Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Orchestration



Can you please explain the orchestration sounds I hear in the following examples as I am trying to recreate them by midi:

the stab/hit sounds at 1:43, can you explain how you would create those stab sounds? (what instruments are used and technique)

same question but with the stab sounds at 0:20

ANSWER: Hi Vadim,

Thanks for getting in touch but please excuse my delay in getting back to you. I do not know what MIDI equipment you have so I cannot be too specific. In any case, my job here doesn't actually cover technical aspects of MIDI so I don't think I am the right person to help.

However, a "stab" in movie music is when the entire orchestra (or part of the orchestra, usually the brass) plays a short accented note. In the example at 1.43 (and at 0.20) the sound we hear is not actually a stab, is is just a  heavily accented note on the low-pitched drums and low brass instruments as well. In music notation this would just be written with accents over the notes in question and possibly the letters sfz (sforzando) underneath which mean a heavy emphasis.

You need to find a way of creating a heavy percussion accent in your MIDI recreation. I am sure that you can find some guidance online about this. Sorry I cannot be of any more help, but good luck with your endeavours.

Best wishes


[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Just a follow up on another song. I have a hard time distinguishing what the brass instruments are.
What is the horn used at 0:08 (it sounds so heroic).
And what about the brass at 0:54 which instrument is that?

I tried using trumpets but it doesn't sound right. I have a good sample library and i just want to figure out those sounds and match them with the proper instrument.   


Hi Vadim,

Thanks for getting in touch. As far as I can tell, at 0.08 there are three (possibly four) French horns also known as Horn in F.

At 0.54 and for several seconds before I think we have three trombones and a tuba. If the trombone sounds in your sample library sound a bit strident, try using Euphoniums.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes


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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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