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Music Composition for Film and TV

Author: Ben Newhouse | Course Code: OCOMP-490

Learn to write music in the style of big budget Hollywood films and TV programs. Music Composition for Film and TV begins with an overview of important considerations for composing for film and TV, including how to balance music and dialogue, how to influence the audience’s emotional response, and how to create music that elicits a location or time period. Each week, the course will focus on a different genre of music for film and TV - themes such as romance, sadness/sorrow, chase, heroic action, action adventure, horror, suspense, magic, fantasy, and comedy. The course will analyze each genre in terms of melody, harmony, counterpoint, tempo, rhythm, and orchestration, providing you with a “recipe book” for writing for film and TV. The analyses form a collection of music templates that you will then apply towards writing a piece of music for each genre. The final week of the course traces the logistical path of a musical idea from initial conception to final recording, including composition, orchestration, and recording.

The course features scores from the biggest composers in Hollywood scores that are typically not available publicly. The musical examples include composers such as John Williams (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Hook, Schindler's List), Aaron Zigman (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Bridge to Terabithia, Flicka), Alan Sylvestri (Forrest Gump, Polar Express), Marco Beltrami (Hellboy, Live Free or Die Hard, iRobot), James Newton Howard (Atlantis), Pinar Toprak (Light of Olympia), James Horner (Braveheart, Troy), Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek), and Alf Clausen (Simpsons) who composed a piece specifically for this course! The goal of the course is to give you a thorough understanding of the compositional styles used in Hollywood projects, in addition to arming you with a 10-piece portfolio of film and TV music that you can use as demos.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • understand creative considerations for writing to picture, including balancing music with dialogue, hitting pictures cuts, and more
  • identify and apply harmonic devices specific to themes such as romance, sadness/sorrow, chase, heroic action, action adventure, horror, suspense, magic, fantasy, and comedy
  • identify and apply melodic considerations specific to themes such as romance, sadness/sorrow, chase, heroic action, action adventure, horror, suspense, magic, fantasy, and comedy
  • identify and apply rhythmic considerations specific to themes such as romance, sadness/sorrow, chase, heroic action, action adventure, horror, suspense, magic, fantasy, and comedy
  • understand and apply appropriate orchestration specific to themes such as romance, sadness/sorrow, chase, heroic action, action adventure, horror, suspense, magic, fantasy, and comedy
  • understand the logistical path of a musical idea from initial conception to final recording, including composition, orchestration, and recording
  • create a 10-piece portfolio of film and TV music in various genres for demos

Lesson 1: Creative Considerations in Writing to Picture

The Role of Music in Film
The Complete Audio Landscape 
Factoring in dialogue, sound effects
Highlight Visual Events 
* Other Roles of Music in Film 
* A Framework for Analyzing Scenes

Lesson 2: Considerations Specific to Television

The Television Main Title 
* Commercial Bumpers
The Role of Music Libraries
Strategies for Maximizing Licensing Usage
Similarities and Differences: Music in Film and Television

Lesson 3: Love Themes 1

Intimate Ballads 
* Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Write a Chord Progression for an Intimate Ballad 
Score Analysis 
* Summary of Observations: Intimate Ballads

Lesson 4: Love Themes 2

Intimate Ballad
Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet
Orchestrate a Love Theme for a Small Setting
Orchestrate a Large Statement Love Theme 
* The Positive Ballad Template
Score a Positive Ballad Scene

Lesson 5: Sad Themes 1

Sad Ballad 
* Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Write a Chord Progression for a Sad Ballad
Score Analysis
Write a Melody for a Sad Ballad

Lesson 6: Sad Themes 2

Sad Ballad
Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Orchestrate a Sad Ballad—Small Instrumentation
Score Analysis
Orchestrate a Sad Ballad—Large Orchestration
The Sad Ballad Template

Lesson 7: Horror and Scary Themes 1

Strategies for Creating Dissonant Harmonies
Write a Chord Progression for a Horror Sequence
Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Write and Sequence an Aleatoric Idea for Pizz Strings

Lesson 8: Horror and Scary Themes 2

Horror and Scary Themes
Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration 
* Compose Music using Octatonic Counterpoint 
* Bernard Herrmann’s "The Knife
"Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta 
Template for Horror Music

Lesson 9: High Intensity Action 1

Action Cue 
* Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Write a Rhythm Appropriate for an Action Cue 
* Score a High-Intensity Action Scene

