Daily Film Scoring Bits – Archive Jan – May 2013

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Daily Film Scoring Bits


Welcome to the Daily Film Scoring Bits Archive of January to May 2013.

If you want to read the most recent Tips, Tricks and Hints, head over to the other DAILY FILM SCORING BITS ARCHIVES!

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to receive the most recent tips


05/31/13: The amount and intensity of vibrato as a default playing style is highly depending on the instrument and also location of the orchestra. While string players naturally add vibrato to longer notes, brass players only play with vibrato when they have an exposed solo but even that can vary depending on taste and style of the player. Woodwinds usually play with vibrato apart from the clarinets which don’t use vibrato unless you are in some Eastern European countries where the “Bohemian vibrato” is sometimes still part of the default playing style. Most of the time, you don’t want to take influence on that unless you have a specific need for a specific sound (e.g. request the solo trumpet player to play with lots of vibrato to get the Western trumpet style etc.). However asking players that would usually do a vibrato to play “senza vibrato” will create a fascinating, pale, lifeless and almost dead sound which can be used very effectively in thriller/horror etc. scoring.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/30/13: Some of the typical orchestral special effects that are very commonly used nowadays like rises that we hear a lot in trailer music (e.g. at 2:19 in this track) are pretty tough to be pulled off in all their “brutality” by a regular orchestra. Most of the time, this effect will be way less dramatic. A common way is to record a few takes and section takes of these effects only to later layer them. In the track from the link. I recorded 3 takes of the orchestra doing that effect and layered an additional effect sample on top of it to get the desired punch for that. This doesn’t only apply for the “larger than life” trailer effects but sometimes it can also be a wise decision for orchestral effects and effect textures to record several takes of just these for layering in regular film score music.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/29/13: As a composer working within economical boundaries and especially working in the media world, you need to be able to work at a considerable speed. Unless you are financially secured, you simply cannot afford to spend 2 weeks on a 30 second cue or something like this. If you are a learning composer and eventually want to make a living with music, don’t just work on your craft but also on your output rate. Luckily, speed most of the time comes with experience but some people tend to re-think and re-work tiny details several times getting lost  forever on small passages. Probably every composer knows and feels that a piece never is finished but you just let it go at the point where every change you could add to it would not justify the time anymore that you would invest. Learning to know when this point is reached is one of the important goals for every learning composer. And while ideally there shouldn’t be a feeling of rushing through the writing process, you should also train yourself to not get massively lost in details. Monitor your output rate and monitor your behaviour. Is that detail you’re just working on really needed for this piece to become good or are you just wasting time with it? Monitoring your work speed will also eventually give you a quite good idea of your daily delivery amount and being able to predict one’s work speed is essential on any payment consideration as well as deadline predictions. For (orchestral) film composers an average rate of 2-3 mins of WRITING a day is standard, while additionally producing/doing mockups at the same time will get you down to approx 1 minute/day or on complex cues even just 30 seconds. While this doesn’t sound like much, having a constant daily output rate like this is most of the time hard work.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/28/13: When conceptualizing a film score, it is always useful to give it some unique or recognizeable element. A generic orchestral film score with generic themes could also be sourced together from library music and will not really make the score feel specifically written for the movie. What really gives a score character is a special sound, achieved by using a specific solo instrument, a special instrumentation/line-up, a special harmonic or musical language etc. Such elements that can be used in many cues in different context will make your music feel unique and will help the movie to create a special feeling and atmosphere that sticks in the audience’s memory. A master of “branding” scores like that is Thomas Newman, who has as a composer a very unique musical language but also invests a lot of effort into creating specific sounds. Also Hans Zimmer very often incorporates specific music concepts into his scores and even mainly symphonic composers like John Williams create these kind of uniqueness for each score, more on the musical language side (e.g. Star Wars with all its minor quality bitonal structures having a different feeling than the more straight forward major Hook) but also with more obvious things like the solo violin in Schindler’s List etc.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/27/13: Waiting for the lucky shot that will launch your career like a rocket will usually get you nowhere. The most important rule is that in the beginning of your career projects won’t simply just get to you, but you have to actively seek them. Sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring etc. will most likely in you getting no work for a very long time. Actively seek for contact, call companies, try to contact directors, write emails etc. and do everything it takes to get your name around. Even if 95% of these attempts will not be successful, the remaining 5% will be importat to get you further. Most importantly: don’t expect that there will be one project that will catapult your career much higher. For most composers it is a slow and steady way up which takes patience and the will to still make it.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/24/13: The ear/brain needs about ten seconds to adjust to a new musical texture so changing orchestration colours roughly in that tempo is something that feels quite natural and is easy to digest for our brain. However using that knowledge you can also create feelings of haste or slowness just with the pace of how often you change the texture. Very quickly switching between colours and structures will feel frenetic and hasty which is great on action and comedy elements while staying very long in one texture can feel calm, relaxed and edging to boring. Using that guideline will also give you a good idea whether you’re just starting to over-orchestrate or might be just a tad too long in the same colour.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/23/13: Don’t expect every musician to be able to record with click tracks. Classical musicians who don’t do filming work a lot often have big problems when recording with a click track which has several reasons: First of all, classical orchestras usually don’t play on the beat (that they get from the conductor) but slightly behind it and it is very tricky for them to just simply do it differently and play on the beat. Secondly, covering their ears with headphones that gives them a click (even if it’s just a one sided headphone) impairs their ability to hear themselves and other musicians which however for them is a massive part of controlling their playing and sound. So before you record with musicians, ask whether they are okay with click tracks. If you see a problem coming up, a solution would be to get a really good conductor and only give him/her click track. However the result might not be tight enough for certain hit points in movies as every musician only looks once in a while at the conductore (the other time being busy reading the score they’re playing of course).

