Danny Elfman Masterclass

DS_Joost

One day I'll fly away!
Elfman does make a good point about the lack of warmth in samples, but my feeling is that there are ways you can make samples warmer—the way you play them, etc.—and that for low budget productions that require a big budget sound, samples are the way to go.

I mean, really, he dismissed a good chunk of television composers when he said sampled scores don't work.
Samples lack warmth and life, yes. The more I work with them, the more that part irritates me. This is the reason why I process the everliving **** out of them despite what everyone on this forum says.

''Process your samples as little as possible'' is the single most poisonous advice given on this forum despite the good intentions.

''Whatever it takes to make the bloody thing sound good'' is much better advice. Everyone should find their own way of doing this.

It's the reason I adore Vangelis so much. Rarely uses a real orchestra. Plays all his stuff in his Enterprise like studio. Listen closely and you'll hear he plays his samples like a keyboardist because that's what he is. Not giving a damn about what anybody says you should do is one of life's greater blessings. Advice can be followed. It can also not be. Think for yourself, always.
 

robgb

I was young once
''Process your samples as little as possible'' is the single most poisonous advice given on this forum despite the good intentions.
I could be wrong, but this advice sounds as if it's coming from people who aren't big on mixing. I don't know about processing the everliving **** out of them, but EQ, saturation, compression, multi-band compression go a long way toward making your libraries sound great.

Let's face it, most of the developer demos we hear are expertly mixed with the appropriate processing. That's why so many users have problems duplicating the sound they heard in the demos.

Not giving a damn about what anybody says you should do is one of life's greater blessings. Advice can be followed. It can also not be. Think for yourself, always.
I've always said that if you're working with samples you do not have to stick to any orchestral "rules." Make them do things orchestral instruments CAN'T do. Innovate, don't imitate.
 

bvaughn0402

Active Member
Can anyone provide a review of this?

I'm tempted, but I find a lot of classes like this are more aggregate and "in the clouds"/motivational ... which are good, but not where my mind is at right now.
 

Tanuj Tiku

Senior Member
7 chapters in, its fantastic. Elfman is one of my heroes!

Of course samples sound crap. No composer would prefer samples over amazing music recorded live.

What he is talking about, is the top 1% of music in films. You can't mock up his scores. Same as you cannot mock up a John Williams track successfully. He is not dissing anyone.
 

MauroPantin

We'll cross that bridge when we burn it
I think you could mock up a Piano rendition of happy birthday, post it here in the forum, and someone would come in and say it sounds "synthy" or whatever. This is a composer forum, filled with musicians with great ear and chops, and everybody here spends tons of hours listening for the uncanny valley stuff in the soundscape and trying to fix it.

Outside in the real world, the mockups a lot of talented people in here craft would EASILY pass muster for the common folk. Most of the time we're arguing about very tiny details that only the people in the craft notice.

Of course, if you have the budget, you record. It means absolute freedom in the artistic sense, it saves a lot of time wrestling with samples and MIDI CCs, and it is as real as it gets. It can never be replaced, but it's at a point where it is close enough to fool most people under certain conditions.
 

DerSiebteRabe

New Member
Try mocking up an Elfman song with samples. You'll quickly see what he means about the limitations of sample libraries.
It can be done though. It depends on the sample library and the user.

This goes with what I was saying in that other thread about the BBC Orchestra and being burnt out: A great deal of orchestral sample libraries do not offer enough articulations and samples beyond "long" and "short". This is not necessarily because of an inherent inferiority of samples unto themselves, but because most of these companies are throwing all the budget at recording big-name orchestras, in big name halls, with big-name engineers, and run out of $ before they get around to sampling much beyond basics.

Plenty of recent soloist libraries and a handful of ensemble ones do go further though, and used in tandem, they can play a fairly extensive repertoire and still sound convincing. Provided that the MIDI orchestrator knows what he/she's doing, of course.

