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Topic: Orchestrators vs. Composers

  1. #1

    Orchestrators vs. Composers

    One of my teachers keeps saying that orchestrators in hollywood are more respected than the composers themselves. He also says the orchestrators are the ones making the most money.

    Not that I care either way, but it would be nice to hear from someone who can verify this?
    I don\'t understand how they can respect an orchestrator more or less than any other people involved in the process. Be it the composer, the musicians, the conductor etc.. Is this really the general view on things in L.A?

    Also it would be fun to hear from someone with hands on experience with a professional orchestrator for film music. How do they approach a piece of music?

    I just recently heard that Basil Poledouris mocked up the entire score for Starship Troopers, but he never said anything about the process of going from that mockup to the fully realized orchestrated score.

    With so many midi based composers nowadays it much be some truely horrific job to orchestrate an unquantized mess of notes from a midifile that the composer supplies him/her with.

    Just wondering.. I\'m still quite puzzled by this.


  2. #2

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    Is that the orchestrators job? I thought they just actually write down the melody, harmony, and whatever as a sketch, and give it to the orchestrator to just assign instruments. I didn\'t know their job was to get the midi file, (even unquantized) and try their best to get the notation correct. Is that their job? If so, wow. I hate looking at the unquanitized notes and trying to figure out what key they are SUPPOSED to be in, and the notation values. Before I got Gigastudio, I used my kurzweil internal sounds, and the polyphony rate is so low that I have to record each instrument with audio opposed to midi. So I\'d end up with over 200 tracks of audio for full scores. But to the subject, if that\'s the orchestrators job, I want one.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Chandler, Arizona

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    I remember reading an article in Keyboard about 10 years ago on orchestrating (I think it was Keyboard). They had an example of a John Williams score the way he wrote it by hand. There was about 6 staves and the instrumentation was actually quite complete. This is what he sent to the orchestrator. He pretty much orchestrates his compositions from the looks of his score.

  4. #4

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    Actually, I understand Basil Poledouris does everything with pencil and paper, one of the very few who prefere to work this way. I do believe he has assistants (at Blowtorch Flats) that may mock things up for him. Going from his paper to a full score cannot be that much of a leap. I know an orchestrator/assistant that used to work with Zimmer. Perhaps I can get her to come here and comment on this.

  5. #5

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    There is some degree of truth to this.

    Recently, I was talking about this very subject with my teacher who was in Hollywood for many years working on film music. He knows pretty much everyone in the business and in MOST cases (please bear in mind, I\'m not saying ALL), the composer writes out very bare ideas to be fleshed out by the orchestrator. The reasons for this seems to be the time factor. As we know, music comes far down in post production and if time needs to be cut off from the alloted time to complete the film, beginning to end, guess who gets the axe? The orchestrator can be filling out one cue while the composer is writing the ideas for the next.

    One exception of this is, who else, but John Williams. He writes condensed 9 stave \"Short scores\" with ALL the necessary information in it. Divisi, dynamics, articulations, everything. He has also done, I know, the entire score longhand, but that certainly is not normal. Neither is his particular method of composing. It\'s a technique I\'ve adapted because you get everything done that you want and leave the grind work of extraction to full score and parts by your \"orchestrator\" or \"arranger\".

    So, other than Williams, I think when musicians walk into a scoring session, they know that the parts put down in front of them weren\'t COMPLETELY done by the composer. The orchestrator remains in the backround working for the composer to get the glory I guess. Not fair, but welcome to Hollywood.

    As for pay scale... I heard some pretty staggering numbers for what Williams gets per score now, but I can\'t verify it. However, I will say this: I doubt ANY orchestrator for ANY other composer gets paid that much.


  6. #6

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    By the way, I have NO clue how much film composers get paid. Anybody have a guestimate of top composers payroll?

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    First I\'ve gotta recomend a book that answered alot of my questions to some degree. I\'m sure there are others here who\'ve read it, but for those that haven\'t, check out \"The Reel World\" by Jeff Rona. One of the many topics he discusses is orchestrators and their function as extraordinary time savers as Mahler mentioned above.

    If you\'ve got 4 days to get out a score for a tv show or something, and there\'s a studio session with real musicians doing a large chunk of the parts scheduled in two days, an orchestrator makes that impossible deadline possible for you. He\'s translating raw midi printouts and actually doing a great job of \"proofreading out\" mistakes that would cost big bucks if they weren\'t caught before bringing all those musicians together. Imagine sifting through your work on the fly trying to figure out where ya messed up (not hard to do I\'d imagine with such insane deadlines) while your producers are watching all these idle musicians and engineers, etc... Anyway, Rona goes into more detail than that, but that image alone made me think, \"okay, add an arranger to my shopping list of the future.\"

    As far as pay rates go, I don\'t know how accurate this info is, but I found it some time ago.


    I would be curious to know too how well compensated arrangers are.

  8. #8

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    btw, the article I posted mentions \"vast\" amounts of money made by James Horner in the introduction... I did a search and several of his fan websites stated his earnings in the range of $65 million for Titanic royalties alone... isn\'t that fun to think about? [img]images/icons/grin.gif[/img]

  9. #9

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers

    I\'m afraid I can\'t speak from a Hollywood perspective, but as a person who spent 3 or so years after studying at the Royal College of Music working as an orchestrator for films and documentaries here in Britain I can confirm that there are an awful lot of composers out there who tout themselves as orchestral composers and don\'t know the first thing about orchestration. The amount of junk I\'ve had to sift through and turn into full scores on quite big projects is mind-bending.

    The only way to really learn is to have direct experience performing in, composing for and conducting with a good grade orchestra and learn the craft. Sitting at home producing midi scores and mocking them up doesn\'t cut it IMHO. So much of the time what seems to work well on a computer would turn out to be derivative junk when a real orchestra is employed. That\'s why orchestrators are called upon to iron out these problems.

    The technical aspects of the craft are lost on a lot of composers today. Simple things like pulling out the 2nd trombone before the first to help effect a diminuendo are just lost, particularly on those who can\'t read music properly. And an awful lot can produce cheesy mock-ups on equipment but are incapable of transposing it to score compitently with all the correct markings etc. Non-classicaly trained composers are are particular hazard because they often don\'t understand the mechanics of it all (especially in string and woodwind writing in my experience - I\'ve seen some really absurd unplayable stuff written in this department).

    Sorry for my grumblings, I\'ve had bad experiences with this and can at least confirm that over here, orchestrators/arrangers do not earn more than the composers.

  10. #10

    Re: Orchestrators vs. Composers


    This is very interesting thanks for posting, nice to hear somebody who is realy doing it.
    Sad to hear that you are soar at midi composers like the rest of the orchestrators I know.
    I was wondering about one thing that is not mentioned so often, what do you get from the composer when you start your work. Piano Score, midi files, how detailed? How many lines, what freedom do you have to make the score better,can you do any changes? I understand this varies greatly from composer to composer, but in general?


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