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/22/13: Altering the bass note of a chord to a note different than the root note can create quite different harmonic feelings than the original chord. If you change the bass note to a different chord tone like the third or fifth of the chord, the harmonic function of the chord will not be altered but will give you a different colour. Chord progressions with many thirds of the chords in the bass appear for example a lot in Howard Shore’s LORD OF THE RINGS scores. If you change the bass note to a higher tension note or a non-scale tone, chances are quite high that the chord will alter its harmonic quality becoming a complex chord of the bass note you chose (for example Fm over the bass note of G will not keep its harmonic function of being a minor triad but will rather become a G7(sus4b9) chord which is a dominant chord. Experimenting with that can open up a whole new field of sounds. A good way to approach this would be to play a simple chord with all 12 different possible bass notes and see what kind of sounds you get out of that.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/21/13: Nowadays there is hardly any film project that will not be temp-tracked before you start working on it. Depending on the level of experience and taste of the person who temp-tracks it (which could be the director or the editor or someone else), the result can be anything between helpful and confusing. Quite often, you as the composer might have the chance to do the temp tracking, either by being actually asked to do it or you specifically ask for it. Even though this might seem like some extra work, whenever you get the chance to do it, you should definitely go for it. By that you can avoid having temp tracks in the movie that don’t fit at all but the director/producer getting so used to it that they don’t want anything else for the scene. If you temp-track the movie, do it really carefully as you can use that temp track also to bring across your vision of what you think the music should do. In a later process of discussion, be open for doing changes on the temptrack to also incorporate the vision of the director etc. Doing the temp track yourself will save you from a lot of headache and frustration so even when you’re not asked to do it, try if you can actually request to do it. All that of course requires you to have an extensive library of film scores that you know to use for temp tracking.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/20/13: The feeling of needing to be available for customers all the time and at any hour can be really health damaging. The fear of missing a carreer boosting opportunity or something like this because of taking a day off or being on vacation for a few days can be really strong but is something that will destroy you overtime. At latest when you start to plan important events of your private life around your work and not the other way around, you should stop and think again. Yes, there is a chance of missing a job opportunity but you should value the recreational effect that you get from a vacation or other social events as an investment in your future and career as well. And on a side note, I never heard from any composer friend or experienced myself the loss of a really important project just because of being “off duty” for a few days. If you plan cleverly and maybe check once a day your emails while you’re not working replying to important emails to let people know that you’re not ignoring them, chances are quite high that you get through just fine with getting your deserved days off and still being able to work on that cool project you got asked for once you get back.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/17/13: When writing for strings, put some special thought into the use of double basses. The double basses add a quite massive and boomy low end to the sound of a string section or even the complete orchestra. They also have a massively more substantial sound  compared to the celli on the same notes. When writing orchestrations that are based mainly on the string section, playing with that low end substantial bass sound of the double basses can give you a fantastic variety of texture which when used properly can make the sound quite lively and colourful. Leaving out the double basses for a while makes it a very special moment when they come back in and suddenly that big warm bottom end is present again in the register. A brillant example of how effective this technique of leaving the basses out and bringing them in can be is the almost strings-only Anakin’s Theme by John Williams. When listening, follow closely the sound of the double basses and notice how often they drop out and re-appear again and what great and colourful effect that has.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/16/13: No matter what software you’re working in writing your music, it might most of the time be a good idea to cut down and size down the video files that you work with into individual cues or sections. Even if modern computers are capable of handling several GB big full HD videos, playing them back simply for your reference and orientation might eat up quite a considerable amount of CPU and HDD capacities that would be wiser spent on the audio side of things. My personal preference is to cut the video down into several chunks for the individual cues that I work in and size them down to at max 720p videos, mostly even smaller so the handling of these things gets easier for the machines. However, when cutting and sizing down make sure to use decent converters that don’t mess up with the frame rate etc. Your preferred video format should still remain any of the decent mov codecs as they are the most used ones and are pretty trustworthy.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/15/13: Reharmonisation of a  melody is a very attractive way for musical development but also constantly used in film to shape a theme according to the mood that is needed. The possibilities are endless and you could reharmonize by just adding a few extensions to the chords up to completely changing the harmonic progression or even tonic. To reharmonize, analyse your theme for important melody notes. Let’s say you have  a melody note of C which originally was the root note of your tonic. When reharmonizing, you basically have many different options. That C could become in your new version the fifth of an F major chord, Third of Am or Ab, maybe the maj7 of a Db, the 9 of a Bb, #11 of an F# etc. Some of these things will work better while others won’t depending on the chords and melody notes that surround that C. Do the same principle for every of your important melody notes to find a new chord progression. In order to not get lost completely, you could also say that every 4th chord (depending on your form) of your original melody will be as in the original, which will ensure that you most likely stay in the same tonic and have the same dominants at the end of your melodic arcs. It takes a bit of training and experience to be able to do that  without struggling but once you get the hang of this, you’ll be able to get practically every possible emotion out of a single theme.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/14/13: Unfortunately, there are quite often situations where you need to start writing music to an un-locked cut in order to be able to hit the deadline. While this situation is far from ideal due to picture lock dates being pushed more and more to the back in the post production schedule, you might need to decide for working on unfinished scenes before the picture lock and adjust them again once the final cut arrives which in worst case could mean a complete rewrite or losing the cue all together. Most of the times however, the adjustments will be rather small so you might be able to adjust your cue without needing to completely write it once again. Of course that means that you write it a little differently right from the start to allow for adjustments later on. It might be quite helpful to write it quite “modularly” meaning to write blocks of musical ideas (4-bar sections etc.) instead of one long musical arc which would lose its musical logic when adding or removing parts of it. Ostinatos are also great in such situations for obvious reasons. Also, write in some “expansion gaps” that you can easily adjust later on. Things like sustaining string chords work well for this as you later can extend or shorten them without interrupting the musical flow. Once you have the picture lock on a well prepared cue, adjustments shouldn’t be that tricky. Work with slight changes of tempo to adjust for new hit points, adjust musical phrases by inserting bars for example at the end of thematic ideas (e.g. it works quite well most of the time to extend a 4-bar melody (in 4/4) by adding for example a single 2/4 at the end and just let the last melody sustain over that bar). Of course, none of that is ideal from the composer’s perspective but it might help you getting through such a job.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/13/13: As soon as you as a composer have at least a slight amount of success and publicity, you can be almost sure that your music will be or probably is already available through illegal channels like sharing platforms etc. or is used without permission in  context with a video, website, game etc. There’s hardly anything that you can do about that and hunting down trying to remove every single copyright infringement is probably impossible and nerve wrecking. While it is annoying to see your work being used without permission or license payment the financial loss is in most cases not as big as it seems as this most likely happens on quite small scale projects that wouldn’t have money to pay for a license anyway. Only if you spot a major infringement of your rights, you should act and try to remove it or even go for a law suit if it’s worth it. But save your nerves going after every single case. Trust on the fact that customers and people that really care about your work and do have the money will pay for your music and see the slight upside of all the other cases of at least getting a little bit of publicity. Also, in some cases, illegal downloads are a sign of demand not being fulfilled on legal channels. People will most of the time not go through all the hassle and potential danger of trying to find an illegal download of your music if they could just buy it on itunes or similar sources, so fulfilling the demand on these channels might help to reduce illegal activity as well.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/10/13: For French Horns there is quite often seen in score sheets a request to put the “Bells up” which is supposed to give them some extra volume and brassyness. Even some sample patches are available that cover this technique. Among horn players this technique is seen a bit controversial. First of all, during regular playing the right hand of the player will be partially in the bell of the horn helping to shape the sound and pitch of the instrument and is an essential part of the playing of the horn. When raising the bell, it is tricky to impossible to keep the right hand in the bell which will give less control over the sound. Also due to the fact that the projection towards the back doesn’t change much, the difference in volume is argueable. The difference resulting in the sound comes mainly from the missing hand in the bell which makes the sound more brassy but also less cultivated which is often used as argument against this technique. Some players might even refuse to do that technique at all. However writing that in, even if the players don’t execute it, gives them a hint of how you want it to sound and they might just play a little louder and intense without raising the bell. As a side note, on live performances that technique has a way bigger effect as it is an impressive stage effect if you suddenly see the horns raising their bells. Gustav Mahler used massive orchestras and asked for that technique quite often (even on woodwinds). Seeing 10 horns raising their bell during a massively epic tutti has a very impressive effect.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/09/13: Many recording facilities (especially in Eastern Europe) now offer the possibility to do a remote session either via Skype, Source Connect or another form of audio stream where you as the composer can hear what’s coming right through the monitors in the studio over the internet. While this is comfortable for doing sessions that are quite far away from your location and that are just to record a small amountof music, it doesn’t replace being there. First of all, especially when doing sessions over Skype, the audio quality is a big issue. Even with a broadband connection on both ends, the audio quality over Skype is not really good enough to judge details so you need to trust the engineer there to hear all the small things that are problematic. The other issue is the communication gap. It might be possible that the people in the studio fixed already an issue while you were still typing or talking about it after a take. If you are there, you will immediately see and hear what’s being fixed, so over remote connections  there is a considerable amount of slow down. And lastly, it is always the best experience to be with the orchestra hearing your music, seeing the musicians play etc. so if you can chose between both options, rather go for being present on the stage and even a bit of travel is worth doing that.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/08/13: Never give up the judgement of your ear for academical rules. There are many compositions out there that are academically brillant, well crafted, following every rule and still being completely boring, uninteresting and uninspired. If you have a good ear and something sounds good to it even though it might not be considered “correct”, go for your ear and not for the rule. These rules aren’t written in stone and bending or breaking them now and then doesn’t devalue your music or these rules. Still, that doesn’t make it less important to get an understanding of what you’re doing there by learning the craft but these academic rules are not the final word on good music.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/07/13: If during the planning of your score you notice that two ore more cues will be pretty close together (meaning less than 30 seconds in between), unless that moment of silence is essential (point of a joke, strong emotional moment etc.), you should prefer to connect them and having music also in the originally planned gap as getting out and into another cue in a very short time can be quite distracting for your audience and drag more attention on itself than you might want.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/06/13: If possible, try to be finished slightly before the deadline. There are two reasons for that. The most important one: chances are really high that something unexpected happens that you need to squeeze in or fix as well. Secondly, it will leave a good impression with your customer showing that you’re working on it with compassion. However, don’t be done too early, otherwise people might think that they can squeeze the deadline more next time.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/03/13: There is a thin line between writing challenging and writing unncecessarily tricky for instruments. Musicians like it from time to time to have something to “chew on”, where they can show their virtuosity and musicianship, however it can quickly become frustrating for them when it is obvious that (almost) the same musical effect could be achieved with simpler methods. Of course for you as a composer/orchestrator to distinguish between what is challenging and what is just unnecessarily tricky, you need to have a thorough understanding of how these instruments work. Nothing reduces the respect your musicians have for you more than taking things for granted that are super tricky and exhausting and in the worst case even complaining why it didn’t sound great right from the first take. Being aware of what’s tricky is important for working with real musicians. Some orchestrators even go as far as writing something like “Sorry that I put you through this” after tricky parts into the score sheets which is of course not necessary but giving your musicians the feeling that you do understand what they’re going through will earn you their respect and motivation and result in a better recording/performance.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/02/13: In order to achieve a wider stereo sound especially on signals that are quite dry and not yet positioned in the room, the old trick of slightly delaying the left against right channel or vice versa often works very effectively. How much to delay you need to define by ear but it shouldn’t be more than 10-50ms or you’ll get an audible delay effect. The psycho acoustical reason behind that trick is that our brain defines the position of an audio source by checking the delay times of when the wave reaches the individual ears as a wave coming from the left side will reach the left ear a little bit earlier than the right ear (and of course louder as well). If you do that trick, our brain will think that due to the delay it obviously must come from one side but due to the fact that still both sides are equally loud it will not really know whether the wave from the left side will be before or behind the right side which results in the wider stereo perception. That trick works much better on dry signals than on wet as the “built in room position” of the wet samples already predetermine its position.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



