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  • 12 New Compositions: The Dark Fairytales Suite

    I've just finished a new 12-track Orchestral collection, 'The Dark Fairytales Suite' which you can hear now at:

    This combines real strings and choir with various samples including Vienna Instruments. There's details of the project, method and budget in my post below. 

    *NB Originally I only uploaded the first track 'Music Box Dream', so that's what the first posts below refer to.

  • WOW!! Awesome! Is that strictly using samples alone?


  • Wow!! Fantastic!! Love it!

    Can you tell us more about it? Samples used etc?




  •  haha well i have to admit i cheated... the strings are the Slovak Radio Orchestra and the choir is the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir - real people!.  Brass is a combination of EWQL and Vienna Instruments.  Also from VI are the flute and piccolo sustains, glockenspeil, harp, timpani and the amazing VI Celesta.  Percussion is largely from SAM True Strike I & II and StormDrum 2, with a few of my custom samples.

  • Very nice work! Can you talk about how you went about mixing the real instruments with the sampled ones and the kind of budget you're talking about, overall? Thanks.

  •  Ok, I'll talk you through a bit about what this is and how it was done. 

    The Project 

    It's a 12-track collection called 'Dark Fairytales' for a London library music publisher, with a recording budget of around $20,000 US which enabled us to record strings in Bratislava, Slovakia and choirs in Tallinn, Estonia this summer.  The plan is for the pieces to be useable on adverts and movie trailers.

    Stage 1: Real Piano Dictaphone Sketches

    The pieces began life as about 20 fragments of ideas played on a piano into a dictaphone. 

    Stage 2: MIDI Piano performances 

    I chose the best 12 then for each one spent a few hours learning them, writing out a rough structure (like 'part I - The Moonlit Graveyard'), then after knowing it quite well played a set of impassioned performances into a sequencer to a click.  The best bits were compiled, quantised and corrected.

    Stage 3: String and Choir parts written by mouse. 

    Next I set up some basic strings sounds using Edirol Orchestral and wrote string parts with a mouse into the sequencer (Cubase Key Editor) on a laptop, based around the piano melodies and rhythms, and created basic written scores in Cubase.  Then the same with the choirs using two simple kontakt choir programs - one male, one female.  I wrote a few oohs and ahhs, and some made up lyrics.

    Stage 4: Preparations for the Live Players

    These scores were then exported as music xml files and sent to a copyist who prepared finished scores for the players.  Meanwhile I sent an mp3 of the piano+choir+strings samples, and a MIDI file to the recording engineer so he could prepare Protools projects with the correct click and tempo and a guide track for the musicians to hear.  One thing to watch here was making sure (a) the tempos were written on the score documents (important for the musicians to know when practicing before the recording!) and (b) the samples were all A=442 which is the norm for East European orchestras.

    Stage 5: The Live Recordings

    So then we went to record.  The strings were fine but the choir were about to set off on a world tour and their leader wouldn't let them sing my many high, sustained, ff notes.  So I had to sit in a hot office and quickly negotiate which bits to drop while the clock ticked.  It was super stressful, becaude my ability to read music is quite slow, the choir were waiting to sing, it was a hot day and I had a hangover.

     Thankfully for me I had our London engineer operating protools and keeping track of everthing, a conductor keeping the players happy and a local producer speaking the languages (in Estonia it was Michael Paert, son of Arvo Paert, composer).  So I could just sit there and smile.

    So then, afterwards the publisher's engineer edited all the recorded parts and sent me the best takes all edited and ready to drop straight into the project, as multitracks from different mic positions.  This helped for example when needing to boost the cellos here and there, etc.

    Stage 7: Making Notes 

    So finally for each track I'd listen to the mix with guide piano, real choir and real strings then make notes.  First I wrote down what should happen in each section, then wrote a list of what sounds I'd use in order that they come in. 

    Stage 8:  Working Down The List 

    Working through the list I'd then for example cross reference wherever I'd mentioned celestas and my description of what it should do, and play it all in, following my earlier instructions without worrying too much whether it was a good idea.  So after a day of adding each sound in order I'd listen back, and more often than not it sounded pretty finished with just a bit of minor editing.

