Update: Epicomposer teamed up with Master The Score to offer you an exclusive 20% discount on the Hybrid Orchestral Composition and Sound course! You can find the code and info at the end of this article.
If you’re anything like me – and I’m betting there are more than a few of you out there – every time a new online music course comes along, my hand is usually halfway to my credit card while I’m clicking the button to take me to the site where the course resides.
I admit it. I’m a course-aholic. If I have anything to say about it, I will be perpetually in school until the moment I shed the mortal coils of this existence – or until I’m assimilated by whatever AI platform is running amuck at the time. It doesn’t matter if I’ve taken sixteen different courses on how to write string ostinatos, create trailer braams, or make hollandaise sauce. I’m endlessly fascinated by discovering how other people do the same things that I’ve been doing for almost forty years (well, not the hollandaise…that’s relatively recent).
And not once have I been disappointed. There has always been some tidbit of information to glean that I’ve absorbed into my thought and work process. I say that with complete confidence.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to take a look at one of the class offerings from Master The Score: Hybrid Orchestral Composition and Sound by Randon Purcell.
Randon’s credits are more than legit. He has had placements on networks such as HBO, ABC, NBC, CBS, Discovery, Sundance Channel, Travel Channel, and History Channel. He has also had a long working relationship with one of the top trailer music houses in the business: Brand X Music.
With all of that behind the class, jumping into it was a no-brainer.
First off I want to say, this is about the eighteenth or nineteenth online course I’ve enrolled in, been asked to review, or been given, that deals with the world of hybrid orchestral music and the trailer music genre. The landscape is pretty familiar. Nevertheless, Master The Score has developed a reputation for creating well-designed, comprehensive, and thoughtfully presented courses on a number of musical topics. There was no reason to think that Randon’s course would be any different.
And in all honesty, after having finished the course – and it’s a fairly long, deep dive – it more than lived up to Master The Score’s standards.
While the course covers the same ground as many of the other hybrid/trailer music courses that are available, Randon’s attention to detail, logical process, and thorough presentation make this a somewhat different ride than many of the other classes out there on this particular carnival of a subject.
Along the way, Randon shares invaluable and frankly inspiring insights gathered from his experiences in a hugely competitive industry. The course is essentially divided into six sections, each one consisting of video segments totaling nearly 18 hours of content.
Let’s see what the different sections of the course have to offer!
Section 1: Let’s talk about the basics
The first section deals with the basics of hybrid orchestral composition and focuses on presenting a clear, detailed breakdown of the fundamental components, structure, successful practices for creating hybrid orchestral trailers, and tips.
Randon lays out what goes into creating the 4-act structure that so many successful trailers adhere to, how to map this structure out, what are the crucial elements in each act, and why this structure is so important in order to bring your music to the attention of editors.
Section 2: Favourite Instruments and libraries
Of course, no course about modern composition of any kind would be complete without a discussion of sample and sound libraries and the plethora of virtual gear that most of us have on our hard drives. This comprises the second section of the course.
Beyond discussing his favorite sample libraries, plugins, and synths, and demonstrating the various sounds, Randon devotes a sizable amount of time to talking about why he uses the libraries and sounds that he uses. He takes us through his concepts and ideas about layering techniques and essential sound combinations that capture the nature of hybrid tracks.
These first two sections lay a solid foundation for the student to understand how hybrid orchestral tracks are their own kind of animal in the musical world. While there is plenty of room for experimentation, there are essentially rules that have to be acknowledged and mastered before they can be broken.
Section 3: Fundamentals
The third section of the course is one of my favorites. Working without a script, Randon creates a series of video workshops on writing for each of the primary elements in a hybrid orchestral piece. Starting with percussion (by his admission, his favorite element), and covering brass, strings, synths, and FX, we get an over-the-shoulder style presentation for each of the sections as he composes them from scratch. He then dedicates an entire video to the hows and whys of writing ostinatos and what makes them such an important part of the genre.