Really, the objective difference between a live musician and sampled musician is that the former provides you with an unlimited amount of different "samples" (provided you have limitless cash) and often greater homogeneity of the performance (most of the time), but unlimited cash cannot buy you unlimited samples in software format — if you don't have a sample of it, you can't truly "mock it up". Live players can give you any "sample" you want.

So while Elfman is definitely correct that live players are ideal and offer a number of advantages — be they in performance, time efficiency, "human-touch", etc. — it doesn't mean that writing the kinds of music he writes is too difficult to justify using samples to create, nor does it mean he isn't out of touch with the rabble.

But any of us among the peasantry expecting to find understanding among wealthy, Hollywood celebrities who make a living at something less than 1% of the population does or even can do, is looking in the wrong places to begin with.
 

Tanuj Tiku

Senior Member
It can be done though. It depends on the sample library and the user.

This goes with what I was saying in that other thread about the BBC Orchestra and being burnt out: A great deal of orchestral sample libraries do not offer enough articulations and samples beyond "long" and "short". This is not necessarily because of an inherent inferiority of samples unto themselves, but because most of these companies are throwing all the budget at recording big-name orchestras, in big name halls, with big-name engineers, and run out of $ before they get around to sampling much beyond basics.

Plenty of recent soloist libraries and a handful of ensemble ones do go further though, and used in tandem, they can play a fairly extensive repertoire and still sound convincing. Provided that the MIDI orchestrator knows what he/she's doing, of course.

Really, the objective difference between a live musician and sampled musician is that the former provides you with an unlimited amount of different "samples" (provided you have limitless cash) and often greater homogeneity of the performance (most of the time), but unlimited cash cannot buy you unlimited samples in software format — if you don't have a sample of it, you can't truly "mock it up". Live players can give you any "sample" you want.

So while Elfman is definitely correct that live players are ideal and offer a number of advantages — be they in performance, time efficiency, "human-touch", etc. — it doesn't mean that writing the kinds of music he writes is too difficult to justify using samples to create, nor does it mean he isn't out of touch with the rabble.

But any of us among the peasantry expecting to find understanding among wealthy, Hollywood celebrities who make a living at something less than 1% of the population does or even can do, is looking in the wrong places to begin with.
No, you cannot mock up most of his scores. Pretty much like any other top composer who is writing even mildly complex orchestral music.

I mean you can, but it will sound terrible in comparison.

it’s nothing to do with rich people in Hollywood.

You won’t ask Pat Metheny to do his next album using Illya Efimov samples, will you?

A typical epic piece of music with constant fast motion, very less lyrical lines, burried in thick sounds and short flutters of brass work can be done.

However, when we speak of Danny Elfman or Thomas Newman, they are artists who deliver something deserving of the 1%.Not only is their music inventive, it is sophisticated, nuanced, complicated or simple but developed very much keeping a real orchestra in mind.They compose very differently in critical ways.
 

stigc56

Senior Member
Elfman does make a good point about the lack of warmth in samples, but my feeling is that there are ways you can make samples warmer—the way you play them, etc.—and that for low budget productions that require a big budget sound, samples are the way to go.

I mean, really, he dismissed a good chunk of television composers when he said sampled scores don't work.
If you want warmth go south ;):elephant:
Always listen to people who search for the truth, stop listen when they think they found it.
 

Abdulrahman

Member
Samples will never ever replace the power of a real orchestra. It will save you a lot of headaches to just pay for a real performance. You won't have to deal with dynamics, expressions, balancing and mixing.
The question is if you got hired, will they consider a budget for a real recording?
I remember I had a similar situation where the budget was extremely small to cover my cost and the recording. So I planned to record overdubs which help to cut the cost significantly and add realism to your tracks. The door to creative solutions is always open! :)
 

Mike Fox

Button Masher
7 chapters in, its fantastic. Elfman is one of my heroes!

Of course samples sound crap. No composer would prefer samples over amazing music recorded live.

