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


Cody said...

Just came across your Twitter account and from there found your blog.


You are doing EXACTLY what I want to be doing and what I'm working towards. I'm currently starting back at your first post and reading through to the present(slow day at work!) and it's great.

Inspiring, engaging, informative, and fun. I'll be a regular visitor now and probably a regular comment poster. I think reading your blog is giving the push to really get my own blog going as well as reminding me that if I work at it, I can turn my passion into my career.



Big Blue Barry said...

Hey Cody,

First off, thanks for your kind words. Second, thanks for taking the time to read through the whole blog.

I'm glad that something I said was able to be inspiring to you. That's one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place, in the hopes that somehow, my life could end up having a positive impact on someone.

- Barry