05/01/13: In order to keep a composition interesting, try to rhythmically offset your motif now and then. If you’re melodic idea is based on a motivic idea being placed on every downbeat of a bar, try moving that motif to a different rhythmical point within the bar. By that procedure, you still keep the strong structural element of your motif but avoid to become too static with it.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/30/13:  Finding the right thematic material and having both parties (you and your customer/director) agree on it can take quite some time. When you present possible themes, it is common today to present them in their best shape as directors very rarely have the ability to abstract from sketches. So even if your theme is perfectly fine, presenting it only in a piano version might result in an “That’s not epic enough” etc. reaction. So take some time to flesh out your ideas in a presentable way before showing them to your client. When dealing with reactions, try being very analytical about the critizism. Sometimes, directors don’t know exactly what bothers them about a certain idea but also take into account to change the instrumental colours (to make sure it’s not the instrumentation that bothers him/her). Quite often, directors like portions of a theme but don’t like single notes or phrases. Before you write something completely new, try isolating them together with the director.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/29/13:  The contrast between being under extreme pressure and suddenly not having anything to do is very big in the media music world. While you’re one day doing all-nighters to hit a deadline, the next day you might not have anything to do at all. That whole issue gets even bigger when working on large scale projects that you’re working on over a long time. Especially after ending this project with a big scoring session at the end of the working process including all the adrenalin and joy that comes with it, many composers have the feeling of falling into a hole after that. Suddenly that moment you worked for for several weeks or months has passed and there’s nothing left doing. Jumping right into the next project should rather be avoided as well as there is a crucial time that you need to regenerate. While this is different for everybody and some people might enjoy going into complete not-doing-anything-mode after a stressful project, my personal experience is rather that it is very tricky to radically do that switch without having some psychological side effects. So when you see such a moment coming, be prepared for it. Plan a short vacation etc. for the days after the project is done or something else that keeps you from being completely idle and set yourself a target to look forward to.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/26/13:  The growing numbers of french horns in film scores in recent years don’t only have something to do with the need for more “epicness” but are also a decision of balance. Due to the music being written in the way that very often the heavy brass (Trumpets, Trombones, Tuba(s)) are playing loudly over long sections the overall balance of the orchestra is being dragged to the right side as these heavy brass instruments are sitting mostly all together in the far right of the orchestra. Their volume can not be compensated by the other sections  sufficiently. In order to counteract that “right heavy” sound, the french horns on the left side need to balance that out, however, due to the fact that horns are non-directional (meaning their sound leaves the instrument pointing backwards mainly and bouncing off the back wall into the audience or the mics), it is very tricky for 4 horns to balance out 7 or more heavy brass instruments on the right side. So in order to get the overall perception of the orchestral sound back into the middle of the stereo field, it needs more horns. This development is by the way not completely new. Composers like Gustav Mahler used massive horn sections already in the 19th century to balance out their brass heavy writing.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/25/13:  Quite often, as opposed to a delivery cue by cue with start TCs, you might be asked to deliver one long music track containing all the music cues placed correctly against the final cut of the movie, which in my experience should be the preferred way. By that procedure you can make sure that all the cues sit at the correct spot and there haven’t been slight edits at one point that changed the timecode for later cue entrances etc. Also, there are always chances there are typos in the start TC or someone reads them wrong etc and places a cue simply at the wrong timing. By delivering a complete file (or depending on the format individual channel separated files) you can make sure that none of that is wrong and lay the music exactly against the final movie. Of course, request for a final and locked cut before you do that. The start of the file should obviously sit on the very first frame of the movie with a 2-beep 2 seconds before that, however that should be discussed exactly with the mixing engineer.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/24/13:  The western human brain is very accustomed to musical structures that fall into the power of 2. So 2-, 4-, 8-, 16- bar structures feel very natural for us. Neglecting these standard models can create quite interesting musical effects that have a certain rhythmical “edge”. When done well, you will not notice the odd structure conciously but just have the feeling that something is a little “odd”. An example for a 6-bar form is LET THE SUNSHINE IN, which still feels natural and not forced into an odd shape. Still, that form is not too extraordinary as it is still a multiple of 2. But even odd numbered forms can be musically plausible and quite natural feeling when done well. Their “slight strangeness” can be used in film music for example to portray a slightly odd character etc.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/23/13: One of the many functions of film music is to set a time. This is especially helpful in period pieces and can be a big part of the concept. However, just as with geographic hints in the music, most of the time it works best with the audience to not be 100% authentic. Just because a movie is set in the 18th century doesn’t neccessarily mean that the film score should sound all the way baroque as it is especially tricky to evoke the whole set of emotions needed with that kind of style. It rather is enough most of the time to chose a few period elements like incorporating a harpsichord or using flute trills, a few dominant 7 chords etc. to set the timing. Also, specific scenes (like a baroque dance scene, meetings in a castle etc.) can be used to go a little further into that period style.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/22/13: Estimating your own fee for projects is sometimes quite tricky and many composers starting out don’t know what kind of figures to ask for as they also don’t want to scare off the customer etc. The first important thing is to never mention a quote without knowing anything about the project. If you’re requested to do so, rather say that it is depending on the project and you need to have more information in order to estimate the amount of work involved. When you estimate your fee, break it down to how many hours you might need to complete that job and set a appropriate hourly fee to estimate your overall fee. Of course all that requires to know your own work speed quite well, so whenever you’re working on anything, even if it’s just for your own pleasure, have a look at the clock to see how quick you are.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/19/13: While there are tons of things to take care of when writing for harp (which would be worth several pages) and considering that many orchestration books don’t cover that topic in proper detail, one of the rarely mentioned important things about harp is that the hands of the harp player are on different sides of the strings which makes it quite easy to play figures with interlocking hands (one thing that is extremely tricky if not impossible on the piano).

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/18/13: Even the best preparation and work discipline can’t save you from technical failures which can become especially nerve wrecking in do or die moments. Always plan for unforseen failures and  backup wherever you can. Don’t just bring your laptop with all the important files to the scoring stage, director meeting etc. but also carry an USB stick with them as well. Even if all important files arrived safely in the studio you’re recording in, bring along yet another copy. Never trust that everything will be fine even if it looks like it. The most important thing is not to panic if some system fails but to stay focused on how to solve the problem and be able to improvise in case everything goes wrong.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/17/13: When composing a piece, present your main musical idea for the first time in the clearest direct and most unobscured way to your audience so it is actually being perceived as important and remembered for further appearances where it might be transformed, accompanied etc. By that way, you make sure that your audience understands and memorizes your key idea. There is no need to add secondary lines, counterpoint etc. when you’re presenting an idea for the first time. Save these things for reoccurances of the idea later on in your piece.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/16/13: In well-cut scenes, musical tempo changes are usually not necessary. Mostly all scenes have an inherent rhythm that is quite steady (unless of course some major shift happens) and is kept for quite a while. Even massive sequences like the Coruscant Chase from Star Wars Episode II keep a steady tempo for several minutes. If you need to change the tempo constantly during a scene, you either didn’t get the tempo of the scene right to begin with or it is badly cut. If the first thing is the case, try going back and try to find the inherent tempo of the scene by watching it a few times without music and try to tap/snap the speed of it.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/15/13: Some customers/directors tend to request revisions and alterations until the very last moment, sometimes even with the result of landing back at the original version after doing several revisions. While this is an acceptable way of trying things out during the work phase, it can be hell near the delivery date. Don’t let yourself being pushed in the situation where you just let yourself being thrown around till the very last moment. If you feel that your customer might be such a person, make clear from the beginning that after a certain point x, no more alterations are possible. Even if that is not the truth and you could throw in another alteration while you’re preparing score sheets for the session etc already, chances are very high to lose track of important things and versions etc. when deadlines come closer and you need to take care of so many other things already. I personally tend to mention that I need to send out the score sheets to the orchestra 1-2 weeks before the recording session already even though I really just send them a few days in advance but I always need that free time span to prepare everything properly and make sure that I have everything set up so it works at the day.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/12/13: When constructing chords, try the difference of leaving out the perfect fifth of the chord and having it in. Due to the fact that the fifth will be quite a string overtone of the root (hence the bass note) anyway, it will be present in the chord quite strongly without actually having it in there. This is especially true with string chords that do have a very rich harmonic structure. In some cases, having the fifth in the chord actually makes the chord thicker and less transparent (due to the additional overtones that will also join the chord then).

