Inspired by composing for Film, TV or video games? Film and game composers are every now and again called upon to show an assorted arrangement of Music in their work. Scoring movies in the digital age requires a top to bottom information of traditional music discipline, for example, music theory, harmony, and arrangement and also understanding of MIDI orchestration techniques.
The most ideal approach to figure out how to score movie is to take film scoring courses or contract a teacher for private lessons. There are also a number of quality film scoring books that can help you along the way or you can learn it through some online programs from platforms such as Udemy. But honestly, music is an art and so a certificate for that is never that important. If you’ve got talent and skills, certificate is not on priority.
This article is for individuals who are new to the universe of Film Scoring. Regardless of whether you’ve never scored a scene yet have been thinking about adapting more about it and getting into the field, this instructional exercise will introduce you to the fundamental thoughts and ideas you need to start composing music for film.
I’ll present some basic terminology that you’ll have to know and examine to know when and for what reason to utilize music. I’ll additionally address a couple gears and equipment you need to begin.
What is Film Scoring?
Basically, film scoring is the art and craft of composing music in sync to visuals. This implies composing music not only for “films” with regards to full length pictures or short movies, yet in addition TV shows, advertisements, industrial/corporate videos, and some other medium you can consider where music serves a supporting part to a visual component.
Film scoring is an extremely compensating field for a musician, both artistically and monetarily. Creatively it has the majority of the rewards of full engagement and fun that accompanies composing music with the additional advantage that your music has an outlet to really be heard and enjoyed by others. Financially it is one of the few surviving areas where a composer of instrumental music can even now hope to bring home the bacon. There are a huge number of projects each year needing new music, and in spite of the fact that it is a very difficult and competitive field to break into. It can be exceptionally compensating for the individuals who put in the right amount of effort (with an additional touch of favorable luck).
I won’t go into the whole history of film scoring in this article. If you plan to be a film composer, it is completely urgent that you comprehend both the working techniques and furthermore the impressive style of music. Just by knowing how it was done in the past would you be able to move forward into the future.
Here is a list of some of the common Film Scoring terminologies you will be running into:
Cue – either an individual piece of music, or a specific moment that the music needs to hit (see hit point).
Cue sheet – a list of every piece of music used in a project, including the Performing Rights and Publishing information for each composer and lyricist involved.
Framerate – The number of frames per second (fps) in a video. Different regions and projects have different standards (see PAL and NTSC).
Hit point – a specific moment, such as a cut or a line of dialogue that the music acknowledges.
Library music – music not specifically written for the film but licensed as a complete track and then cut to picture.
Music editor – person responsible for keeping the music in sync with the picture. Acts as a liaison between the composer and the post production team and deals with technical issues like framerates, spotting notes, cue sheets, etc.
NTSC – the US standard framerate, 29.97fps.
Orchestrator – person who takes a composers sketches of a cue and fills it out for a full ensemble. Also sometimes called an Arranger but that can have different connotations.
PAL – the European standard framerate, 25fps.
PRO – Performing Rights Organization, such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, responsible for tracking performances of a composer’s music and paying out royalties.
SMPTE (simp-tee) – Timecode measured in hours, minutes, seconds, frames. Used to make sure everyone is in sync and talking about the same frame.
Source music – music that is coming from a source on screen, such as performing musicians or a radio
Spotting – the process of deciding when and why to use music
Spotting notes – a list of every cue in the film and where it starts and ends. Usually includes notes about style or intent.
Temp music – Music synced to picture before the composer writes original material, usually to serve as a guide. Controversial.
Theme – a recurring melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic motif that accompanies a character or concept. Also called a leitmotif.
Underscore – music used in the film that is not coming from a specific source but is added as an extra layer. Most scoring fits this category.
Why Use Music
Music can fulfill a lot of needs in a film and here are a few reasons why you may utilize music in a specific film scene:
To build up a setting of time and additionally put, for example, Mozart style traditional music for eighteenth century France or center eastern instruments with an electronic beat for contemporary Iraq. As a mixing device to smooth things out, for instance as a change from one scene into another. This changes frequently help with the illusion of the progression of time or setting. To reveal to us something about the characters, for example, an evil Darth Vader compose topic or even a Taylor Swift tune out of sight of adolescent young lady’s room. To keep up the pace. In the event that a scene is slow and dragging, the music can be utilized to keep things moving and induce interest for the dead spaces. And at long last and maybe most importantly, to affect the way the audience feels about what’s going on screen.
Equipment you need
A studio that is optimized for composing for film and TV (and/or game audio) will need the following:
• Digital audio workstation. For an excellent low-cost DAW for beginning and pro composers, you can’t beat REAPER at $60 a license and a fully functional 60-day free trial.
