#1
Now this is a thought that has been bothering me for a while.

First of all:
I'm a guitar player, and for a long time my goal in terms of education and career has been to do a guitar performance course in a place like Berklee College of Music. But recently, I've become more interested in listening to music from films and video games.

Now, about 9 months ago I created a soundtrack for a short film (6 mins) for a friend's final film for his course at our school, and I realise it was a really fun and great experience. And so the idea sparked in my mind - I actually really feel like this field is something that I would love to go into.

But then obviously I have to look at this possibility in a realistic way. So here I come to ask the question: what kind of skills and requirements am I looking at if I want to go into this field of film scoring / video game scoring?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

tl;dr - there is no tl;dr
#2
For film scoring, knowledge of theory, especially four voice counterpoint writing is helpful.
http://www.emusictheory.com/practice/counterpoint.html
check that site out for some info/practice

For video games, basic music knowledge is good, but you have to take into consideration file sizes and compression schemes and whatnot. Hope this helps you.
#4
I have a buddy that interviewed for such a thing, making game music. I don't know too much about it other than he had to put together a diverse demo of short songs showcasing all the moods, styles, etc that he was capable of, and and that the name of the position was Sound Designer.

Once again, completely talking out my ass here but google Sound Designer job and see what you come up with, there's probably a pretty decent demand for it, but also a lot of supply. I would get familiar with literally every possible style of music you can, because that would expand your range and make you more versatile.
#5
Since it's not actually music, something that a lot of people forget about is that you have to be able to produce quality work within a limited timeframe. If you write great music but can't meet deadlines no one's going to hire you.
#8
I'll get to all this later today too tired

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#9
Quote by rich1981

For video games, basic music knowledge is good, but you have to take into consideration file sizes and compression schemes and whatnot. Hope this helps you.

this isn't much of an issue anymore considering games often use cd quality audio

as for skills and requirements - arrangement, composition and a very good grasp of theory will be the foundation, you'll need some conducting experience as well if you intend on using an actual orchestra (and why wouldn't you?)

basically you want to be able to view the video footage and have solid idea of what music you want playing where and how you can achieve the end sound.

i'm sure xiaoxi will give a dissertation on what he's had to do but this is just a brief synopsis. also remember, video game music can range anywhere from classical to rock to funk to electronic to country.... well... to anything. in that respect you need to be well versed in lots of genres of music and again know how make a jazz or blues or death metal track.
Last edited by z4twenny at Dec 15, 2011,
#10
^^ ¥es orchestration is a big part.

You also need sound design skills though, cause there aren't many games out there where an orchestra is playing through the entire game.

I foresee film composing to evolve from just orchestration to more sound experimenting. Probably still classical instruments, but modified and enhanced with electronic stuff. Like Hans Zimmer does for example.

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#11
Yeah, you have to learn all that stuff as mentioned above, but I'd also like to point out that, at the end of the day, nobody cares where or how or when you studied it, or whether or not you have a piece of paper that suggests you know it.

Your product is your calling card, and your networking is your reputation. Build both.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#12
I see, so I need a good grasp of music theory, arranging and composition, as well as the ability to write in a variety of styles.

Also, should I work on learning piano to a more advanced level? From what I've witnessed, the piano seems to be an important instrument that composers use as a tool to create ideas. But right now I pretty much only mess around a bit with my keyboard, even though I use it to come up with melodies and other stuff.

Cheers.
#13
Quote by Vitor_vdp
I see, so I need a good grasp of music theory, arranging and composition, as well as the ability to write in a variety of styles.

Also, should I work on learning piano to a more advanced level? From what I've witnessed, the piano seems to be an important instrument that composers use as a tool to create ideas. But right now I pretty much only mess around a bit with my keyboard, even though I use it to come up with melodies and other stuff.

Cheers.


Well ideas and certain theme's or even complete melodies can pop in your head.

However, most often, unless you have a amazing audio-spatial ability, your head mixes up things you have heard before.

Now off course if you have each note and chord ingrained in ur head, coupled with "common-sense-music-theory" you can make a complete score from your head alone.

What I used to do a lot and still do, is hear a chord, then aim for 3 notes or so in my head, or a certain "feel". Then play what I like until it matches that feel I'm after.

Right there I already added another idea in my head. This might be hard for you at first, but forcing to establish a link to urself and the instrument in terms of sound, and not muscle memory or other things will benefit you greatly in the long run.

Now, a piano is a common choice, because it's the most flexible instrument in terms of playing harmonic/ melodic ideas and big harmonies. It also has a "neutral" sound and therefore if the song sounds good on a piano, it often will sound even better orchestrated, unless you play to the piano's characteristics.