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/11/13: A slim, focused and clean working setup is always better than having too many tools to work with. There’s no point in investing into endless amounts of libraries, synthesizers and plugins because you will never have the time to master them all. The by far more successful strategy is to pick a basic system that you really know how to handle and get the best out of. Streamlining your process in that regard is more effective and will create more output than constantly needing to search for sounds or trying out how things work with that one plugin you never used before.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/10/13:  In composition, chance can be a strong creative force. Accidentally hitting a few interesting notes on the keyboard or stumbling across an inspiring sound, even getting melodic ideas from a bird tweeting etc. can all be very good sources for compositions. Even the most accomplished and educated composers rely on chance on a regular basis. This whole concept is not at all something to feel bad about or rather not tell when being asked how one gets inspiration but is a absolutely valid procedure. The art starts when to separate the bad from the good ideas and to develop them into a real composition. Only trying to fall back on academic strategies on the other hand will quite quickly result in uninspired feeling music. So don’t be afraid of inviting chaos and chance into your creative process as you might end up with a bunch of fairly cool ideas.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/09/13:  In order to not chop up the musical flow too much in hit-point heavy sequences, it might be a good idea to “ignore” some hit points with the music that you usually would want to hit and go for more important hit points only. If the music for example needs to create a grand and sweeping quality, interrupting that too often will not create the desired effect and eventually weaken your scoring.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/08/13:  Film composers are quite regularly asked to re-arrange existing music cues, songs etc to fit the scene/mood. In less professional productions, often the rights are not cleared properly in such cases. Even if this is not your fault and your responsibility, in case of a law suit due to rights infringement, you as the composer/arranger are to be held liable as well. Even with presumeably public domain works (compositions whose composer(s)  (and lyricist) have died more than 75 years ago) it is not always certain that they are actually public domain. Also, rearranging a musical work by someone who is still alive usually requires the permission by the author. All these things can become very problematic when not dealed with properly. This is all not your responsibility but you need to keep an eye on it as it can affect you in case something goes wrong. As a composer/arranger who’s requested to do re-arrangements, request to have a look at documents that confirm the clearing of the rights or at least remind the people to actually make sure that the rights are cleared, especially if you’re working on productions that don’t feel too professional.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/05/13: Even if you’re good at orchestrating your music yourself, time pressure on projects will sometimes require to hire external orchestrators. However consider that you need to give your orchestrator as much information as possible. If you work in a DAW, ALWAYS work to a tempo map. It will multiply your orchestrator’s workload if he/she needs to work from a  free timing version. Also make sure that you give your orchestrator as much information as possible. You should definitely include an audio mockup of the track to work from. Additionally, include a MIDI file of the track and hard quantize it beforehand. Make sure to not only quantize the note-on values but also the note-off values. By that, the file is easier to import into a scoring programme. Addtionally, you can also provide a rough score sheet of the score output of your DAW. The more the better. If you work on paper or sketch notation, make sure to give enough indications for your orchestrator. Of course, you could also rely on the creativity of your orchestrator and only give rough guidelines and let him/her do the embellishment, however be warned that there might be possibly different results than you might be expecting as your orchestrator won’t neccessarily know which stylistic path you want to go unless you communicate that.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/04/13: Many people argue and that orchestral recordings should be as natural sounding and possible and treating them with effects like compression/EQ etc. is absolutely not tolerable. While this attitude is still valid for classical orchestral recordings where you want to have a natural sound of the orchestra, for film music and especially sample productions these things don’t apply at all. If an “audion treatment” gets you closer to the sound you want, its use is justified by that. Many film scores nowadays have a fairly high amount of “production” going into the final sound which is not possible to achieve by just trying to keep a natural sound. On sampled production, this applies even more as you actually need to use quite a bit of effects and processing to even get close to a “natural” sound. The often heard argument to not treat the “out of the box” sound of samples because what you get out of the box is the “most natural” sound and any audio treatment will push them away from their “most real” sound, is not valid as especially in context of other instruments, a reverb etc. such treatment is most of the times necessary to get even close to a decent sound.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/03/13: Plotting a longer composition and taking it past the initial idea and developing it usually takes a bit of time and consideration. Composers approach this very differently and while some go ahead just starting at the beginning and let their intuition guide them, others write elaborate sketches and several revisions. For learning composers, it might be helpful to think about the concept. Sketching something like Intro – Theme in Horns – Theme in Strings with side lines – Secondary theme – Transition – Theme in Minor – Key Change – Theme again in major (Climax)- Ending etc. might help to sketch the overall shape of the piece. It also helps to target better for the climax and not accidentally get too big too soon.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/02/13: Exact repetitions or exact sequences (=transposition to a different scale degree) of musical phrases/themes can not only be used as a musical device but also work as scenic devices. However, that only applies if it is a recognizeable repetition (to repeat generic dilogue underscoring will not create that effect). Depending on the scene, it can be used to portray something or someone being “stuck” in a situation and if used right can have quite a comedic potential but can also create this “Here we go again” feeling in a good way (the Hero of the movie getting another moment of being “heroic”) or in a bad way (something annoying happening again and again). Exact sequences create almost the same feeling but enter a little bit of variation which can be useful if you don’t want it to become too annoying.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



04/01/13: Working at home by your own time schedules can in theory be a very nice way of working but can in realitiy cause quite a bit of problems. Quite a few composers suffer from a lack of concentration, being constantly distracted and not really being able to focus their mind on their work when working at home while others have no problem whatsoever with that. It is important to find out what is best for you. Some people can work even in their own living room with people around them while others need at least their own room while even others need a studio to “go to work to” away from home to be most creative and focused.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/29/13: In a real orchestral tutti, there’s hardly any chance for the harp to be heard. The only thing that might have a chance to cut through are quite strong and expansive glissandos, but any figuration etc. gets lost already in a mezzoforte tutti. Most mockups by inexperienced composers mix the harp unrealistically loud. If you want the harp to be heard, tone down the rest of the arrangement. The harp can’t compete against more than a few woodwinds, soft strings and possibly a soft horn (section) where it sounds beautiful and justifies its use in the orchestra. But don’t try to put important and undoubled lines into the harp on louder passages.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/28/13: Ritardandos and accelerandos are very tricky to do with a click track that live players need to record with later. Especially the standard tempo changes that DAW’s offer with a constant slowdown or speedup usually feel very unnatural. Invest some time to program these speed changes by hand to give them a logical and musical feel. Most of the time you can even program them in a way that from the absolute length they don’t differ from the constant ones (and still hit any hit point afterwards) but still feel logical. On the recording, give the musicians a few run throughs of the click track so they get to know what’s happening where. A good idea would also to talk through these things with your conductor beforehand.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/27/13: Most of the time, when arranging chords, you should try to move the “inner voices” (=all voices except for bass line and potential top melody line) by the shortest possible distance from chord to chord, using inversions of chords but also trying to sustain notes that are part of consecutive chords. That procedure sounds more pleasing to our ear as opposed to chord progressions where several voices leap between notes. This is more or less the “standard procedure” for arranging chords and is most successful in homogenous sounding sections like the strings. Of course, we also often see “violations” of that guidline to achieve dramatic effects etc. but for a learning composer/orchestrator, using that technique as a reference point is a good start.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/26/13: Always be conscious about what medium you’re writing music for. The audience has a different focus on the story, the visuals and the music when sitting in a dark cinema staring at a huge screen as opposed to watching a blurry Youtube video on a tiny Ipad screen with tinny sound. This influences not only the pure volume of the music that is needed but also the intensity of the scoring. In cinema, scores can be way more subtle and create the same effect as “on the nose” scoring for TV or internet, while transfering this “on the nose” scoring to cinema would feel very quickly over the top. Be aware of these differences and adjust your scoing style accordingly.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/25/13: When working on projects that you will work on over a course of several weeks or even months, make sure to negotiate a payment in rates, especially when it’s going to be a project that you work exclusively for during that time. Even when a project will end with you receiving a considerable amount of money after a few months, during the working time when you still need to pay your monthly expenses, money can become quite tight. Unfortunately, in the euphoria of a new big project, it is not that uncommon to forget about that.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/22/13: Recent years have shown a tendency to write more often for brass in their very low register. Especially horns are often requested to play in their lowest octave. While excellent players in great numbers (speaking of more than 6 Horns) can make this register sound quite epic, regular horn sections struggle quite a bit with it. This register is not very carrying and hard to control on the horn. Especially in combination with the trombones at the same pitch, the horn section is usually much weaker. Trying to replicate the epic/sampled low horn sound with a real orchestra is something that you shouldn’t expect to be too successful under normal circumstances. So plan in to give support to these tones with other instruments (most likely Trombones).

