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Recording your Main Title

Hello again, friends! So, last week I gave you an all-round tour of the GEMS Film & Visual Media Scoring Program, 1-11 July 2019 Spain check it out here

What’s in, what’s new and everything in between. This week, I’m going to tell you all about how the orchestral recording is going to happen. I’m sure some people might be frightened by this part; but fear not - you will be prepared.


So to get the orchestra players to play your piece, it firstly has to be written as clearly as possible – you want the players to understand what you’re writing, and possibly even the intention, just through articulations and dynamic markings (and possibly written things too). This might be a bit intimidating to composers who usually compose using a DAW, then transfer their piece onto a notation program later, but it’s okay, some good re-checking should get you covered. The tutors in the course will help you out a lot in this aspect too; who will be Juanjo Molina and Francesco Menini; experienced Spanish and Italian composers, respectively.


The day of the orchestral recording will happen on the final day of the course. You’ll be given your recording time a day or two before, and will be expected to be there around an hour earlier than your scheduled time (just in case there any changes). Of course, you’ll be welcome to be there as early as you want if you want to listen to everyone else’s compositions. (I highly recommend this, it will be such a fun and interesting experience to do so, especially to listen to everyone’s different orchestrations and compositions).

Composer Piotr Nermer checking his score with Conductor Juanjo Molina

Last summer’s course (2018), I was a graduate assistant, so Joan (the other graduate assistant) and I were the first ones to record and went to the conservatory where it was recorded with Nigel and Francesco at around 8am. Scores were printed the night before by the orchestra included in the program, and we started out by taping everyone’s scores together: The A4 version for the audio engineer, and the A3 version for the conductor. Oh, and if you want to try out conducting, you can do that too! Last year we had the option of Juanjo conducting our piece, or us doing it ourselves. Each participant has 20 minutes each to record, which usually means around 3 or 4 full takes for each piece (depending on the length of the piece).

You can also choose where to stay during the recording: either next to the conductor, or next to the audio engineer, or you can switch in-between takes. Before every take, you will liaise with the conductor to fix anything which you didn’t like the sound of.

The actual recording of your piece is, well, something I can’t particularly describe. It’s a pretty incredible feeling, having 40 (in 2019, 50) orchestra musicians playing your piece and doing their best to bring it to life. You might quite possibly cry – not kidding. It’s overwhelming, in an amazing way though. But anyways, I don’t want to spoil too much of the surprise for you, so come to the course and figure out the feeling yourself!

Around the middle of the day, you’ll have a lunch break and you’ll go to one of the nearby restaurants in Madrid to have some good, Spanish food before returning to the recordings. You’ll then go back to the recording until around 6pm, till everyone’s recordings have been finished, of course.

If you’d like to listen to last year’s results, you can here where you can hear some of 2017 and 2018 participants’ music.

Lunch with the Orchestra


Since this will be the last day of the course, most people will probably be leaving the next day, or during that night – so what better time to party than that night?! This will be Flamenco Night. (Included in the program fee.) Last year we went to this famous Spanish Flamenco Show, along with Nigel, Chris of course, Juanjo, and Francesco, as well as all the participants who want to join. We sat there and drank really good Sangria (the Spanish are great at makin’ this stuff, I swear, it’s so good) while watching Flamenco guitar players and Flamenco dancers. This was, by the way, marvellous. There was so much improvisation involved and some people even got up on stage and learned some Flamenco moves themselves! Want to add a caption to this image? Click the Settings icon.

Flamenco Show Night in Madrid


So now that the course is over, you’ll be returning back home, wherever that may be. It is of course quite sad because trust me, it will be a super fun week and you’ll meet so many new people – buut you will return with so much more knowledge and experience at your plate! Not to mention, a live orchestral recording to add to your portfolio. This will be sent to you a few days later in pro-tools files, where you can do with it as you wish.

Composer Damian Mizzi, heading home on the plane listening to Richard Bellis who gave a masterclass on last years program

What do you think? Like what you read? Early bird offer for this course is still going up till 31st December! So, join us, it’ll be a blast, I promise. And if you buy it now, you’ll get a suuuper great discount on the course price. Check the prices out below!

Until next week, fellas!

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