With guitar people often (naturally) write to the guitar's characteristics using slides and vibratos and bends, which not every instrument can achieve, and thus if your composition flows well partially (or fully) because on those nuances, it is more likely to fail short when transposed for another instrument.

A more advanced approach would be to actually write to instruments respective characteristics. This is what you ultimately would want to achieve.

A Violin for example can use vibrato and fast staccato, so you could do more expression with that and achieve a (debatable) deeper texture.

You might like the sound of a melody on a harp, but a harp is capable of playing multiple notes, so why not add some lush harmonies a certain points throughout the melody.

This is stuff you can think about and hopefully you can draw some inspiration and/or interest out of this.

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Dec 16, 2011,
#14
Quote by xxdarrenxx


I foresee film composing to evolve from just orchestration to more sound experimenting. Probably still classical instruments, but modified and enhanced with electronic stuff. Like Hans Zimmer does for example.


Mike Patton's done a few films I believe. This might interest you

I'm still waiting for Xiaoxi though. This is a subject I don't know too much about other than vague "meet a deadline, play all kinds of music, don't be an ass" guidelines.
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#15
I'm still waiting to be not mentally drained from insomnia and final projects.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#16
Coincidence, I had a rather long conversation today with my guitar teacher about the limitations and basically the roles of the instruments and how I have to learn what each one of them is able or unable to do. He pretty much read my mind regarding my change in interest from performing to composing.

I shall wait anxiously for a response from you, Xiaoxi.
Last edited by Vitor_vdp at Dec 16, 2011,
#17
Alright, so I got the bulk out of my final projects out of the way, and I'm finally somewhat conscious, so I can try to answer your questions now. I'll try to keep it concise. And maybe griffRG has something to add?


The first thing you have to keep in mind is that the music industry in general has no set track. People come from all sorts of directions to do things. You don't *have* to have any specific technical abilities. And what I'm about to say is really just one approach, although it's probably the one that makes the most logical sense. But there are plenty of instances of people who are not film composers getting film scoring jobs, so again, keep your options open.

So basically, your "model" film/game composer has to be knowledgeable in 3 main categories:
-The business and operation of a media production, and where music fits in
-The technical details of actually writing the music
-Expertise in digital audio and music technology, and technology in general


For the first category, it's all about knowing how the media industry works. What does a movie production timeline look like, when do we start talking about music, how to conduct business from a client-service perspective, networking, etc etc. This is probably the most important part, career wise, because that's how you get jobs. You can know how to write a symphony but if you don't know how to handle these business things, it's tough to get in the door. So to do that, it takes a lot of startup. Getting internships, meeting important people, and building up a solid portfolio are key. For film, it unfortunately means mostly being in LA. For TV, LA & NYC. For games, it's a little more flexible, since there's no set place for this industry, but LA/NYC/Boston are probably the big 3.


2nd category, this is where you need to actually be able to write music. This can actually be pretty hard, not because of any technical/theory issues, but because you have to make music a secondary priority. I have a lot of trouble with that, but I'm getting better. Basically, you have to write music that works, which is not always gonna be music that is "good". This requires a lot of restraint, brutal honesty with yourself, and willingness to change things. That last melody might just make the perfect piece of music and take it to a whole new level, but it's getting in the way of the dialog, or it's just too distracting from the scene. You have to have the restraint to let it go and omit it. So I think this is really where the "art" of film scoring comes in. It's not about the music that you write, it's about how it accommodates what others are watching.

I don't really wanna get specific with what you need to know about music. Obviously, there are plenty of expert composers who can write for full orchestra effectively, and that never hurts. But film music is not all classical-oriented today. There's lots of instances of rock, electronica, hip hop, etc. Of course, if you can do it all, then that's all the better. If you're thinking John Williams/James Horner/Ennio Morricone etc type of music, then yea, specifically you need to internalize classical music, which involves learning counterpoint, tonal and modern techniques, and orchestration.


So the last category is technology, which is basically expected for everybody involved in the production side of things today. Main things you need to know how to do: how to use digital audio workstations effectively, the technical details of film/SMPTE, computer hardware, how digital audio works and its properties, signal routing, sequencing/mockups using virtual instruments, sound engines (for games), etc. The more you know, the more valuable you are as someone working in the production industry. Chances are that you're not gonna start writing for a significant production in the beginning of your career. You may never get to write a single note for a long time. You're gonna be doing tech work for people who are writing the actual music. But you might not even get into a position that's close to the actual music. Because it's such a technical industry today, there are lots of jobs that are about purely technical development. For example, maybe a sampling company is looking for someone who is an expert with writing Kontakt scripts for their next sample library. These are the kinds of "office" jobs that exist which belong in the production industry as a whole, but not necessarily the direct position of writing music. Bottom line: being a computer geek pays in this industry.


