Danny Elfman Masterclass

DerSiebteRabe

New Member
No, you cannot mock up most of his scores. Pretty much like any other top composer who is writing even mildly complex orchestral music.
No, you absolutely can and it doesn't have to sound "terrible" by comparison. I'm sorry, but this is a cope.

it’s nothing to do with rich people in Hollywood.
No, it has a lot to do with rich people in Hollywood.

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.
While I have nothing against them, you really are over-playing the "sophistication" of their music.

If you have recordings of all the types of articulations, ornaments/mordents, etc. that you need to mock up a given phrase, then it is possible to make a mock up which will sound good and probably fool the majority of the audience.

The question really isn't about how "good" or "real" samples can sound, it's more about what we ought to place value on. We ought to value human performances over machines'.

However, the reality is, most people watching Elfman's course (at least where the orchestra is concerned) will never get to have their music played by a full ensemble in a hall or scoring stage. At best, most will be able to hire one or two live players to overdub the samples.

I'm friends with a number of professional film composers, I've studied with and learned from them, kinda worked as an assistant etc. and I know guys who've scored successful films for 30 years, won awards, make-a-living at this etc. and have never recorded a live orchestra.

So no, Danny Eflman's advice here is out-of-touch. Using samples is totally valid.

As a final note, and some might see this as nihilistic though that's not how I see it: I don't really think it matters in most movies and video games if the music is live or not. The effects are fake, the stories are so often cookie-cutter, the characters are fake, the backgrounds are fake, the creatures are fake, the sets are fake, and so on — but the music has to be real? How many enduring films and games from the 80s and 90s using synths or primitive samplers disprove that? At the end of the time, most of these things are just consumer products meant to provide an evening's entertainment to make more Hollywood suits even richer.

The only reason I would ever shell out money for live players on these types of projects (but it's very rare you'll ever be given a budget today) is for my own artistic satisfaction and to save myself all that time spent in front a screen creating mockups
 

Mike Fox

Button Masher
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
Absolutely. I actually thought that was a given. One of the first things Elfman says in the promo video is, "I'm gonna tell you from MY perspective how I do these things".
 

DerSiebteRabe

New Member
To my ears, the Alice in Wonderland VSL mockup really illustrates the limitations of samples. And I'm not against samples; I use them every day. :emoji_sunglasses:
No, because I haven't mocked up Elfman's music mainly because I have no reason too and don't care.

However, I can direct you to some examples of more-skilled MIDI orchestrators than I who write music in the same kind of classic style that people like Elfman are known for.




There is absolutely no way that these would not be approved in the film world, and I don't suspect you'll find any average person who'd listen to these, especially the latter examples, and be bothered by the fact that it's virtual — if they could tell at all. As I said, you are really only limited by whatever it is that you don't have samples of.

So the idea that samples — which are just recordings of performances, really — have something about them which is so limiting that music like Danny Elfman's (or that Elfman's music in particular is special in this regard) should not or cannot be effectively realized with samples, is simply nonsense.

Whether it's "as good" to your ears or not is beside the point and allows for a considerable amount of subjectivity.
 

Tanuj Tiku

Senior Member
No, you absolutely can and it doesn't have to sound "terrible" by comparison. I'm sorry, but this is a cope.



No, it has a lot to do with rich people in Hollywood.



While I have nothing against them, you really are over-playing the "sophistication" of their music.

If you have recordings of all the types of articulations, ornaments/mordents, etc. that you need to mock up a given phrase, then it is possible to make a mock up which will sound good and probably fool the majority of the audience.

The question really isn't about how "good" or "real" samples can sound, it's more about what we ought to place value on. We ought to value human performances over machines'.

However, the reality is, most people watching Elfman's course (at least where the orchestra is concerned) will never get to have their music played by a full ensemble in a hall or scoring stage. At best, most will be able to hire one or two live players to overdub the samples.

I'm friends with a number of professional film composers, I've studied with and learned from them, kinda worked as an assistant etc. and I know guys who've scored successful films for 30 years, won awards, make-a-living at this etc. and have never recorded a live orchestra.

So no, Danny Eflman's advice here is out-of-touch. Using samples is totally valid.

As a final note, and some might see this as nihilistic though that's not how I see it: I don't really think it matters in most movies and video games if the music is live or not. The effects are fake, the stories are so often cookie-cutter, the characters are fake, the backgrounds are fake, the creatures are fake, the sets are fake, and so on — but the music has to be real? How many enduring films and games from the 80s and 90s using synths or primitive samplers disprove that? At the end of the time, most of these things are just consumer products meant to provide an evening's entertainment to make more Hollywood suits even richer.

The only reason I would ever shell out money for live players on these types of projects (but it's very rare you'll ever be given a budget today) is for my own artistic satisfaction and to save myself all that time spent in front a screen creating mockups
Pretty much disagree with everything you have said here.

