Category: Resources

The Art of Music L.A.

Diego Stocco, one of the presenters at Sound=Music.

First, apologies for not posting in a while. I’ve got a symphonic debut at Benaroya Hall (Seattle’s version of Lincoln Center) on March 18th, and I’ve been incredibly busy proofreading the score and editing parts. But it’s generated a lot of post ideas, so there’s some good stuff coming down the pike.

I just heard about an awesome-looking series of events called The Art of Music that take place a few times a year at the Bleicher Gallery in Santa Monica. The next installment of this educational and networking event, entitled Sound=Music, focuses on composers whose work blurs the boundaries between sound design and music. Special guest Diego Stocco, famous for making instruments out of trees and flaming pianos, will lead a “master class” on sonic innovation. And at precisely 7:14, composer Nat Evans, known for his mesmerizing and evocative soundscapes, will perform a poetic accompaniment to the Santa Monica sunset.

The event will also feature excellent networking opportunities, an open bar, a raffle (allegedly with prizes you actually want), and some great giveaways. The event is limited to 150 attendees and usually sells out, so reserve your ticket now.

A Wealth of Info for Finale and Sibelius Users

I assume many of you out there use either Finale or Sibelius for your notation needs. If you’re not aware of fellow Seattleite Robert Puff’s blog, Of Note, you should be. It’s a treasure trove of tips and tutorials for both programs.

Recent posts include quickly deleting unison notes in Finale, two methods for creating Grand Pauses in Sibelius, and techniques for creating both boxed and free-floating aleatoric notation in Finale. If you’re like me, mastering your notation program can be a difficult path. Robert is a tremendous resource for anyone needing more out of their software!

How To Write Three Minutes of Music a Day

Here’s an excellent post from Deane Ogden (of SCOREcast fame) on getting the most out of your creative day and maximizing your composing time. Deane discusses topics like preparing for work, composing tools, scheduling your time and avoiding TV and meetings.

This is essential reading for anyone who’s serious about their composing career. While you’re there, Deane has many other great articles about creativity and the music business to inspire you. But be warned: he tells it like it is and doesn’t sugar coat the truth. If you take his advice you’ll likely end up working a lot more than you are now, but you’ll work smarter and faster, and likely improve your music and your career immeasurably.

Free eBooks on Composition and Orchestration

Image courtesy of Astroturfer, ©2010

I recently discovered this wonderful set of ebooks by Montreal composer and professor Alan Belkin. He’s got books on musical form, counterpoint, harmony and orchestration, as well as several other articles and essays. I’ve spent the most time with the orchestration book (since I’m currently orchestrating a symphonic piece for a March performance), and it’s excellent. I found it to be simple, straightforward, and full of great advice. Some of it is fairly common-sense and basic, but I never mind being reminded of the fundamentals, especially for something as complex as orchestration. The other books seem similarly well-written and instructional.

Incidentally, Belkin also authored the annotations to the online version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration, available at

All of Belkin’s writings are available at his website.

Filmtracks Soundtrack Reviews

In researching the best scores of 2011, I’ve been doing a lot of rooting around on the internet. One of the sites I’ve spent a lot of time on recently is

Filmtracks, produced by Christian Clemmensen, is a rather gargantuan and impressive undertaking for a single person. Clemmensen has allegedly written over 1.3 million words of soundtrack commentary in the site’s 16 years of operation. Filmtracks generally reviews more recent movies, especially top box-office draws. It does cover some older scores, but per their guidelines, rarely anything before 1975.

Clemmensen is clearly a lover of great film music, and is well-versed in it’s language and traditions. He can be harsh at times, but personally I appreciate a more stringent reviewing style as long as the reviewer has done their homework and uses consistent standards. As close as I can tell, Clemmensen does just that. He’s tough, but fair, and definitely does his research. He reviews the scores both in relationship to the film and standing on its own (a valid approach, since in my mind great film music must work both ways). In some cases, such as the Lord of the Rings scores, he even reviews the various editions of score CDs available—helpful if you’re looking for the best version of the soundtrack to buy.

All in all, I greatly appreciate the work that Filmtracks does, and I often consult the site before or after seeing a film to find out if their experience matches my own. I usually learn something in the process.

