In my quest to become better at composing music-to-picture (film music composition), I set out to find a short film clip to compose to. The exercise was two-fold in that I had small Logic X projects set aside as ideas that could be used as film cues or similar. In reviewing them a few weeks back, I came across one entitled “1st Encounter”, which I first composed, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was getting underway in April 2020.. The track, I thought, was reminiscent of something you may here during some sort of battle scene. Being only 28 seconds long, I began to work with various arrangements of it while thinking of different science fiction battle scenes and how this track could possibly fit.
After that exercise, I decided to search Youtube in hopes of finding some footage that was similar to what I’d been imagining. Searching on a combination of keywords such as “encounter”, “first encounter”, “battle scene” and similar, soon proved to be exhausting…until I came across videos about Dune 2021. It didn’t take me long afterwards to find a scene what would pretty much be perfect for the length of “1st Encounter”. The scene is the beginning of the Atreides vs Harkonnen & Sardaukar battle footage. I removed the initial music during the ships approach, then further worked with the tracks in “1st Encounter” by applying track automation where necessary and adding other elements to help describe the emotion of the scene. I call it a work in progress (WIP) because although the scene is short (34 seconds), I have additional, but minor, ideas that I could try to further flesh the composition out, however I think I’ll leave it as is. The result is below.
It turned out to be useful exercise in a number of ways but, most importantly, it’s further motivated me to continue with these rescore exercise to improve myself as I take this journey. I hope you enjoyed it. Comments are welcome.
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Greetings all. This year, I’ve decided to focus my efforts in one of two areas of music production:
1 – Composing music for film/TV/media
2 – Sync Licensing
The first item I have some experience with, coming from scoring the ten-episode web YouTube webseries entitled “At Risk – The Series”, back in 2017. The second is uncharted territory that I’ve been planning to explore and traverse for two years now, and is the topic for an entirely different group of blog posts. The following actually applies to both. I’m sharing advice and considerations from the current mental state I’m in and the approaches I plan to undertake to push beyond said state.
“Writing for film has its own set of rules and skills thatmust be mastered. Just because you can write apop song doesn’t mean you can write a score forfilm (and vice versa). I often hear musicians sayingthat they would like to be film composers. They write a song and say something like ‘that sounds like something that would be good in a film score’. Just kind of messing around and ending up with something that sounds ‘soundtracky’ and actually writing something that adds to a film and enhances a scene is something completely different; not to mention the overhanging loom of unrealistic deadlines.”
“The First Step
As you can see, we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning the craft of writing for film. Like any other endeavour, it starts with a single step. Take what you know so far and grow from there. If you’re an electronic musician, try writing to certain scenes with your current set up. With all of the videos online, there is no lack of sources to write to. Start with your instrument and grow from there. Try some of the ideas I’ve listed here (for example writing for certain instruments). If it’s all completely new to you, get some material and get started. Try writing something right away. As soon as you learn a new skill, use it in your writing and memorize it as quickly as possible.
(excerpt from “Writing Music for Film: First Steps by Robert Maddocks / January 18, 2010)
“More often that not when someone is stuck and can’t move forward it’s because the person don’t know what to move forward with. The potential of infinite choices leads them to make none. Think of the car salesman, who doesn’t ask “Do you want this car?” (infinite reasons yes and no), but instead asks “Do you want it in red or blue?” (a very simple choice and your brain will make one)
Don’t worry about doing things the right way, or the way you’ve seen someone else do it. Just focus on what works for you and allows you to actually output work instead of just thinking about outputting work.”
(excerpt from “How To Kill Writers Block and Start Composing Now” by Robin Leach/16 Aug 2013)
8. WRITER’S BLOCK (HOW TO UNBLOCK YOUR CREATIVE COLON)
Composing and computers are an uneasy marriage. Step away from your mac or PC and go for a walk. Motion and creativity are better bedfellows, if you’re sitting at your workstation you’re in the wrong bed! Don’t think of work as work if you don’t do any composition there… If the park is where your ideas come to you, that’s your work! Analysts feel that true creativity is when you’re in the moment. This will be when the desk of your mind is clear. Usually when there isn’t anything you need to think about other than what you’re doing. No one is about to turn up, the bills haven’t just hit your doormat, and there’s not someone bugging you on Facebook. Many people say early mornings are the most creative time as you’ll be free of disturbance or distraction. However I would argue, this is the most productive time. For many, creativity happens just at the moment that they’ve decided to leave the door. This is the moment when you’ve decided you’re finished… This is when you’re in the moment. Try to sit at your piano at this point and if anything comes, note it down somehow. For me a very rough charcoal sketch of a tune or cue will enable you to wake up and ponder it in the bath in the morning. Then by applying those magic productive early hours to a preconceived concept you will reap the biggest turnover of material.
