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Have been asked to do "stock music" for a film... help!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by powderfinger, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. powderfinger

    powderfinger

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    SO I have accepted the offer to do some "score" or "stock" music for a friend's indie film. It's nothing huge, and nothing that's going to be playing at your local theater anytime soon... but, it will be shown to local audiences, and possibly entered into a short film contest. All local. No big money involved. Basically just a labor of love for all involved. Including me.

    Now.. for my part. I am probably going to need some advice here. I was asked to compose some simple/original "score" music. I am planning on recording it with my keyboard (using some string settings I suppose), bass, and maybe guitar as well. I may enlist a better guitarist to help with those parts if I use a guitar. No drummer though.

    I was asked to make some of the music suitable background music for mellow-drama scenes... a couple of minor suspense type numbers... something for some light hearted comedy.

    And as many movies as Ive seen. As many songs as Ive played. I have not a clue where to even begin..... any help would be appreciated big time!
  2. Renaissance

    Renaissance

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    I've never done this either but my thought process would be:

    Drama/suspense -slow moving chord changes, minor keys, tension and release, no real melody line, mainly strings, lower pitched

    Comedy - higher pitched, quicker moving, possibly timed with the dialogue, major keys

    I've always felt background music should be "emotionally" felt and not heard. Hope this helps some.
  3. smeet

    smeet Supporting Member

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    There's a lot to it, but here's a couple of suggestions:
    - come up with a small number of themes, associated with locations, characters, or other recurring things in the film. Compose a few variations on each of these themes in different styles. Many film scores will do this, and it gives a consistency to the sound, as well as identifying the character/location/etc to the audience.
    -silence is important, and a very good thing in films. I assume you won't be doing the mixing or syncing, but if you are you can have even more influence on this. There should not be music in the background all the time.
    - you are not writing songs (unless that is specifically asked for), you are composing music/sound to enhance the visuals. Less is more, sometimes a single string or bass note softly decaying into silence is the most effective thing.
    -don't limit yourself to "normal" musical or instrumental sounds. Jingling, hissing, crackling, effects can be created with items around your home or neighborhood. I have used squeaking balloons, metal bowls filled with water, and traffic noises pitched way low or run backwards.

    Do a search for articles in Electronic Musician and Keyboard magazines, they used to have quite a few features on getting started in film scoring. And always remember you are trying to enhance the atmosphere of the film without actually drawing attention to your music. That's not to say the music shouldn't be good, but you want it to "become one" with the visuals.
  4. powderfinger

    powderfinger

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    Great suggestions guys. I have a lot of work to do, but a good idea of where to start now. This is gonna be fun.
  5. wrench45us

    wrench45us

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    You may want to at least look at the tutorials for working with video in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Sonar X1. I know Ableton Live can work with .mov video formats, but most people I know who do this work in Sonar.

    If you don't have a DAW, it can be quite an investment and a bit of a learning curve, but as above maybe you aren't expected to do the mixing or syncing just provide some sound beds. But for music queues and shifts, I don't see how you can get away from it.

    Sounds like first off, you need to define your role.
  6. bass12

    bass12 Fueled by chocolate Supporting Member

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    These are great suggestions. I've never written for film but I've done a number of analysese of film music. It's important to be aware of the semiotic aspect of the sounds you're working with (what will the sounds convey or "mean" to the listener?). I would suggest checking out some soundtracks. Offhand I'll suggest a James Bond soundtrack because the use of motif in those soundtracks is often obvious and covers a lot of the spectrum scene-wise (from suspense to action to romance).
  7. powderfinger

    powderfinger

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    Also, I thought I'd ask, since Im a bassist and all.... haha... what situations would be appropriate for bass music (as the main or even only instrument), and how would you go about composing the bass lines?

    I got a pretty good idea on keyboard based on suggestions above, but then I kinda thought... what about bass?
  8. Bainbridge

    Bainbridge

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    Get a DAW, get a MIDI keyboard, get a couple of instrument libraries. Compose to the picture - don't be like Trent Reznor. Another thing I would do is have a "spotting session"; sit down with the people involved in the production and editing of the film, go through the movie (before you start doing the music) and discuss with them what they want. General is better than specific, because these people don't know what they're talking about when it comes to music. "Suspenseful" is a better term to use than "diminished seventh chords played tremolo by violins". You want to retain your creativity as much as possible, so the more general they are, the better. And they'll do things like say "French horn" when what they mean is "oboe". You're the musician, so you make the musical decisions. More info on spotting: http://gettingthescore.com/?p=29

    Other than that, you need to learn to compose. That is a huge topic, and not one that can be rendered so easily. I have worked on my ability to turn out lots of [stupid] functional music to which I have absolutely no attachment, and I suggest you do the same. If you have never taken a harmony class, I suggest you do so, or at least buy a good textbook on four-part writing (Kostka & Payne's Tonal Harmony is my favorite), and learn how to do good voice leading with your eyes and ears closed.

    As for bass... Write it if the scene calls for it. What if you were a pro kazoo player, the best in the world in fact, and you were asked to score a romantic scene? Do you think people want to hear sweeping violins, a sweet French horn melody, or you buzzing around on your kazoo?
  9. lundborg

    lundborg

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    Check out Dirty Harry, bass by Carol Kaye.
  10. Bainbridge

    Bainbridge

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    One more thing: "stock music" and "film score" are different concepts. "Stock" is library music: it is not meant to be set to a specific picture. The drum loops and other kinds of loops found on Garage Band and other such DAW's count as stock sounds. "Film score" means there is a film, and the music is synchronized to that film. Likewise, there is a distinction between stock film footage and footage that has been recorded specifically for a single movie. If somebody asked me to write "stock music" for their film, I'd ask for clarification on what they mean. Do they want me to write music for their movie, or music that will be up for grabs on a library?

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