    And That's It!

    Each track took about 4 days.  Piano version on day 1, string part, choir part, adding samples then fine tuning.

    That's the methodology!  The inspiration comes at four key moments - coming up with the first idea, playing the piano in, writing the real parts and then that hour of writing about what else should be added.  Everything else is being a programmer and plodding through the work trying not to question your own earlier judgement!

  • Thanks for the detailed explanation of your method. The piece sounds really nice and very well mixed live/samples. Excellent!!


  •  Just want to say thanks for taking the time to explain the process and the use of samples/live performers used in this piece of music.

    thanks again and best,


  • Sounds very good, congratulations.

    It is very "Danny Elfman" like and could be used in "Spiderman" or "Mars Attacks" as a soundtrack title.

    Best wishes to you,

    Markus Brylka

  • Thanks a lot for that answer. Congratulations, it's quite an achievement!

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    @zann-music said:

    Sounds very good, congratulations.

    It is very "Danny Elfman" like and could be used in "Spiderman" or "Mars Attacks" as a soundtrack title.



    Quite...I immediately thought of Hellboy. 😊

  • I'd hate to be less than original, but facing the facts: Danny Elfman is my favourite composer.  I know his stuff pretty well.  My natural inkling is towards dark East European spookiness and belting percussion, like him.  I got this job off the back of promising 'something like Danny Elfman'.  I've listened to a lot of Sleepy Hollow and Hellboy II in the last two weeks.


    Still at least I'm on the right track.

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    @dagmarpiano said:

    I've listened to a lot of Sleepy Hollow and Hellboy II in the last two weeks.


    Which are two of his finest, in my opinion. I was listening to Hellboy II for some inspiration and also purely for the (excellent) production values, and I think it's the best thing he's done in years - certainly better than the spiderman stuff.

    As the old German saying goes, "Better to steal well than to self-make poorly." - I live by that principle. 😉 Anyway, loved the piece - you certainly have that darkish quirky tone down.

  • I've just finished the full 12-track project today so I uploaded them if you'd like to listen. The link (also at the top) is:

    Needless to say this is under the publisher's copyright so you shouldn't for example sell it on iTunes under your name.


  •   It's beautiful; I especially liked "dark fairytale" :-) Reminds me of Fable, one of my favorite games (which Elfman co-wrote the music for, I later found out :-))

  •  Now i heard all the pieces. 

    My feelings are mixed about the suite, it´s a very buffed music, indeed, very perfect in technics but it doesn´t touches my heart. The chords and harmonies too often persists in one's viewpoint and the melodies seems to be always very similar.

    It´s a bit like a toy car with a shining surface but after playing with it for a while the tires are dropping away and playing with it is no longer fun.

    Others may have other opinions but for this is this forum for i think.


    Markus Brylka

  •  Interesting to get some negative feedback!

    Not sure what you mean by "The chords and harmonies too often persists in one's viewpoint" - do you mean that there's too much repetition and/or that the harmonies stay static for too long?  If so, not sure if I agree, I think it's fairly restless harmonically, often modulating around.

    In terms of it seeming sheeny, in that it's all surface polish which you grow tired of quickly, yes, it's possible that this is because they were commissioned for use on Movie Trailers, where the aim is all about surface impact.  It's hard to achieve surface impact without losing depth. 

    Whether they will be entirely successful in their commissioned use remains to be seen though, so I don't claim them to be perfect.

    The one track where I put something personal into it was 'Song For The Dead', so hopefully you can see a bit more depth in that one.

    Still, as I say movie trailer music is always going to be a bit superficial and over the top.  One day when I get onto my First Symphony I'll get onto those still waters running deep.  :-)

  •  ..I just listened to some of your music so I can see a bit more behind your perspective.  Yes, although I feel like my harmonies are restless and modulating, they are in fact very 19th century and tonal compared to your shifting sands :-)

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    @Another User said:

    One day when I get onto my First Symphony I'll get onto those still waters running deep.  😊

    I am looking forward to your 1st Symphony

    I wish you a merry christmas,


    (International Allan Pettersson Society)

  • Hi, I thought I would write in that you have a lot of talent.  Keep up the good work!