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MIDI Orchestration Explained

Music theory master Eli Krantzberg has heard your requests for an in-depth series all about MIDI orchestration and has delivered big time. This series is designed for those of you who want to create realistic symphony orchestrations using todays awesome symphonic virtual instruments. If you want to compose for film, TV or just to get what's in your head outside for all to hear, this collection is for you.

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MIDI Orchestration Introduction 7m:06s

Overview of what orchestration is and what will be covered in this video series.


Custom MIDI Setup 5m:51s

Discover how to use Logic's Environment to set up MIDI channel based key switching in order to alter the MIDI channel of incoming notes and trigger different MIDI channels in a multi-timbral software instrument all in real-time from the same track.


Traditional MIDI Setups 6m:34s

See how articulation switching is achieved with traditional note based key switching in Kontakt, mod wheel based switching in the EXS24, or with the use of individual instruments.

The Solo Instruments


The Violin 11m:19s

Discover the world of the violin, including how the instrument is tuned, and some of its various playing articulations and characteristics.


The Viola 11m:44s

Explore the colors and characteristics of the viola, a slightly larger throatier darker sounding big brother to the violin. Hear how it sounds alone and in combination with piano and violin together.


Cello & Double Bass 7m:17s

Learn about the cello and double bass, and how to get started writing in two and three part counterpoint style.


Flute, Piccolo, Oboe & English Horn 12m:07s

Discover the ranges, articulations, and characteristics of the higher ranged instruments in the woodwind family.


Clarinets & Bassoon 7m:23s

Learn about the clarinet, bass clarinet, and bassoon and get a feel for the evocative expressive nature some the combined solo woodwinds can create.


Trumpet & Trombones 6m:48s

The regal wonders of the brass family are reveled here, first with the trumpet, and then with the trombone and bass trombone.


Horn & Tuba 6m:05s

Discover the rich warm versatility of the French Horn and Tuba, and listen to an example of some four part brass choir writing.


Untuned Percussion 8m:04s

Explore the world of non-pitched percussion instruments and discover how they can be used to enhance the overall dynamics and accents within your orchestrations.


Tuned Percussion 7m:14s

See how some of the tuned instruments in the percussion family, including the timpani drums, glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba, and tubular bells can further expand your orchestrations.

Production Techniques


Using MIDI Expression 9m:50s

Using MIDI Expression (CC 11) is useful as a means of generating dynamics while leaving the volume (CC 07) unaltered.


Attack! 6m:02s

Automating the attack parameter is an effective way to generate swells and crescendos. Expression can be used creatively to construct sforzando style dynamics.


Space 7m:42s

Learn to balance and position how close or far various instrument sections are in relation to each other using the channel strip faders and pre-fader sends for reverb.

Instrumental Sections


The String Section 9m:05s

Explore the setup, placement and writing conventions for the string section as a whole.


The Woodwind Section 8m:45s

Learn how the woodwind family works as a section, how to best voice harmonies and blend them with other instruments.


The Brass Section 8m:55s

Discover the wide range of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic possibilities the brass section brings to the orchestra.


Doubling 8m:07s

Straight unison or octave doubling can become heavy and grey sounding. Learn how some of the alternatives to straight doubling add variety and maintain the listeners interest.


Orchestral Accompaniment 6m:49s

Discover some tried and true principles to use when orchestrating to accompany a soloist.

Managing MIDI


Macro to Micro Sequencing 6m:52s

Explore ways of combining patches, and ways of splitting divisi parts over multiple individual instruments.


Micro Sequencing Continued 10m:58s

Discover how note overlaps, release time, bender range, sustain time and region delays all influence the playback of programmed MIDI parts.

Motivic Development


The Glass Mirror 14m:54s

Understand how to conceptualize a post modern approach to orchestration using principals of minimalism and repetition.


Broken Glass 6m:39s

Minimalist concepts of sonic manipulation can be applied at a 'meta' level to the modern DAW by means of plug-ins and automation.


Deconstruction to Reconstruction 7m:07s

Explore ways of expanding and elaborating on thematic material using re-harmonization, modulation, and meter change.


