The first thing you need to have in order to create a soundtrack piece is not only your own musings or personal inspirations but the inspiration behind the film and all the main characters' inspiration and back stories. More specifically:
- Watch the final draft of the film to get a sense of the "tone" of the film. Is it dark / film noir? happy and colorful?, funny and lighthearted?, serious or emotional? These tones play a huge factor in how the music forms in your head.
- Consider the main character's back story and their mood. What attitudes are they bringing to the story?
- look at the locations, are they grungy, clean, industrial, folksy, rural, urban? Use instruments that bring to mind these locations...
Instruments and recording software
As a music writer or composer you must have at least a basic knowledge of recording and a few musical instruments at your disposal. Some of these may include:
- A fairly modern computer / laptop with a good amount of memory
- digital multi-track recording software. On the high end: ProTools, Cubase, or Cakewalk / Sonar (there are many other cheap or free digital recording tools available also. Just Google :-)
- or a software synthesizer / sampler like Native Instruments KONTAKT, Propellerhead Reason
- an instrument that plays your music: Guitar and piano are the most popular analog instruments, or a nice MIDI or standalone keyboard for your syth / sampler software
- a microphone (preferably a condenser mic) for recording foley or analog audio.
- a pair of decent speakers or headphones to listen to playback
Steps to create your score:
- Use your inspirations (above) to form a basic rhythm and verse / chorus structure melody.
- add bass line and drums
- add harmonies and tones using your inspirations
- consider "featuring" an instrument to signify a character or location in the film
- consider adding sound effects or interesting / ethnic rhythmic patterns
- layer alternate instruments or orchestra pieces but don't drown out your main melody. Enhance the original melody with layering.
- listen to the rough draft. Is there anything you can perfect or fix? Does the featured instrument stand out.
- Do a final mix using panning, EQ, compression, reverb or whatever other studio tricks you have available to you in your recording software.
- burn the final mix to .WAV or .MP3 so the editor can easily "slice and dice" your precious soundtrack into the essential pieces that he needs to accent the film.
Of course the technical details about digital recording and songwriting are beyond the scope of this blog, but I hope this helps out those of you who are looking into moving into film scoring. Enjoy!
Photo by PeteWright on Flickr