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 of Film Music Composition

The Role of Music in FilmIdentifying a Scene's Underlying EmotionsThe Complete Audio LandscapeBalancing Music with Dialogue and Sound EffectsMatching the Contour of Visual Events in a SceneAssignment 1: Writing Music to Picture

Lesson 2: Ballads of Love and Positive Emotions

Intimate Ballad: Harmony, Melody, Tempo and RhythmOrchestrationScore AnalysisWrite a Melody for an Intimate BalladAssignment 2: Score an Intimate Ballad

Lesson 3: Ballads of Sadness and Sorrow

Hellboy's "BPRD Suite": Melody, Harmony, Tempo and RhythmOrchestration in the BPRD Suite"The Face of Pan"Write a Chord Progression for a Sad Ballad"Lente" from Schindler's ListBraveheart"Across the Stars"The Sad Ballad TemplateAssignment 3: Score a Sad Ballad

Lesson 4: Intense Action and Chase Music

Action Cue: "The F-35"The F-35: Harmony, Melody, Tempo and RhythmOrchestration in the F-35Listening ActivityAction Cue: "Just Do It"Score AnalysisThe Action/Chase TemplateAssignment 4: Score an Action/Chase Cue

Lesson 5: Heroic Music

"Flicka Theme"Listening and Discussion: "Grow to Hero"Light of Olympia TrailerWrite a Heroic MelodyStar Wars (Main Theme)Score Analysis: "Atlantis"Heroic Cue: Star Wars 2Write a Heroic Chord ProgressionThe Heroic TemplateAssignment 5: Score a Heroic Scene

Lesson 6: Adventure Music

Polar Express ThemeKensington GardensWrite an Adventure Melody, Countermelody, & Harmony"Journey to the Island"Score analysis - Star TrekThe Adventure TemplateAssignment 6: Score an Adventure Scene

Lesson 7: Moderate-Intensity Action Music

"The Myrmidons"The Myrmidons: Melody, Harmony, Rhythm and TempoOrchestration of The Myrmidons"Helicopter Ride"Add Rhythm to a Chord ProgressionHigh Wire StuntsScore Analysis of "Helicopter Ride"The Moderate Intensity Action TemplateAssignment 7: Score a Moderate Intensity Action Scene

Lesson 8: Suspense and Mystery Music

"Deadline"Deadline: Harmony, Melody,Rhythm and TempoOrchestration in DeadlineDeadline vs. Sad BalladsA Dramatic Progression"Evil Doers"Score Analysis: Alien 3"Stealing the Game""The Package"The Slow Drama TemplateAssignment 8: Score a Slow Drama Scene

Lesson 9: Horror Music

"Raptor Attack"Raptor Attack: Harmony, Melody, Rhythm and TempoRandom Textures in Raptor AttackOrchestration in Raptor AttackWrite a Chord Progression for a Horror SequenceIndiana Jones and the RatsScore Analysis: "Harrier Jet""Candles in the Wind"Horror TemplateAssignment 9: Score a Horror Scene

Lesson 10: Playful Comedy Music

Comedy Cue: Toy Store JamToy Store Jam: Harmony, Melody, Rhythm and TempoOrchestration in Toy Store JamWrite a Comedy VampComedy Cue: "Triscadecaphobia"Score Analysis: "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium"Comedy Cue: Alf Clausen Car SceneComedy TemplateAssignment 10: Score a Comedy Scene

Lesson 11: Magic and Fantasy Music

Magic and Fantasy: "Hedwig's Theme""Hedwig's Theme": Melody, Harmony, Rhythm and TempoOrchestration in "Hedwig's Theme"Score Analysis: "Remembering Petticoat Lane"Magic and Fantasy: "Mermaids"Hook: "The Next Morning"Magic and Fantasy: "Mahoney's Debut"Write and Orchestrate a Magical Chord Progression CopySupernatural Grandeur: "Atlantis"Magic and Fantasy TemplateAssignment 11: Score a Magical Scene

Lesson 12: Practical Logistics of Film Composition

The Composer and the OrchestratorFrom a Composer's Sketch to an Orchestrated ScoreMusic Supervisors and Music EditorsMusic Supervision and EditingThe Recording SessionMusic PreparationTimelinesAssignment 12: Create an Audio Film Scoring Demo

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

Fall Term Starts September 29 for Courses and Multi-Course Certificates


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