Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Can you compose a LOT of music really fast?


dansouth

Recommended Posts

I'm wondering how film composers write an entire score, sync cues to scenes, rework arrangements according to the director's feedback and suggestions, than record and edit the whole enchilada in three to four weeks. Are these guys taking some sort of vitamin that I don't know about? (One from Colombia, perhaps?)

 

What's the secret to producing a lot of high quality material at lightning speed?

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 29
  • Created
  • Last Reply
I have a friend who is quite talented & a fairly serious i man studio. I've watched him work. He's like a mad scientist. He literally records multiple tracks at once, midi is going, audio is going, cutting & pasting, drum track comes from another song, pre EQ'd, put the horns in now, double this midi, now it fires EP, etc. I watched him put together a world-class track in about 20 minutes, on the phone to a vocalist, starts another, vocalist arrives 15 mins later, does a dozen takes in 30 min., cuts, pastes, different vocal parts, transposes vocals to make harmonies. It was wild to watch. When its your profession & your good it comes together very fast even on this small scale. My music comes together linear, his comes together in a radial way. Gets bigger like something expanding. In my profession, graphic design, we do the same thing. A customer didn't like an idea but you know its a good one, you bank it, maybe recall it later. Maybe all you have to do is drop a different logo in, a different slogan, or text. even if you start from scratch your experience knows what presets to use, etc. I know guys that do a lot of Audio CD inserts who have templates. Drop in the picture, drop in the artists name, drop in the CD title, etc. People who have watch me comment afterwards, it seems they are just watching menus fly open & close. We have to watch that some time actually goes by, so that when you charge $400 for a full page ad that it seems like they got something for their money.

Steve

 

www.seagullphotodesign.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, I can't compose quickly. I recently did 5 minutes of music for a promotional video -- 1 main theme and 3 variations that were essentially mined out of the main theme. It took me more than 60 hours, from dicking around with musical ideas through final mixing and burning. When it was done (I also worked a standard 40 hours at my job that week) I thought, this, as much as anything else, is what stands in my way as far as making a living writing music. I have to find a way to be more efficient. Yeah, cannibalizing your own ouevre is one answer. In my case, developing better keyboard technique is another answer. I spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to play the parts right.
Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
Link to comment
Share on other sites

With a few exceptions, I almost always get the best results when I compose quickly...I find that if I spend too much time on something, I start microscoping like mad (Steely Dan syndrome http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/wink.gif ) and I almost never end up with something that I like under those circumstances.

 

As a rule, if I don't get what I'm looking for really quickly, I put it down and go on to something else. Not just compositions,either - I'm the same way when I'm recording. Either I get it within the first few takes, or I stop trying and come back to it later.

 

dB

:snax:

 

:keys:==> David Bryce Music • Funky Young Monks <==:rawk:

 

 

Affiliations: Cloud Microphones • Music Player Network 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to baldly contradict myself, but I agree with Dave, too...

 

In the past, I've noticed a pattern in my own work wherein I labor intensely on something that eventually proves itself to be somewhat worthless, compulsively fine in its detail but lacking that central, wholesome spirit that defines a good tune. Then, shortly thereafter, something falls on the floor, fully formed, is relatively easy to produce, and quickly becomes something I like. Makes me think the the long, laborious process that resulted in the discarded tune was somehow a precondition for the easy and inspired one, the keeper.

 

Originally posted by Dave Bryce:

With a few exceptions, I almost always get the best results when I compose quickly...I find that if I spend too much time on something, I start microscoping like mad (Steely Dan syndrome http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/wink.gif ) and I almost never end up with something that I like under those circumstances.

 

As a rule, if I don't get what I'm looking for really quickly, I put it down and go on to something else. Not just compositions,either - I'm the same way when I'm recording. Either I get it within the first few takes, or I stop trying and come back to it later.

 

dB

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to work very fast- but in bursts. In other words it's cooking inside, then it boils over all of a sudden. The bursts used to be VERY widely spaced, but they keep getting closer together- "it's fractal, dude". One factor for building up speed is having more earlier material/experience to draw on, another factor is setting deadlines for myself. I find that I meet the deadlines no problem, it's a matter of setting them more and more frequently.

 

In Keyboards (German) magazine, Hollywood composer Uli Reese says that Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek team of 10 composers does 20-25 minutes of symphonic music every week for the show.