So to summarize: become familiar with how to be business-like and professional, get good at writing effective music and fast (some projects expect a 2 week turnaround for 60 minutes worth of music), and learn as much as you can about music technology.

There's just no way I can put everything you need to know specifically in a forum post. I'd suggest you get The Complete Guide To Film Scoring by Richard Davis. It's a very comprehensive book covering all aspects of the film scoring world.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#18
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And maybe griffRG has something to add?


Tomorrow when I get my laptop back I can post some shizz from my old film music lecture slides. Plenty of information in those about how the industry worked/works.

Quote by Xiaoxi
So the last category is technology, which is basically expected for everybody involved in the production side of things today. Main things you need to know how to do: how to use digital audio workstations effectively, the technical details of film/SMPTE, computer hardware, how digital audio works and its properties, signal routing, sequencing/mockups using virtual instruments, sound engines (for games), etc.


This is what I hate these days, unless you're John Williams a composer can't just play the director themes on a piano anymore (probably due to an absence of actual musical material in film music these days, but that's just my opinion), you have to spend thousands on a DAW, sample libraries, plug ins, and a computer which can handle it all.
#19
Quote by griffRG7321

This is what I hate these days, unless you're John Williams a composer can't just play the director themes on a piano anymore (probably due to an absence of actual musical material in film music these days, but that's just my opinion), you have to spend thousands on a DAW, sample libraries, plug ins, and a computer which can handle it all.

Yeah, it's a pretty destructive thing that's happening. Composers are being pressed to invest a lot of time into technology, so the music isn't getting any better, and players are getting less and less work. But it's not just about pleasing directors with no musical imagination or faith, we often don't have any other choice for the final product.

Budgets are getting smaller these days since the industry as a whole is at a depression due to the economy and piracy and just plain having shitty movies/TV that no one wants to watch. So a common thing nowadays is to offer the composer a "packaged deal", which means the production gives you the entire budget for the music and you have to decide how to allocate that money. So whereas composers used to almost exclusively get a composer's fee, which is all his, and all other costs are placed on the studio, it's the opposite today. And you're most likely going to be working on small productions when you start out.

So let's say you're given a packaged deal of $10,000 for a small TV documentary. And you have to write 20 minutes of orchestral music. Union rates = ~$300+ every 3 hours per musician. On average, 5 minutes of music is recorded per hour. There is no way you can hire a full orchestra for 4 hours minimum, + food, equipment transportation, rentals, studio time, engineers, etc with that budget. You'd be paying a shitload out of your own pocket and actually lose money. So what can you do? You have to hire just a few live players that will have key roles, and then sequence the rest. That's not just to give a preview to the director, that's the final product.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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Last edited by Xiaoxi at Dec 20, 2011,
#20
Quote by Xiaoxi
Yeah, it's a pretty destructive thing that's happening. Composers are being pressed to invest a lot of time into technology, so the music isn't getting any better, and players are getting less and less work. But it's not just about pleasing directors with no musical imagination or faith, we often don't have any other choice for the final product.


This is why I'm putting off getting the technology until I get my craft to a high level, I don't wan't to get caught up in the 'epic' cinematic music that you hear so much these days which is more or less 4 root position triads with some driving overused percussion samples and uninspired string ostinatos.

Quote by Xiaoxi
So let's say you're given a packaged deal of $10,000 for a small TV documentary. And you have to write 20 minutes of orchestral music. Union rates = ~$300+ every 3 hours per musician. On average, 5 minutes of music is recorded per hour. There is no way you can hire a full orchestra for 4 hours minimum, + food, equipment transportation, rentals, studio time, engineers, etc with that budget. You'd be paying a shitload out of your own pocket and actually lose money. So what can you do? You have to hire just a few live players that will have key roles, and then sequence the rest. That's not just to give a preview to the director, that's the final product.


A neat little story, my old piano teacher was given a 2 hour wildlife documentary to score. He used a piece of music he'd already written, made a few changes and got given £8000
#21
Quote by griffRG7321

A neat little story, my old piano teacher was given a 2 hour wildlife documentary to score. He used a piece of music he'd already written, made a few changes and got given £8000

That's even worse. He didn't even pay for a virtual instrument!

Selfish bastard!

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#22
Quote by Xiaoxi
That's even worse. He didn't even pay for a virtual instrument!

Selfish bastard!