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/21/13: One of the best ways to learn about mixes and how the orchestra should sound is of course to have a huge listening experience. When you need to mix or mock-up instruments, it helps tremendously to know exactly how instruments should sound in the context of an orchestra. One great way to quickly gain experience in that field is to try and reproduce reference mixes. Pick music that you think is mixed perfectly and try to replicate the sound/spacing/balance of it by constantly doing A-B comparisons with your own music while mixing. By that you are forced to pay attention on every instrument/section in the mix and how it does sound in context. If you do this for a while, you will get a pretty good ear for how things should sound.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/20/13: The concept of a “hook-line” – as it is called in the pop world – is to create one or several elements that stick in the memory of the listener and create something that is easily remembered and recognized once it appears again. As opposed to the classical leitmotif (which as the name says relies on a motivic hence melodic idea) the concept of a hook-line in general is broader. Even though the name implies it to be a (melodic) line, a hook-line can also be a specific chord progression (e.g. Goldfinger), a rhythm (e.g. Terminator 2), sound colour (Harmonica in Once upon a Time in the West) or any other musical device that can be used in order to create something that “sticks out”. Of course as also seen in the examples above, some hook-lines base on several musical factors (Goldfinger not only being the chord progression but also the melodic motif provided by the muted trumpets, Once upon a time in the west relying not only on the sound of the harmonica but also the motif). Even though this whole principle comes from the pop world, the idea of getting your audience attached to your track by using such a device in “the orchestral world” is quite important as well. Especially as a film and media composer, you’re expected to deliver music that sticks in the memory of your audience which is best achieved by a small idea that stands out.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/19/13: Scenes and situations that are emotionally hardly bearable (major characters dieing, catastrophic plot twists, portrayal of gruesome psychic or physical violence, fatal decisions etc.) need special attention from the musical side. The tendency to double the emotion in the music usually feels very disturbing and annoying. Successfully working scenes in such emotoinal extremes usually tend to be very sparesly scored if not even left in complete musical silence. The attempt to make these scenes more dramatic by pouring music over it usually doesn’t work. Rather will very sparse and intense scoring make the scene stronger.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/18/13: Working in the media world means to make compromises. Many people who get newly into the field feel rather frustrated by not being able to write exactly what they intented to and feel that they could have done much better on their projects if they were just allowed to. While this is probably true, there’s no point in being frustrated about that. Nobody in the film composing world is protected from such a thing. Even people like John Williams need to strand through such situations (e.g. Star Wars Ep 1-3 being massively cut after the music was written already causing major really horrible cuts on the music).  Everybody needs to set for him/herself what kind of compromises he/she is willing to take but not being willing to make compromises at all will not bring you very far in the business.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/15/13: The unique construction of the trombones with their slides gives them a possibility to do certain things that other brass instruments can’t do (e.g. slides) but also limits them down in certain situations. Especially in the lower register where there are not several different possibilities available to play a specific note the agility of the trombone is considerably lower than on instruments with valves. The reason lies in the pure physicalities of pushing a valve down with a small finger movement vs. moving the slide with an elbow movement and in some cases needing to move the slide from completely in to completely out. So when  you’re writing for brass, keep an eye on the speed factor for your trombones.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/14/13: The digital addition of sounds works very different than the addition of sounds in a real acoustic space. In consequence, that means that “layering” has considerable limitations. Trying to layer 16 solo violin tracks on top of each other, even when using different distances from the microphones etc, will never sound like a real 16 violin ensemble. One of the key factors missing there is the mutual influence between the instruments. The resonance of an ensemble playing together in an acoustic space is a big part of what makes an orchestra sound like an ensemble. The vibration of one instrument will also influence the sound of the neighbouring instrument etc. Also, digital addition often causes a quite nasty summing up of mid frequencies resulting in a very boomy overall sound which most of the time needs to be EQed. However, layering works to a certain extent. For example recording string sections (!) twice and also recording larger sections of the orchestra in stems (e.g. Woodwinds/Brass/Perc/Strings) does work most of the time (compare the sound of John Powell’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, which has been recorded like this), but note that those are still a quite small amount of layers.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/13/13: Don’t try to be overly complex and super advanced when writing music just for the sake of it. Considering the history of music and in specific film music, the things that are part of the history are often based on really simple ideas. Consider Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Indiana Jones’ Theme etc. All of these composition have a really simple starting point. What makes them musically spectacular is the way how these ideas are treated, brought into new musical perspectives, reharmonized etc. Even though it is a term that is coming from the pop music world, but nothing beats a really good hook line and if that one is strong, it will keep the interest of your audience. Remember that simple ideas don’t mean simple composition at the same time.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/12/13: In dialogue scenes, treat the speaking voice as if it was an instrumental solo. That means when you’re writing the music “around” it, take the frequency range of the voice into consideration and leave that frequency space free. Also, place movements of your other musical elements into speaking pauses just like a counterpoint would do. With this procedures, you avoid your music conflicting with the voice and potentially getting mixed ultra low in the final mix. Still, make sure that your phrasing still makes a musical sense.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/11/13: Once you’ve finished a project that is rather big for you considering your portfolio, don’t fall in the state of “Now, I’ve done this, time to relax a bit.”  Use the momentum of the project and try to aquire new jobs. It is much easier to push open doors with things like “Yes, I’ve just done *major project X*, maybe you have heard about it on TV/Cinema/Website etc.?” Even if you haven’t done a single job worth mentioning befor that project, being in the position of saying something like this makes you appear like “Wow, this guy seems to be busy getting the big gigs, we should consider hiring him.” Even if you do this just a few months or even weeks after your project, the momentum gets lost quite considerably. Things like “Half a year ago, I did this one project, maybe you remember?” always have two downsides. 1.) Your possible new customer might not remember even if he/she noticed your project when it was hot. and 2.) That provokes the question or thought “So, you haven’t done anything (worth mentioning) in the last half year? Seems like you’re not really big in the business.” So never rest once you’ve completed a cool project but use it to move yourself forward.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/08/13: Finger tremolos as well as trills don’t sound as noisy on string instruments as they do for example on the piano. They can be used in a great way for example to texturize string chords. Static “long note” string chords can achieve a fantastic “boiling” effect with tremolos. Make sure to not tremolo with too many non-chord tones as they will clutter the chord perception. In the example below from a romantic film scene, I use such string chords to build a flirring bed for the flute solo joined by harp arpeggios and tremolos on the Celeste.

String Tremolo Chords

String Tremolo

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/07/13: One thing that often gives away a sample production is the narrow sound of the sections in the stereo field. Listen to orchestral recordings and turn your focus on the stereo spread of the instruments. Most good orchestral recordings have such a wide stereo field that they almost feel like they are extending over left and right. You can often help this by chosing reverbs that help spreading the sound but there are of course also plugins that allow for more stereo spread. Note that the natural balance and seating of the orchestra still should remain intact. Just make sure that it doesn’t sound like your first violins are coming from one specific spot in the room.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/06/13: Ostinatos play a big role in current film scoring and while the principle of how they work is pretty clear, many learning composers struggle with their use. Due to their repetative character, ostinatos can become quite annoying and feeling short-breathed. The problem lies in the fact that our brain is not challenged for very long on simple ostinatos and you need to bring in different elements elsewhere to keep it interesting. Have a look at the ostinato below which while being a perfectly fine ostinato runs dead quite quickly:

Ostinato 1

Ostinato 1

An easy way to keep this ostinato more interesting for our brain is to lengthen its perceived structure. Essentially, the ostinato below is the same as above. There is just one difference of having the third triplet group in bar 2 different. However this slight change will imply to our brain that the structure of that ostinato is not 2 quarter notes long as the example above but 8 quarter notes long as the “real” repetiton occurs only after two bars. In general, this will keep our brain more interested in this ostinato as we will have the feeling that this ostinato is just a longer sustaining structure, even though it is almost identical to the one above.

ostinato2

Ostinato 2

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/05/13: Music can alter the perception of time. While most of the time when scoring a scene it is important to hit the right tempo, you can use the discrepancy of obviously wrong tempi for dramaturgical effects. Obviously too fast tempi will make the scene feel like it is “too slow” and lagging behind the music, which is great to highlight nerve wrecking waiting situations while too slow tempi can make the scenery feel too quick. However, make sure that the discrepancy is obvious when you want to use that effect. Slightly too slow tempi will rather make a scene feel dragging while slightly too fast tempi can “push the adrenaline”. Another word of caution: of course the intensity of pulse is important here. If you have a fast tempo without any rhythmical activity the effect gets lost. Also, it is highly depending on the scene. Some scenes feel different with “wrong” tempo than others. Sometimes actually quite contrary. E.g. a too fast tempo might make one scene feel totally overpaced while on another scene it makes it feel like slow motion. So never just “apply” any of these tips here blindly without checking it against your specific filmic situation. There are just too many factors involved in such things like filmic tempo to make a general statement.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/04/13: Learn to say no. The entertainment business unfortunately is a field where price dumping is everyday’s business. Unfortunately, even among composers there is often a lack of decency regarding such issues. Some composers will fight to the fullest extend to get jobs even if they ruin the complete market in the long run by doing so. Sustaining a professional career as a composer needs an understanding of your value. Don’t join in on the “I do it for less” fight that some composers start. If you do quality work and establish a reputation of “Yeah, that guy costs a bit but it’s worth it”, you will be able to sustain a career and potentially also feed a family from that. But that only will happen if you neglect offers that pay below your value. It is very hard to say no when you are in a financial situation that rather doesn’t allow you to neglect any job but experience from many colleagues shows that eventually your customers will start to value your work. And  I would always chose selectively. There’s always this one project by a great young director who keeps on apologizing that he asks you for doing the project for the money he has to offer but he already cut down other departments to be able to pay at least something for the music where you can break your rules because it is obvious that he values your work but simply can’t pay more. On any project where you have the feeling that your work doesn’t get valued in spite of the fact that there should be possibilities to pay you decently, think really hard about whether you need to accept that. If you’re doing good work and people want you, they will find a way to pay you.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



03/01/13: When you’re writing music, at least have a basic idea about the orchestration while doing so. Writing something completely disconnected from the orchestration will cause compromises in the orchestration process later. The problem that will arise is that when you for example try to orchestrate a melodic line later on, you will want to pick the instrument(s) for this line that “struggle” the least when playing it or you might put it in instruments that can somehow pull it off but don’t really have this line sitting in an optimal way on their instrument. Knowing what instrument you write for will also influence your writing as you might be putting more effort in staying in a proper range with the melody or in general writing more idiomatic for the instrument desired. One of the most obvious things to see that are the countless very unattractive orchestrations of pieces that have originally been written for piano. The typical left hand arpeggios which sound great on the piano are very tricky translateable to orchestra without sounding stupid. Most of the time, to get a decent result you need to go one step further and not only orchestrate but re-arrange the piece, changing these figures into something more orchestra-friendly which in return will cause the structure of the original piece to start dissolving, so you start fixing this etc. etc. All these things can be very easily avoided by just thinking more in terms of orchestration when you’re writing.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/28/13: It helps tremendously to increase the realism factor of a sampled production to record just a few solo instruments live on top of it. Layering just one solo violin on top of the first violins will make quite a noticeable difference regarding the realism. This applies for any exposed section. So whenever you can spare some money for that, you should go for it. If you don’t have the technical possibilities or network to record it yourself, there are quite a few musicians on the internet that do recordings for a reasonable price on their own and send it over to you over the internet. Please post your links to musicians that you have worked with and would recommend in the Facebook discussion of this post!