 

-CB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I don't have to do it every day, I can and have worked like this for extended periods when business was really good. To paraphrase the Wizard of Oz, "And all with no more musical knowledge or talent than you.. But he's got one thing you haven't got... a deadline."

 

Like the old saw goes, work exapnds to fill the time allotted. When there's no time, it still gets done somehow, and I concur with Mr Bryce... frequently the best work gets done at warp speed. I think that when decisions have to be made quickly, your instincts take over and you make better decisions.

 

- Jim Bordner

 

This message has been edited by Guest Room Warrior on 09-18-2001 at 09:58 AM

Jim Bordner

Gravity Music

"Tunes so heavy, there

oughta be a law."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember working (as a floor guy) on a Mike Post session a while back that illustrated to me just how amazing some of these composers are. It seems that at lunch after the morning session, the producers told Post that they didn't like the score and wanted something new. He comes back from lunch and dictates a new score to the players, one section at a time, from the podium. I got a glance at his notes, and they weren't much more than a bunch of scribbles. It was a lot like the scene in Amadeus where Mozart is dictating the Requiem Mass to Salieri (except it wasn't the Requiem Mass http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/wink.gif). It was amazing to watch.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Simple answer:

I can write fast if I need to; I rarely couldn't cope with a deadline. I just switch my brain to "fast" mode and think, OK, I need to go from A to B in this time. This way, you have a kind of virtual "priority list" in your head that tells you what needs to be done and in what order. This has happened a lot of times, mainly if I'm writing for theatre or TV. I even built a little reputation for being able to do things fast.

 

But I HATE to do so, and when it comes to my own music, I take my time, and it comes out much better IMO.

 

marino

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since I don't write for anyone else, I have never worked under a deadline. However, I find that some songs come to me lightning fast and others take months of tinkering to get something passable. . . Usually upbeat songs that start out with a pattern and not much of a melody are tough to complete . . . The ones that start out with a melody are much easier to finish.

 

My 2 cents.

 

Albert

Gear: Yamaha MODX8, Mojo 61, NS2 73, C. Bechstein baby grand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have two answers to your post...good question, by the way.

 

Answer #1: Yes, I can write very, very fast. I usually turn to little mental templates when I've had to do this. Quick melodic device that can be repeated and modulated, easy arranging that's standard (strings do this, horns do that, blammo). I find that the deadline forces me to be improvisational, though, in regard to the theme...there's no fucking around with making it "perfect".

 

Answer #2: Someone already said the real answer. Regardless of the name that rolls by when the credits are shown, most "big time" composers I know make liberal use of several people's talents. They may do an initial melodic line or something, then all the "fleshing out" is done by their minions, usually with little or no credit. Also, the assistants will write sub-themes for different areas.

 

I've known people who worked for Hans Zimmer, Mike Post and several others who worked in this way. By the way...there's nothing wrong with this, per se, though it sounds a little lacking in integrity. The composers have a job to do, and this is how it gets done. Often, those underlings move out on their own to become successful in their own right.

 

The big thing you have to differentiate is "writing" versus "producing". I am blown away by people who do post production with scores, ADR and all that. They work at blistering speed, and their gear requirements are much more stringent as a result compared to people who record music only.

 

- Jeff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

dan-

 

you have to rent the edward scissorhands dvd. it has a danny elfman audio commentary throughout the movie (without dialog- only danny & music). he says some great stuff.

 

one thing he mentions is that there are really only 2 themes in that film, just different variations and combinations through the film. "edward's theme" played with different instruments and slightly reharmonized was used as the theme for winona's mom, for instance.

 

of course, it's not like he only wrote 2 cues, and of course, he is danny elfman.

 

 

that might help cut down your composing time, good luck with the rest.

 

 

 

This message has been edited by wager47 on 09-20-2001 at 01:09 AM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A friend of mine works for a very well known film composer. The "film composer" has anywhere from 5 to 10 ghost writer's helping him score. They don't get any credit, and the pay isn't anything to write home about, but he calls it experience...

 

Most well known film composers set themselves up that way.

 

Imagine

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

My own two greatest hindrances to working faster:

 

1 - the myth of inspiration. waiting for that mystical intuition of breakthrough creativity.

