Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring


Authored by Ben Newhouse


Course Code: OCOMP-590

Next Semester Starts
June 26, 2023

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring provides the student with methods and exercises for expanding their compositional voice. You will learn to refine your artistry and focus on yourself as the “whole” composer. You will explore the compositional voices of other established composers and how they played out in their careers. You’ll also complete a series of structured exercises to explore your own musical and cultural background and learn how that might inform your own unique compositional identity.

Read More

The course will be structured in three sections. First, we will discuss the relevance and application of compositional voice in the film scoring industry. This discussion will bookend the course, occurring in lessons 1 and 12. Lesson 1 will define composer’s voice and discuss its role in the film scoring industry. Lesson 12 will discuss strategies for applying one’s compositional voice in a collaborative environment. Lessons 2 and 3 will focus on composer biographies. These lessons will detail successful composer’s life stories and provide examples of their music. The student will identify what musical characteristics constitute that composer’s voice. Lessons 4-11 will focus on compositional exercises to expand the student’s compositional voice. The lessons will discuss melody, harmony, rhythm, tone color, form, workflow, recording techniques and performance techniques, with the goal of experimenting with new ideas.

During each lesson, there will be reading and discussion threads. There will be a graded assignment at the end of each lesson that requires the student to apply the lesson concepts in a new composition or essay. Each lesson will include a graded quiz based on the lesson’s reading.

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

  • Study successful composers, their biographies, and their music. Be able to identify their compositional voice and what makes their music unique.
  • Identify one’s own compositional voice as it exists today by reflecting on one’s musical influences and life experiences.
  • Experiment compositionally to develop and expand one’s compositional voice. 
Read Less


Lesson 1: Composer’s Voice

  • Compositional Voice Definition
  • Your Personal Definition of Good Music
  • Composer’s Voice in Film Scoring
  • A Market-based Definition of Compositional Voice
  • Assignment 1: Definition of Good Music

Lesson 2: Composer Biographies I

  • John Williams
  • Rachel Portman
  • A R Rahman
  • Danny Elfman
  • Assignment 2: Original Music and Reflection

Lesson 3: Composer Biographies II

  • Thomas Newman
  • Philip Glass
  • Trent Rezner and Atticus Ross
  • Hans Zimmer
  • Composer Biography Takeaways
  • Assignment 3: Personal Experience Composition

Lesson 4: Expanding Your Melodic Voice

  • Common Scales
  • Additional Scales
  • Altering Common Scales
  • Brainstorming New Scales
  • Melodic Phrasing
  • Opportunities for Experimentation
  • Assignment 4: Melodic Writing

Lesson 5: Expanding Your Harmonic Voice

  • Most Common Chord Types
  • Additional Chord Types
  • Progressions
  • Cadences
  • Assignment 5: Progression Writing

Lesson 6: Expanding Your Rhythmic Voice

  • Meter
  • Rhythm and Perceived Tempo
  • Syncopation and Expectation
  • Rhythm and Phrasing
  • Increased Rhythmic Complexity
  • Assignment 6: Rhythmic Writing

Lesson 7: Expanding Your Tone Color Voice

  • Orchestra and Choir
  • World and Rare Instrumentation
  • Synthesizers, Samples and Software
  • Popular Musical Styles
  • Creating your own Sounds and instruments
  • Assignment 7: Instrument and Tone Color Writing

Lesson 8: Expanding Your Form Voice

  • Compositional Structures
  • Form
  • Linear, Circular, and Static Evolutions
  • Common form tricks
  • Assignment 8: Multiple Sections Writing

Lesson 9: Expanding Your Compositional Workflow

  • Composing at the Piano
  • Composing with a Guitar
  • Composing with a Notation Program
  • Composing with a DAW Program
  • Miscellaneous Workflows
  • Assignment 9: Compositional Workflow

Lesson 10: Expanding Your Recording Techniques

  • Samples and DAW Software
  • Recording Musicians
  • Combining Musicians and Software
  • Effects Processing
  • Assignment 10: Recording Technique Writing

Lesson 11: ExpandingYour Performance Techniques

  • Strings
  • Winds
  • Percussion
  • Piano
  • Assignment 11: Performance Technique Writing

Lesson 12: Applying Your Voice within Project Constraints

  • Find Inspiration in the Story
  • Find Inspiration in Client Feedback
  • Cultivate Relationships with Like Minded Collaborators
  • Offer Clients Multiple Musical Solutions
  • The Value of Personal Projects
  • Take a Long View to Your Compositional Voice


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Students should:

  • Have a basic understanding of music theory and be able to read notated music.
  • Be proficient in the composition software (this is not a technology course).

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Film Scoring Rig: Click here for the full software and hardware requirements for the program.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Ben Newhouse

Author & Instructor

Ben Newhouse's commercial music has been used in more than 3,000 episodes of television, including projects for ABC, CBS, NBC, and most major cable networks. Newhouse's music is the soundtrack for the Disney DVD logo, several independent films, and Las Vegas stage shows. Newhouse was awarded the BMI Pete Carpenter Fellowship in 1999.

Read More

The University Continuing Education Association awarded his Orchestration 1 course "Best New Online Course" in 2009, and Berklee awarded Newhouse a "Distinguished Faculty Award" in 2015. Newhouse has also guest lectured at Pescara Conservatory in Pescara, Italy and Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, Australia. He authored Producing Music with Digital Performer (Berklee Press), which has sold 15,000 copies, as well as the more recent Berklee Press book, Creative Strategies in Film Scoring. He has been quoted in multiple publications, including Electronic Music magazine and

As a composer during his college years at Eastman School of Music where he received his bachelor of music degree, and graduated magna cum laude, 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 1990s and was premiered by the Eastman School Symphonic Orchestra. Newhouse is also a full-fellowship master's degree alumnus of the University of Southern California, completing an MBA and a Business of Entertainment graduate certificate program with the School of Cinematic Arts.

Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring can be applied towards these associated programs:

Associated Degree Majors


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

Get Info