by Jonathan Hammill, Tokyo Symphony Principal Horn


 Jonathan HammillOne of the great parts about being a professional musician in Tokyo is the opportunity to do a wide variety of studio recordings. Most of the major movie and video game soundtracks, commercials, jingles, and J-pop recordings in Japan take place in Tokyo. There is another form of entertainment however that makes Japan unique to the rest of the world. It's no secret that the Japanese love their animation films (aka "anime"), and the amount of anime produced each year provides Tokyo studio musicians with an abundance of recording opportunities. Movies, TV specials, long running TV series, DVD series, anime for kids, anime for adults. You name it, they make it. Since 2004 I have been fortunate to play 1st horn on all of the movie soundtracks for the popular kids anime (which is also loved by many adults) "Doraemon". The best part about playing Doraemon is that the composer, Kan Sawada, writes very fun, dare I say "Hollywood-esque" horn parts. Fast, loud, all over the horn, very rhythmical, and peppered with lyrical horn solos.

Ike Yoshihiro writes fantastic scores for hit animation films geared toward the adult crowd, such as "Tiger and Bunny" and "Bahamut". Although the soft and furry title suggests otherwise, Tiger and Bunny is very demanding and requires some serious stamina. In fact, the Bahamut score is constantly on the face and tests the extreme registers of the horn. Recording these scores is one thing, but these two anime films were so popular that we even did 3 live concerts each for both. They were completely sold out in big arena-sized halls. These diehard fans not only come to the concerts in full costume of their favorite characters, but they even mob the musicians outside the stage door for autographs.  Sometimes even knowing musicians by name (our names are in the movie credits).

Another interesting aspect about studio work in Japan is that most animation and movie recording session times are done separately between strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. This is helpful for many of the orchestra musicians, myself included, who often times have concerts in the evening and can only go to a studio gig if it is scheduled late at night. It also makes it easier for doing retakes when needed, not that I ever need to (cough). The drawback to late sessions however, is that when there are a lot of tracks to record we may not finish until the early hours of the morning (see photos below). All in all, while very challenging, the variety of music one has the chance to play in Tokyo studio sessions makes for a very fresh and rewarding career.

Hear some of the soundtrack for Bahamut

The horn section, before and after a late night recording session:

before recordingafter recording


Jonathan Hammill graduated with a bachelor's degree from Juilliard. He was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and has been Principal Horn of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra since 2001. His teachers include Carolyn Wahl, Julie Landsman, and Dale Clevenger.