My First Soundtrack Release!

Whilst you can’t yet watch the film, I wanted to celebrate my first short film score with a free downloadable soundtrack.

Friend Request is a 20 minute short film that I wrote 15 minutes of music for, in just 2 weeks. This is technically my second film score, as I actually started working on a feature film before this. However, that’s still in post production, hence I’m posting this one first. For the feature, I was writing an average of 5 minutes of music a week, so I was really pushing myself with Friend Request. Professional film composers write on average, 2 to 3 minutes of music a day, which is what I always try and aim for now. Although working a full time job obviously means I can’t quite produce as much per week as they would.

It was just 18 months ago that I actually started learning how to write music, so the completion of this film has been a big milestone for me. And I was lucky enough to watch the film at the O2 Cineworld in London a couple of weeks ago, where hearing my score on the big screen was such a wonderful experience and a great way to mark this achievement in my composing career.

We’ll soon be submitting the short to film festivals, when I’ll hopefully be able to share the film with you. But until then, I hope you enjoy the music, and please do share it with your friends 🙂

Learning to Write Music Through Playing

I can now play all 5 movements of Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis Suite!

I started with the first movement back in May which I managed to learn in an hour. However, the latter movements proved a lot harder, particularly the 2nd and 4th as there are so many arpeggiated semiquavers that I just didn’t have the strength or stamina to play them. After 4 months of practicing technical exercises to build up my finger strength, I still struggle with these sections, but I have managed to successfully play them through a few times and have committed the whole suite to memory.

One of the most useful tools I’ve found with learning to play other peoples music on the piano, is that each piece is almost like a score study. I spend so long looking at the music and how the different parts work together and have noticed myself applying the techniques I am playing into the music I write.

I read an article that talked about how great composers learn and become great composers. One of the points was that they study other composers scores and learn from the greats that came before them. Well this is exactly what I feel I am doing when I learn a piece on the piano. Obviously the sheet music for a piano piece is far simpler in comparison to a full orchestral score (when comparing the same piece of music), but the piano is a great place to start, and learning to play it has taught me so much already about composing.

I’ve also been learning from Bear McCreary’s Battlestar Galactica Piano Book and have recently ordered John Powell’s piano book for X-Men III: The Last Stand. Powell and McCreary are two of my favourite composers, so it’s great to have the opportunity to learn from their music.

Keeping Up With Technology

I recently spotted an advert online seeking a composer for a short film. The job was unpaid but you needed to submit some of your work, as well as list your experiences. Well most of my work is still in progress and my experience is lacking, therefore I decided to write a score for the teaser trailer that was included with the advert. I’d give myself one weekend to complete the project. If the piece ended up being good then I could submit it with my application, and if I got the job then brilliant, but if not then it would still be good practice. After all, I didn’t feel 100% ready to write to picture, so it was more of a test if I could actually do it.

I imported the video into Logic Pro X and begun exploring some of the different electronic instruments in Logic that I could use in my score. I don’t have the equipment to record live instruments or the money to buy amazing orchestral samples, so Logic’s electronic instruments seemed like a good way to go. However, problem one: the video wouldn’t play back smoothly. A pain in the ass, but… I guess I’d just have to work with it. It wasn’t long before I was stopped in my tracks again. This time Logic simply stopped working. Why? Because my MacBook Pro was sizzlingly hot! The spinning wheel of death came on screen so I couldn’t do anything. Normally the problem is solved by waiting… So I waited… In fact I even went and washed the dishes! I came back and there was no change. So it would seem my 2010 MacBook Pro isn’t cut out for scoring movies! I thought it would be me that wasn’t ready to score to picture, but it turned out it’s my computer that isn’t ready!

500x_macbook-on-fire

Unfortunate I can’t afford a new Mac at the moment, but I’ve still got plenty I can get on with in terms of writing and learning. Nevertheless, I’m going to have to solve this problem eventually, as I won’t make any progress as a film composer if I can’t even score a one minute video!

My First Piece

So I’ve finally finished the Write Like Mozart: An Introduction To Classical Music Composition course and have learnt a lot over the 6 weeks. At the end of each week I had to complete part of a composition. Each one had some big restrictions as I was already give the chord sequence and the melody or bass line, however, the assignment for the final week was actually a proper composition as I had no starting point, just a few things that needed to be included. Here is the brief:

Compose a work in rounded binary form.

• The work can be in 3/4, 4/4, or 6/8 time.

• It should last between 20-30 bars.

• It should be scored for piano with a solo instrument, which can be concert flute, C trumpet, oboe, or violin.

• The following must be included:

1. One deceptive cadence, half cadence, and perfect authentic cadence;

2. At least two different texture types – homorhythmic homophony, melody and accompaniment, polyphony, or monophony;

3. One sequential progression;

4. One basic progression that has been elaborated with diatonic substitution, chromatic substitution, and/or secondary dominants/leading tone chords.

I must admit though that I failed at the second point, as my piece is 36 bars. I thought about cutting it down by removing some sections but then it would be missing the other requirements. The first 8 bars contains a half cadence and uses polyphony, the second 8 have a secondary dominant, the next section has a sequential progression and uses a different texture type, and then we’re back to the A section which we had at the beginning but which ends with a deceptive cadence, leading onto a perfect authentic cadence. Therefore, I decided I was happy with it being too long, since this is what I’d call my first proper composition where I actually understood what I was doing. Plus I managed to put into practice a lot of what I’d learnt, which was why I wrote the composition in the first place.

I felt like a proper composer writing this piece as I was sat in front of my desk with my accordion strapped to my chest, a notepad in front of me for working out chords and chord sequences and my iPad which I was using to notate the score.

So here’s the piece that I wrote for piano and violin. The sounds used are the synths from the score writing software I was using, so you have to use your imagination a bit to make it not sound like a robot is playing it! But I’m thinking about adapting it for accordion at some point, when my playing skill is good enough to do those scale runs, and then I might upload a recording.

Classical Composition 1 (Part 1)

 

Classical Composition 1 (Part 2)

Classical Composition 1 (Part 3)

Let me know what you think as I’d appreciate any thoughts/feedback.