One thing that you will find when using sample libraries to make your music with or when listening to mockups, is that they only have so much realism to show for. Sure, many composers today compose, mix and master their music to sound pretty much like a real orchestra or band, but generally speaking it only goes so far before you actually would like to hear it being played live, by real musicians through microphones specifically for that track.
There is something I’ve found that actually can drastically make mockups sound more realistic, and believe it or not, that way is to simply have real recordings in there! Sounds obvious but what I’m saying is just having one small instrument – perhaps a solo violin or a djembe recorded in stereo – can make a world of difference to how realistic the mockup sounds.
There is one great example of this, I remember listening to it and realizing I recognise a lot of the samples in it and also that one element was real. It was the intro of Game Of Thrones. Listen to the surrounding orchestra and the drums. It sounds very similar to some libraries I know and use such as Tonehammers’ Epic Dhol, but it sounds good and cinematic. However it’s not real. Then Ramin Djawadi introduces a live cello, and suddenly the entire main title cue feels deep and big and real:
Dam dam dadadam dam dadadaaa – Oh, sorry, damn catchy tune…
Of course, this technique can be quite pricy if you want to hire the best musicians. However there are several cheaper options out there, cheaper musicians who are very good at what they do (try upworks.com!).
But there is another way you can incorporate it in your own music, and that is by recording it yourself! If you have a small little bongo drum lying around, or a flute or anything really that makes some good sound for your music – record yourself playing it and put it in your mix! It can be a secondary focus in the track (or primary, center focus if you feel confident in playing, like a soaring violin solo). You can even use your own voice. As long as it’s actually a real recording, recorded specifically for your track, it will add a lot to your track and the overall sound.
Here’s a track I did several years ago, where I am using one live instrument that I played myself; a small djembe. It gets introduced at around 0:57.
Now go! Pick up any old instrument you have, or some forks, chopsticks, plastic trash bin, big water container, bamboo st – yeah I think you got it, and just record it! You’ll love the result.
Until next time!
Co-founder of Evenant, Walid is a composer, mechanical engineer, concept artist and entrepreneur from Sweden. Travelling and exploring new opportunities, always looking for new things to learn and create.