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How Does John Williams do it??


Damo
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I swear John Williams is one of best film composer ever lived and how does his every score for every film he does that he does is so good?

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He does it with pencil and paper, on top of a large drawing board, with a little help of the piano, and a stop watch, if he's wrtting for film.

And as they say, is 90% transpiration and 10% inspiration...

Or to quote Williams himself, the creative process is a misterious one...

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He does it with pencil and paper, on top of a large drawing board, with a little help of the piano, and a stop watch, if he's wrtting for film.

And as they say, is 90% transpiration and 10% inspiration...

Or to quote Williams himself, the creative process is a misterious one...

Yeah I heard. But Just how does he do it though by using them? Does it just come to his head as it does it and write it down or does he just muck around with the piano until he comes up with something really good and writes it down on a paper?

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Whether they are good depends on the ear of the listener. Some think Williams is a gifted composer but that his interpretations are so blatant that he's doing film more harm than good.

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I swear John Williams is one of best film composer ever lived and how does his every score for every film he does that he does is so good?

Well, that's the creative process, Damo. Whether you write music or fiction, only the "uncreative" person asks such a question.

;)

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There was this quote from Jerry Goldsmith where he basically answers this question like this (can't remember the exact quote):

"You are creative, so just do it."

That's the magic behind it. Williams is just doing it and obviously knows how to do it well.

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Damo, i wasn't jocking in any way on my first post.

As someone who as to put out some creative work every now and then, I can agree that all of this is very misterious, and as Jerry put it, one just do it.

In my case, I just sit and draw, or sometimes i use the computer... but things eventually come out, i really don't know how.

When one have the time, you may take a walk and think aout this things...

A couple of years ago, I was comissioned with a poster to be done by yesterday... I just come up with a quick made painting, and had it scaned and added the text, and was all done.

It wasn't great, I don't have it hanging on my wall, but it was ok, given the hurry on which it was done.

Sometimes one either get the time, or you're just lucky and find the right combination in time, and thigs come out just amazingly great, and you're proud of your work... Sometimes you're not so much, but I would say that the bottom line is to always give your best.

Personally, I do not look back to the stuff I do all that much -- as I think, like most of this composers.

You put the finished job beyind you and se the new experinec for your next job.

And eventually, all that experience, will help, along with the knowledge one gets by studying his craft, to get that weird thing one call inpsiration to work in out favour and in the little needed time to finish the project.

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What fascinates he is how JW still writes with pencil & paper and keeps all of the orchestration in his mind. I mean how can you possibly 'imagine' 10 different instruments playing at once?

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Yep.

If you got talent you're good, if not well.......(insert Hans Zimmer/former Media Ventures joke here)

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When asked: How do you write music, Tchaikovsky replied "Sitting down".

Mozart said: "I write music like the sow pisses".

The process is on one level very simple, on the other, more complex.

When I work on a commission, I sit down, and I write the music, which "comes to me", as they say, and effortlessly. Now, the next step is to be vigilant about your ideas, and filter them. Certain things will emerge that I might revise upon later inspection, or deem less appropriate for the task at hand.

The ideas come from the music we've digested as listeners and studiers of music, and from the experience we've had as artists and craftsmen. Generally, it gets easier and easier, but you also get more and more critical...

I can always write music, and at the same level of technical quality. The other qualities are somehow more elusive, and depend on "form" (good days&bad days) and talent.

I find that I like to work at the piano, but most often, I come up with my basic material away from it. It is great, however, to listen to the ambience of an idea in the room, the "decay" of the music, so to speak, and I find it more enjoyable to do this with the music at my fingertips.

Most composers I know tend to work in a relatively similar way, with individual variations, and my guess is that Williams does too.