Lesson 10: High Intensity Action 2

Action Cue
Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Orchestrate Material for Rhythmic Strings 
* Score Analysis Activity 
* High-intensity Action Template
Score a High-Intensity Action Scene

Lesson 11: Magic and Fantasy

Magic and Fantasy Cue
Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Magical Tone Colors
Magic and Fantasy Cue: Hedwig’s Theme
Score Magic and Fantasy Template

Lesson 12: Supernatural Grandeur

Supernatural Grandeur Cue
Analysis of Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Orchestration
Score Analysis
Orchestrate a Homophonic Chord Progression
Supernatural Grandeur Template
Film Scoring Demo
The Television Main Title 
Commercial Bumpers
The Role of Music Libraries
Strategies for Maximizing Licensing Usage
Similarities and Differences: Music in Film and Television

Ben Newhouse

Author & Instructor

Ben Newhouse has worked as a music supervisor and composer on dozens of television shows, films, and stage productions for media corporations including ABC, FOX, MTV, and Disney. He has arranged movie themes, sixties pop music, Broadway shows, and scored for several full-length feature films using Digital Performer.

In addition, as an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music, he taught music technology and production and authored the book, "Producing Music with Digital Performer," which is a required textbook at Berklee and other music schools.

As a composer during his college years at Eastman School of Music where he received his bachelor of music degree, his music was performed primarily by Eastman groups and groups along the East Coast. "Heat", a relentless overture for orchestra, received the Howard Hanson Award in the late 90s and was premiered by the Eastman School Symphonic Orchestra.

Presently, in addition to pursuing a MBA in Entertainment from USC Marshall School of Business, Ben works as a freelance music composer and post-production specialist for the music industry in Los Angeles, Boston and New York City.

Learn more about Ben Newhouse at www.bennewhousemusic.com

Music Composition for Film and Television by Lalo Schifrin

Learn film-scoring techniques from one of the great film/television composers of our time. Lalo Schifrin shares his insights into the intimate relationship between music and drama. Illustrated with extended excerpts from his most iconic scores, such as Mission: Impossible, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, and many others, and anecdotes from inside the Hollywood studios, Schifrin reveals the technical details of his own working approach, which has earned him six Oscar nominations, twenty-one Grammy nominations (with four awards), and credits on hundreds of major productions.

You should be able to read notated music, sequence mockups of your music in your home studio, and import a given QuickTime movie into your sequencing software for the purposes of writing music to the picture. Berklee Online courses that help prepare you for the work in this course include Getting Inside Harmony 1; notation software courses such as Music Notation Using Sibelius and Music Notation Using Finale; music production software courses such as Producing Music with Logic, Producing Music with Digital Performer, Producing Music with SONAR, and Producing Music with Cubase; Film Scoring 101; and Orchestration 1.

Sequencing/DAW software. Students should be able to record MIDI in a sequencer, send that MIDI to a software program that triggers samplers, and record the resulting audio as MP3. Students should also be able to import a QuickTime movie into their sequencer for the purposes of writing music to picture. Viable programs include Digital Performer, Logic Pro, Cubase, SONAR, and Pro Tools.Sampling library, such as Kontakt, any Vienna Symphonic Library, East West Quantum Leap, or Garritan collection. If you do not own a sufficient sampling library, you can purchase East West/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold Complete Berklee Edition at an academic discount, once enrolled in the course.Notation software such as Finale or Sibelius is recommended. Students who can produce scores in their sequencing (DAW) software or by hand can use their current technique.PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherMac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current version
Windows Vista SP2 or higher3 GHz CPU (dual core CPU recommended)2 GB RAM4 GB of free HD spaceDisplay resolution 1024 x 768 pixelsSound card with ASIO driversMIDI keyboard/interface (minimum 25 keys)For East West/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold Complete: iLok Security Key
Mac OS X 10.5 or higherIntel Mac2 GB RAM4 GB of free HD spaceDisplay Resolution 1024x768 pixelsCoreAudio compatible audio hardwareMIDI keyboard/interface (minimum 25 keys)FireWire portFor East West/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold Complete: iLok Security Key
  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
    $1,449
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
    $1,200 + $25

Winter Term Starts January 12 for Courses and Multi-Course Certificates


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Enroll by November 7 to save up to $300 on select Music Production, Songwriting, Music Business, and Performance courses.

Details