Daily Film Scoring Bits

Posted on Jul 1, 2015 in Daily Film Scoring Bits

Welcome to the Daily Film Scoring Bits section of my website!

On this page I publish on a more-or-less daily basis small hints, tricks and advices concerning the creation of music especially for film. These hints cover the fields of composition, orchestration and film scoring but also things concerning the workflow in this field, like the working relationship between composer and director etc.

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


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07/06/15: It is never too early to start scoring movies. I often hear excuses like “I want to perfect my writing skills before I do the first film project” or “I need to buy some more sample libraries in order to create music properly.” as a justification for not actively looking for film scoring gigs. This is a pretty unhealthy attitude regarding your career for two big reasons. 1. The craft to score a movie needs to be learned as well. You need a few movies to gain experience before you actually will be able to score a movie on a professional level and get an understanding about how drama works. This is a very “learning by doing” heavy thing so the best way to get better at it is to actually do it. 2. If you want to work in that field, you need to start networking as soon as possible. There is practically no chance to be able to make a living from this job out of nowhere. It takes months and years of networking and working your way up to eventually be able to pay your bills from that job. So starting off with amateur or student movies as soon as possible is just as important as buying better samples or becoming more proficient in writing music. Even if your first few attempts will not be brillant, you need to make them in order to become a good film composer.


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07/03/15: 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, which can also happen on notes very close together. The most problematic one being between Bb a  major 10th below middle C and B a semitone higher. While on a real tenor trombone (usually played by the first trombone player which doesn’t come with a fourth and/or fifth valve as other trombones), the Bb can only be produced with the slide completely in while the B only with the slide completely out. So a nightmare passage for a player would be a quick staccato passages between these two notes. The higher you get the more options to playe the same note are available on the trombones so the slide movement can be reduced but down there, there’s no option. So when  you’re writing for brass, keep an eye on the speed factor for your (low) trombones.


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07/02/15: When recording or overseeing the recording of a small ensemble of musicians, pay attention to a few seating issues. If you’re not depending on a specific seating of the musicians for other reasons, you might want to go for the following option: place the highest instrument in the center of the stereo recording and place the lower instrument to the outsides from there. This is a strategy for instance also used with trumpets in Bigbands, where the seating rather is something like 3124 instead of 1234. This also works with larger groups: 531246 etc. This will give you a more homogenous sound and give a more balanced stereo field on the main mics. This strategy is also used more or less on most orchestral seatings where the  first players of each group usually sit closest to the middle axis of the orchestra with the higher chair numbers spreading out to the outsides.


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07/01/15: 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.


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