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Modern Film Composing

Lesson 9 of 17

Focus on Instrumentation

Will and Brooke Blair

Modern Film Composing

Will and Brooke Blair

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Lesson Info

9. Focus on Instrumentation

Lesson Info

Focus on Instrumentation

The source music the music that's playing in the jeep is already there let's assume that's there to stay omar selected that song for a reason it's sort of become a character for for the guy driving the jeep the driver um we need to be aware of that and work around it I'm going up over here let's try to find the key quick question get out the cue sheet now as you get into this and you go through it are you thinking about sort of the objective you have like a mission statement for the q she as you're going through it yeah that's a good question I think that I think this sort of mission statement or the role of the score that we touched on is identifying thiss tone you know and um and that will help steer us towards certain instrumentation. Um we haven't started pulling up instruments yet, but I think you know, we have identified the town at least of this first opening a vast desert shot and try to get an instrument chosen for for that atmosphere number one um yeah, but the tone in genera...

l and the kind of the role of the score to us it seems like mystery location you know, vast landscape followed by pretty quick, intense ramp of tension andan finished with a little more uneasiness and mystery as he drops to his knees you know, the challenging thing about a feature film is you're trying to you're trying to uh identify that tone that larger tone for this huge film on with tons of twists and turns probably, but but starting like a very general like mission statement in a very general idea of what score should be doing, it kind of keeps you on track and there's longer films allow yourself plenty of flexibility you know, to experiment to get off track a little bit to try new things but it is good to have you know, a general role of the score a gentleman mission status with that in mind before you start looking at instrumentation let's quickly find the key of the source music when identify literally what's going on in that source music musically is it in a very general sense what notes are they plan that's going to dictate kind of anything we do compositionally speaking, this is cool. I can see what you're doing a quick question. You open up your work station is your template under tracks loaded six hundred tracks loaded you guys open up your template. What normally do you have ready to go it's a great question usually keep it pretty simple that's kind of set this up real quick today um, we obviously right here have, um, the dialogue track um hopefully we have the temp track that are you know we can have in their toe mute out or reference um hopefully another sound design track you know, as many audio elements that we can get from editors sometimes just just really mix yes sometimes just the roughnecks anyway, as far as the template goes, we just got built this this morning, but we do have a go to one that's pretty someone of this where we might have a click tracker in there if we're going to need it a couple mano channels a couple stereo channels um the master fader an auxiliary track for what we're sending our many through whatever virtual incident we're using and then several many tracks and then if you need more, I'll just keep adding and adding, so we don't really start with this really big, you know, like pre load every time you go no and I know that that that is an approach which allow it I know just used especially for logic or um if you're doing a lot of the orchestrated sounds like you have your whole orchestra laid out already and I think we tend to just scaled back and just start with a very simple slate for president again thinking of it like thinking a pro tools just as a multitrack tape recorder as it is let's start simple I mean, does this film need a four track or an eight track or twelve or sixteen? We're just going to only add as we go this cool trick that brooke does we haven't always done is kind of a new thing he's color coded this will this will change and develop a little bit he has all these blank audio tracks ready to go that's why we're going to start recording instrumentation he's color coded them and he's got roughly what you know four five group together not just mine own stereo but yeah, I was going to leave those air gonna make up the different elements that we identified so this atmosphere we're going to jump into it some point it's going to have its own color code, so we're kind of looking even if it's more than one element, we might need three instruments to make up this sort of this lonely desert atmosphere we discussed and that's going to let's just say that's what is that baby blue? I think we're in aa green over angry, ok? And then you know the tension, the tension ramp that's going to take place that is going to take quite a few more elements that could be anywhere from, you know, four to ten tracts that will have its own sort of color coded group down below that just keep things visually organize for us is we're glancing at the mics window um yeah, but answer the question that we don't start with a big fully developed template we like to keep it simple until we need to build more and also every every kind of film is gonna have its own palate that we've built anyway that's going to be really specific so having everything preloaded a lot of times doesn't it's just not there goes the limited and maybe tow us you know we're working feel intimidating maybe it's like yeah I'm going to start to fill up all these tracks with something and we'd rather just add as we go and have some limitations as well yeah when identify the source real quick and we have gotten in situations where we know the source music is there and it's going to stay there and we've we haven't paid it much much too much mind until it's too late you know and if we don't know exactly what's going on there and the cell phone is not something we have to address but definite definitely the rock and roll inside of the jeep um it's good to even learn how to play a quick version of it know what tempo it's in and definitely know what key it's in um again before we decide anything compositionally what do you have a piano in whatever way now think about that it's not the coolest on hits we're just we're looking for aboutthe today minor it's just like a rock and roll girl this is just a placeholder sound for the moment so it's in a minor if we wrote if we sort of based the score around a home key so to speak um and we happen to be in the same key is a source music I think it would create his cohesion between the two that were not looking for you know like the source music kind of on ironic juxtaposition running counter to the mood of the rest of it next we also don't want to find a key it's like too overtly dissonant you know it could just be it could be too distracting tio uh you know, obvious of a juxtaposition I think way want to find something e the company is sort of contrast in key that I think we'll stay out of the way for the score generally speaking, khun b b we're not really going to do a big key change we're not going to go from, you know, a different home key to another to another we're in one kind of space and one kind of moment we