Utilizing Dynamics for Realism

Arn Andersson
February 24, 2024
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Utilizing Dynamics for Realism

In this video I explain the importance of programming dynamics and harnessing the power of the Mod Wheel in order to make your orchestral mockups sound more realistic.


What does this term "dynamics" mean?

Dynamics is not just about volume. It's about how loud or soft a player plays notes on their instrument. Another word to describe dynamics is intensity.

For example with strings, if you use a stronger bow movement, you produce a louder, more intense sound with a lot more grit. There's a lot more friction between the bow and the string which results in you getting more of an overdrive or saturated sound.

A softer bow movement produces well... a softer sound. A much more mellow and silky tone.

When you use the Mod Wheel on your MIDI keyboard, you are basically telling your orchestral sample libraries how much pressure to apply. And this can be applicable to any virtual instrument.

Applying more or less pressure to the bow movement creating dynamics for realistic orchestral Mockups

Dynamics also involve the scaling direction of volume from quiet to loud, or vice versa.

The use of dynamics has a powerful influence on the emotions of music, and can change the whole tone, color and timbre. It goes way beyond just volume. So a strong understanding and mastery is definitely a must have to improve your virtual orchestral mockups.

You can spend quite some time on this. This is not the most fun part of composing but it's a necessary one if you want your mockups to sound realistic.

The best part is that if you're recording something with live players, you don't really have to do that much and it can sound like garbage. But as long as you have the information required for an orchestrator, to put it onto paper or do it yourself, you're good. That's all that matters because no one's going to listen to that mock-up, they're gonna listen to the real thing, once it's recorded.

Tips for Beginners

I'd recommend for people who are just starting out and getting comfortable with crafting realistic sounding orchestral mockups, separate the tasks a little and don't try to do everything a once.

Because for every note you're playing, or every voice you're adding in, if you're thinking about the orchestration, the mock up, the mixing and the mastering all at once, you'll have a lot of pressure, and a lot of decisions to make. And it can become quite overwhelming and confusing very quickly.

So when you are composing... just compose... when you are arranging, just focus on arranging... when you are focusing on mockup realism tweaking dynamics, just focus on mockup realism. And so on so forth.

As a general idea or mindset, in the beginning at least, I'd recommend you follow this as a general rule of thumb, and then you can find your own rhythm and something that works for you. Just make sure you don't overload your brain and your workflow with too many things. Otherwise you could just end up spending too much time getting four measures of music. You might get four measures that are amazing, the mix is great, the samples are perfect and the modulation is spot on. But then you might realize that you are not going to be able to turn this into a full composition. But then you spend time fleshing it out, and then you realize you don't like it and you decide to scrap it. And there! You've just wasted three hours of your day.

Instead, what I like to do is to sketch out my composition for maybe 10 minutes, get all the main ideas in there for the full track. Then see if I like it, or not. And then move on from there.

That's what I focus on in my Orchestral Sketching Course, which I really recommend checking out for this purpose.

In this course I will show you the exact methods I use to come up with different theme ideas orchestrated in just around 15 minutes. And then from there, deciding which one I'd like to flesh out into a full track and go from there into turning the best ideas into a finished track as quickly as possible.

This is the key area that I look at when making sure my orchestrations and mockups are more realistic and just better to listen to overall.

I that hope this has been helpful. Do these steps in your tracks and I'm sure you're gonna make them sound a lot better.

See you guys later.

P.s. This is a short excerpt from one of the masterclasses. This class delves fully into the in and outs of improving your MIDI mockups and programming, alongside a lot of helpful tips and tricks to add to your composition toolbox.

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Arn Andersson

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