Junkie XL On Scoring With Strings

In the latest episode of his video series, Studio Time, Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) discusses his approach to scoring for strings.

Holkenborg has scored over a dozen films, including blockbusters like Batman v Superman, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Amazing Spider Man 2 and Divergent.

“In this episode, I discuss how I wrote a key theme for the film Brimstone,” notes Holkenborg. “I’ll explore the melody, how I transcribed it for strings, some notes on harmony, and finally show you the final result with the recorded orchestra. I’ll also discuss the various plug-ins I use.”

Holkenborg discusses his approach to creating a theme for a score, translating a piano outline into a score for virtual string parts and then recording the soundtrack with an orchestra.

In Part 2, below, Holkenborg builds on his string writing concepts, with a focus on harmonic progression using cues from the film Brimstone:

10 thoughts on “Junkie XL On Scoring With Strings

  1. Deep down inside me believes JunkieXL is a quasi-hack. He has all that gear which I don’t believe he would ever use them to their full potential. Although Junkie is a great programmer, however, the great amount of his gear is there just for show and to mask his inabilities in being a master musician and composer. That is not to say that he is not talented nonetheless. He knows how to use the gear; he knows all about pro audio production. But his skills as a composer and performer are very limited, in my opinion.

    I do love his enthusiasm and love for music; he does inspire me that way. I also congratulate him on his movie projects, opening doors to (electronic) alternatives away from the likes of Hans Zimmer. All in all, JunkieXL has yet to BLOW ME away.

    1. even he has only two hands; he can’t play every instrument in his studio at the same time. What do you expect?
      No, I think he can compose and perform well enough.

      Besides, using a modular synthesiser to its full potential is an impossible task. You can invent new patches every day. It never ends …

    2. I can’t comment on how he uses the electronic equipment. But from this video it is quite clear that he knows at least the basics of harmony and composition. That’s more important for the work he does than obsessing over minutiae of sound design. The point of having all that gear is probably twofold: Taxes and having easy and quick access to a broad range of sounds without having to spend too much time on programming at the expense of time spent composing.

  2. I actually really enjoyed this. A beautiful composition. Not too flashy. The emotional depth of a character is established in a subtle way without too much grandiosity. Nicely done 😉

  3. This is very generous of him to do this. I like that he presents only the technical details. I’ll bet that directors like to work with him because he is down to earth and explains so well.

  4. I quite like that melody, but gah, those parallel fifths in the high strings! I wish he’d run it by an arranger, it could easily have been fixed, too.

  5. Not everyone composes the same way. I get the feeling Junkie has the basics of chord progressions & scales figured out, but not advanced music theory. And that’s ok… a lot of great composers figure things out by ear more than by theory, and my guess is Junkie is more of the ear type of composer.

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