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Arranging piano scores or chiptune tracks for full orchestra

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Eric Nething, Jul 27, 2022.

  1. #1 Eric Nething, Jul 27, 2022
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2022
    I'm sure we are all aware of the advice to transcribe from full orchestra scores to solo piano. As a counterpart to that practice, has anyone found it helpful to go in the other direction, and arrange piano scores or chiptune tracks (e.g. SNES) for full orchestra? There is a wealth of great music that was written for the NES or SNES sound chips, which were limited to just a handful of channels (5 for the NES, 8 for the SNES), and many were later arranged for piano or full orchestra.

    I found many official releases (involving the original composers) of alternate or orchestral arrangements of beloved Japanese video game music, namely Nier, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy. Some sound like entirely new songs, while others stay close to the original. Nier is probably the best example of this, where the same songs have been released as a soundtrack, a concert hall orchestral version, live performances, duet versions of solo vocal tracks, a choir arrangement, soundtrack arrangements by different composers, solo piano, and a re-arranged soundtrack with new parts added.

    It's clear to me which ones I prefer, and in some cases, which ones don't sound right. I don't know why that is, but attaining a deeper understanding of orchestration may uncover the reasons.

    Do you arrange solo piano scores or chiptune tracks for full orchestra? What was the outcome? If not, have you considered it?
  2. Think of composition and orchestration as inextricably linked; change the orchestration, and it is an entirely different composition. If you "re-orchestrate" any sentence - say, "I love you," - and instead of whispering it, shout it at the top of your lungs, you are not simply presenting it differently, you are changing its meaning and intent. To expect a re-orchestration to end up exactly the place it started either means orchestration means nothing, or you weren't saying that much to begin with. Otherwise, the question shouldn't be whether a re-orchestration will be different or not, but whether the new thing is good on its own merits.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  3. I have transcribed a few pieces of the Indiana Jones fate of Atlantis game, which was fun.
    But it's not chip tune in the sense you mean probably. You can often times hear that this sound is supposed to be a clarinet or that is supposed to be horns. And that teached me a lot.


    I also transcribed a piece from the old Pokémon games but just for piano to see what it is harmonically.

    But if you want to choose instruments other than the chip tune sound, I think you would be able to do that if you listen closely to what kind of sound the chip produces. Is it a square wave? Then maybe a clarinet.
    But as Mike pointed out, it wouldn't be the same thing.
    Probably you will see with NES sounds that the square wave tune is not in the range for clarinets or so. Because in those cases it was not written for these instruments. But that's just a guess.

    If you want to transcribe video game music I would recommend to look at games which are scored with a Roland MT 32 or some other synth, which tried to emulate real instruments if you want to learn to write music in that style (you have to keep in mind that it is still limited. As you pointed out it often has not a lot of channels. Runs will probably not be a thing and so on).
    That is probably SNES, N64, PS1 and Pc from that time.

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