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There are just simply people on this earth, past, present, and future, that have the ability to write good music. It's the same with any applied art or science or math or whatever. Certain people have higher brain functions in order to achieve better results in particular fields, and John Williams chose the correct one for him. Look at Borodin, he was primarily a chemist who had a great love for music. Imagine what he might have done if he picked music as a career. Perhaps he would have completed Prince Igor ;). Some people never get to realize their potential because they never get connected to the one thing that they might've excelled at. Some people don't excel at anything no matter what they do. It's just the way it is, how certain brains are enchanced in certain ways.

Tim, done ranting.

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What fascinates he is how JW still writes with pencil & paper and keeps all of the orchestration in his mind. I mean how can you possibly 'imagine' 10 different instruments playing at once?

That's IMO the best aspect of (in general) classical music. One person that can held 50 or more instruments, 50 or more musician, together, at the same time.

I always wondered how hard must be writing the same piece of music for all of the many instruments there is in an orchestra. I mean, OK JW knows piano and writes music for piano, but it's great how he writes music for all instruments. Because he can't know every instruments, that's would be kinda impossible, no?

It's like, in rock music, a guitarist, who can writes for guitar and bass, but needs a drummer to write better drum lines. Unless you can play both, but in an orchestra where you have 30 instruments, you can't know each of them perfectly as much as you know the only instrument you play.

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Well, that sort of thing takes education and training. It's not something that just comes to you. You may have a knack for it, but you need to train it and keep working on it.

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Sure, but I think that the main part is just talent. You can improve your skills, but this is something you born with.

But talent is such a cheap commodity -- almost everybody has at least SOME talent. What you do with it is what makes the difference. After all, John Williams wasn't that good a composer from the very beginning, was he? He's in his seventies now, and it took him a long, long time and a lot of hard work to get where he is now.

So, IMO, a genius is someone who works on his talent until he stands head and shoulders above the rest. As fitting a description of John Williams as any. That man IS a genius!

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Sure...some talent.

Which means I can play guitar, but even if I play and practice 25 hours a day, I'll never be as good as Jimi Hendrix. That what I meant with "is something you born with".

You surely have to study and practice a lot, but you must have much more than just "some talent".

"Some talent" is something you can say about Zimmer, who writes synth scores but somehow he's liked by Spielberg and he works a lot.

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Sure, but I think that the main part is just talent. You can improve your skills, but this is something you born with.

No it isn't. There is one thing you study called orchestration, you know?

And from my own perpective, as an artist (not a musician, but a painter), there isn't such a thing as a natural born gift from above...

You work things out with a lot of work and swet put into it. Inspiration just don't it you, like a gift from the gods. Even if it seems that way, you just keep working things out on your mind, or at the keybord, or at a drawing board, whatever, untill the right ciombination eventually appears, but always a number of trial and error aproaches.

Any otehr thing is leaving things to chance, and if you hit gold, well, you just got lucky.

And usually, and from my own experience as an artist, that kind of luck don't come buy all that often.

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In my opinion those who succeed are those who teach theirselves to get the most out of their practicing. They concentrate to learn not to just to accumulate hours. As they learn they wish to know more and the cycle continues over and over, getting more intense.

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In my opinion those who succeed are those who teach theirselves to get the most out of their practicing. They concentrate to learn not to just to accumulate hours.  As they learn they wish to know more and the cycle continues over and over, getting more intense.

Yes, I think I agree with what you mean. In the end is all work, hopefully a fun one.

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Which means I can play guitar, but even if I play and practice 25 hours a day, I'll never be as good as Jimi Hendrix.

I think you overestimate how good Hendrix is. :P

Tim

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lately John has done it by using Horner's method. He copies everything else he's done.

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There are many 'rip offs' in Williams 'Golden age' scores. People who grew up with those scores cannot hear them, as do the people growing with the new ones.

And never ever they have been as blatant, repetitive and predictable as Horner's.

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No it isn't. There is one thing you study called orchestration, you know?

And from my own perpective, as an artist (not a musician, but a painter), there isn't such a thing as a natural born gift from above...