 

2 - too many choices in terms of gear, mixing options, toys and tools to fiddle with.

 

Not that inspiration and all the toys are bad - not at all. It's just my use/misuse of them leads me down the path of the never-ending project.

 

To help me get on with the job, I've taken to setting myself challenges - like attempting to produce a totally finished piece in 2 hours. Compose, perform, record, and mix. I'm thinking of starting a small group of like-minded musical types to do the "challenge" thing together and compare notes/results.

 

Even if the two-hour method does not result in my best work, I've found it a great method for building my stockpile of material that I can raid at will for later, more carefully produced projects.

 

Like the old saying about death, a deadline concentrates the mind wonderfully.

 

M Peasley

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My own two greatest hindrances to working faster:

 

1 - the myth of inspiration. waiting for that mystical intuition of breakthrough creativity.

 

2 - too many choices in terms of gear, mixing options, toys and tools to fiddle with.

 

Not that inspiration and all the toys are bad - not at all. It's just my use/misuse of them leads me down the path of the never-ending project.

 

To help me get on with the job, I've taken to setting myself challenges - like attempting to produce a totally finished piece in 2 hours. Compose, perform, record, and mix. I'm thinking of starting a small group of like-minded musical types to do the "challenge" thing together and compare notes/results.

 

Even if the two-hour method does not result in my best work, I've found it a great method for building my stockpile of material that I can raid at will for later, more carefully produced projects.

 

Like the old saying about death, a deadline concentrates the mind wonderfully.

 

M Peasley

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My own two greatest hindrances to working faster:

 

1 - the myth of inspiration. waiting for that mystical intuition of breakthrough creativity.

 

2 - too many choices in terms of gear, mixing options, toys and tools to fiddle with.

 

Not that inspiration and all the toys are bad - not at all. It's just my use/misuse of them leads me down the path of the never-ending project.

 

To help me get on with the job, I've taken to setting myself challenges - like attempting to produce a totally finished piece in 2 hours. Compose, perform, record, and mix. I'm thinking of starting a small group of like-minded musical types to do the "challenge" thing together and compare notes/results.

 

Even if the two-hour method does not result in my best work, I've found it a great method for building my stockpile of material that I can raid at will for later, more carefully produced projects.

 

Like the old saying about death, a deadline concentrates the mind wonderfully.

 

M Peasley

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I can write/record fast when I have to, but rarely do I find myself in that situation ...

 

For me, I'm sure it stems from my training as a journalist, a trade whose motto (or one of them) is, "if it ain't fast, it ain't good."

 

I don't suffer from "writer's block," ever. The key for me is, put something down on paper/tape/computer, ANYTHING. Don't be a perfectionist and attached to the first idea, and know you can go back and change it. And if you have the option and it just ain't happening, like Dave says, walk away from it.

 

Perfectionism comes later, when form and structure are well defined, and even then, I have to decide when to let go. An externally imposed deadline may dictate that, or it may be something I have to decide.

 

Aside from that, speed comes from skill and practice ... Like I have nowhere near the proficiency at composing/recording to do that "radial" method B3 Guy talks of ...

 

But I CAN (or have been able to in the past) rush back from an event, start writing a nut graph for an article while listening to a tape for a closing quote, and call a source for fact-checking or another view, all fairly simultaneously. Alas, I don't love having to slam out articles in 90 minutes or less, which is why I no longer work as a newspaper reporter ...

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can compose music fast...no guarantee that it'll be any good though ;)

 

What's the secret to producing a lot of high quality material at lightning speed
My theory is that most composers of that caliber are well versed and formally trained in both theory as well as composition. Also, they are just plain gifted - probably honing their craft more consisitantly than us mere mortals.

the myth of inspiration.

Inspiration has always served me better than writing at gunpoint. My favorite tracks are (almost) always those that appear in matter of hours, not weeks. Even through the recording process. It's a zen thing for me.

*

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it's a really bad habit, but I mainly work at "my best" (ie, get it done) under crunch time. Especially, here at my day job, doing 3D graphics and animations, I rarely get really going before it's absolutely necessary. Not cause I'm lazy conciously, just I can't concentrate at the same intensity. I'll fiddle with some tiny detail for weeks, and all of a sudden, when I have like 20 hrs left, it clicks....