You have had a long and illustrious career and know lots of other people. But it is often not very expensive to hire musicians and even small ensembles. I don’t know which part of the world you live in but access to small ensembles is not very expensive.

I think for about a few thousand euros, you can get musicians in Budapest.

Also to your point about using synths - of course that’s absolutely fine. But the discussion is about writing orchestral music for a film that needs it and working with live musicians, instead of mocking it up. Specially, a film which decidedly needs proper orchestral music.

I too have done an animation film, entirely mocked up. But I still had a budget to hire a 20-piece choir and 12 string players to layer the whole thing in Mumbai, recorded at a scoring stage.

Both the filmmakers and I felt that the musicians brought something very valuable in a very tangible way to the project. The producer had worked for many years with Satyajit Ray and he understood the valuable process of composing and recording music.

In any case, a world where we only use mock ups for creating music, would be sad. I use samples everyday. People often hire me because they want the big sound. Both because they want that writing but also many times because they do not have the budget.

But, I believe very firmly, that musicians bring a whole lot to the table. Samples are decent at some things but wholly incapable of creating proper orchestral music. You simply cannot express fully, orchestral music, without using an actual orchestra. You can compose it with samples but most often, specially if the music is very expressive and complicated, it will sound horrendous in comparison.

This is why you cannot mock up successfully any film score from any of the Maestros. The fact that they had access to real orchestras, is intrinsically and irreversibly linked to the final result.

I believe, this whole thing is usually a cost cutting effort, not a creative choice.

And so, I fight hard on nearly every project to get budgets so we can hire musicians. There is not a single project I have done, in my career, where the filmmakers were not happy with the decision to hire musicians in the end.

And we can totally disagree on the point that samples can replace live music. They cannot. I have nothing more to add to that.
 

DerSiebteRabe

New Member
Pretty much disagree with everything you have said here.

You have had a long and illustrious career and know lots of other people. But it is often not very expensive to hire musicians and even small ensembles. I don’t know which part of the world you live in but access to small ensembles is not very expensive.

I think for about a few thousand euros, you can get musicians in Budapest.
"A few thousands Euros" isn't cheap. Especially when most people on these forums will be lucky to ever make a "few thousands Euros" from their music at all.

Both the filmmakers and I felt that the musicians brought something very valuable in a very tangible way to the project. The producer had worked for many years with Satyajit Ray and he understood the valuable process of composing and recording music.

In any case, a world where we only use mock ups for creating music, would be sad. I use samples everyday. People often hire me because they want the big sound. Both because they want that writing but also many times because they do not have the budget.
This whole part is a strawman

This is why you cannot mock up successfully any film score from any of the Maestros.
You absolutely can.


I'm sorry, but this idea that "it's not doable", which is the entire thing I'm arguing against, is just wrong. So I'm not going to even address it anymore.

And so, I fight hard on nearly every project to get budgets so we can hire musicians. There is not a single project I have done, in my career, where the filmmakers were not happy with the decision to hire musicians in the end.

And we can totally disagree on the point that samples can replace live music. They cannot. I have nothing more to add to that.
And once again, I know composers who've gone 30 years, won awards and all of that, and have never recorded a live orchestra. At best, they've dubbed over soloist performances from time to time.

If you are able to get live musicians, then that's great.

If you can't and you wind up only using samples and maybe the odd live addition, that is also fine.
 

Tanuj Tiku

Senior Member
"A few thousands Euros" isn't cheap. Especially when most people on these forums will be lucky to ever make a "few thousands Euros" from their music at all.



This whole part is a strawman



You absolutely can.


I'm sorry, but this idea that "it's not doable", which is the entire thing I'm arguing against, is just wrong. So I'm not going to even address it anymore.



And once again, I know composers who've gone 30 years, won awards and all of that, and have never recorded a live orchestra. At best, they've dubbed over soloist performances from time to time.

If you are able to get live musicians, then that's great.

If you can't and you wind up only using samples and maybe the odd live addition, that is also fine.
No problems at all! We will disagree on everything in that case.

I don't think you are understanding what I have been trying to put across. Yes, it is OK to use samples. Yes, I too, know many composers who have not worked with live musicians.

What I do not understand, is your lack of understanding of the basic premise here. Nobody will score the next Disney animation with samples. We are not discussing, independent movies or low budget animation. Yes, there are budget issues there, as I myself explained to you with my own experience on an animation project. Interestingly, me speaking about my experience, in my career gets a 'strawman' comment but your experience, is OK!

And all of that has nothing to do with being rich. Danny Elfman does not put in his own money. He worked to the top of the game from working in a band. He mentions it, ever so clearly that budget is not the issue, even for him. He has worked on many films with less budget and in that case he won't use an orchestra. He will simply go another route. That is artistic integrity.