don't want to shift around too much yeah we'll give you guys a heads up that we have about twenty five minutes to go here in this segment so I know we have some recording to d'oh that's how scoring films because there is crazy deadlines ok, cool so we are going to be in d minor um some atmosphere right and maybe just get skipped all itself in iris maybe yeah no no no let's get let's get yo we'll do we'll do the bubble for the victim drowned right and let's just find some years earlier that's called a desert atmosphere yeah and you find something that probably something we've pre built something that we've gone to before the elements we could start to stack and then while you're doing that, I'm going to make sure the bubbles in tune when you know what? It's okay, yeah, slightly out of I'm going to make sure the bubbles only so much into because this is going to sort of kind of planning one step ahead this will become the victim drone it doesn't need to be a completely harmonious beautiful leg lush perfectly in tune sound actually I'm gonna detail on purpose what sort of that has a little sort of creepy out of tune thing we're gonna layer that for the victim drone a few times that'll be something we do an iris um yeah there brooke was thinking a few times a month retirement we just we just learned several takes in a little bit cool and they don't always get some of the atmosphere out of iraq let's get the best down I'm cool is there something where you know that may have a little too much to it this is kind of we did before where we want scoop frequent it was it was two apparent right off the bat and brooks making it a bit more visible again it doesn't need to be noting it doesn't need to be melodic we're just like setting a place in a time in this place a bunch of a bunch of river a bunch of rebirth re verbal contribute to that vast open desert setting we're looking that almost had this label wild western turn that big could that work? I don't know it was like an animal screech you gonna pie for that note wear indio tio uh I'm not gonna go much higher than that we're just inactives auntie just again create a little atmosphere I think it's still a bit apparent in a bit much well, we'll revisit that when we mix but let's get it in there do you mind slide in the perfect way way I'm just putting a limit on the overall violins control the sound of it is here but we'll get into mixing later is that a good place to start is a good place to start you know this is gonna again kind of a continuous drone um knowing that will dip it in and out later during mixing it kind of starts right off the bat, huh? Oh I'm ready when you are just getting going and then fade on we're getting rid of the temp music going but now thinking about that hey you okay? We're happy here were accident or something okay should call someone getting up you're gonna be okay you okay? Are you sure you know ok but you're saying you're engaged in helping that he's gonna be okay just have the spirit is the better kept it going the whole time you noticed it was still going during the source music a little distracting doesn't need to be there is little contradictory to the source music that rock n roll in the g um I let it up um but the release of tension at the car came to a stop and I just brought a little bit back in um as we were still in an exterior shot kind of help with the transition indoors um yeah then let's put up the bulk of this time with you drawing for the victim doing put impact on the hand wrote a great point you um that's something we know we'll get that out of the way why once again this is just a punctuation on that the unknown hand entering the first shot on I think the timing of this again it's a percussive impact it's it's got a match what you're seeing it's got to match the frame that that hand sort of appears in this take there's a very good chance I'm not going to nail the timing of that book's gonna have the flexibility of course and pro tools to start moving things around and watch frame by frame where we did the sounds to land way down here so we're just going out and actives on curious with sound is it's just a it's a it's an impact on the body of a piano yeah fit inside of a piano you need to go way down way I'm gonna do that andy I'm going to do in the same key that way drop the atmosphere and just see what they're sort of married together you like this one better I say knock it down or even lower that's something we're were you to see this in the future you would feel that that would go to this job and it would be it's just like audio it's more like you know you feel it right now and what about actives? We're gonna put another one. Well, maybe well there was something so this severe impact sort of elemental probably two sounds layer let's drop this first level in it I've got a mark I can see right about here it was close you need a nudge prop he knows the switch to brains and let me close let's just watching things like do we put it right on the cut our you know sometimes here's, the thing that is missing and you're not sure where the hands going to end up and I think the punctuation needs to take place on a lightly lays it comes to a stop right hand itself now, bill that late it's a bit late it's a bit lazy. We definitely want to jump the gun and, you know, creeping into really, I think wheat and air when the specific timing specific frame specific rhythmic choices we air on the lazy side of things like, well, let the viewer you know, if there's something dangerous or something scary, let the viewer kind of like, take that in on their own and we just follow up with a bit of emphasis I think of this like, you know, when you stub your toe and there's this is to make sense and you know it's about to hurt so bad, but you're like but it takes a second to kick in that's how I sort of think of it, I think it's it's place pretty good it's not right when you see the hand. Well, I did move it up song let's see if that may be ok, I guess I later that like frames sooner sooner well, I mean, I like to, you know, player I want when I'm around during times like this I go and move it back you know to one two to three frames that time until it doesn't work and then I know ok well let's and then I'm you know I want to move it forward until I know it's reached a point where I've gone too far yeah on dh then had you back from that yeah ok yeah um this is up a little bit it was like right when the hand enters it's like right when you're seeing it is that too early or it feels punctuated by actually the dust almost like you see right before the hand yeah, right way the tale of an impact you helps ups the desperate yeah well brooke let's get one more element in there we better get what is everyone get with it there you think well, you know that's will find tune cem some placement a little later I want to make sure we've got to get going. Right? Yeah, we went omar to hear the sounds you know and this is going to think it's going to take to sounds to make it impactful um knowing that down the line like specific movement and rearrangement is always an option we want you we want to present to him sort of a relatively you know, fully realized idea what this should sound like what is that kick of something yes, I got about two river does not try this one it's got more of a knock which is cool I like it could be louder you go lower I'm doing like a big four actives you like that better than