Modern Score Sound Esthetics
Some sound esthetics that are practically not possible to be reproduced by acoustic instruments are nowadays “style defining” for a lot of film music. So, often a large amount of manipulation is being done on the music. Apart from the very obvious ones like filtering or applying obvious effects like delays a few more subtle ones have become quite common.
One of these is for example to mix in a low sub bass synth with only few harmonics (close to a sine wave) on sustaining orchestra/string chords to make the bass register more substantial. This has this nice and highly effective subwoofer rumbling effect in the cinema and gives the music the impression of more depth and substance. In general, the concept of stacking samples/synths on top of live recordings is quite common. The target here is often not to create new elements with these sounds but layering the existing ones so the sound in general gets bigger and “larger than life”.
This whole approach has not only had an impact on the post production or sample production of music but also on how real orchestras are recorded. A lot of scores nowadays use excessive line-ups that are usually recorded in sections (due to physical space limitations in the studio and to have more flexiblity in the mix) but also alternative seatings and alternative mic positions. These things are of course only possible with the appropriate budget.
Another strategy that is easier and cheaper to implement in the post production is to use different reverbs on different instruments, e.g. to give a solo piano that typical reverby Thomas Newman sound while the rest of the orchestra is mixed much dryer. When you’re doing these things on your own, a firm understanding and feeling of stylistic ideals is important, which can only be learned by listening to a lot of film music.