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/27/13: Musical contrasts can be a great device to write exciting music. Music that puts contrasts next to each other like soft/loud, low/high, solo/tutti, complex/simple etc. can feel very exciting and lively. However, there are two things to keep in mind: First of all, like every “special effect”, the more often you do it the less impact it will have. A lot of contemporary classical music uses extreme contrasts quite often resulting in an overload and detachment by the listener. So in general, try to not overdo these contrasts, as with every musical device theres a tasteful amount of how often to use it. The second thing to consider is to be confident about the contrasts that you’re writing. Either go for contrast or go for transition but avoid having anything “half baked” that doesn’t really feel as if it knows what it is. Make conscious decisions where it should go and score it accordingly. Also note that contrasts on several levels (e.g. going from a loud high tutti to a low soft solistic sound) can increase the dramatic impact.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/26/13: There is never just one “right” way how to musically approach a scene. Most of the time there are quite a few possibilities of what kind of music and what kind of scoring approach does work for a scene. Even in contaxt of a very strict scoring concept, there are always several ways to score a scene, depending on whose point of view you take, whether you score it in context of other scenes etc. If you’re unsure which way to go, trust your first instinct. Try to remember what you felt when you saw the scene for the first time and try to capture and translate that feeling.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/25/13: One of the downsides of making a living out of composing is that especially at the beginning of your career, you will need to work on several projects that are rather unattractive or even annoying just because they pay or give you an useable credit. Still, it’s part of acting professional to not whine about such projects or not putting the effort into it to get a good result at the end. It helps to do such projects with some personal “fun” projects on the side to keep your spirit up. However, as soon as you can afford it, you should start declining such projects. The problem with most of such jobs is, that they will most likely create follow-up jobs exactly in the same field. Don’t set hopes too high to get “better” jobs very soon once you’ve proven to be good at the boring job. If you spend one job mostly making coffee for the assistant of a composer don’t expect the follow-up job to be much better. Instead, rather try to focus on things that you actually enjoy doing and try to push your career into that direction. I know that this is very easy to say and most of the time you’re depending on “pay jobs” but if you don’t set priorities sooner or later, you will get lost in a working field that you don’t enjoy.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/22/13: If you are inexperienced or don’t feel up to writing for a real orchestra once the opportunity arises, don’t hesitate to hire an experienced(!) orchestrator. The time and money that you save with well orchestrated music on the scoring session will most likely compensate the extra money the orchestrator costs. I have seen quite a few composers trying to orchestrate their own music without much experience resulting in the worst case in a rejection by the orchestra as “unplayable”. Trying to fix things that don’t work on the scoring stage when you don’t know exactly what is wrong can be a nightmare and slow you down to the point where you might not be able to record everything you need. Some composers feel uncomfortable giving their work in somebody else’s hand but if you have a good orchestrator she/he will discuss with you the changes that need to be done in order to make it work so you still have control over the process.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/21/13: Using unusual mixing/balancing patterns can be used to give music some specific identity. Having an orchestral score where one or several specific instruments deliberately sound like they are not in the same room or recorded differently is usually something that you try to avoid in order to get an homogenous mix but in certain instances can make the overall sound very interesting. A great example for that is the Main Title for Signs by James Newton Howard, which incorporates two solo violins that have a very unusual “on your nose” sound in an otherwise rather ambient mix. Also the typical over reverby soft attack piano sound by Thomas Newman or the in general usually quite dry sound of Danny Elfman scores are examples of where the mix of the music creates some identity or even a trademark.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/20/13: Spontaneous and unprepared modulations upwards (mostly half step, whole step or minor third up) as often heard in pop music or musicals are often considered “cheap” and unmusical by many musical academics and supposedly a sign of the inability of the composer to write a proper transition. While this may be true in some cases, the dramatic effect of such a spontaneous modulation should not be underestimated and might even be diminished by transitions whose only purpose it is to “smoothen” the modulation. The power of such modulations can be transfered to film music writing as well. Especially ostinato driven music often uses even several of such modulations. Major hit points or changes of mood profit greatly from establishing a new and “fresh” key and will also help raising the dramatic intensity.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/19/13: You should be aware, that music (or rather sound) will have a physiological effect on the body if it exceeds a certain volume. The – for a film composer – great thing about that is, that your audience can not gain  concious control over that. Especially loud bass frequencies will set our body into an alert modus automatically which is coming from the times when loud bass frequencies automatically meant a threat to us (thunderstorm, volcano, earthquake etc.). This stimulation is also part of the reason why club music tends to be loud and bass heavy. You can consciously use that effect when writing and producing film music by using bass frequencies to raise the level of tension, e.g. in thriller/horror situations (if you don’t do it, the sound design will probably do it. Just watch more recent thrillers/horror movies where in almost every “scary” scene, you will have a bass rumbling). But you can also use it to create that extra “oomph” moment. A while ago, I used this in a live-concert setting where at 2:51 a sustained sub bass kicks in just supporting the fundamental note of the chord which in the context of the build-up from before had a very nice effect.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/18/13: When you’re aquiring business contacts, be aware that there is a very thin line between being persistent and being annoying. It is very common to not get any reaction on unsolicited emails/mails/demo reels/messages from most potential clients which only rarely has something to do with being ignorant but just out of the fact that there are too many others trying the same thing. It might be alright to send a friendly reminder after two weeks or so but I wouldn’t want to go further than that in case there is still no response. In already established business contacts, where you’re waiting for a reply a very helpful thing without seeming too pushy might be sending a “reminder email” where you state that you “had troubles with your mail server and wanted to make sure that your last message came through.” Even if that isn’t true, it helps to get the ball rolling again without seeming too desperate…

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/15/13: A common weakness that many learning orchestrators and composers have in their music is static orchestral colours. Whole three minute pieces sustain the same kind of  orchestration (e.g. strings doing rhythmic chords, percussion creating a “groove”, low brass doing stabs, horns carrying the melody) for the entire length of the piece. Exciting and interesting orchestrations always vary the tasks of the instruments quite regularly. At first the first violins might be playing the melody, in the next section they might be part of a chordal accompaniment, next taking over a counterpoint line being followed by an ostinato etc. A good way to get a feeling for that would be to study score sheets and follow specific insrtuments throughout the piece to see what kind of jobs they are doing during the piece.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/14/13: Mixing and mastering has a lot of placebo effect potential and considering all the esotheric advices and approaches that some people advocate for on the internet regarding the improvement of their mixes, it is also a field to get incredibly lost in. Try to remain objective when you’re mixing/mastering. It is great to experiment with a few things to see whether they have an objective influence on the music but if you just “feel” that there’s something different, it is most likely a placebo effect. If you are unsure, try to get a second opinion from someone with trained ears. But working in the media world with the financial and time constraints, focus on getting the job done and applying the things that obviously have an effect.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/13/13: Studying classical music theory in general is always a good idea as it will broaden your musical horizon and will give you concepts to understand music, but I’ve experienced many young film composers (including myself) finishing reading and studying a book on this topic with dissappointment wondering why so little of anything discussed in it actually sounds like film music or modern tonal orchestral music. If you want to find and understand more of the concepts that are being used in practically any film music, study books on Jazz theory and harmony. However, I still need to come across a book that deals with the compositional approaches of this theory in a non-Jazz way as film music does. Still, studying such things will most likely open your eyes and show you concepts of approaching music that classical theory doesnt. Most of the theoretical things that I post here have their origin in Jazz theory, even though classical theory overlaps in some fields. (Off the record: My theory is that John Williams with his Jazz roots formed many of these concepts with the strong influence he took on (film) music after Star Wars, though no scientific fact, just a thought.)