You work things out with a lot of work and swet put into it. Inspiration just don't it you, like a gift from the gods. Even if it seems that way, you just keep working things out on your mind, or at the keybord, or at a drawing board, whatever, untill the right ciombination eventually appears, but always a number of trial and error aproaches.

Any otehr thing is leaving things to chance, and if you hit gold, well, you just got lucky.

And usually, and from my own experience as an artist, that kind of luck don't come buy all that often.

Wow! Fantastic news! You mean that talent is just something you learn at school? So everyone can be a Mozart or a Beethoven or a John Williams? What about the pop songs of Paul McCartney? Did he write these songs without any form of so-called gifted ability? Is everyone with proper training a Paul McCartney? Wait a minute! The Beatles had no training at all. That means John Williams, with all his musical knowledge, must write better pop tunes than anyone in pop history.

Alex

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Training can be considered teaching yourself.

So, all I have to do is buy a guitar, practice a bit in my room, and I'm just as good as McCartney? It must be, since we now know everyone is equally blessed. Wow, the great prospects that lie ahead of me!

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Hence the combination.

You can have talent, but you have to do something with it. Talent alone is not enough. At least train it, and education helps to expand skills.

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My friend claims that John Williams doesn't write his music.

He said "The music teacher at school says John Williams doesn't write his music. Someone else writes it for him."

Not that I believe my friend or the music teacehr.

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I say, education means nada without talent. Many have studied but only a few are special.

Alex

Thats becuase they wank while they study. If you study - study hard, and pay attention. This will yield results - and yes you can teach yourself and be that good. Do you think Sir paul only practiced 20 minutes half ass a daay? no way.

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Rubbish!

I can practice basketball 10 hours a day and never become good enough to play in any competative level.

Alex is right, talent is required. The practice is their to guide the talent, to learn to use it to it's full potential.

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Sure, but I think that the main part is just talent. You can improve your skills, but this is something you born with.

No it isn't. There is one thing you study called orchestration, you know?

And from my own perpective, as an artist (not a musician, but a painter), there isn't such a thing as a natural born gift from above...

You work things out with a lot of work and swet put into it. Inspiration just don't it you, like a gift from the gods. Even if it seems that way, you just keep working things out on your mind, or at the keybord, or at a drawing board, whatever, untill the right ciombination eventually appears, but always a number of trial and error aproaches.

Any otehr thing is leaving things to chance, and if you hit gold, well, you just got lucky.

And usually, and from my own experience as an artist, that kind of luck don't come buy all that often.

i have to agree with miguel.

i think people are confusing talent with skill. talent is innate genius that is like a seed. but you need the water, the air the right soil to allow it to grow. similarly, skill is those requirements. if one is not properly trained, then he will not be able to develop; that's the whole reason we have conservatories, etc. to teach you about different conditions and skills so that one can have a better music education. for instance, orchestrating 10 voices now seems really easy on my part. but i do remember a time 4 years ago where i could only hear 3 at a time, rather than 10. it takes lots of study of strauss, mahler, and bach to develop multi-voice hearing and eventually 10 voice orchestration.

the reason john williams is so good is because he had so many years of study. composing good music is not an inherent talent. look at mozart's early works. they were quite bad, and very simple with very little depth. but he studied over the years of the jc bach, js bach, mannheim, and the capabilities sonata form to finally achieve the jupiter. contrary to what many people may think, composing music is not that mysterious a process. it is 99% perspiration and 1% talent, imo. it takes alot of background learning to be able to get great voice leadings, delicious harmonies, or orchestrations that sound good and are also playable.

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Rubbish!

I can practice basketball 10 hours a day and never become good enough to play in any competative level.

Alex is right, talent is required. The practice is their to guide the talent, to learn to use it to it's full potential.