What he is talking about, is the top 1% of music in films. You can't mock up his scores. Same as you cannot mock up a John Williams track successfully. He is not dissing anyone.
How long is the class? I'm definitely getting it, but will probably wait until BF.
 

stonzthro

Senior Member
Watched the whole thing - very good! The John Powell interview on Mix with the Masters is shorter but just as good.
 

InLight-Tone

Senior Member
*rolls eyes*

except nobody pays you, random composer 134,467 any attention unless you have $$.

on a limited budget, you're vastly better off buying sample libraries to get gigs going. His entry into the industry is 99% irrelevant to today's climate. Him and Zimmer came from the pop industry, rather than working composers.

so if you want to be a singer/songwriter to build a career to switch to orchestral work, by all means go decades out of your way.

DJ/gleckmans advice is probably much more useful/relevant, barring they might be "smart" about what they say given they dont want to burn bridges with the old guard.

verta's advice about just going drinking in LA is probably going to beat out advice from someone as remarkably unconventional as elfman's entry into the field

edit: not to knock elfman, but he is completely disconnected from the reality the other 99.9% of this forum is going to deal with. Hes going to have useful information, but I wouldn't take his advice on getting your foot in the door.
Vertas advice will net you a major drinking problem...
 

stigc56

Senior Member
Samples will never ever replace the power of a real orchestra. It will save you a lot of headaches to just pay for a real performance. You won't have to deal with dynamics, expressions, balancing and mixing.
The question is if you got hired, will they consider a budget for a real recording?
I remember I had a similar situation where the budget was extremely small to cover my cost and the recording. So I planned to record overdubs which help to cut the cost significantly and add realism to your tracks. The door to creative solutions is always open! :)
I don't agree. Real musicians are not The Wiener Philharmonics! You will have all other kinds of problems if you record live musicians. So often I have been surprised how detailed instructions - in the score, and during performance - you have to give also very experienced musicians. So if you make comparisons between a really good mock-up and an average orchestra, you will maybe have more power, but often also all kind of other problems: Timing, tuning, dynamics. It's not that easy!
 

kitekrazy

Senior Member
Elfman does make a good point about the lack of warmth in samples, but my feeling is that there are ways you can make samples warmer—the way you play them, etc.—and that for low budget productions that require a big budget sound, samples are the way to go.

I mean, really, he dismissed a good chunk of television composers when he said sampled scores don't work.
He writes for the movies with big budget and of course they are going to use a live orchestra.
 

kitekrazy

Senior Member
I think you could mock up a Piano rendition of happy birthday, post it here in the forum, and someone would come in and say it sounds "synthy" or whatever. This is a composer forum, filled with musicians with great ear and chops, and everybody here spends tons of hours listening for the uncanny valley stuff in the soundscape and trying to fix it.

Outside in the real world, the mockups a lot of talented people in here craft would EASILY pass muster for the common folk. Most of the time we're arguing about very tiny details that only the people in the craft notice.

Of course, if you have the budget, you record. It means absolute freedom in the artistic sense, it saves a lot of time wrestling with samples and MIDI CCs, and it is as real as it gets. It can never be replaced, but it's at a point where it is close enough to fool most people under certain conditions.
If some understood this there it would remove the endless youtube videos with the topic of "why today's music sucks". They need to get over it and realize those who are buying the downloads and subscriptions are "stoopid music listeners".

I'm always cautious of spending this kind of money on a video (I want the Van Buuren one). I got deals on MPV and Groove3 where I'm paying about $20 a month for both and is one 90$ class really going to worth it.
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
Are samples preferred over the best live orchestras? Probably not. Are samples preferred over a mediocre/bad live orchestra? Probably.

If you don't have much money and you want an orchestral sound you're probably better off with samples.

Regarding the value of the class, I'd say temper your expectations. These kinds of things tend to be interesting but not really informative. I've watched a bunch of the Masterclass series and I've not gotten anything that's of tremendous value. But they're interesting insights into the minds of the instructors.

So think of them less as a class and more as an extended interview or documentary.

rgames