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Making Music for Film and Television

One music industry career that often gets overlooked is film/TV music production. Making music for film and television is quite different than other forms of music production because it is one form of art (music) specifically designed to complement another form of art (visual media). It requires an entirely different approach than writing a song or recording an album that is intended to stand on its own.

These days, much of the music composed for film and television begins inside a MIDI studio or lab. Film and TV composers often have large software libraries of virtual instruments ranging from strings to guitars to a wide array of piano samples, and in many cases they will record and mix a project in their home studio, although they may take the project out to another studio for final touches and post-production. While the more expensive software programs can often replicate real orchestras, bigger budget film projects will often re-record the score with actual instruments in the studio.

If you’re interested in a career making music for film and television, here are some things you need to focus on:

A DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF MIDI

Most composition projects begin “in the box” with MIDI instruments. You’ll want to learn the ins and outs of MIDI and working with computers to generate music.

HONING YOUR RECORDING/MIXING SKILLS

While large projects may be recorded in a studio, smaller ones might be recorded and mixed in your own home studio. You’ll need to hone your knowledge of audio engineering and mixing in order to make broadcast ready tracks.

LEARNING TO WRITE TO VISUAL CUES

Writing music to visual media means that elements of music will be specifically timed to certain visual cues. Learning to time your transitions to visual cues is an art all its own.

BUILDING A REEL OR PORTFOLIO

For people to hire you to write music for their film or TV show, they need to know what you’re capable of. Writing for smaller indie films, commercial spots, or anything else visual is a great way to build your reel.

BUILDING YOUR CONNECTIONS

Like anything else, the field of film/TV composing is a very connection-driven business. The more industry pros you know who work in this field, the more likely you are to get the inside track on projects. While you’re fulfilling your Recording Connection apprenticeship (externship), start building a network of contacts with music supervisors, music publishers, executive producers, other composers, etc.

LEARNING TO COMPOSE GREAT MUSIC

MIDI keyboards and sequencers are great, but don’t make the mistake of assuming they make great music on their own. You need a keen understanding of the language of music, and you need to be versed in a wide range of musical styles. A good working knowledge of arranging is also important.

It’s commonly said that music for film and television should be unassuming or audibly “invisible”—that it is basically designed to accompany the film and is not supposed to be noticed. However, some of the most prolific film composers disagree with this idea, saying that a great film score often becomes a character in the film. Indeed, the great John Williams, one of the best-loved film composers in the world, is particularly known for writing memorable themes that enhance a film. While music for visual media certainly should not overpower the story, it is not an excuse for creating music that is mediocre or forgettable. If you want to be successful as a composer, strive to compose great music.

If you’re interested in making music for film and television as a career, the Recording Connection can place you with a mentor who specializes in this exciting field.