MTV Placements

Earlier today I had my first ever music placements on a TV show. I didn't know that the episode of the show with our music was airing so I didn't get to actually see it when it first aired. Maybe I'll catch a replay one day.

The show was Parental Control on MTV, Season 6 Episode 53. There were actually two songs used in the episode, "Everybody" and "Hidden Beauty", both of which were co-writes with my best friend Joel Shoemake. We're both pretty happy to say the least!

Scoring to Film, Part 2

I had a few moments so I thought I'd try and finish up the story on my first film scoring experience. The last post ended right as the scoring process was about to begin, so that's where we'll resume.

I was expecting it to be a challenging experience, and IT WAS. VERY MUCH SO. But as much as it was challenging, it was every bit as rewarding. In fact, I would even go so far to say that of all the projects I've been involved with, and all the music that I've written, I don't think I'm any prouder of any of them than I am of what I accomplished on this documentary.

You see, it's not just about the music. While I am very proud of how the music sounds and the parts that I wrote, I'm much more excited about how the music FEELS. That was probably the biggest challenge I faced throughout the project.

It's easy to write a piece of music, at least, I think it is. Now, that doesn't mean each piece is good. But I can sit down with a guitar and within 5-10 minutes, I can typically have the basic outline of a song started. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can do this. It comes with years of practice and dedication.

But to sit down and write a piece of music that:

a) Is high quality and performed well
b) Fits within the parameters that the producer has given you to work with
c) makes the listener FEEL something as they watch and listen

Well, that's a whole other ball of wax. For me, the first two were nowhere near as difficult as the third one.

I can remember a couple of nights where I spent probably 3 hours or more trying to write a piece of music that was around 30-45 seconds long. I would come up with something that met the first two criteria, but when I listened back to it while watching the scene, I would say to myself "That doesn't make me feel anything... ok, it makes me feel like crap 'cause I've spent over 3 hours on this and I'm nowhere close to what I want it to sound like!" Yeah, I occasionally talk to myself. :-)

Part of my struggle, especially early on in the process, was in the way that I typically write music. When I'm "riffing" on a guitar, I'm not really watching anything, so I'm not really concentrated on if the riff makes me feel anything for a visual cue. Continuing with that theme, from a physical standpoint, my actual recording setup made it difficult to record acoustic guitar while I was actually watching the scene. I eventually just settled on "writing" while watching the scene, then when it was time to record, I wasn't concerned about watching, as I had already "validated" that the music had the necessary emotion behind it before I began to record.

One thing that really helped me in dealing with the producer was drawing on the experiences I've had co-writing with my best friend Joel. I speak in numbers and he speaks in colors. Because of that, I've learned how to communicate better with people who deal more in generalities and less in specifics, stuff like "Can you make the song sound more orange?" Or in this case, "Can you make cue 10 sound like a Jewish song, but not really too Jewish?" Let me tell ya, THAT one was a challenge, but I think it may be one of my top two or three cues in the whole film.

We were on a pretty tight deadline. Even though I was only responsible for about 12 minutes worth of the film, I still only had about 2 weeks to get it completed. One thing that I wasn't sure how to anticipate would be the revisions process. Fortunately for me, nearly every piece, if not every piece, that I submitted was generally accepted for use in the film. There were usually a couple of tweaks here or there, but I don't recall any major re-writes taking place (thankfully!).

One thing that I learned throughout the process was that in my heart, I felt a feeling of completeness, a feeling that to me was saying, that I was/am doing EXACTLY what I was created and born to do. And by that I mean, working with music in general, not specifically scoring acoustic guitar music to film.

I guess that's it for now. Please feel free to leave me comments or questions and I'd be glad to answer them.

Until next time...
- Big Blue

Scoring to Film, Part 1

It was about a month ago that I was first approached about writing an acoustic guitar score for an indie documentary film. I was very excited about the possibilities but also, a bit nervous as I had never attempted to do that before. I got the opportunity thanks to my friend Lydia Ashton, an incredible composer that I met via the TAXI online forum site (see, ANOTHER reason to consider TAXI). She and I had been working on another project together (which I'll blog about in the future once it's all finalized) when she asked me about assisting her with a documentary that she was working on.

Before I could start on it, I had a phone call with the producer of the film. We went over some of the things he was hoping to hear music-wise in the section that I would be working on, as well as some general background info. It was a great conversation and I was excited to get started right away.

Later that night he sent me a video with the time code display box of the section of the film that I would be scoring, along with some examples of songs/sounds that he was looking to hear for various sections. I also had a copy of the entire film with the temp tracks in place so that I could hear a general idea of what the producer had in mind.

Before I actually spoke to him, I did some research to try and get a gauge on the types of questions I should be asking. I wanted to be prepared. So based on that research, one of my first questions to him was "How married are you to the temp tracks that you used?"

I had read a few stories where some producers had gotten so used to the temp tracks that anything else that was used, just didn't work for them, and they would end up licensing the temp tracks in the end. So I wanted to know what kind of battle I was in for. And while he did like the feel of the temp tracks, he was certain that he wasn't married to any of them.

So armed with the freedom that knowledge provided, I began the process of writing the score.

More to come in Part 2!

Until next time...
- Big Blue

My 10 Step Plan to Success

About a week or so ago I made a post on a forum that I'm a member of and I thought I'd copy it over to here and make a blog entry out of it. The context of the post is that I had been notified by one of my music libraries that I had at least 2 tracks placed in an episode of MTV's Parental Control.

So here is what I called Big Blue's 10 Step Plan to Success

1) Join TAXI
2) LEARN as much as you can about where your skill sets and ability levels are at. Be realistic, drop your ego and LISTEN.
3) Write material that falls squarely in your realm of expertise, and produce that material at the highest quality level that you possibly can
4) Submit that material to the appropriate listings
5) Don't wait around to see if you get forwarded or returned and immediately begin to repeat steps 2 - 4
6) When you get a forward, immediately repeat steps 2 - 4
7) When you get a return, immediately repeat steps 2 - 4, but pay special attention to step 2
8) When you get a deal, be polite, courteous, and professional with the client, ask them if you could send them more material and then repeat steps 2 - 4
9) When you get your first placement, scream like a little kid, jump up and down in your kitchen, make a fool of yourself in front of your wife, then repeat steps 2 - 4
10) When you get your royalty statements, don't focus on the numbers to the left of the decimal point, be grateful that there even IS a decimal point, then repeat steps 2 - 4

I'm sure there are other methods and plans you can use to find success for getting your songs placed in Film/TV but this one worked for me. But just like with any weight loss program you may try, individual results may vary. But I'm fairly certain that if you follow those steps and work hard, you'll see the same results.

Until next time...
- Big Blue