The main idea of your composition
Hello, my dear composers, I am Torea and this is an article from a series of three in which I will teach you in a basic but effective way to how to compose music for movies, for short films and for audiovisuals in general, in short, how to compose a soundtrack
What should your soundtrack talk about?
In the first place: inspiration. Without an idea to work on, we can not do anything, so the main thing is how to get inspired to compose music for my short film, where to get the ideas to make my film musical.
The best and fastest; Know and write down the story. If we are making music for an audiovisual I am sure that something happens in that film, there is a plot or an intention. The first thing is to discover what happens in our story and write it down. We can choose the basic scheme in three columns of introduction / node / and outcome, for example, and write what happens in the images. What kind of colors appear? Are they warm or cold colors? What kind of movement do the different characters or elements do? Fast and rhythmic? Erratic? soft and harmonious?
It is very important to speak with the director at this point to know his intention and what he wants to express with his film.
Limit your music
Secondly, we are going to limit and limit the options to choose.
By this I mean that it is important to set limits and choose the instruments and types of melodies and harmonies that we are going to use. To know how to compose a soundtrack we need to have a goal. For this we will take the list we have made in the first step and translate what we have noticed to a musical equivalent. If, for example, we have written “cold colors” this could translate into smaller scales. In the composition of which I speak in the video there are two ballet dancers representing two different roles, so we have two characters with delicate appearance, harmonious movements, white colors, fragility, dancing, etc. As a result I decided to make a composition with the piano as a central instrument.
In this way we will go little by little awarding instruments and the way in which they should behave.
Start composing your soundtrack
Finally we are going to compose or record a first idea.
Now everything is ready to write our first idea in music. You can write your music in a score, record it with a microphone or with your phone. The way does not matter, the most important thing is to do it.
What we are going to record is a representation of everything we have written in step two. Close your eyes and think about the list in step two. If we have written soft textures, melody that dances, cold colors, delicate music, classical dance … a heavy metal rock song would not be logical, right? Well you must compose something that has logic in relation to the two previous steps. It does not need to be something long or complicated, just something representative. Later we will develop it and we will work to make it a complete song with many other things, but start with just the idea.
How to compose a soundtrack: the structure
We have already seen how to get your first melodies and ideas to compose your soundtrack. Now we are going to use everything we have done in the previous article to be able to compose our music until the end. With this technique we will have a clear line on which to compose our music at lightning speed. These techniques work equally if what you are composing is a song, a waltz, a reaggeton or another kind of music, it is enough to extrapolate it. Read to the end because this time I have a very useful gift and if you have not seen the first part of the article, go up and read the part of “how to compose a soundtrack: the idea”.
Structure of our soundtrack
First of all, very important, we started to work our film music from the structure. We are composing for images, film, short film etc and therefore music must adapt and enhance the story. This means that we are going to take advantage of the annotations that we have made in our previous article to create a structure with their respective musical dynamics, thus having very clear what to do in each part of the composition. In a notebook, excel or wherever, we will write down the different parts of the scene of our film.
Let’s think for example that we are composing for a scene that lasts about 7 minutes. From minute 00:00 to 00:34 there is a character who walks. From 00:34 to 02:42 the character crosses paths with a dog. BUT from 02:20 to 02:59 our character sees a strange object approaching in the sky and in 02:59 to 4:54 everyone runs away. Well, within the same scene, we mark as part 1 all the time the character walks, and mark part 2 from the minute 02:20, because that’s when the change of feeling and dynamism of the scene begins.
In another article I will talk deeply about the dynamics and their relationship with music, but now we are basically interested in dividing the scene of our film into parts that are differentiated by the sensation that they should give. So write down in a column the parts and the time they start. In another column the sensations. Finally a third column where we will mark the intensity of emotion within the logic of the scene.
We should have something like this:
The dynamic line of our soundtrack
As you can see it is much easier than it seems and it will only take a few minutes to do it. And why do we do this? To obtain a line that will mark the dynamics of our composition and will indicate when to put more instruments: if it is better to use more subtle instruments such as the piano, or if instead we should use trumpets and drums (always respecting the list of instruments that We have done in the part “How to compose a soundtrack: the idea). This line will look something like this:
As you see, we have a line that marks the intensity, with its ups and downs, of the music in reference to the emotions and situations of the film. Magic, right?
Thanks to this second step we now have a guide line that is telling us that during the first two minutes we can introduce the main theme of the scene in a quiet way. Only accompanying the images, with few instruments, making rather long notes, with subtle instruments. From the minute 02:00 we have to make the music begin to rise in intensity and gain more prominence. We can do this by adding more instruments, marking more the rhythm of melodies and harmonies, adding some percussion etc. At the 04:00 minute we reach the maximum point, and from there the dynamic line begins to lower until the 06:00 minute, where the intensity is again the same as at the beginning. We could remove instruments, make the music more subtle, longer notes or any other technique of the thousands there. And we know all this by looking at the line.
Finally, you do not know how to make the table and the chart in excel? No problem, here is the gift, click on “how to compose a soundtrack – dynamic” and download the template that I used in this article and that I use myself. The document is fully editable and you just have to put it in your spreadsheet. You can use any, although I recommend using Google Sheets, which is completely free and online so you should not install anything on your computer and you will also have it in your google account, accessible wherever you are.