He did use virtual instruments, forgot to mention that, he has a full kitted out studio (He casually put on FB the other day "Just spent £10k on VSTis") but still, easy 8 grand! and one of the pros of using virtual instruments.
#23
When I look at the combined price of all the VSTs I'd like to have access to, recording gear for guitar and the hardware to run all of said VSTs, I get very sad.

My teacher once mentioned something about a Vienna symphonic package he bought, and showed me some stuff he'd done with it - naturally, I thought it was something I'd like to learn more about, and everything was going well until I saw the cute little "$6640" on the website.

</3
#24
Hi there.

A little about me. I'm an engineer in the gaming industry. I've worked for some big names and some small names. More specifically, I've worked directly with sound engineers/composers on three separate projects, one of whom was a touch famous. Something about zombies on your lawn, or some such.

Anyway, here's what I can offer on the subject.

For one, every company I've worked for expected their music/sound folks to be both composers and engineers (game companies are notoriously cheap and underpay damn near everyone in the pipeline). While it's true that many of the triple-A titles work in CD-quality audio, there's a huge amount of work to be found in social/mobile gaming, which will require lower-quality stuff. Know your sound formats, compression abilities, MIDI, VSTs... basically, anything that will allow you to make stuff tiny and good. Storage is key.

Secondly, yes; your product is all that matters. If you have a good demo reel (and know your tech; see above), and can prove that you can produce quality on a tight deadline (game developers are notorious for expecting masterpieces in half the time they're realistically going to take), you're in. Game development houses won't care where you got your degree; they care how your stuff sounds.

Thirdly; a huge amount of "fluff", which includes things like graphics and sound, is outsourced. You stand a very, very good chance of being a contractor and not a full-time employee.

Fourthly, can you do sound effects? If you can do both music and sound, you'll be far more marketable.

Finally... start small. You'll find it much, much easier to contract out to a small studio who needs a titlescreen jingle and an in-game BGM, and if you do enough of those, you'll have a good resume to leverage to the big guns. Just don't expect to get into a company working on the next Final Fantasy anytime soon... people who can do that kind of work are a dime a dozen, and Japanese companies are very, very insular. Take it from someone who's worked at one.

Good luck!
CS
Last edited by CarsonStevens at Dec 20, 2011,
#25
Quote by :-D
When I look at the combined price of all the VSTs I'd like to have access to, recording gear for guitar and the hardware to run all of said VSTs, I get very sad.

My teacher once mentioned something about a Vienna symphonic package he bought, and showed me some stuff he'd done with it - naturally, I thought it was something I'd like to learn more about, and everything was going well until I saw the cute little "$6640" on the website.

</3

ive had a chance to try out the vienna symphonic library and honestly i don't really like it, i actually prefer east west. neither sound really "real" but they both sound really close and can fool a lot of people.
#26
Thanks so much for the very constructive posts. I'm definitely buying "The Complete Guide To Film Scoring", looks to be a very complete insight into the industry.

My biggest challenge will probably be the technological side, since I don't really know much in terms of that. Just one last question to wrap this up: is the tech stuff something I can learn through reading and researching, or do I kind of have to experience it first hand?

Cheers.
#27
Quote by Vitor_vdp
Thanks so much for the very constructive posts. I'm definitely buying "The Complete Guide To Film Scoring", looks to be a very complete insight into the industry.

My biggest challenge will probably be the technological side, since I don't really know much in terms of that. Just one last question to wrap this up: is the tech stuff something I can learn through reading and researching, or do I kind of have to experience it first hand?

Cheers.


You have to try it, for a start i suggest you try to demo Native Instruments Komplete 7.
Pretty simple to install, use and configure + endless possibilities.

Contains anything from Classical Pianos to Stringed Instruments to Unreal Tournament 2004/3 like synths and effects (Evolve Mutations 2). Battery also lets you do awesome things with a drumpad.

You can also mix anything in your chain in pretty much any way you want..
e.g make your virtual piano run through guitar rig 5 and through some weird detuning synth from Kontakt. (not always a pretty result, but you wont learn such things from reading only).

Familiarize yourself with:
DAWS
VSTIS
Controllers
Interfaces
Studio Monitors

Kind of scary at first, but like anything just go step by step.
Last edited by Slashiepie at Dec 21, 2011,
#28
Quote by Vitor_vdp
My biggest challenge will probably be the technological side, since I don't really know much in terms of that. Just one last question to wrap this up: is the tech stuff something I can learn through reading and researching, or do I kind of have to experience it first hand?

It's definitely an area you'd rather get your hands dirty with. Reading about all of it won't really get you anywhere when it comes time to practically apply the knowledge.