 

I did a recording session a year ago and same thing. Normally, I spend endless time figuring things about, flushing out ideas, but here we had to record a cd worth of new materials (for one of those spec commercial-literally, commercials and business- cd's), and my writing partner was up for the weekend. We came up with 8 songs, composed, recorded, and mastered in 2 days. and we didn't work non stop...

 

I hate this about me, but it comes in handy....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it's playing a keyboard into a notation software program, the answer is yes. If it's writing long hand using pencil and paper, the answer is no.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like the old saying about death, a deadline concentrates the mind wonderfully.
I perform very well under deadline, and I'm just lost without one. That's why I have to work for a company, and am not in business for myself: I need external pressure. It's good when I can find a way to be under deadline. For instance, it was good for me to submit something for KC#5 last year: even if I'd missed the deadline, or got told "this doesn't meet our standards" :D , at least I got pushed to finish something. Likewise with V.7: I'm hoping I can come up with something for that (and I know what you're thinking: "Don't bother" :D ), but even if I can't, it won't have been a waste of time working on it.

By the way, I saw recently where someone said that it wasn't really that hard to come up with a movie's worth of music, and so I've tried to pay a little more attention. I can hear where there are a lot of repeating themes in a movie, like one that might signal the entrance of a character or foreshadow an event, that would cut down some of the composition time. It helps to have a two-year-old who likes to watch the same movie over and over again, to catch things like this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, this post is a little long in the tooth. Anyway...

 

I work in spurts, too. I usually work on 3-5 pieces at a time. I find it SO much easier to do with hardware sequencing, though. Once an idea is done (with basic instrumentation), I can easily and quickly bump over to an empty song/pattern and start anew. I pretty much just tack on measures as I "compose" more (so an 8 bar piece quickly becomes 16, etc.).

 

The fast pace really works with pattern based sequencing. Once that core piece is done, copy the basics over, strip the nonessentials (even your main part), build the next part, redo the basics, and viola!, a brand new section. However, if you know what you want from the door, it's also pretty quick to just play it straight through, and edit later.

Peace

If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking 'til you do suck seed!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to disagree with what's been offered so far but I think there may be a mistaken focus in the question.

The trick may not be in speediness but immersion. (Astor suggests something along this line).

 

I'm not a busy film/commercial producer but I constantly think about music (original melodic/harmonic themes, treatments of standard ideas, etc. in all sorts of styles & genres) & I keep notes & examples on my ideas.

Working in this way might allow someone to have at hand a pile of ready-to-go motifs that eliminate the need to start from scratch or search for inspiration to find the right idea to fit a particular project---you'd already have it in progress!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

James Horner did an interview in Keyboard magazine in which he says that he will start composing a score the first time he sees a cut of the film - using only a pencil and manuscript.

Composers with his talent and experience must have very good "ears" to write notation directly to score. He did mention that his excellent education at music college prepared him well for the task.

 

Check out this film composers forum discussion Film Composers Forum - CSUN 2003 . It's got some great insights on the business and the creative demands that film composers are faced with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dan,

 

I write music for documentaries, and can't afford a staff. I ask the client lots of questions about the style (is there a piece by another artist like for this application, etc.), and try to go with the first thing that pops in my head. If I sit and try to tweak it to perfection, all is lost time-wise. I will use loop cds for the drums/percussion, and try to construct cues with as little numbers of tracks possible. It would be a luxury to build an arrangement opulently, but most situations require me to practically "run in place". If the client wants more tweaking to "make it special", I can usually talk him/her into giving me the extra time to do it.

 

So, the best bet is to: a) Learn your arsenal of sounds well (try to get the names of the synths in your sequencer program, and get overly familiar with your sample cds). I use the Kirk Hunter Virtuoso String Library in an e6400, and have come up with a "template" of sounds I like for basic string scoring. b) Trust your instincts and lay down ideas fast, don't try to fool with each note and make them "perfect". c) Make time to compose your own stuff for your own project, so you can take the time you need to enjoy the process without feeling like you are throwing it together.

 

If you are using Logic with the EXS24, having everything in that format cuts out a lot of time in the composition process. I love the Emu, but load time, even from the internal HD is slow. I also use the EXS24, and am very happy with it.

Composer/Performer at Roger Hooper Music

Product Trainer at CASIO

www.rogerhooper.com

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...