Yes, you won't probably get that working at the start of your career but you work up to it. You aspire, you have a vision. Nobody is saying that samples are intrinsically bad. All I am saying is that for the TOP level productions, you will not use samples. Period.

Danny Elfman is inspiring and has already inspired a generation of composers around the world, to imagine and to further the art form. He is not dissing people who use samples. He uses them himself.

What is so hard about getting this?

Also, can you please share a better and complete example? Most of that video is running in demo mode and the initial comparison is too short and snippy of a very short passage. The demos mode, later in the video, clearly speaks DEMO to me.

Anyway, since we fundamentally disagree on the matter, perhaps it is better we let the topic carry on without our further intrusions. I think, we have both said what we would like to and simply disagree. But, that is OK!

PS: No need to share more examples. Sorry, I seem to have missed your earlier post, where you shared three videos. They are very skilled indeed but scream samples to me in most passages. Sorry, but that is not close to live, not to my ears. Can an audience can tell the difference? I think, most won't care but a good chunk of people will definitely 'feel' something better with a real performance in the long run.

Anyway, carry on!
 
Last edited:

galactic orange

Sensor Number
I don’t comment much on this forum, but I try to pay attention. I am of the opinion that the quality of the composition supersedes the quality of the samples. I’m from the gamer generation, raised on 8-bit games, 16-bit games... those themes stick with you. Some of those themes and motifs are phenomenal. You don’t forget them. It doesn’t matter that it came from a Yamaha chip in a game system or whatever. The same can be said for something like Batman score. Mindblowing. Trendsetting. I know that to me it just “fits” the feeling of the movie. Batman finale. Couldn’t be better.

Yeah, we want our scores to impart the tone that we feel as composers. And of course, having the orchestra at our disposal is a huge asset. If all we have is VIs then we should do our best. 30 years ago composers for games worked with less.

I really don’t like the term “mockup”. I realize this is just semantics. But I don’t like the term mockups. Are you making music or not? If what you conceived isn’t good enough with today’s samples then it wasn’t good enough in the first place. Plenty of examples of kick-ass music I can provide you with that aren’t played by an actual “orchestra.” Yes, orchestras are ideal. No, I can’t afford one so I’ll do the best I can.

Danny Elfman is the coolest. And so is Nobuo Uematsu. The fact that the latter composed music for games doesn’t make his music any less powerful. The number of game music fans prove it.
 

Tanuj Tiku

Senior Member
I'd like to watch that...Is there a way of just buying that or do you have to become a pro-member first ?

best

e
No, you will have to buy the pro membership. The John Powell masterclass is excellent. It is very on point and I think he structured it all really well, showing just one sequence, instead of just talking about most things. I felt that it was a fantastic way to spend 90 minutes of my time.

I hope that you will find it interesting and inspiring as well.
 

stigc56

Senior Member
For anyone who did the Zimmer one, how did you feel about it
I was disappointed, but kind of expected to be! I think this whole "industri" around the craft of composing assisted by a DAW is kind of cheating their audience.
The guest is sitting in a first class studio, the camera zooms to all the old fantastic synths, the lights are fantastic and they talk and talk - many of them with these fancy "taking" hands, the latest wonder in communication.
And they go on for hours so tell the obvious, that you have to communicate with the director, that you are not the artist, that you have to be able to change direction very fast, and in all means submit the turbulent creative process.
But they don't show or talk about all the decisions composing a piece of music ALSO consist of AFTER the inspiration has arrived!
The only one that I have watched that actually opens up to how he is doing his job is Guy Michelmore who actually compose to rolling camera. He is no Zimmer or Elfman but he's approach to the job is to me the most inspiring. And he also has some subtle takes on how Zimmer is approaching the directors, which kind of illustrate how things works in this and many other industries.
 

Mattia Chiappa

Active Member
Here's a particularly successful mockup of a Danny Elfman's piece in my opinion. Of course it would be unfair to compare it to the original recording but realism aside, by no means this lacks expressivity and or character which are also important factors. Imagine having your piece played by a shitty orchestra. it would be an invaluable experience and sound real but no so good at the same time.

 

Land of Missing Parts

Grumpy Monkey
I'm sorry but I really don't get this "you can't mockup his scores" thing. A mockup is a mockup, and the real thing is the real thing. So what ? In that case, are there anybody's scores out there you CAN mockup ?
Well-put. I will stop speaking universally and just speak to my own experience on this. When I use samples I feel the limitations, and it makes me want to push myself, try harder, listen closer. The more I learn, the more I see things that need to be done better. This is all I am saying.

I never listen back to something I wrote and think "Nailed it! Sounds as good as a real orchestra." Never.
 
Last edited: