Writing a minimal orchestral underscore cue with Riot Audio’s Putty Piano!

Putty Piano by Riot Audio

Today we’re going to explore how to write a minimalist, dramatic underscore with Riot Audio’s Putty Piano. This is a new product we have at a great low price, from the same developer who brought you Bowed Guitar Clouds and Bowed Glass Clouds.

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The Putty Piano is a custom prepared piano which uses putty to dampen the strings, giving it a beautiful resonance and a fairly sharp attack. It’s perfect for writing minimalist style orchestral cues, which are extremely popular right now (think many of Spitfire Audio’s libraries, especially the Olafur Arnalds collaborations, and film music from Thomas Newman and Jóhann Jóhannsson) 

For this style, it’s very useful to have organic instruments which have been lightly treated or processed, so they retain the natural resonance and sound, but may have a bit more ambience or a rhythmic, arpeggiated sound. Creating ambient space with reverb is very useful for writing in this style.

I start this song off with creating a very simple progression on the Putty Piano, which has life and movement due to the arpeggiated sound of this default patch. If we were to simply hold these notes without any rhythm or movement, it may get a bit boring, so this patch is perfect for what I am trying to achieve.

I add a little bit of depth by simply having very light, airy strings mimic the piano progression, as well as doubling the Putty Piano with a felt piano. It’s light, minimalist, and very ambient, and keeping it within only three instruments keeps it from becoming overburdened with layers and complexity, something you really want to avoid when writing minimalist music. It’s good to double things up a bit to add depth or octaves, but don’t overdo it! Emotion and simplicity should take center stage.

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