These are always the most fascinating and insightful types of videos to watch. Not only because one gets to see a composer’s technical process, missteps, and all, but we also get to hear the reasons behind certain choices and how they arrived at a specific decision in the course of creating the piece. Randon is a thoughtful composer and his decisions come not from what is expected of the track, but the story he is trying to convey.
Randon continues this process into the fourth section where he goes through a very detailed examination of the building blocks of a composition.
Section 4: Compositional Building Blocks
Starting from the general and then moving to the specific, Randon discusses the process of sculpting powerfully effective elements that will make a successful trailer composition. Again, these pieces of advice are presented within the framework of the different sections in the hybrid orchestra,
He explores different chord progressions and how to construct progressions to fit certain emotional styles, whether bright and heroic or dark and menacing.
An added feature in this section is a series of assignments for each orchestral section and the ability to post the assignment on an associated Discord channel for feedback and input – both from others taking the course and Randon himself.
Section 5: Ground-Up Composition
Section 5 is the point where all of the previous training comes together to create a track from scratch. Again, this section is largely unscripted and in an over-the-shoulder style of presentation as Randon composes a cohesive track in real-time.
Randon first creates a sketch. Then working from that framework, he determines and lays out the different acts of the track, composing and orchestrating as he goes. Along the way, he shares his ideas and thought process about what goes where in each act and why, in order to bring the track together in a way that makes it appropriate for the genre.
This is the second of my two favorite sections of the course because again, we get a deep understanding of how Randon handles the different aspects of modern composition. The section is then concluded with an excellent and thorough mixing demonstration and insights into how a track may be best presented to potential clients.
Section 6: Deep Dive: “Black Mirror” and “Chaos Theory”
The course concludes with excellent deep dives into two of Randon’s successful trailer tracks and a bonus examination of the music used in the intros of the course. Once again, his attention to detail with regard to structure, instrumentation, and production process is on display as he breaks down each track.
One of the most attractive elements of this course, aside from the wealth of deep material presented, is Randon’s approach to presenting it. While the videos and production quality are very high, the thing I enjoyed most was that it felt as if you were being invited along into Randon’s studio while he went about the daily course of his profession. I often talk with my students and with colleagues about the difference between “creative” and “craft.” In my opinion, the former doesn’t exist in its highest form without the latter.
It’s clear that Randon, and his fellow instructors at Master The Score, embrace that concept. They have honed their craft over long hours of study and practice. Throughout the course, the idea of mastering one’s craft is apparent in the way Randon approaches each aspect of designing, composing, and refining a track with great detail and thoughtfulness.
Before I end though, I do have to point out two possible cons with the course. To begin with, it really is not a course for beginners. The amount of information and degree with which it’s presented seems to assume that the audience does have a working knowledge of music, a basic understanding of instrumentation, how to use the tools of our trade (DAWs, plugins, virtual instruments, etc.), and some understanding of EQ, compression, and effects processing.
Another drawback for some will be the price. At $449 it’s among the pricier single courses out there dealing with the subject. However, considering the amount of information, overall content, and presentation, I think it is well justified for the mid-level to pro composer who wants to level up their understanding of the genre.
A lot of people can give you a formula for writing hybrid orchestral music with the promise that if you do A, B, and C, you will be able to get in the door of the trailer music show. Randon presents a pathway to finding one’s own process within the scope of the genre, and how to create a signature voice. That is what is really worth the price of admission.
Hybrid Orchestral Composition and Sound by Randon Purcell is open for enrollment through the Master The Score website for $449.
EXCLUSIVE 20% DISCOUNT CODE
Epicomposer teamed up with Master The Score to provide you with an exclusive 20% discount on the Hybrid Orchestral Composition and Sound course! By entering the code EPIC20 in the coupon code field during checkout, you can save $90 on your order.
Visit Master The Score to get started today, learn from industry experts, and elevate your trailer music game to a new level!