• MIDI keyboard controller for ease of note input and composing.
• Monitor speakers and headphones.
• VST instruments/sample libraries. You need some cinematic and orchestral samples and presets to get you off on the right track
How to Compose
Spotting is the way to decide when and how to use music with a particular scene. Generally composer and director meet for a “spotting session” in which they watch through the whole film and discuss their thoughts regarding how music can serve the movie. Spotting sessions can last a couple of hours or even a couple of days, depending upon the level of detail to be talked about. Some directors like to give a couple of general ideas or comments but leave the creative process in the hands of the composer. Others go to a spotting session with particular ideas regarding what they need the music to do and at times be as particular as which instruments they need at specific scene. Everything relies upon the style and personality of the director, however you can expect that it will take a couple of hours to just talk about the general points.
Other than deciding when to use music, it’s likewise important to have a discussion concerning why you’re using music. Is the performance of actor lacking somewhere? Do you have to help set up the emotion in the audience’s brain? Maybe a scene should be funnier or more serious. These are among the sorts of things you need to discuss with the director when spotting the film.
Unless the music is fulfilling a valuable need, it probably should not be there. An essentially general note to remember is the more music you have in a film, the less effect it will have. One end to the other music is extremely insufficient in light of the fact that eventually our ears become exceptionally tired of keeping up with music, even if we aren’t totally aware of it. If you need your music to have affect, you should be conservative about when to place it into utilization.
Note: After spotting the whole film, set cues. Apply the following procedure on one cue at a time.
Pick one of your most loved movies and scores and study it with a notepad in hand. You might not think that you have to write down your thoughts and ideas, yet by doing such thing you will really be giving even more attention and learn more. Watch similar scenes a few times consecutively to ensure you aren’t missing anything.
To hit or not to hit?
As you begin studying film score, one of the best thing you can do is study some good and famous film scores common with regards to your film. Listening to a soundtrack may help you find out about arrangement/orchestration and melody, however just by viewing an awesome score you will start to build up a sense for how the music reacts to and impacts the show. From a “hit” focused point of view, there are three things to pay attention to for each piece of music in a film:
1. How does the cue begin? Is it a big sudden percussive hit that then spirals the cue into action, or do the strings softly fade in from out of nowhere before you even realize they are there? Also pay attention to what prompts the music to come in. Perhaps there is a significant line of dialogue that changes the dynamic of the conversation, or maybe it is more practical like a cut to a new scene.
2. What does the music hit during the cue? There are both minor hits and major hits. A minor hit might be a chord change on a cut while the rest of the music continues on as it has, while a major change could be an entirely new tempo or feel. Not only is it important to notice when the music changes, but also pay attention to when the music doesn’t change. How does that affect the continuity of the scene? Young composers have a tendency to “hit everything”, so it’s important that you notice how the music can actually be more supportive of the film when it does not do that.
3. How does the cue end? Is it a sudden hit or a fade out? Much like the questions about the music coming in, what prompted the cue to end?
You will build up a sense for good spotting with the more movies you score. By studying the masters with your own particular experiences soon you’ll discover questions of in and out and what hit focuses to recognize turn out to be second nature.
A definitive objective of hitting something musically is to convey center to the occasion. The harder you hit something, the more it comes into center. Having a decent rhythm that normally lines up with the things you need to hit gives you alternatives. Frequently I don’t have to do anything huge musically. Simply having the beat arranging can be sufficient.
Sudden hush is likewise a compelling method to hit a minute. Truth be told, it can be the most grounded sort of hit. Utilize it with alert.
The Types of Markers I Use
For each film, I use very specific markers:
1. Start marker: Each cue has a start marker. I will usually label them “m01 – Start”, “m02 – Start” etc. I haven’t yet had a film with multiple reels, so I don’t typically use the “1m1” style of cue name. The desired effect of the cue (soft and emotional, fast action, etc.) will determine where this marker is. It could be right on an explosion, or the beginning of a chase scene, or you could have to sneak it in behind some sound effects so the audience doesn’t notice when the music starts exactly.
2. End marker: If I can put my finger on a specific moment when the cue ends, I’ll also add an end marker. This isn’t as critical because sometimes you don’t really know when the music should fade out exactly. But I do try to add these.
3. Hit markers: Hit markers tell me two important things.
Deciding on a Tempo
Tempo is probably the most critical musical factor. More than harmony and orchestration, the tempo can make or break your cue. But how do you determine the tempo? Subsequent to watching the film a couple of times through, you ought to have a thought of the rough tempo required for each cue. Generally the most ideal approach to begin is to simply sit there and clap, or tap a beat on the table. Go with your gut. Fast rhythm gives forward momentum. They are awesome for building up tension, or moving a slow scene along. Slow tempos can have an impact of freezing time. They are especially great at amplifying small elements on screen.
