Category: General

A Roundup of Black Friday Deals

Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve gotten a number of emails in the last few days with all sorts of early holiday promotions. Here in the U.S., these typically begin the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday. Here’s a partial list of discounts. Go get yourself some cheap merch!

  • Native Instruments is offering 50% off all Komplete instruments and effects, 50% off Maschine expansions and 50% off Traktor Pro 2, through November 26.
  • EastWest also has 50% off most of their virtual instruments, everything but the Complete Composers Collection and Hollywood Orchestral Woodwinds. Their sale lasts all the way until December 31st.
  • Waves is having a Black Friday sale but are keeping the details secret until November 23rd is giving away their One Knob: Louder compressor/limiter for free and offering up to 80% off the rest of their collection. Looks like most bundles and plugins are 40% off.
  • Sweetwater’s 8 Days of Black Friday Sale has lots of great deals on hardware and software. Highlights include Toontrack EZdrummer for $29.99 and 70–75% off select Alesis products.
  • Slate Digital is offering all their products for 20% off throughout November, including their new Virtual Tape Machine, which is getting great reviews. Plus, if you own other qualifying Steven Slate products you’ll get an additional $50 off VTM.
  • Lastly, Plugin Alliance is having a sale this week: 30% off one or two plugins and 50% off three or more. Follow them on Facebook for even more deals.
  • EDIT: Look for other deals from Ilio, Soundiron, McDSPeSoundz and Vintage King Audio (for those of you looking for hardware).

Again, this is just a small sampling of this weekend’s sales. If you know of any other good ones, leave a comment below.

Steal Like an Artist

A good friend of mine recently loaned me this excellent (and short) book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by writer and artist Austin Kleon. In it, Kleon lists the things he wished he’d learned in college, things like “Don’t wait to know who you are to get started,” “Be nice (the world is a small town),” and “Creativity is subtraction.” As you can tell from some of my earlier blog posts, I’m especially fond of that last one. Limiting your options and stripping your work down to its essence are great ways to raise the quality of your output.

Obviously, with a title like Steal Like an Artist, Kleon spends a good part of the book talking about stealing (er, borrowing) effectively, and has great advice about doing so ethically and in a way that serves you and your work. His central thesis is that nothing is original and all great work is inspired by something else. The trick, he says, is to borrow things you can legally and ethically use, like techniques, moods and colors, and then work with them until you make them yours. Don’t try to become John Williams, take some aspect of his work that moves you and filter it through your personality and experience. Learn from him and then move on. Continue reading

Creating the Best Score for Your (Documentary) Film

Photo by Steve Rhodes

I stumbled across this blog post on while wandering the Web. It’s an interview with six film composers about the peculiar art of scoring documentary films. They talk about the idiosyncrasies of the music in documentaries, when they typically get brought on board, schedules and budgets, and much more.

By being involved earlier I had a longer time to conceive of the music…. You can’t speed up the process of just ruminating on something creatively.”

As a composer currently working on two docs, I found numerous bits of wisdom to take away. One of my favorite parts was the lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of temp music and how best to deal with temp scores (always a hot topic). They also talk a lot about the power of music in documentaries and what it can bring to the table—great fodder for your next negotiation with a client who’s balking at your bid.

While geared toward documentary composers, there’s plenty in the post for dramatic composers and filmmakers as well. Much of the discussion centers around the composition process and every film’s need for great music. These are universal topics, and the composers in question speak eloquently about the subject. All in all a worthy read.

Composers Confab: Creating the Best Score for Your Film

The Myth of Writer’s Block

Photo by Michael Connell

I was having dinner with some composer friends a few weeks ago and the subject of writer’s block came up. Mostly, we talked about the fact that we rarely get it. Perhaps because we’re all media composers and seldom have the time for such creative obstacles, we’ve all developed strategies to deal with the occasional lack of inspiration. It seemed to me a great idea for a post.

To make it even more useful, I decided to enlist the aid of a few compatriots. Tim Huling was one of my composition teachers and was there at the table for the original conversation, so he was a natural. He sent me the basic list, which I elaborated upon and added to (and he added that some of the ideas originally came from Michael Rendish, Assistant Chair of Berklee College of Music’s Film Scoring Department.) SCOREcast founder and creativity blogger Deane Ogden sent me some excellent thoughts, despite being in Asia for a movie premiere and impending marriage(!). And Jeffrey P. Fisher, author of Fish(er) Tales and the Moneymaking Music Tip of the Week, generously donated some wisdom as well. Thanks to all of you!

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The Score, with Edmund Stone

I’m amazed I hadn’t heard of this radio show yet, but I discovered it this past weekend on our local Seattle Classical station. The Score is produced by All Classical Media in Portland, Oregon, and hosted by Edmund Stone. The weekly shows take on various topics, such as treasure hunters, the founding of America and Shakespeare at the movies. It also occasionally focuses on a particular composer or features interviews with current composers like Alexandre Desplat and Ramin Djawadi.

The program is unique in my experience as it centers its attention on the music. It often showcases unavailable, out-of-print or difficult-to-find scores. For example, in the most recent show featuring music from the various Titanic movies and television series, Stone broadcast music from Howard Blake’s 1979 score to S.O.S. Titanic, which until now has never been heard on its own.

The show’s website,, has archives of the show going back to March, 2011. Check it out and make use of this wonderful resource.

Music and Memory

You may have seen this video already, as it’s been making the rounds on Facebook and YouTube in the last few days. It’s not specifically about film scoring, but it is an amazing look at the power of music. It’s part of the Music & Memory project, dedicated to improving the lives of the elderly and infirm through the use of personalized music and digital technology. Visit their site here.

The Descendants: Scoring with Songs

Gabby Pahinui (and family), who's music is featured in The Descendants

I saw The Descendants a couple of weeks ago. It’s an excellent film, and much has been made about the fact that it uses no score. Instead, the soundtrack employs music by Hawaiian artists, much of it featuring existing recordings by some of the greats of Hawaiian slack-key guitar. This is entirely appropriate given the film’s subject and locale, and this strategy has been praised by Hawaiian musicians tired of Hollywood’s overuse of surf music and hula dancing to portray the islands. The music is beautiful and quite effective in the film, but I couldn’t help but notice a few of the disadvantages of creating a soundtrack using only songs.

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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.

Best Scores of 2011: Update

Dario Marianelli. Image courtesy of

I’m still working my way through the contenders for the best scores of 2011, but I wanted to post an update. First off, thank you all for your recommendations, both in the comments and offline. I’ve seen a lot of great movies and heard some wonderful scores. Here’s what I’m liking so far:

  • Hugo, by Howard Shore: A beautiful and moving score to an amazing film. Shore is absolutely at his best here, marrying music to picture in an almost magical way. I found Hugo to easily be one of the most rewarding scores I’ve heard this year.
  • Jane Eyre, by Dario Marianelli: I love the way this score rides a balance between a period Classical sound and a more modern minimalism and dissonance. Marianelli is exceptionally good at this, and has carved himself a unique niche in the contemporary film world. His score for Jane Eyre is dark and brooding, like the film, but it’s also quite lovely. And in a time when scores sound more and more alike, Marianelli has crafted a truly distinctive-sounding work here.
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