(excerpt from “10 Rules of Media Composition – The Spitfire Labs Team/Spitfire Audio)
Louisa Rainbird: Definitely play to your strengths – it’s better to be known as a great composer in a few key areas than to try and cover all bases, particularly when the genres and styles covered by production libraries are so vast. Also, look at what is being used currently across film, advertising and different TV genres to give you an idea of what the trends in each area are – there’s no easier research to do, just turn on the TV!
Brian Bennett: Be original. Be brave. Take risks. Believe in yourself and your music. Don’t get complicated. It’s all about the picture. Make great demos. Don’t let a client guess what you mean. Keep the music in the same or relative key to make the music editor’s life easy. Be prepared to make changes. If a client doesn’t like your music, it doesn’t mean its crap, it means they’re looking for something else. Don’t get too precious about your notes.
Sophie Urquhart: I would advise composers to do their research on the libraries that will most suit their style of music. And listen to their advice, they are specialists in what broadcasters and sync people are looking for and can help mould their style accordingly to give it the best shot of being used, hopefully numerous times!
Also, I’d encourage them to focus on where their strengths lie, better to be an expert in their field rather than a jack of all trades. There’s more competition than ever before so it’s crucial that they have an identity which sets them apart from the rest.
(excerpt from “How to Get Into Composing Library Music – Anita Awbi/ 3 Jan 2019)
That said, permit me to reintroduce a re-scrore of a Mercedes Benz CLS promo I completed a little over a year ago. It’s the first of many reels I have planned to showcase my work, and progression of such, in the future.
Wednesday night , 11:01 PM EST. I’m sitting here in the studio, just finishing up scoring notes for the final episode of the webseries I’ve been scoring, At Risk. This last episode is definitely classic in that it is a CLIFFHANGER for sure. With that, I have to say that the scenes shot probably provide for more musical creativity and interpretation than most of the previous ones (although, or course, that is sujective, yes?). Tomorrow I plan to actually begin scoring them film for a weekend delivery of the music and associated cue sheet info, to the director (who I chatted with earlier tonight).
It’s been quite and experience, one that I’m glad I was given the opportunity. I learned a lot, not just from dealing directly with the director and writer, but by gaining knowledge for other professional and semi-professional film scorers in the industry. While I’ve always had a “love/hate” relationship with FB (to eadh his/her own, eh?), I’ve found a particular film scoring group on here that has been nothing but a great help to me. All and all, in the end, this has been a win-win situation for me. So much so, that I already know the next step I’d like to take in this music for film/TV journey, so stay tuned.
I’ll be posting one more blog to introduce my demo page and music publishing video site where you’ll be able to hear all the original music that did not make the final episodes for the series.
In the mean time, catch all the series from this season at the official site: At Risk Series. and past in studio shots of the scoring process on my SFTF Productions, by searching on the hashtags #arws2016, #skysongsmusicpublishing, and #skysongsmusicworldwide
To all, thanks for coming along for the ride and providing all the encouraging comments. Chat soon…
It’s been about five months since I’ve last posted a blog, so, in our last episode…(just kidding). Time flies and, on top of that, I’ve been pretty busy trying to compose and get the episode music vetted and approved by the writer/producer of the series. For those who are just reading this particular post, the name of the webseries is entitled At Risk, a drama series about the lives of five social workers.
At the moment, I’m down to composing music for the last episode of the series. The whole “staff”, everyone involved is doing the final activities. Excitement is definitely in the air at this point. The premiere events are on 1 December in NYC and 3 Dec, in Newburgh, NY…the home of the series writer and producer, Courtney Allen.
It’s been quite a journey and learning. While it’s not QUITE over yet, I see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s turned out to be stepping stone to, what I hope to be, future scoring opportunities in film and TV, as well as other media formats. You’ll be getting an update on the establishment of my official publishing company as soon as I confirmation from my PRO (BMI).
