It’s More Than Just Notes

Maybe it’s a mistake to write this before I have my coffee. Forging on.

I made a preliminary pass at mixing Zolara yesterday. I was only able to get from the piccolo to the timpani. Which means, I still have the rest of the percussion including snares, cymbals and metals to mix and all of the strings.

My main focus in this 1st time through converting from my default Sibelius instruments (fairly generic sounding midi instruments) to East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra is to match the instrument style as closely as possible. What do I mean by this? I’ll talk specifically about the horns, as this was where spent the most time.

The horns are actually a good example anyway, as there is a great many ways to play them. They can be played mellow, bright, staccato or many other. Additionally, as the instrument changes volume the sound quality also changes greatly. Let’s take bright horns and varying them according to loudness.

Example 1 is 6 bright horns repeating a short melody and growing progressiveness louder. Notice how the sound gets sharper as the instrument is played louder. You can begin to hear the shape of the bell and and the musicians lips pressing hard against the mouthpiece. The resonance changes and the notes begin to mingle together a bit. This is only a good digital reproduction of a recording session; a live performance would have these elements occurring in a much less controlled and more natural way.

Example 1

Example 2 is again 6 horns, but this time we’ll keep the loudness constant and change up the articulation, or style of play. The first is a sort of default method, nothing fancy or too specific. Next is staccato, which is a very short and precise method and lastly is accented or sforzando, similar to the first but with much more energy behind it.

Example 2

As I said earlier, I spent a lot of time working specifically on the horns in this draft of the mix. And I will spend more time getting them just right. Mathematically, with only the options I explained above, I can combine them to give every note 1 of 12 unique expressive states. There are 302 separate notes each with the possibility to be played 1 of 12 different ways, means that there is 3,624 possibilities out there from which to choose. Of course, there is more than just 12 different possibilities, there are dozens making the expression of any piece of music nearly limitless. There are varying degrees of everything from which music consists. I’ve often heard of the paradox of music which goes something like this:

There are 8 notes in an octave. And there are only 2 types of notes; duplets and triplets, notes that exist as 2 to a beat and those and consist of 3 per beat. How then do we create infinite works of music? Shouldn’t there only be 16 ways to combine these elements?

My brief study in this post is my modest contribution to the question, which is admittedly simplified. One can argue that there are  notes in a western scale, some may say that there are actually 12 notes, etc etc. The point is, that even with the same melody which stays unaltered by even a single note, one can create infinite versions of a song based solely on how the notes are played, interpreted, harmonized, orchestrated, counterpoint, and a lifetime of other variations.

Princess Zolara Mix 1

I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be working more on this mix today, tomorrow, the day after…

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