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Danny Elfman sound Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 27th March 2003
  #1
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007's Avatar
 

Talking Danny Elfman sound

Here's one that's intrigued me for quite some time. I've long admired this man's soundtrack work and needless to say, he does have a unique signature choir sound that permeates through most of his work, but I often wonder where these choirs come from? Are they from sample libraries, are they just choir patches that he processes in a certain way? Perhaps they are just real live choirs? All I know is that they have a certain angelic/surreal quality to them.

I tried creating something similar while combining strings and voice choirs together but the result was nowhere near the eerie beauty of the Elfman sound. I'm certainly not trying to emulate 'that sound' with such precision, I just want to know how to create that sort of effect, what is the source material and what kind of processing is involved.

Thanks for any comments.
Old 29th March 2003
  #2
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Drumsound's Avatar
I remember reading an article a couple years ago where Danny talked about his sample library. It's very extensive. He has a duplicate system that he can take when working outside of his home studio. I think the article was in MIX, you might want to check out their archives online.
Old 29th March 2003
  #3
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dave-G's Avatar
I dunno.. Seems like the orchestration/instrumentation is different enough from score to score that the common thread is not a "sound" per se as it is the choices of chords that he uses, and other musical/compositional similarities.

?
-dg
Old 29th March 2003
  #4
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Renie's Avatar
 

I don't recognize the name-what films has he done? he sounds interesting
Old 29th March 2003
  #5
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007's Avatar
 

He's done numerous film scores but some of his most acclaimed work can be found in Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, to name but a few. Most, if not all of Tim Burton's films are scored by Elfman.

As for that 'sound' of his I'm referring to, it's those ethereal choirs you hear in a lot of his work, they have that fairy-tale vibe about them that is simply beautiful. I've done some research and have found some interesting interviews where he talks about his gear (big EMU fan), but barely scratches the surface about his sounds and techniques, only mentioning that he does have a massive sound library, which is anything but surprising.

He also wrote more 'conventional' scores, such as the one for "Good Will Hunting", where that signature Elfman sounds is less apparent.
Old 29th March 2003
  #6
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XHipHop's Avatar
on the "pee wee's big adventure" dvd (i got it for $5 at wal-mart) there is a commentary track by danny elfman. i can't say if it reveals any techniques or anything because i haven't had the chance to listen to it yet, but it might be worth checking out if you are a big fan.
Old 30th March 2003
  #7
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Roland's Avatar
At the risk of stating the obvious, have you considered the fact that being major film scores there was probably enough budget for a real choir?

On all the Danny Elfman scores I have ever heard the "ethereal" choir sound that he likes to use certainly sounds like a real choir.

In this day and age of mega samplers I think we are far too quick to reach for the sampler as the answer to all our needs, rather than getting real performances on tape. Sample replacement of drums whilst argueably sometimes necessary, for me is a classic overuse example.


Regards


Roland
Old 30th March 2003
  #8
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Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by krou
He's done numerous film scores but some of his most acclaimed work can be found in Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, to name but a few. Most, if not all of Tim Burton's films are scored by Elfman.

As for that 'sound' of his I'm referring to, it's those ethereal choirs you hear in a lot of his work, they have that fairy-tale vibe about them that is simply beautiful. I've done some research and have found some interesting interviews where he talks about his gear (big EMU fan), but barely scratches the surface about his sounds and techniques, only mentioning that he does have a massive sound library, which is anything but surprising.

He also wrote more 'conventional' scores, such as the one for "Good Will Hunting", where that signature Elfman sounds is less apparent.
He was also the leader and primary songwriter for Oingo Boingo, one of the greatest bands ever!
Old 31st March 2003
  #9
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My ear is not sharp enough to say what the difference is, but I always felt that the voicings of the chords and the chord progressions themselves were a big part of that freaky-beautiful vibe.

-MD
Old 6th April 2003
  #10
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Mike Tholen's Avatar
 

I know for a fact that he did Red Dragon at the Eastwood Soundstage on the Warner lot onto RADAR.
All live everything.
This stuff is not Rocket science.
Old 6th April 2003
  #11
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007's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Mike Tholen

This stuff is not Rocket science.
Never assumed it was. I was just curious about his unique choir sound and yes, in my initial post, I did consider that Danny boy just might be using real choirs...
Perhaps real, perhaps sampled, whatever. Thanks for your insights.
Old 8th April 2003
  #12
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A friend of mine has done a bit of orchestration work for him... The sound is indeed a large orchestra and a real choir. Often in his scores, there will be extensive pre-records of strange ethnic percussion and samples. The "music" is always live these days (not so on some of the early stuff, though).

For those that don't know his scores, check out: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Elfman,+Danny

You may recognize a few of his scores... heh

--Ben
Old 8th April 2003
  #13
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Roland's Avatar
For things like ethereal choir sounds, I would recommend listening to Ravels Daphne and Chloe, Holsts the planets. These are just a couple of good well known examples of how "unreal" a sound can be made using human voices.

On the Elfman recordings they just in addition use a copious amount of verb.

Regards



Roland
Old 9th April 2003
  #14
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007's Avatar
 

A bit fo research suggests that the "Symphony of Voices" sample CD by Spectrasonics will produce similar results. I heard it at a friend's house and was rather impressed with how beautiful it sounds. Eureka!
Old 9th April 2003
  #15
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Hans Zimmer used the Symphony of Voices in the starter sequence of "Gladiator" (the choir behind the big theme) and he definetely had enough budget to use a real choir.
In film business you have very often drastic changes, cause the film is cut again and again, even if all orchestra parts are already recorded. So a lot of composers will help themselves with samples to fill the gap, instead of recording again with so many people. And if it sounds good...

