Quick Composition #1

I’ve decided to start up a little routine to do some quick compositions (I’ll aim for once a week) to help me grow as a composer.  The goal here is not necessarily interesting melodies or thought provoking compositions, but to work on mixing appropriate instruments together and achieving an overall pleasing sound that I’m proud of.  Most of these posts will follow the same format, unless I get extremely lazy.  Any composers out there can feel free to contact me to discuss any of these pieces, I’m always looking to improve.



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Libraries Used

  • Spitfire Albion (instruments, percussion)
  • Kontakt 4 Library (Guitar)
  • NI’s New York Grand
  • Reflektor convolution reverb (sparingly)
  • Tonehammer Requim (choir staccato, solo soprano)


For this piece I decided to start with the loudest, fullest section first.  My first goal with this exercise is to get a better mix during full volume sections of my tracks.  I figured by starting with the loudest part and then slowly carving parts out of it, I could have a more organic composition instead of taking a section I really like and then adding layers to it for volume.  Until I’m able to completely visualize a piece before writing, this is probably the approach I’ll take.

Next thing I wanted to do was get out of chordal based writing, and start using melody first.  This is helping me select chord inversions for accompaniment, instead of trying to write that section first and getting the voice leading down.  The “melody” I started with was the huge string/brass staccato line.  I ended up filling it out as chords (with two inversions) when I went back and tried to make it accent the piano arpeggio a bit better.

I then added the choir and a trumpet swell to try to accent the end of the 4 bar climax.  I probably should have extended that section to 8 bars, and built a little more percussion into it (using TrueStrike or something, I’ll add that in the high energy clip I do).

Then to lead into the loud part, I took away most of the percussion and the full ensemble.  Layered in some con sordino strings and soft brass, added a little more focus to the piano by altering the chord progression a bit since it’s carrying almost all of the rhythm.  I should have played with the dynamics on the string line a bit more in this section, since it’s a bit flat and lifeless.

I then played a variation on the piano line, at half temp on the acoustic guitar (with some rolled chord flare) and doubled it with a quiet wood wind ensemble.  I don’t use woodwinds enough and I think it paired okay with the guitar, maybe should have used a single flute instead of the ensemble.

The solo voice at the end was an experiment to punctuate the song, and I liked it so I left it in.  Requim doesn’t seem to have the dynamic control I was looking for, or maybe I just didn’t know where to look.  I ended up using Ableton track automation on the track volume to control the dynamics (but the end result was nice).

Extra reverb was added to the choir / piano / guitar using Reflektor (Native Instruments).  I mostly use the INIT patch, dry at 0% and use the Scoring Stage IR.  I put a small eq to roll off the lows for the reverb channel so there isn’t as much mud build up you can get (especially with convolution reverbs).  I don’t think you always need convolution reverb, algorithmic reverb will get your mix most of the way.  I just like the convolution effect on solo instruments, since I think it adds a bit of extra life to them.

This took me about 1.5 hours to make from start to finish.  I look forward to working on the next one, I think I’ll try to alternate the themes between fast and slow archetypes.

Areas for Improvement

Two things I want to work on for the next clip:

Transitions – The transition from the quiet part at the beginning to the piano section is mostly non-existent.  There’s a small string swell into the main string line, but other than that not much.  My quiet-to-loud transitions need particular focus.

Counterpoint – All lines in this song are moving in the same direction, and are at mostly the same rhythm.  I need to work on less conventional harmony, and incorporate more interplay between melodies.  This could include a call-and-answer construct, which I think I’ll focus my next post on.

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