I can’t give out any spoilers, but the season end with a crazy cliffhanger!!!! Learn more about At Risk at the link above. I’ve posted a great deal of in progress video footage on Instagram….click SFTF Productions via Instagram to check out the posts.
My hope is that all of you had a blessed Thanksgiving> Catch up with you soon.
Yet another Sunday night is upon us. I had a good weekend, despite this mad heat (which will remain in the upper 90’s throughout the week.). That said, it was productive on the scoring front. Episode 2 is done and submitted to the movie producer for review. So far, looks like she likes, so it looks like the title sequence, Episode 1, and Episode 2 are a wrap!
Talked to the film’s director this evening as well. Seeing as though his company is juggling multip;e projects at once, it was good to have a few minutes to chat with him on the process of music submission (at least from a clarification standpoint). The result of the conversation pretty much aligns with the result fo my research, so we’re definitely good to go.
I also got a chance (finally) to interact with two of the actors/actresses in the series, via social media (Instagram) this weekend. It was good exchanging comments with them after watching them so much via video…both had mad talent through and through. Looking forward to interacting with the rest of the cast.
Well, while awaiting the next episode to begin work on, it;ll be time to d a few things:
Start work on my next EP
Register my publishing entity, Sky Songs Music Publishing, with BMI
Continue work on me and partner’s next CD
Work on the guitar tracks for a cover of “Fever” by female vocalist in the UK
Work on guitar tracks from Todd Kelley’s next EP, Seasoned Veteran
Another weekend gone… 🙁 In any event, it was short, but productive. I finally submitted the rough cue music embedded in the video for the director’s review. Had a short telecon and pleasingly got the thumbs up on the title sequence music AND the scene music in Episode 1. With a slight suggested change for the title sequence track and one for the episode, I’m happy with the results, being a newcomer to all of this.
This evening was spent working on music for episode 2. As mentioned in the first post of this series, the closing scene is comprised of something I, well….never had to compose music for – let’s just leave it at 🙂 Good news is, I think I have something that fits it. I think I have one more scene I need music for and I should be ready to submit this episode as well…we’ll see.
Anyway, this is a short update. I’m anticipating a long work week ahead, and to get into bed before midnight is probably best.
Greetings readers (I should say early good morning),
After what has seemed to be some creative block, so to speak, I finally got back to working on music for the first episode of this webseries. At least I have two ideas (with a third pretty much thought of) for the title sequence music . All my conceptual notes for the scenes have been down on paper for awhile but to get from my head, what I’m conceiving, to what one can actually hear has been another issue altogether. I actually started backwards, so to speak, and composed the music for the final scene of Episode 2 already. Early this morning seemed to be the time where I was able to do it (although what I’m going with is a little different than the initial concept).
So, I’ve been working with brand new ideas for the first bit of music you will hear in the first scene of the first episode. This piece of music is actually called a “cue”, as, from what I ynderstand, they are generally short pieces of music that cue a following scene. Though what I’m going to try is not conceptually the same as what I originally thought of, I think it will work nicely with some extra embellishments here and there…we;ll see.
For now it is crazy way past my bedtime. Yes, I will be suffering tomorrow at work, but this is what sometimes happens when my muse decides to show up anytime she wants, with irregard to what I need…LOL (“women”….haha). JK!!
Incidentally, my soundcloud account is set up. On the site, you’ll eventually hear demo tracks of music I’ve composed for film. When there are a few tracks up, I’ll post the link in a future blog post, Facebook, Twitter, etc….so stay tuned.
Have a great day, or afternoon, or…well, u get what I mean….
For the past two days, I’ve been in studio but have dont more learning and experimenting then actually getting this ideas I hear in my head out to be recorded. In the meantime, I know that when I submit initial tracks to the director and music supervisor for review, they’ll be going with what’s called a cue sheet. Part of the cue sheet has information regarding my publishing company name. Wait, I don’t have a publishing company name, until today (well, kinda). Today, after soliciting some suggestions from folk along the way, as well some considering some names I had already, I finally decided on one. The initial decision came from a friend, Tyvian Corry. Every time he hits me up on FB, he’ll usually start out by saying “‘Sup Sky Man?” So, he suggested that name after I did a post on my page about needing a name.
