What are some good instruments that make you feel mischief?

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ironpony
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03 Sep 2020, 5:42 pm

I want to score a video film project of mine, and I want that mischief feeling in the music. Kind of like a character is up to know good, but it's mean to be dark fun. Here are some scores that give me that sort of mischief feeling:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02Tna4ucZsI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV5KHoq2SaY

Or I could go all out and give it an over the top edge like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1o3koTLWM

But when it comes to that mischief feeling, what types of instrument samples should I use to get that feeling, do you think? Thanks for any input! I really appreciate it.



PhosphorusDecree
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04 Sep 2020, 7:06 am

Pizzicato strings are classic, like in the first two examples. Marimbas, vibrophones and xylophones as well. Tubas and trombones can be funny. Something lively on the bassoon could work, as in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". I've also heard the E flat clarinet used as a comedy instrument- it's higher in pitch than normal clarinets, with a slightly different tone.


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ironpony
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04 Sep 2020, 8:43 am

Oh okay. Whenever I hear the xylophone, vibraphone, or marimba, to me they don't make me think of mischief, but more like summer vacation music, or something like that. Unless they are mischievous sounding?



PhosphorusDecree
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04 Sep 2020, 3:41 pm

Fast xylophone can sound mischievous. Vibes and marimba are often used for a kind of humorous tension, if that makes sense. Like a scene where two characters are sneaking into a building, really clumsily. There'll be a slow, quiet vibraphone part with the marimba skittering around on top. Maybe an upright bass, and a drumkit played with brushes, too....


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ironpony
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04 Sep 2020, 5:12 pm

Oh okay. Do you have any examples of these instruments being used this way for comedic mischief?



PhosphorusDecree
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06 Sep 2020, 10:58 am

I can't seem to find the vibraphone / marimba thing- some scenes that I'd have sworn blind were scored that way turn out not to be!

I really like the "mischief" in this bit of score: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WutaC4Hbv_U

Lots of pizzicato strings, and also lots of tremolo strings- those are doing most of the work. Some bassoon around 0.40. Occasional brass "stings" like at 1.15 and 2.13. There's a brief bit of vibraphone around 2.50, with the kind of "shivery" feel I was trying to describe. There's some quiet vaguely '80-style synth drums from around 2.00, joined by a synth lead at 2.15. (A "square lead" sound, maybe? Someone else might know better.)

Interesting to see that though they use the pizzicato and tremolo strings throughout, the rest of the instrumentation is constantly changing.


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ironpony
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06 Sep 2020, 12:48 pm

Oh okay thanks! When you say tremolo, which instrument would that be, since tremolo is not actually an instrument?



PhosphorusDecree
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07 Sep 2020, 7:51 am

Tremolo is a playing technique. The violins, violas, cellos and double basses can all do it. It's basically lots of short, quick bowstrokes on the same note to make a rustling or buzzing kind of sound. This guy demonstrates it better than I can explain it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E8rMLHIpag
My keyboard just has a sound called "tremolo strings" rather than a seperate tremolo sound for each kind of instrument.


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ironpony
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07 Sep 2020, 11:31 am

Oh okay thanks. I know what tremolo is, but I didn't know it was called tremolo lol.

Well as for comedic mischief music, I could do either the pizzicato violin strings, or the marimba, or xylophone, but is there a reason to be coming strings with xylophone for example? I mean the notes sound very much alike, so why combine both when they sound similar, as oppose to just using one or the other?



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11 Sep 2020, 5:10 pm

Yes, pizzicato strings sound very similar to a marimba to me. I think the only reason to mix them would be to have a very fast melody line- xylophones and marimbas can play much faster than orchestral string players can pluck their instruments. So the marimba might take the lead while the strings pluck the chords. (Can't think of an example off-hand, but I'm sure it's been done.)


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ironpony
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11 Sep 2020, 6:17 pm

Oh okay, I thought if the composer is using pre-recorded samples though, than they can add the string plucks wherever they want and it will go however fast as they wish therefore?



roronoa79
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11 Sep 2020, 8:10 pm

Pizzicato works well for giving a kind of sneaky mood, like the generic sneaky music from Looney Tunes.
Flute and piccolo can also give an air of lively naughtiness.
On the louder side, syncopated bass can give a roving devil-may-care feeling.

I would recommend listening to soundtracks for cartoons or more kid-oriented games like Banjo-Kazooie for more ideas.


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12 Sep 2020, 1:33 am

PhosphorusDecree wrote:
I've also heard the E flat clarinet used as a comedy instrument- it's higher in pitch than normal clarinets, with a slightly different tone.


It’s also a pain in the a$$ to play in tune, ESPECIALLY in the higher registers


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ironpony
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12 Sep 2020, 3:27 am

Oh okay thanks. The piccolo would be interesting, but are there any examples where it's used for a cartoon comedy type feel?



PhosphorusDecree
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16 Sep 2020, 8:12 am

Meistersinger wrote:
PhosphorusDecree wrote:
I've also heard the E flat clarinet used as a comedy instrument- it's higher in pitch than normal clarinets, with a slightly different tone.


It’s also a pain in the a$$ to play in tune, ESPECIALLY in the higher registers


Maybe that's why they do it? I can picture Richard Strauss writing "Til Eulengspiegel," going "How on earth can I persuade a professional clarinettist to play all his solos in this piece out of tune?!"


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ironpony
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16 Sep 2020, 5:18 pm

Oh okay. Well as far as the clarinet goes, it's actually my second least favorite instrument ever, after the banjo.

But maybe for mischief the clarinet works and I should use it, even though, it's my second least favorite?