the first one. No, I think we've got we've got the low in sort of subway for impact of the first thing we did and this has more of a not too it more of an actual attack that's later those two and see where something you know brooke just witnesses to a quick nixon I would say I'd like to hear more of the knock that second one yeah, just very girl on the line there pretty clearly good good timing prize for that. Okay, it's cool that's too much. We always have a if there is time list if there's time let's go back will create some sort of little ramp not per custom but some sort of little anticipation of the impact right now for this first pass um the impact is there the next thing the next main element? Um yes, we've been used to using the bow with the bobo it again I used the word rusty it just sounds rusty it doesn't sound quite as refined as a violin it doesn't send um that's familiar is an orchestral instrument but it kind of does the work of an orchestral instruments and again chris, this is just sort of a drone I mean this's kind of it's a drone machine um one of these strings a little attitude which is kind of cool maybe we'll do like let's shoot for like four layers creating this drone element maybe a couple are arm or and soon and a couple of drifting right yes, I guess we should kill the house while we're yeah if we're recording up I need to set phone sent okay, cool. We're going to try to generally replacement on uh these markers you have uh when he gathers his footing the second time is, um second drone yeah um doesn't need to keep going all the way through yeah, I'm not going to watch picture as much but I'm gonna get him close and then we'll know jim if we have to yes and we're in the right are you ready? You know, we're going to try to get its up everything so slow his steps or swell I'm going too fast and it just felt rushed student and I'm I'm just going to slow it down I think it's sort of the tone itself kind of like the drone it kind of breaks up if it's both slower it was going to wear this three more times yeah, maybe two maybe three you want me to get a little bit? Yeah that's um you're going to do and I might actually get this one back into those were a little out of tune this is what I want to get more movement to brooke just kind of a little more back and forth okay one more let's do one more back forth I think that was almost working better than the cool brooks is gonna put a quick mix on those sort of like level out so I think that could be a bit more parent but a bit louder just in general I think those last two elements or a bit more you like this better yeah there's a bit more uh you know agitated for quick fades on these were not totally sure that where these gonna go quite the entrance is going to go um we need one more element that's non global just to glue it together with only four acoustic instrument you know, four layers of an acoustic instrument that we recorded I think this is an opportunity where really quick a virtual instrument of some sort could help. What you thinking? Well I'm just a quick um well okay this is just a little low and that's going to help helpfully that together and create like a little more ominous a little more doom you could bring that we could read the house sound back up I'm down to me and give it too much way have lost maybe no again you may be too much for you to track and we'll talk it down are you ready, brother that's perfect let's do it then it out yeah it's a bit big it's a bit robust for what it's doing we're going to figure it out later when we mix where you want this's just gluing the drones together those two spots sohan our started putting in and second theo punch me in on the second one is definitely not the right sound but we're gonna make it work way cool now while we're here way too big and robust of a based on books going we're gonna time later he's going to talk it down get it sit in but while we're on this sound this will be perfect for a much bigger part of the detention ramp so rather than jumping different sounds we know that this is going to work later on right around towards the tail end of the way hey you okay? Okay you slide that back it died out a little tiny repeat a little bit but I think it's just this constant thing that's just going do that real quick hey there let's undo and use what I hear you say let's hit undo and use what was there it was peaking I got it doing ok look this where we this is where we were tiebreaker because it's just the two of us and the books for this huge fade on it way need to cut on the tires not you know not to art of cut a tale of some sort because a little bit clutch still going a little long and we just need a a river they'll put something on the whole thing anyway you look at it a little reverb tales that doesn't you know it doesn't completely disappear in an unnatural way but it hangs there for a minute but we're pretty much going let everything get out of the way right there um but how do you feel about the drones themselves were kind of you see we're kind of bouncing back and forth the drones have all the elements they need things for right now we can work with him maybe let's put some reverses on this uh on this tension ramp right we do have a couple of those already we're buyers just about way lower we tried talking to actives go have different times so just one no well you have a laderman different active okay so the area I'm ready oh ok ok um yes slide it back with it it almost sounds like um tires skidding right into and there I mean it kind of works unintentionally um let's do one more under knocked of up and then we have to deliver tomar so we're thinking kind of one step ahead we've got to export quite a working version that we're in we're going to wait to hear some feedback from omar over lunch and address handful of revisions in additions probably let's go well that was what a year this one I'm not getting much it stood out of the tail it's cool it's got like this coming to a screen you know sort of thing that works with the car hey, you okay? Little ones that may be may be sorry hey you okay? Yeah, it does loop it has repeatedly I don't have one of those that's right? We should start exporting something for thank you that's like right on the um it's starting to work you know, we love the opportunity in this stage to deliver alternate versions to omar we don't have the flexibility right now but I think it's important that he would see you know, this is one approach that could work we would switch gears and do another approach kind of noah's film could have had multiple different approaches work this is starting to work for us. Um well probably dig into this over lunch a little more and we'll have an opportunity to hear feedback and, you know, mix that it refine but I think we need to send him something brooke, what do you think I'm so I'm trying to put a quick q on the globules and then maybe some reverb we'll see might be called his dirty and dry though, but yeah, you guys could be exporting this as you guys can see who are watching at home. We are trying to get this done in real time. It is not easy to do, but it just shows some of the restrictions that come when you're doing something like this, so but we have a lot to do. When we come back, we're going to jump in. We're gonna have that skype interview with omar. We're going to get some of his feedback on the work that we've been doing in this last segment.

