
  • Action Cue Case Study: “Tunnel Chase” from I, Robot
  • Assignment 9: Recording Project #2—Music Prep

Lesson 10: Arranging from a Temp Score and Blending Scenarios

  • Arranging Case Study: “The Beach” from The Paperboy
  • Blending Source Case Study: “Dunkirk Beach” from Atonement
  • Blending Electronic and Acoustic Case Study: “Chase #4 (Manila)” from The Bourne Legacy
  • Assignment 10: Recording Project #2—Upload Pro Tools Session

Lesson 11: Orchestrating the Comedy Cue

  • Comedy Cue Case Study
  • Choir as an Orchestral Color
  • Solo Voice as an Orchestral Color
  • Assignment 11: Recording Your Project #2

Lesson 12: Course Wrap-Up

  • The Curse of Striping
  • The DAW Conundrum
  • Devising Strategies for More Organic and Realistic Orchestration Models
  • Notes from the Trenches

Requirements

Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Completion of Composing the Orchestral Film Score or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.

Students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in music composition at an undergraduate level
  • Demonstrate proficiency in orchestration at an undergraduate level
  • Produce sketches and audio mockups in a MIDI environment, using a sequencer program, orchestral sample libraries, and synthesizers (whether software or hardware)
  • Demonstrate a reasonable working knowledge of a professional standard notation program such as Finale or Sibelius, and the ability to create a clear, accurate orchestral score from which usable parts can be extracted
  • Demonstrate a solid familiarity with Pro Tools

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Hardware and Software Requirements

Film Scoring Rig: Click here for the full software and hardware requirements for the program.

  • Avid Pro Tools 2018.12 or higher is a hard requirement for this course (Pro Tools | Ultimate is recommended).
  • One of the following DAWs is recommended in addition to Pro Tools:
    • Steinberg Cubase Pro
    • Apple Logic Pro
    • MOTU Digital Performer

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection

Instructors

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Author & Instructor

Jon Kull is a film orchestrator with over 150 credits under his belt. He has worked with many of the top composers in Hollywood, including James Horner, Elmer Bernstein, Christopher Young, and James Newton Howard. He is also experienced as a session conductor, and has done arrangements for artists like Kathleen Battle and Christopher Parkening, and Neil Diamond. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Colorado, Jon began studying piano at age 6, expanding his interest to trumpet and choir, too. He wrote compositions for every ensemble he performed in: orchestra, jazz band, choir, marching band. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in piano and composition and a Master’s degree in piano performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He was accepted into the prestigious Film Scoring program at the University of Southern California. Kull’s clients include NBC, the New York-based creative house Siblings, Neutrogena, J.C. Penney, Snapple, Canon, among others.

Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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