If you want to hear really beautiful (real) choirs, listen to Gyorgy Ligeti, he is a phenomenon in sound sculpting. (2001-a space odyssey)

kosi
Old 10th April 2003
  #16
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He does have a style. Dark and a bit wacky. I have heard that he is does not orchestrate, really writes the melody and feel and has an aranger fill out the rest. I do not know if that is true, but that is what I heard.

He also wrote the theme for the Simpsons. D'oh!

Old 12th April 2003
  #17
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That's what I've heard too.
Old 17th April 2003
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

"Hans Zimmer used the Symphony of Voices in the starter sequence of "Gladiator" (the choir behind the big theme) and he definetely had enough budget to use a real choir."

I hate that corny symphonic score. Why composers don't create music that resembles the period of a period-peice is beyond me.
Old 17th April 2003
  #19
Jax
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The Big Gundown

I don't have anything to add about Elfman, but I wanted to recommend a great, surreal-sounding piece of music (entertaining, too). If you've ever seen any of the classic spaghetti westerns (old Clint Eastwood flicks, etc.), or classic Fellini, or the best 60's-70's spy-thrillers, you've heard some of Ennio Morricone's work. Well, John Zorn rounded up a bunch of the most tasty players and ensembles he knows of, and made faithful renditions of Ennio's scores. There is occasionally too much (for me) of the avant garde Zorn approach in the recording, but otherwise, it's one of the most fascinating, surreal and fun to check out CD's I've ever heard. Not to mention it's one of the best recorded CD's I've ever heard. Just want other people to hear it, too.

The Big Gundown (amazon)

- I have no stake in it, but I hope you slutz will buy this.
Old 17th April 2003
  #20
Jax
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hmm... guess you can't link to amazon. The cd is not hard to find, though.
Old 18th April 2003
  #21
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007's Avatar
 

Thanks for that info, Jax, as I'm a huge Morricone fan and have amassed quite a collection of his work over the years, particularily the 60's and 70's Italian thriller series (Dario Argento trilogy, for example), and his lighter and less brooding repertoire.

I'm also quite fond of John Barry's work, from Bond and beyond, but I will say that one of my favorite pieces of music of all time is "The Persuader's theme", which we wrote for the British tele series of the same name ('72).

Both of these guys have seriously influenced my music, and the Elfman reference, he just happens to be my favorite of the newer breed of Hollywood composers.

Cheers

p.s. perhaps you're familiar with the band Goldfrapp? If not, you might enjoy them, think of a blend between Barry, Morricone, and Portishead, although not as obvious in the spy theme dept, less guitars, more synths and soaring orchestrations and a sultry female vocalist. The album is called 'Felt Mountain', thought you might like it.
Old 18th April 2003
  #22
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Roland's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Your Add Here!
"Hans Zimmer used the Symphony of Voices in the starter sequence of "Gladiator" (the choir behind the big theme) and he definetely had enough budget to use a real choir."

I hate that corny symphonic score. Why composers don't create music that resembles the period of a period-peice is beyond me.
You know any authentic Roman music? How about Anglo Saxon? Orchestral scores are not always the answer, but they do give a good method to convey the drama of a sequence. Try watching a movie without the music and you will realise why its so important and just how much it sets the scene for you.

Regards



Roland
Old 18th April 2003
  #23
Jax
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Quote:
Originally posted by krou
p.s. perhaps you're familiar with the band Goldfrapp? If not, you might enjoy them, think of a blend between Barry, Morricone, and Portishead, although not as obvious in the spy theme dept, less guitars, more synths and soaring orchestrations and a sultry female vocalist. The album is called 'Felt Mountain', thought you might like it.
Krou, I haven't heard of Goldfrapp, but it does sound like something I'd dig. I'll definitely check it out.
Old 19th April 2003
  #24
Quote:
Originally posted by Your Add Here!

I hate that corny symphonic score. Why composers don't create music that resembles the period of a period-peice is beyond me.
Because composers have to deliver what they are asked for by the film's director and producers. These days the trend in Hollywood seems to be for sugary, neo classical orchestral scores. Oh for the 60's and 70's when film scores were contemporary:
Andromeda Strain/Taxi Driver/Anything by Morricone, Rota, Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock.
Old 19th April 2003
  #25
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mdbeh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by chrisso
Because composers have to deliver what they are asked for by the film's director and producers. These days the trend in Hollywood seems to be for sugary, neo classical orchestral scores. Oh for the 60's and 70's when film scores were contemporary:
Andromeda Strain/Taxi Driver/Anything by Morricone, Rota, Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock.
It's depressing to see some of the greats doing this sort of work (no doubt because they're being asked to). John Barry, even Morricone, have turned out some schlock in recent years.
Old 20th April 2003
  #26
s2n
Gear Nut
 

I'm more interested in Danny's daughter then his music.
Anyway, he also did "Planet of the Apes"...the one with Walburg.
Old 20th April 2003
  #27
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007's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by s2n
I'm more interested in Danny's daughter then his music.
and who would that be?
Old 21st April 2003
  #28
s2n
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Jenna Elfman aka Dharma from the "Dharma and Greg" TV show.
Old 21st April 2003
  #29
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mdbeh's Avatar
 

I was curious, too, so I looked it up on IMDB. She's actually his niece-in-law.

She annoys the hell out of me, personally, but if it's working for you...
Old 21st April 2003
  #30
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007's Avatar
 

That's who I thought you were referring to as well. I remember reading that she is his brother's wife, definitely not his daughter.
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