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/12/13: There are many more possibilities when scoring a film (or rather when writing music at all) to create dramaturgical connections. Every single musical element can serve the purpose of connecting cues. Obviously, a melodic idea is the standard way to connect things, mainly coming from the leitmotif technique but also harmonic language can connect. Using the same chord progression or types of chords will create a rather unique  quality that is great to link cues. But also, orchestration can be a strong factor. Using a specific solo instrument or a specific set of instruments to portray a situation or an emotion whenever it occurs will make connections between cues, even if the melodic and even harmonic ideas are different. Even such a simple thing as a rhythm can be enough to link cues and situations. Think about the ticking of Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT or the slightly dated sounding but still popular TERMINATOR 2 signature rhythm. Your score will in general feel more colourful and multilayered the more variety you use when choosing your linking elements. But as usual: overdoing is a danger here as well.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/11/13: Being active on social networks as a composer is almost obligatory nowadays. Not only will it help you to get your work out into the public, but it is also a great way to gather possible new business contacts. It’s not quite sufficient nowadays to only have a web page because it is tricky to generate any serious traffic on that site without it being linked to social networks. Remember that as a composer, you are also your own marketing department. From my personal experience, I can recommend running an own Facebook-Page, a Youtube-Profile (good for showcasing your work in connection with images) and specifically for composers to get an up-to-date and well-sorted profile on Soundcloud. Google+ hasn’t generated any traffic worth mentioning for me yet and Twitter is mainly an extension of my Facebook-Page so far but I guess that can be different depending on your own preferences. The essential thing to get any of these networks to work for you and get people attracted is to provide content that is unique. Many people run something blog-like posting (topic relevant) things they find interesting while others try to attract people by posting video tutorials etc. Of course, these Daily Film Scoring Bits also serve partially the purpose to attract more people. A word of caution: in the interest of your own private life and your reputation, I would try to keep such profiles strictly clean from too personal information or any unprofessional dialogue as this can very quickly backfire.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/08/13: Some wind and brass players are capable of so called circular breathing which works in the way that you fill up your cheeks with air and while you “exhale” that air, you breathe in. This creates an uninterrupted stream of air. The obvious result of that is a theoretically endless tone. However be warned about using that technique. It is easier on some instruments (e.g. oboe instruments) while it is tricky to impossible on others (especially instruments that need tension on the lips: basically all brass instruments but also flutes). Also, not every player can do it as it takes a lot of training and for some people is just not possible due to physiological reasons. So the old rule of writing breathe-friendly orchestration still is valid. This technique should only be called for when you know that the player(s) in question can do it and only for special circumstances as demonstrated in THIS VIDEO (note the slight interruption in his first circular breathe – it’s still tricky for him!).

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/07/13: Unfortunately, problems with video frame rates and codecs are not that uncommon and can become quite desastrous in the film world when not detected early on. Whenever you’re scoring to picture, there are things that you should always do before your start. First of all, make sure that the video file you receive has a visible time code printed into the picture. If it doesn’t, request it as this is highly important. Secondly check that your DAW/Scoring programme’s time code runs in sync with the one on the file. All this seems to be a no brainer but unfortunately it is forgotten way too often or detected halfway in the working process causing major problems/rewrites etc.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/06/13: The reason why dominant7 chords create the feeling of wanting to resolve results from the inherent structure of the chord, specifically the tritone that exists between the third and the seventh of the chord. As an example, let’s look at this G7-chord, which has the tritone between b and f. Tritones have a strong tendency to resolve and can do this in two ways. Either inwards, becoming the root and 3rd of a C-chord (b becomes c, f becomes e) or outwards becoming the third and root of a Gb-Chord (b becomes bb, f becomes gb). That means, that every dominant7 chord has two possible ways to resolve which conversely means that every tonic chord has two dominant7 chords that can lead to it. For C major as tonic that would be either G7 or Db7. Notice both chords contain exactly the same tritone b-f that resolves towards c-e for a C major chord. This is, what is called tritone substitution in music theory which means that you can theoretically replace any dominant7 chord by a chord that is a tritone away from it (e.g. G7 and Db7 being a  tritone apart). That concept goes as far as being able to replace any chord that serves as a dominant (even if it doesn’t include that tritone (e.g. sus4 chords)) in the same way.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/05/13: A film score cue should most of the time not start “out of the blue”. Usually you should try to find a visual, acoustical, emotional or dramaturgical cue to start music. This will feel much more natural to the audience than just starting “somewhere” without having an immediate reason for that. That also applies if the reason for the cue becomes obvious later on as until then, the cue just will feel a little unclear.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/04/13: Always take care to have a wide range of customers. When you are in a comfortable position of getting a steady flow of projects and therefore income from a few customers, you might not see the urgent pressure to aquire new customers but such situations are very dangerous. In the media world, bankrupcies of companies or personal failures of certain people can and do happen very quickly and if that affects one of your or even THE main customer of yours, things will get nasty for you very quickly. You will most likely not be able to quickly compensate the sudden loss of a customer who filled up a major part of your projects. Everybody working in the field knows how much time and effort it takes to build up a reputation and network that can sustain a steady project flow. So even if your current situation seems to be quite comfortable, if you’re relying on only a few customers do anything to expand your network so that you will be able to compensate for a loss.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



