Tag Archives: #Deadwood

Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Week 7

These next two tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Week 7.

Acoustic Guitar Build was the assignment in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring to “create a one- to two-minute sample-based piece … choose a sample or multiple samples that are of importance to you … create a multi-layered instrument … manipulate the sample using filters, LFOs, envelopes, detuning, reverse, or effects.” I sampled my acoustic guitar by recording one note from each string all at the 2nd fret (low to high, F#, B, E, A, C#, F#), and then then bent the pitches up or down to fill out the basic chord-playing range. I wanted to capture the individual timbres of the different strings (without having to sample every chromatic note), which adds to the sound of voice-leading when playing chords. I recorded them each at soft, medium, and loud dynamics, as well as snap pizz I kept one version of this “instrument” unedited so that it would sound more like an actual guitar, but I also made a version with just the snap pizz sound reversed. For the bass part I used the technique I had used before where I added an arpeggiator to play quarter notes on a repeated note with stereo delay, but this time I had 8th notes on the left and dotted 8th notes on the right so it creates an “8th and two 16ths” rhythm. I added my clean multi-layered acoustic guitar with an arpeggiator, and I voiced the chords the way they would be on an actual guitar. Next I used a “vocal ah with harmonic sweep” pad that I had made for an earlier exercise (a sample of my wife’s voice from a piece I wrote years ago). The next layer is the reversed guitar snap pizz sample instrument with a ping pong delay to create some syncopation and complexity. In the B section the chords change and the bass rhythm in the stereo delay switches to 8th note triplets, the guitar arpeggiator switches from 16th notes to 16th note triplets, the reversed snap pizz guitar switches from dotted 8ths to quarter note triplets, and I took out the harmonic sweep pad and replaced it with a layered sample (consisting of a vocal ah, a clarinet and viola swell, and a low brass hit instrument I created for an earlier exercise). The first phrase is softer so the brass hits don’t get triggered until the second phrase. The return to the A section has the chords from the A section, but with the triplet rhythms of the B section, the “harmonic sweep” pad from the A section, the layered instrument from the B section, and in the second phrase the sampled guitar has now reached the velocity level where all the notes are triggering the (unprocessed) snap pizz. samples, for a percussive, climactic ending.

Deadwood Main Title was a two-part assignment (completed in Week 8) in Stylistic Adaptations in Film Scoring to rescore the opening main title sequence from the HBO series, Deadwood: “prepare an audio draft of your cue outlining the basic themes, instruments, and groove (if any) and receive feedback … for the following week you will submit a final version with a full score … watch the main title several times, and if you have never seen the show, watch at least the first episode in order to get a sense of the story, tone, and pacing of the action … then decide if there are any specific instruments that you would like to use, such as acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, harmonica, jaw harp, mandolin, etc.” Since the tone of the show is very dark and serious, I didn’t feel like piano would fit as well as it does in other westerns (piano works well in WestWorld, especially because the player piano is a metaphor for the hosts, but this is a very different show). I also thought that banjo would be too “light-hearted” and I didn’t have access to harmonica, jaw harp, or mandolin, so I focused mainly on acoustic guitar and fiddle. The A section uses the chord progression Dm Em Am Dm, and the B section uses E minor blues. In my first draft the A section (Intro) had a picked acoustic guitar playing arpeggios, a second acoustic guitar playing low power chords, and the bass played by a low string section.  At the B section I added “guitar percussion” (hitting different parts of the guitar to get percussive sounds) and the fiddle played the melody. At the return of the A section (Interlude) I added a strummed acoustic guitar, and for the final B section the fiddle melody went up an octave, and I added a lower rhythmic fiddle part. After the climax (where the Deadwood title card is shown), I removed the fiddles, strummed acoustic guitar and the guitar percussion for the final B section (End). Since one of the comments in my professor’s feedback was that the “melody is a bit static … it could use a little more interest (shape) in choice spots … pay attention to how often it comes to rest on the note E, which on the one hand anchors it, but on the other hand makes it a bit static.” I re-wrote the melody and gave it more of an arc, and made sure that E was only used once at the very beginning of the melody, once for the climax of the melody, and then to end the melody. I also added a second fiddle harmonizing the melody underneath, which was another of his suggestions (the second fiddle part uses E a few times). He also said that I should add more instrumental colors and textures. I added some fast string arpeggios in the A section, and for the bass I took out the low string section and instead used an acoustic bass that doesn’t come in until the second A section. In the second B section I added a body percussion rhythm and at the climax when the title card is shown I added a vibra-slap and bass drum hit for extra emphasis.