I thought I would spend this post discussing three of my favorite instruments to add to any class assignment or student film. Melodica, Recorder, and Autoharp. These instruments are great to have around your workspace, and I tend to use at least one in the majority of cues I am working on. Even if they don’t eventually go into the project, it is a great benefit for me to play my ideas on one of these instruments rather than my midi keyboard. It makes me think about the melody or musical figure in a different way. These instruments can create a very large variety of sounds, keeping my musical arsenal ready for whatever the picture asks for. Synthesizers and sample libraries are obviously essential resources. Adding even a touch of “live” elements really can bring the track together.
I use this 36 string zither (not actually a harp) more sparingly than the recorder or melodica. However, the fast strumming sound of this can give a unique feel. Using automation to cut the attack of this instrument, this can also be used as an ambient pad. My favorite use of this instrument is to reverse the waveform to create a gradually crescendoed chord with a percussive ending (created from strumming). Another great use is to use it as, more or less, a percussion instrument, with all strings muted.[flickr id=”12343902494″ thumbnail=”medium_640″ overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”none”]
I believe this was the first instrument I learned. It was probably 5th grade. I am still no expert on this one, but I think it is a great and expressive instrument. In addition to lyrical writing, I use this instrument for an ambient backing for a track. Using granular synthesis to slow down the recording, this instrument creates a wonderful atmospheric effect. These recorders aren’t too hard to come by; I picked mine up at a yard sale for a quarter. Next on my wish list is a tenor recorder, one full octave lower.[flickr id=”12343600523″ thumbnail=”medium_640″ overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”none”]
Melodica is a wind instrument with vibrating metal reeds. My melodica has a mouthpiece connected to a tube so you can see the keys while playing. I have been playing melodica for at least five years, and have gone through two instruments so far (due to the difficulty of tuning this instrument). I originally used this instrument during live shows and on band recordings. It can have a very nice sharp attack, but also has a warm and mellow sustain. This instrument to me is probably the most versatile of all three listed. Just last week I had to score a commercial for a ranch supply store. The temp track used an upbeat western sounding harmonica. After brainstorming how to recreate this vibe, I eventually tried using my melodica. Melodica did the trick! If you get a chance, take a listen to melodica master Augustus Pablo. He really shows us the depth of the instrument.
Take a listen to my final for my digital orchestration class from last semester, Makulu, featuring melodica and recorder.