Class Description

A film’s score is so much more than background music. It creates a mood, shapes the story, and influences the way viewers interpret the action. In Modern Film Composing, Will and Brooke Blair ("The Blair Brothers") will examine the art and illuminate the science of scoring moving media.

You can hear The Blair Brothers’ work in award-winning features (from indie films to Disney), documentaries, commercials, and television shows. 

In this class, they’ll share their expertise and help you:

  • Find the style and tone of music that best suits your film 
  • Create dynamic musical elements that fall within your budget 
  • Improve your collaboration with composers
During the class, Will and Brooke will also score two CreativeLive student films – one prepared in advance and one scored live on air – to lend an artistic insider's view to the film scoring process and results. The Blair Brothers will also discuss their professional trajectory and how they maintain careers as composers. 

Composing music for a film can be an intimidating process for both filmmakers and composers, in this class you’ll learn practical strategies for approaching your project and producing a final product that fits your artistic intention.

Class Materials

Free Bonus Materials

Cue Sheet Template.pdf

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Will and Brooke Blair - Home Studio Gear Guide.pdf

-UNTITLED- Film - Audio

GREEN ROOM Score Proposal.pdf

Wll and Brooke Blair -RESURRECTO- Pro Tools

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Will Blair

Thanks to everyone at CreativeLive for helping produce our workshop - and thanks for everyone at home for taking a look!