Height is no longer an excuse - take Iverson. If you practice for 10 hours a day and still suck and something its because you are a bad practicer. Nothing to do with talent. All over the world there are examples of this. Deaf concert marimba players, amazing jazz guitarist Djengo Reinhart with only seven fingers, diabetic/asthmatic pro athletes, its all about dedication.

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Of course it has to do with talent. Iverson is super-quick and can jump out of the gym. This is a natural talent and, yes, he's also worked like crazy. That's why its often a combination. The idea that anybody could make it to the NBA is ridiculous. How much this applies to music is debatable but it seems common-sensical that a person born with a tin-ear will have a harder time than someone with natural musical talent. If they both practice like crazy and equally, the person with natural talent will have an advantage.

- Adam

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I say, education means nada without talent. Many have studied but only a few are special.

Thats becuase they wank while they study. If you study - study hard, and pay attention. This will yield results - and yes you can teach yourself and be that good. Do you think Sir paul only practiced 20 minutes half ass a daay? no way.

Sorry pi, but I'm afraid your teachers are misleading you. Many people study extremely hard (private or rock school), outplaying McCartney in every way, but few can write a song like he did. He has a natural and exceptional gift. It cannot be tought.

Alex

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I seriously believe a person can study and study and work their ass off at something, like an instrument, and just plain suck. Everyone's mind is different, and develops differently as you study. You can do what you can with it, but sometimes that person just flat out doesn't have what it takes to get the job done. I remember Dave Gilmour (from Pink Floyd) saying that, he practiced and practiced for hours a days, for years, diligently, and he couldn't get any faster, so his style developed out of that. You can have a good teacher, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be great, or even as good as the teacher. Everyone is different.

Now, take Bob who lives down the street, who is in his thirties, and is a good pianist after so many years of study and playing, and compare him to Mozart at 6 years old.

Skill is nothing without natural, INBORN, talent. Simply put, an inclination.

Tim

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Sometimes it's just 20 seconds of music that I say nobody could compose 20 seconds like that in their life,and Williams pulls it off routinely.Like everyone does choirs lately,nut no one can match something like that little unreleased bit in Anakin's Betrayal that was supposedly not good enough for the OST.

K.M.

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My friend claims that John Williams doesn't write his music.  

He said "The music teacher at school says John Williams doesn't write his music. Someone else writes it for him."

Not that I believe my friend or the music teacehr.

Please, someone give panthera quotes from Williams, his cuesheets and their orchestrators so he can show to his teacher and friend

:sigh:

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Well i guess I define talent as the desire to become as good as posible with out faltering and without realizing you will never reach your desired goal. Then that you might be born with. Once you stop you give up. Practicing to reach a short term goal must never be good enough. You must practice when you are not practicing - you must keep your mind always focused, it borderlines obsession. Billy joel said in an interview he wrote most of his great songs in the shower. Williams is so good because his mind is SO focused! He has repeated the learning cycle so many times that it just seems he is ingenious. Let me assure you the man has worked hard for this ability. The John Williams idea of working hard > then the average persons - that is why he succeeds.

There is so much evidence of this in his writing methods. Paper/pencil - a piano in a seperate room from the VCR - no demos/no playback/ no laziness/everything by hand; brains, memory, eyes and ears - do you know how HARD and LABOR intensive that is? The guy is obsessed - thats why we enjoy his musix.

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There is so much evidence of this in his writing methods.  Paper/pencil - a piano in a seperate room from the VCR - no demos/no playback/ no laziness/everything by hand; brains, memory, eyes and ears - do you know how HARD and LABOR intensive that is?  The guy is obsessed - thats why we enjoy his musix.

I think he mostly does that becaus that's how he did it when he started, and he's very comfortable that way. It's what's worked for him for years, so he sticks by it.

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Yes good point. Yet because of this Williams has the best ears in the business. Compare William's ears to some of the younger composers who have to hit "play" to hear if something works - there is no contest, and it shows in his music - everything is well thought out and organized.

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