02/01/13: When you’re orchestrating clusters, you can quickly run into problems of getting a “wall of sound” that covers and obscures any other musical element going on as well. Especially clusters around middle c have a tendency of becoming really massive. A good way to keep the register transparent and still have the effect of a cluster sound is to rather use a few minor seconds. Instead of orchestrating a “real” cluster like THIS, you can get an almost similar yet more transparent sound by orchestrating it like THIS. In general, that principle has also two more advantages: 1. You don’t need to use so many instruments to “fill” your cluster and can use them for other tasks and 2. Due to the more transparency, that cluster also gets more punch.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/31/13: When you’re working with true legato sample patches (where the transitions between notes have been sampled as well) be aware that depending on the instruments, the lines will always feel more or less late. Real players will always play in the way that they have reached the target note on its rhythmical value having the transition slightly before that while the MIDI event that might be sitting right on the downbeat will trigger the transition at that point reaching the target note slightly late. So it is always wise to pull the midi events on such patches a little early to compensate for that.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/30/13: Working straight into DAW when you’re writing music has one very tricky disadvantage. All DAW’s are basically focussing on the horizontal structure of music. It is easy to follow a melodic path and to keep an eye on that, however, getting an overview over the vertical structure (which notes sound together at which time and in which instruments), is rather tricky and not giving you a good overview. However, the vertical structure is just as important as the horizontal structure. So when you’re working straight into DAW, be aware of that limitation and consciously work against it. Plan ahead what notes need to sound together to get a complete chord sound and constantly monitor the vertical structure, even if it is tricky but it will help you tremendously to gain control over what you’re writing and eventually also make your music sound better.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/29/13: Many inexperienced composers tend to score kiss scenes overly climactic and kitschy which almost always feels like a bad caricature of the whole scene. There are only few kiss scenes in movies nowadays that need the big orchestral sweep or that specifically play with this cliché but most of them are rather toned down with the music being present but not taking over the lead. When you’re scoring a kiss scene, think about what the scene really needs and don’t just simply presume because it is a kiss it needs to be a big romance moment. Even if the hero has struggled through the whole movie to finally kiss his girl at the end of it, that still doesn’t automatically mean it needs to be a big climax. Rather try keeping the intimacy of that moment that is often also visual in your score and it will most likely be way more touching. In general, be aware that audience reacts quite negatively once the emotional manipulation on the musical side gets too obvious.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/28/13: In the media world delivering quick results is important and sometimes essential. You might be the best composer out there writing the best music but if your working speed is too slow, you will have a very hard time in the media world. If you’re struggling with your working speed, analyze any of your steps when working and see what takes you longer than it should. Try to streamline all of your processes on the technical side. Get to know your main working software inside out, create a habit of using shortcuts rather than clicking through menus, use templates etc., use a fixed system of naming and saving files, Backup etc. If the speed issues are on the creative side, it gets a little trickier. The important things are to build your own set of musical vocabulary, memorize what worked in which context etc. to later be able to quickly access it. That is a matter of experience of course but the more you do it the better you become. Also, force yourself to work quick, don’t get lost in tiny details that nobody will notice anyway. Learn to cut corners (yes, unfortunately that is also part of the job on some gigs), to use copy-paste without it feeling like that later in the music. All this is a matter of self discipline. The good thing is, there will also come in projects from time to time where you can get lost in as many details as you want to please the perfectionist in yourself. But often, it is just important to focus on what really needs to be done.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/25/13: If you go for sonority and resonance, try to orchestrate the third and fifth of your chord in the way that you state it quite low without violating the low interval limits (See post from Oct. 20th 2011) as it will create a lot of resonance. For example THIS voicing of Cmajor will sound way less resonant than THIS voicing, where the third and the fifth are put lower and create more resonance. As a disadvantage of these voicings, you will lose punch, so always consider what it is that you’re going for.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/24/13: One of the reasons for “fake” sounding orchestral mockups is the overuse of the ff-layer on brass samples. Very often you get to hear for example horn lines that last for a minute and are all played at ff without any rest or natural phrasings. In reality that would not be possible just for stamina reasons. Especially that “brassy buzz” sound is not possible to be played over a long time. Often, even though the mock-up might be very well produced that artificial writing attitude for the brass takes away a lot of the realism.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/23/13: A dominant chord can lead to everywhere. Changing a key by using a dominant chord is a very well known and often used technique but be aware that you can also use dominant chords to theoretically connect more or less every chord with every chord. If you have a somewhat strange sounding chord progression that you like but want to make it smoother, try throwing in a dominant chord of the target chord before one or more  chords. Most likely that will help to smoothen the transition and make it feel more logical. Be aware though, that plain dominant7 chords sound quite old fashioned and classical. Instead, try sus4, sus4b9 or 7b9b13 chords which in general sound a little more spicey. Also tritone substitutions will help. Another advice: this is not a solution for everything. Sometimes you just need to find a different chord progression to make it sound better.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/22/13: Trying to avoid typical scoring clichés can be trickier and more problematic than you might think. Clichés are clichés because they do work and everybody responds to them. Deliberately trying to not use any of these is like trying to say something to someone without using the words that you usually would use. You might end up using extremely complicated and long sentences to bring along what you wanted to say or might not be able to express it at all.  Personally, I try to put a new edge on cliché things and trying to give them a little bit of my own language but don’t try to re-invent the wheel when I just need something that “rolls”.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/21/13: In the film world, many producers/production companies like to check out the IMDb page of their possible cast and crew especially if they haven’t heard of their name before. While this is great for composers who do a lot of work on film and TV and already have a considerable list of credits there, it is rather unfortunate for composers who for example work mainly in the advertising, trailer or licensing business as none of that will show up there. Try to keep your IMDb page as up to date as possible. If you’re not listed on a project that you’ve worked with, you can add your credit  on the respective project page. Be aware that it will take several weeks until it shows up on your profile. Also, if any of your projects is not listed there but should be (be aware that they have restrictions on what projects they accept) try to get it on there. Note that most possible customers will rather trust the IMDb page than what you’ve written as your projects on your web site, so it is wise to spend a little time to make your IMDb page as best looking as possible.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/18/13: Possibly the greatest way to learn orchestration is to watch and talk to musicians that are playing your music and trying to get their feedback. Of course that is not always possible due to time pressure etc. and especially when you’ve written for a larger line-up it would of course take way too long to talk to everybody whose opinion you’re interested in. However, a great way to get indirect feedback is to have a look at their parts after the session/rehearsal/concert. Most musicians make notes and corrections in their part. On string instruments you might also find bowing marks etc. Often, passages that were tricky for the musicians have notes there (possibly an exclamation mark or a goggle drawn next to it etc.). Quite often, you might be surprised how your prediction of what is going to be tricky is contrary to what actually was tricky for them. If you can, collect all parts afterwards and have a look at all of them at home. You can learn a great deal about how musicians think and work through tricky stuff by that.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/17/13: When you are recording live instruments, no matter whether it is a single guitar in your studio or a full orchestra in a scoring stage always push for safety takes. This means that even if you feel that you have a great take of a cue or of every passage of a cue to later edit together, always do one more take after this. Especially on larger ensembles, you can and will not hear everything during the recording, however there are things that might become very obvious later in the mix and you don’t want to be in the situation where you figure out that there’s a dodgy passage in your supposedly good take and you have no alternative take to fix it.  Mainly noises are often overlooked as sometimes you just think it waws a noise from somebody moving in the control room however however in reality it was a chair squeak in the recording room being recorded in the worst case on 50 mics. Only when running out of time, it might be wise to take the risk of not doing any safety takes.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/16/13: Musical ideas don’t need to be tricky or complicated to be good or worth listening to. Some of the most successfull and yet critically acclaimed pieces are pieces that rely on very simple ideas and concepts. To name just a few: Beethoven’s 5th, Ravel’s Bolero or even Williams’ Indiana Jones Theme. All of them base on very simple ideas or concepts, yet succeed in not becoming dull but actually musically sophisticated by their composer’s ability to work with these ideas, introduce surprise, shed different light on them and just stick to them. So when you’re composing music, don’t try for the sake of it to find a musically complex idea but rather something that has a recognition value and spend effort on making that possibly simple idea great. With the right amount of craftmanship and creativity, it is even possible to turn a Britney Spears song into something musically highly complex while still keeping the original musical idea.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/15/13: Slow motion or time lapse sequences are usually used to introduce a sense of surrealism, portraying dream like sequences. Especially on longer sequences, they usually call for music also because the sound effects etc. will often (partially) disappear leaving the complete sound track free. When scoring slow motion sequences, most of the time a slow paced “gluey” music works best unless the surrounding footage implies otherwise (e.g. short slow motion shots as part of an action sequence (Matrix etc.)) however try to become not too dragging. It should not be particularly slow music just because it’s a slow motion sequence. On time lapse sequences, it’s a little trickier. Sequences that speed up otherwise too slow movements so in the end it feels like a normal movement (the typical quick flourishing of flowers) in general tend to work with slow, glue music as well while sequences that speed up otherwise normal movements to a “perception overload” sequence (cars nervously driving along a street etc.) will tend to need music that picks up that “overload” most of the time, using fast paced, nervous tempi/elements. However, as with every sequence when trying to find the right tempo, look for visual indicators to pick up the “perceived” tempo and avoid scoring such time alterings too literal in the music.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/14/13: In every creative collaboration there are disagreements and of course that also happens in a director-composer-relationship. There should always be a professional handling of such disagreements without ever getting personal. Nobody will benefit from escalating arguments. Though, fortunately, disagreements usually are way less severe. Due to the fact that you are the composer, you are most of the time in a position where your arguments on music are valued more and you’re in a better position regarding arguments just by your knowledge. Most of the time it is possible to come up with persuasive arguments to convince the director that your point is the more plausible one. However, some directors of course persist on their point of view against any good reason. The essential thing here is to not do this too often. If you put the director in a position where she/he has the feeling of constantly giving in, it might end up in a very nasty conflict and a generally bad working atmosphere. So save your arguments for pushing through maybe 2 or 3 things in your favour that you feel are most essential and don’t start argueing about dialogue music or something like this.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/11/13: Double basses have a tendency of not giving a clear pitch impression on their own (as opposed to e.g. the Contrabassoon in the same register) so a general consensus in orchestration literature is to generally double them either at pitch or an octave higher with a different instrument. While this is true when the low register of the orchestra is exposed and needs to carry solistically, in my experience it is not neccessary when it is part of a “regular” chord (regular meaning not having any non-chord-tone bass note that needs to get special attention in the orchestration) as the higher strucuture of the chord will help our brain to understand which bass note is meant anyway so there is no need to specifically double the basses somewhere else in such cases.

#orchestration

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/10/13: Ears get tired and suffer from fatigue quite quickly which of course is quite annoying when you are under time pressure or sitting in a 4 hour scoring session where you should hear every detail and don’t get a second chance to revisit problems. It actually helps to distract you very briefly once in a while to “reset” your perception and it doesn’t really need to be an acoustic distraction. A quick conversation, fooling around, checking facebook or actually listening to something else etc. will actually help you to not get in the loop where you start hearing ghosts or start not hearing everything. You also have to acknowledge that this is actually part of the work and not procrastination as long as it doesnt get too extensive. But these brief methods help you to not eventually go home with or deliver something where you ask yourself later on how that could happen. There is also hardly any real pro mixing engineer out there who doesn’t just have a brief break every 45 minutes or so. It will just help to make the end result better.

#technical

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/09/13: Parallel movement of many voices in general sounds quite unattractive. Try to avoid for example to move all string voices into the same direction on a chord change which can happen quite quickly especially when you’re recording several voices at once by playing them in on a piano. In general, the ideal situation would be to have an even spread of voices that move down, up and sustain. As this ideal situation is not always possible in the situation described above you should try to have at least one voice move in the opposite direction to compensate for the motion of the other voices. As a side note: there are some arrangement techniques (e.g. big band block voicings) where it is part of the style to have a lot of parallel movement and some composers define their style by also writing a lot of parallel moving structures, but trying to avoid that is in general a good starting point for a learning composer/orchestrator.

#composition

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/08/13: Single sustaining notes might not be musically very challenging but are very effective scoring tools. Having a  low sustaining bass tone or a high sustaining violin line will add tension to basically every scenery. Also, sustaining notes in the middle register will work quite effectively as well, but the typical cliché sustains are more to the extreme of the register. They work especially well in any situation that is supposed to be not too intrusive musically (e.g. dialogues). However, their downside is the cliché. They have been done thousand times and are used extremely often as well so if you base your score on many of such moments, don’t expect it to get any unique feeling. However, in a few situations there is basically no alternative to such a note as anything else will just feel “too much”.

#film scoring

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook



01/07/13: The global community of film composers is too small and too well linked to remain anonymous in it. Keeping a good reputation, helping out colleagues and generally being a likeable person is essential. There will be times when you need the help of fellow composer or need advice on how to deal with certain things. Having a reputation of screwing people over or being an asshole is really not going to help you in such moments as well as it is really tricky to get rid of such a reputation again once you have it. Of course, there is a competition situation between film composers but rather than trying to gain more ellbow grease the general consensus between composers is rather to maintain a respecting and helpful atmosphere. Remember that the word of mouth can be your greatest promotional tool but it can also ruin your complete career.

#general

Join the discussion about this post on Facebook

If you want to read the most recent Tips, Tricks and Hints, head over to the other DAILY FILM SCORING BITS ARCHIVES!

Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This