Modern Harmony 7m:48s

Learn how to re-harmonize melodies using upper extensions, jazz style cadences, bass movement, pedal tones and modal style quartal movement.


Repetition & Retrograde Variations 7m:53s

See how to use exact and sequential repetition, retrograde and inversion techniques as tools for motivic development when building orchestrations.


Motive-ation! 6m:05s

Explore more techniques of motivic development used to elaborate and vary thematic material.


More Thematic Development 7m:23s

Learn how to use rhythmic augmentation and diminution, fragmentation, simplification and modal change as thematic development techniques.


Reprise & Coda 8m:24s

Summary of some of the principal concepts discussed throughout the series and concluding thoughts on how to approach orchestration.

Eli Krantzberg

1. When did you start dabbling in music?

I started playing drums in high school at age fourteen. Like most kids my age around then, I was into progressive rock. Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Yes. They rocked my world. A few short years later though, my musical life changed. While studying music in college I discovered Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, and John Coltrane. Milt Jackson spoke to me in such a profound way that it left me no choice but to take up vibraphone.

These great players, along with  drummers like Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones changed not only the way I thought about drumming, but also music - and by extension, life - as a whole. I realized life was meant to be a creative endeavor. The idea of improvising based on a loose set of guidelines and rules permeated into my psyche even when I wasn't holding a pair of drumsticks or mallets. But if I am going to be perfectly truthful, I have to hold Henry Miller and Woody Allen equally responsible for shaping the way I view and experience the world around me. 

2. What training have you had?

I am currently an Apple certified Logic Pro. Young and cocky, and armed with only a partial University degree, I dropped out of school and  began playing steady commercial hotel engagements and jazz gigs when I could. This went on for many years until I decided it was time to complete my degree - which I ultimately did with a major in Political Science and a minor in music. 

It was at this point that I formed my current band Nightshift. We are going in to our twenty third year now - playing commercial one nighters like weddings, corporate events, etc. Don't turn your nose up at it though - it has allowed me a wonderful quality of life. It gave me the freedom to go back to school and complete a post graduate degree in Communications Studies - all the while supporting myself by playing weddings.

3. When did you get into recording?

It was in this graduate program - in the early nineties - that I found myself drawn to the fledgling emerging universe of hard disc recording and midi sequencing. Based on nothing more than the recommendation of one of my band mates who had an old Atari, I jumped in head first and bought a Mac LC ll, along with a version 1.1 of what was then Notator Logic. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But, in hindsight, it was a decision of epic importance in my life - shaping my future as much as the music of Milt Jackson and Charlie Parker did fifteen years prior. 

I opened up my own commercial home studio in 1998 and began doing a variety of projects, working on radio jingles, artist CD projects, and whatever came my way. A couple of years later a colleague called me up - desperate. He was working at a post production house and one of the editors had just quit. They were doing audio post for a weekly TV series and needed a Pro Tools editor - and fast! And so, once again, I jumped in head first into what would ultimately open up my world even more - the world of Pro Tools. 

4. People you have worked with/for?

Focusing on Logic, I built up a small but loyal client base and my phone kept ringing for Logic tech support and instruction. Film composers and studio owners all over the city were calling me. Even the music stores were giving out my phone number at this point! This kind of stuff becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The more of it you do, the more calls you get to keep doing it. At least that's the way it should be!

As my Logic chops kept growing, I was hired by an old buddy of mine, Len Sasso, who was then an associate editor at Electronic Musician magazine, and began writing some columns for them. I had a blast doing them - and really learned to focus and express my thoughts in a concise and clear manner. This lead to a collaboration with LA based composer Terry Michael Huud on the 2006 film called Civic Duty - which was certainly one of the highlights of my professional life as a composer. 

5. Why are you so good at training people?

I wake up every day excited to boot up, and create. Whether it's instructional videos, creating music, working with a studio client, performing with my band, or teaching at the schools - my days are filled with what I love doing. Enriched by the stimulation and creative freedom this modern music making software brings to my life. I bring that excitement and passion to each and every training product I create. My years of experience both using and teaching these programs has taught me the best way to make the user comfortable with these complex programs.

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