I thought it was really cool, so I did a Google search on it earlier today to see what results it would bring up.Ironically a few came up. I still like it a lot, but wanted something more original that would bring up the least amount of search results (at best, none at all). I thought of SkyTunes, but that was taken. After a short time, it hit me, so I did a domain search to see if this name was taken as a dotcom. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t, so that sealed the decision. I came home from work and registered the domain for two years. I also have a logo concept which I will flesh out and post soon. In any event, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, my music publishing entity: SkySongs Music Publishing. The website will be at skysongsmusic.com, so stay tuned in the coming months. The business structure will be a sole proprietorship in the state I live in. Under state law I don’t have to file for taxes, but will be registering the name at some point (I think). Next stop is to register the name with my PRO (performing rights organization), BMI.
Incidentally, you may be wondering where Tyvian got the name “Sky Man”….hit me up and I’ll fill you in.
6:35am, Monday Morning. I’ve been up since 4:30 am, trying to (re) effect this early morning, “get at the day” routine by getting into bed every night at a decent time. So far, it’s a good way to kick the week off.
I’ve been in the studio for the last hour, getting some to-do tasks checked off. One of them was trying to get the right drum track feel for this third and last idea for the title sequence (theme music) for the web series I’m scoring too. I’ve done a fair amount of my own drum programming since the days of drum machines (of course, for my own tracks), but taking that approach here seems a bit daunting. I’m hearing something similar in feel to Crockett’s Theme (Miami Vice) but can’t get it out of my head to the recording part of it. My sample library is fairly large and I think I have something that may kickstart the idea quicker…we’ll see.
I spent the last few days driving back and forth to Savannah, GA (including an overnight hotel stay). Left Thursday at noon, return Friday night at 8pm – a total of 20 hours or so of driving. Needless to say, it caught up with me by Saturday afternoon. By Saturday night, I was back at it for a little while – my son sat in on one of my sessions and asked me about the totality of the project. Being not one afraid to voice his suggestions, he listened to one of the ideas and suggested I try to mute a portion of a specific track until a certain part of what the video was showing. I’d not thought of that, but tried his suggestion and it didn’t sound to bad at all. It goes to show you that one never knows that another suggestion from someone removed from what you are doing, can turn out pretty good.
As for the theme music, it’s time to concentrate translating this scene notes into actual audio ideas. Last week I finally created the cue sheets that I’ll be sending to the director once I get some initial cue and hit music for the scenes. She spied a session pic of me working on it in studio and replied “I know it’ll sound good, take your time”. You know my steelo is to stay ahead of the game, so…..
Saturday morning about 10:28am – rainy, but expected (glad I got the front and the rear lawn mowed). It’s been a busy work week so I’m glad the weekend is here, From a scoring standpoint, it was a bust though. Wednesday night I gave it ago, but starting at 10:15pm was to no avail, especially since I’s still learning Logic Pro X and can’t yet navigate it as quickly as with Logic Pr 9. I had an idea for this third and final submission idea for the theme music but I just couldn’t find what I wanted to quickly in the software. Add to that, I was having some unusual application freezes, which slowed the process down. About 10:40pm here comes the frustration and the fact I knew I had to get up at 5pm….oh well.
Thursday was a bit different (though I didn’t actually get into the studio). The official contract came back signed from the director. Everything was agreed to, so that was cool. With that, she also sent me a private link to a demo her and the videographer/music supervisor put together. This demo was actually Episode 1 which she used for a quick presentation at her alma mater.The demo included not only some stock theme music but some cue music for a few scenes in the episode. What was cool about this was that the demo the supervisor chose as a place holder for the theme music was essentially the same idea I had recorded, so that let me know I was on the right track. In addition, cue music in for the scenes were essentially placed in the same place I chose, another sign of thinking in the same lane. All of that was encouraging, as the more you’re inline with the director’s vision for music the better.
So, this weekend I’ll continue to work on cue music for Episode 2, but mainly focus on getting more familiar with Logic Pro X and incorporating the use of various plugins I have, and will use. Speed always helps in getting this type of creative job done.
Quick shout out to a few friends who gave me some opinions (and examples) as answers to a question I had about what kind of music they would expect to hear in watching a certain scene. This type of scene I never thought about writing to because, despite seeing many “variations” of it, in TV shows and movies, I never paid attention to the music. “What kind of scene is it?”, you may ask…stay tuned to future blog posts, I’ll post and talk about the answer in the future.