When I believe I have a rough idea of the tempo, I’ll utilize a tempo tapping tool, such as metronome, to discover what my tempo is.
● Know when to utilize rules, and when not to
● Think of the melody as a conversation, with phrases intelligently tailing each other, possibly as questions and answers.
● Repetition, development and differentiation would all be used to create and release tension, yet be careful, an excessive amount of repetition is boring. An excess of development can end up plainly dark and an excessive amount of differentiation can be disconserting.
● If you have just considered the chord progression, this will regularly reveal to you what the primary scale is, yet in addition don’t hesitate to experiment a little and change the harmonies if inspiration arrives.
● Many great tunes are extremely simple either rhythmically or melodically or both.
● If you are composing a pop tune take a stab at beginning with a title, a riff or hook.
● The main thoughts are frequently the best.
● Study numerous genres of music, not only the area in which you wish to compose, and allow ideas to crossover from one style to another.
● Analyze tunes and try to discover what makes them great.
● Try inverting or reversing your tunes. Study twentieth century compositional techniques, e.g. tone lines possibly.
● Force yourself to compose a tune each day. At some point or another there must be some great ones.
● Don’t simply compose with your instrument, sing or whistle as you approach your everyday life and record the great tunes. Try to remember dreams with music in them.
How to Produce
Elements of Music
Music is the association of sound into melody (pitch) and rhythm (time). This is the essential structure on which a composer (or orchestrator) will add further elements including harmony, timbre and dynamics.
Composition (on its most essential level of “writing a decent tune”) will regularly involve just the rhythm and melody, however in “western tonal music” the tune for the most part infers the harmony. Exceptions to this include a lot of pop/dance or rap music of the last two decades. Traditionally a composer or composer/lyricist team wrote the basic tune (melody and rhythm) and words along with any further orchestrational development, or else would get a dedicated orchestrator to do the latter.
Arranging the Score
Make a rough sketch of the arrangement. E.g. intro, statement of theme, backings, counterpoint, solos, ensemble passes, modulations, restatement of theme, climax, coda. Decide on instrumentation for various sections and choose keys appropriate to the instruments. Use the ideas we mentioned for composition regarding unity and variety. Having planned the entire arrangement don’t be frightened to change as you go along if you feel inspired. Fill in the melodic lines and make a note of the harmony in chord symbols throughout. With vocal scores fill in the vocal line and lyric. (The latter is more important than it first appears as you may wish to make a musical comment on certain words)
The same ideas regarding variety and unity that apply to composition can also apply to your arrangement whether it’s an entire symphony or an improvised jazz arrangement. Just as we think of the melody creating and releasing tension the shape of the entire arrangement can do this as well. For instance we can think of repeated verses building tension and a chorus bringing release. In the case of jazz arrangements the composer will often rely on an improviser to develop the material. Here the improvisation is just an extension of composition, the good improviser thinks (either consciously or subconsciously) about building and releasing tension, repetition and development of ideas.
Try to bring original melodic material into your improvisation rather than relying on licks and clichés. Improvisation should just be a speeded up process of composition. Keep a notebook, tape recorder, note down any melodic fragments. Try to be objective. Imagine yourself not as a composer or musician but the person listening to your music for the first time. You may suddenly some superfluous passages or devices that are just there to impress people with your musical knowledge.
It helps to be aware of your reasons for composing, whether its money, respect (self or from family and friends) fame and stardom, spiritual awareness or a desire to entertain or spread love and peace. Try and be aware of what emotions you are trying to arouse in the listener. Don’t use rules to merely to compose, but use them to improve a tune if you think it could be better. Composition may be up to 99% inspiration: try to learn where that inspiration comes from. Some composers get it from meditating or being at peace with the world, others from the panic of fulfilling a deadline. Everyone finds inspiration in different ways.
What to do on a PC
After you’re all set to turn the melody in your head and notebook into an audio that you can listen to. Set a tempo for the cue, add VSTs (instruments) in your DAW and write down your melodies and instrumentation in them. Adjust the volume and equalize your instruments to make it sound the way you want. And that’s it. You’re done here. Just export your audio file and sync it with the film scene.
The BIG thing is to compose and write down instrumentation. After that everything is so easy that you’ll begin to have fun and even experiment with some sounds. I Hope you liked the way I taught you film scoring. If you think I forgot to mention something important, then please let me know by commenting down below.
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