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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Screencast of Live Composing Under 8 Minutes

I was chatting with Alvin today and he gave me this link.

Here's an enriching and inspiring screencast showing a film composer creating a section of composition in under 8 minutes.

Amazing, isn't it?

Being a visual effects artist, watching him work reminds me of those videos recording artists that are involved in speed painting and speed modelling in digital art and 3D computer graphics. (Not a fair comparison of course, since mr Composer here is doing this in real-time while Speed painting and speed modelling video captures have quite a bit of time-compression, since the tasks take up much more time to achieve the final product).

One huge lesson that resonates when I watch this is the need for planning before actually executing.

I think the very important thing to notice, is that this amazing composer has a game plan in his head before he approach his workstation. It was with this big picture in mind that he could clearly plan out what he was going to play when recording his individual parts.

It looks like he has a little piece of paper where he has written down the gist of what he wants for certain key points in the music, and for certain parts.

Of course there were some experimentation and adding of other elements, but I believe starting the execution of laying down the main tracks and structure is another major part of the composing that got done in mr Composer's mind before the video even began.

In my many years of doodling and playing around with composing and sequencing software, I've been sequencing and composing at the same time. This is definitely a not efficient plan for me. I used to do 8 bars or a phrase, for all parts. Then from there I continue from the ending of that phrase and I proceed to the next.

With this method I experienced a huge amount of time encountering mental blocks and coming to dead ends where I either had to back-track and change the latest segment in order to get myself out of that dead end, or end up with a weak segment from there.

Another tendency I have which may not be a good thing: What I usually overdo is to thicken up the instruments too much at times, or try and make many things happen at once. It is usually a second line that plays parallel to the main melody or some part that tries to play something clever. Mr Composer has shown in the video that it does not have to be like this. Simple can be beautiful and effective at the same time. Less is more, some times.

Too many instruments doing their own thing may make the whole piece more complex (in a bad way) and distract the listener from the main idea that's going on. This will result in a less effective main melody.

With the kind of speed that mr Composer can churn out stuff while maintaining his high quality of work, it gives a big hint on the speeds expected of a composer for films, games and TV content these days. It seems like every minute counts and every move and decision he executes must bring him steadily closer to the final product.

I am truly amazed and humbled!


  1. Mmm this topic may be relevant.

    Piano part only for composition, then orchestrate later. This is what I'm working on with my teacher.

  2. Hey Mr Wolfy

    Yes I have experienced the power of drafting out the main ideas. It actually helps a lot , and keeps the though process focused and compartmentalised. Drafting stage I focused on the main idea and later on I just followed the road map which allowed me to worry about the smaller things, adding the finer touch, all within the big idea parameters I set for myself.

    In this manner I experienced very fast turn-around time, while not having to lose focus at each stage. it was quite amazing!