7 Solid Film Composing Tips for Musicians

Here are some tips and techniques from Daniel Le Blanc, Hummie Mann, Stephen B. Ward, Kristian Sensini, Peter Dowsett, Jonathon Cox, and Anthony Annucci…


7 Solid Film Composing Tips for Musicians


“Understand that the composer’s role is to support and enhance what is on screen. Work around dialogue and allow room for sound effects. Too often composers will not leave enough room for other elements and then end up being mixed lower in the final version to the point where the score doesn’t work and is just distracting.”
~Daniel Le Blanc

“There is the constant discussion about the use of melody in film scores these days. While it is true that scenes can be scored without a melodic element, I feel that it is faceless music. If I were to ask you to think of your favorite film score, you most likely would hear the melody in your mind. To me, melody is the face of music (when there are no lyrics, of course). That does not mean that every film score should be a “Gone with the Wind”, big melody score, but to me, a score without strong melodic content is less memorable and less effective. Think of all the great themes that Herrmann and Williams have composed that we can immediately recall. So, my scores always have a strong melodic identity.”
~Hummie Mann

“Before I begin writing specific cues, I like to sketch musical themes for the main characters, big ideas and major events of the film.”
~Stephen B. Ward

“When I write music, I don’t start from a melody, a leitmotif, but from a ‘good idea’ – it could be an instrument, a particular sound I have in mind, a special harmonic progression, a rhythmic pattern or even an ‘odd noise’ that I can use as a musical instrument. Then I write a short sketch of the composition, how it starts, how it evolves and grows, and how it ends. This gives me the unique gift to write at the end really interesting and fascinating melodies.”
~Kristian Sensini, Composer

“Make music that inspires you. If it touches you, the chances are it will resonate with others.”
~Peter Dowsett

“I think that some of the most brilliant music being written today is music for film. Sure, there are instances where a score sounds very blah or has a cookie- cutter feeling to it. Sort of like, ‘OK, I’ve heard that score twelve times.’ Sometimes, though, a score can really knock your socks off. It’s moments like that that keeps me moving forward.”
~Jonathon Cox

“Study the hell out of your craft. Learn to use the tools and technology of your trade so you can be efficient and productive. There are likely to be a horde of people who know how to do what you do. Distinguish yourself from the mob by being yourself and knowing the creative and business aspects of your discipline. If you’re not a great communicator and collaborator, learn to be one. And don’t take feedback personally. You’ll be a lot more successful with that kind of an approach. Most importantly, go after the projects about which you are most passionate and knowledgeable. That passion will translate into everything from your client pitch to the creative process all the way through to a finished product that will thrill your client and have them wanting to work with you again.”
~Anthony Annucci


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