Finding Scoring Jobs Online

Photo by Paul N

Here’s another great post from Film and Game Composers, listing sites where you can search for potential work. Well worth a read:

Possibly one of the most asked questions “I need experience in scoring to get a proper job doing it, but I can’t get experience, as I can’t find anyone anywhere who will let me score for them.”

We’ve all had this problem. Heres a list of sites where you can find jobs online.

Read the full article at Film and Game

SoundWorks Collection

Here’s a cool website to check out: The site is mainly geared towards sound designers and not composers, but there are still a decent number of videos about music alone (or more often, sound and music).

Of particular note, there have been excellent videos recently on the music of Cars 2, The Fighter and 127 Hours, as well as the video games Angry Birds and Halo Reach. One quibble: clicking on Videos > Original Soundtracks doesn’t bring up a complete list of music-based videos, so you’ll need to search through the archives a bit to find the videos on film music.


Here are some links to helpful resources out there on the Net and in the world:

General Film Scoring

On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring, by Fred Karlin
Composing Music for Film, by Jack Smalley
The Emerging Film Composer: An Introduction to the People, Problems, and Psychology, by Richard Bellis
The Reel World: Scoring For Pictures, by Jeff Rona
Complete Guide to Film Scoring, by Richard Davis
Getting the Best Score for Your Film: A Filmmakers’ Guide to Music Scoring, by David Bell

Film Music Magazine
Film Score Monthly
ScoreCast Online
Getting the Score: A Filmmaker’s Guide to Film Scoring
Robin Hoffmann: Daily Film Scoring Bits
New Film Scores
The Score with Edmund Stone
Film and Game Composers: Interviews with Composers for Media
Filmtracks: Modern Soundtrack Reviews
Deane Ogden: composer, author and creative advocate
Fish(er) Tales

Composer Studios

Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program


Beyond Functional Harmony, by Wayne J. Naus
Contemporary Harmony: Romanticism Through the Twelve-Tone Row, by Ludmila Ulehla
Counterpoint in Composition, by Felix Salzer
Melody in Songwriting: Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs, by Jack Perricone
Jazz Composition: Theory and Practice, by Ted Pease

Alan Belkin: Writings on Musical Craft

Orchestration and Arranging

Instrumentation and Orchestration, by Alfred Blatter
Study of Orchestration, by Samuel Adler
Principles of Orchestration, by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
The Guide to MIDI Orchestration, by Paul Gilreath
Arranging Music for the Real World: Classical and Commercial Aspects, by Vince Corozine

Alan Belkin: Artistic Orchestration
OF Note—Sibelius and Finale Tips

Northern Sounds Forum

Recording and Mixing

Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio, by Mike Senior
The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, by Bobby Owsinski
The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, by Bobby Owsinski
Behind the Glass—Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits, by Howard Massey
Tape Op: The Book About Creative Music Recording, edited by Larry Crane
Basic Mixing Techniques, by Paul White
Basic Effects & Processors, by Paul White

Inside Home Recording
Pro Sound Web
Production Advice
The Home Recording Show
Bobby Owsinski’s Big Picture Production Blog
TweakHeadz Lab
Home Studio Corner
Logic Pro Help

Sound on Sound magazine
Tape Op magazine

Sound Design

Designing Sound
SoundWorks Collection
Brendan J. Hogan’s Blog

Groups and Organizations

Seattle Composers Alliance
The Society of Composers and Lyricists
Nashville Composers Association



Comments Off on Resources Posted in

Why Hire a Composer?

Photo by Daehyun Park

I recently helped judge a best original score competition for a small local film festival. The entries were the definition of “a mixed bag.” Some were clearly the work of gifted film composers, while others appeared to have been recorded by someone’s boyfriend’s band. The differences between the two approaches was striking.

The film composers knew when and where to place music, and what to write to support the scene. The music followed the arc of the scene in what was sometimes a magical way, and several created an entire world for the movie, giving it a strong sense of place, time, or mood. The music enhanced the films in question, and elevated them above what they could have been otherwise. These scores sometimes even took a mediocre film and made it significantly better, causing it to feel more professional, more exciting, and better executed than it actually was.

Continue reading