Composing : FANTASTIC advice from Lukas Kendall on how to become a film composer by Amanda Toney

Amanda Toney

FANTASTIC advice from Lukas Kendall on how to become a film composer

Sabrina Pena Young

Great post Shannon! I think as a composer in general it helps to be very, very versatile. There are so many more opportunities working today in music with projects that involve new technology, gaming, webisodes, even corporate, that anyone who really LOVES to write music that syncs to visuals can make a living. It might not be Hollywood, so it's not for everyone, but I think that any talented, versatile composer with great communication skills can really enjoy a successful career today. And even though there seems to be this huge "don't work for free" backlash right now in the music community, it really is essential to gain valuable experience or just get involved in projects to challenge yourself musically. Plus, as you move on in your career, there will be more opportunities to make money as you gain experience. To be honest, I still take on freebies that really seem interesting to me and really break new ground in music technology (like a social media opera I'm a part of). Plus, as you go, you get smarter about how you work and find ways to streamline the composing process without losing quality. Learning how to make great music on a deadline is a great skill for composers.

Joel Irwin

There is technical versatile and business versatile. In the former - you want to be broad across genres... many limit themselves to writing orchestral cues - that is not versatile, especially if they do it on a synthesizer. Learn to write for orchestral acoustic instrumentation (the real instruments using their 'idiomatic' styles). It is not just about how to learn the midi implementation of your samples, but how the actual players can fully use their instruments. Then move to something perhaps more structured with melody and countermelody. Try some non-film classical styles, it will help your film scoring - write a string quartet. Experiment with vocal pieces and learn how to write in four part vocal SATB harmony. Then learn other genres - the more you can demonstrate, the more versatile you are - try jazz, try r&b, try church and Christian style, heck even try childrens and Christmas style. I have have a piece I wrote that sounds like Sesame Street. Then understand that electronic music production gets you only so far and that if you want to grow towards the higher budgeted films, you should have experience with writing for live ensembles. I for example, have taken to doing both simultaneously for the last two or three years. I use Sibelius to score both live charts and electronic delivery. May appear 'unorthodox' but I can deliver electronically and then in the future hand out charts without rewriting. I have Cakewalk Sonar Producer but haven't used it for a while. Also, by writing with Sibelius even for electronic delivery, it makes it easier to get more works critiqued in academia (I take composing classes in Houston Community College) since the music people (as against the audio engineering people), don't often understand and read piano rolls. As far as business versatile - that is hotly debated. The are 'trends' but the rules can be learnt and broken. The typical trend for composers is to travel down a road by connecting with one or more filmmakers/directors who are starting themselves. Than as the director's career takes off, they often reuse those who have helped them get to where they are. Many famous examples of this. But what you have to decide on is the hotly contested issue of payment and when you want to get paid. Some composers say heck no and will not compose anything without getting paid. I am on the other end of the spectrum and have defined my 'fence' to sit in between shorts and features. I currently score all my shorts for imdb credit only. They don't generate revenue and I will not ask for payment if the rest of the crew is not getting paid as well.

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