score How Do You Find Composers?

Title pretty much says it all. Where do you look for your composers and at what stage of the process do you tend to start looking. I'm super interested to see what people's habits are, what websites they frequent and whatnot. :)

Also, is original music something that you find worth investing in or are you more likely to find affordable library music?
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
I've gotten composers for a score through personal contacts and recommendations.

I haven't used library music, but I HAVE licensed a lot of music directly from performers, often (although not always) for little or no money. In several cases, my colleagues and I have found terrific musicians on YouTube, then reached out to them directly to get permission to use their work. This includes both original work and performances of classical music.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Personal contacts and recommendations. I have never frequented websites looking
for a composer. I start looking during the early stages of pre-production. I much
prefer original music and feel it's an important investment.
 
I'm lucky that I have a lot of really talented musician friends and contacts, but I usually only contact them when I need a pre recorded "song" or "track" to lay over a scene, if that's the vibe I'm going for.

The reason being is I am very picky about originally composed music. It's an incredibly hard skill to master and very few musicians, no matter how talented, have the experience necessary to deconstruct a scene and figure out the best piece of music to write for it, and be able to understand the necessary dynamics, and how to use themes.

Chances are your talented friend doesn't have dozens of years of film composing experience, and he/she will just write what they think is cool or beautiful, or come up with a cliche sound that they've seen in another film, etc.

That being said, it really depends on the type of film you're making. A modern trend in indie film these days is to not have any non-diegetic music. Films have become quieter and tend to lean toward "realism." Bombastic John Williams scores are not necessarily in style anymore. Basically you just need to ask yourself what tone you want for your film. If you NEED an original score, and you have the budget, hire a professional, maybe someone who's scored something you've heard and liked in the past.

Edit: sorry if that sounded preachy or doesn't apply to you, but I was just venting some thoughts I've never expressed outside my own head before :)

Also, I usually start thinking about music VERY early on because maybe a I want to write a long opening scene with a series of establishing shots and music playing over it, or maybe I'm better off skipping the music and jumping right into the scene. Those are decisions I try to make while writing, not in the editing room.
 
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There are also many composers that offer their services on this very site, like every few days. Look through some older posts.


A modern trend in indie film these days is to not have any non-diegetic music. Films have become quieter and tend to lean toward "realism."
Interesting. First time I've heard that term, so I looked it up. Are there some examples of movies like that that stand out to you?

Maybe trailers should trend that direction. Seems every movie trailer has that big orch blast....."Bum..........buuum.........buuuuum! Heck, I parodied it, myself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=1jHTdtIEuuI


I remember when video games, like Resident Evil and Silent Hill pushed the trend of ambient alien tones and drones. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT is a good example of that. In that case, I really find the score effective. However, as a movie fan, many of my friends have conversations about how a lot of scores suck, nowadays. We wax nostalgic about how hummable the older themes were, like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK or THE TERMINATOR. Once in a while, a score like INCEPTION's takes me by surprise.

Alternately, I loved the sparseness of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It depends on the movie, the style, the mood, etc.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I've had 4 composers so far tell me they were going to make me a track for a 3 minute short I did, so far none of them came through. One strung me along for months.

So I just use library tracks.. Hell maybe i will just teach myself the piano and get a keyboard. At least I would have someone reliable then.

It would probably take me 6 weeks to learn this, I have a lot of natural talent in many areas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxnL7UrkmY4
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
A modern trend in indie film these days is to not have any non-diegetic music. Films have become quieter and tend to lean toward "realism."
A term I didn't know either.

Of the top of my head I can't think of any films that use diegetic music;
defined as music represented as coming from instruments in the story
space. I know of a few that have no score at all. What modern indie films
did you have in mind?
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I was watching a cartoon Archer last week and one of the characters made a joke about it.

"Does anyone else hear non-diegetic sounds?"

She brought it up every time there was a musical transition or something going on. It's the episode where they go on a rich guys airplane and then to an underwater sea lab.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
True Detective Season 2 did it a lot.
they would hang out in the bar almost every episode and a chick with a guitar would sing and play as they talked.
Okay. I guess I misunderstood.

I know a lot of movies (and TV) where source music is played. "True Detective"
has a wonderful score by T Bone Burnett. I thought moonshine was talking
about something different. Movies with without any non-diegetic music.
 
Alternately, I loved the sparseness of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It depends on the movie, the style, the mood, etc.
The first time i saw the movie i do not realize that there is no music, because the movie is so intense. This reminds me that "cast away" has no music too, as tom hanks live on that island.

As a musician i truly have to say: to use silence (in the right moment) is the hardest part of composing for games and movies.

I also love the "silent hill" soundtracks. They have a great intensity in terms of atmosphere and the mood. Since i was hearing that in the games, i know that is will do something like this in the future...well, today i collect every metallsound i can find or record it by my own. I love it.

Ok....enough off topic - sorry for that
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Okay. I guess I misunderstood.

I know a lot of movies (and TV) where source music is played. "True Detective"
has a wonderful score by T Bone Burnett. I thought moonshine was talking
about something different. Movies with without any non-diegetic music.
Yeah he probably meant none at all.
 
IMDB shows 3 songs listed in No Country's soundtrack, and since there's no score in that film, I'm guessing they are coming from car stereos or speakers in a lobby or other interior scenes. That qualifies as Diegetic music. Anything that makes sense in the reality of the film, and the characters themselves can hear it.

In my original statement I said it was more of a trend in indie film, since almost every studio film has a score or heavy non-diegetic soundtrack.

Some great examples of the indie films I'm talking about are:

Cache
The Sacrifice
L'enfant
Amour
Dogtooth
Menthol
Computer Chess
Funny Games
Even The Birds had no music

There's many more, but I can't think of them off the top of my head. Might be more of a foreign film thing looking at this list, but all amazing films.
 
Coming at it from the other side, I have been hired as a composer by friends, by friends of friends through recommendations, by submitting my reel and/or demoing a scene for a project I thought looked interesting, hanging a flyer in the local film school, being asked by posting right here on this board! I've been to a couple local networking events and passed out business cards and/or cds. I've been called in before the film starts shooting, and I've been called in a week before the first screening (on a short, thankfully).

As a composer, my preference would be after the film is shot (maybe even when there is a rough cut). A firm deadline for picture lock, and a fair amount of time from the locked edit to final music delivery (you need time to mix, too, so bear that in mind when you set up the first screening the day the cameras stop shooting).

As far as musician friends you know, I agree that scoring does require certain knowledge and skills, but there are plenty of people studying exactly that. If you know a bunch of musicians, it's possible that you know one that is studying film composition. Also, depending on the project, it's possible that a "band score" (a band doing intrumentals in their own style, maybe even augmented with some traditional score touches) might be just what you need. It's risky, but when it's good it really pays off (Neil Young's score to Dead Man is easily my favorite thing he's ever done).

Working with composers who are just starting off is an investment for both of you, particularly if you are starting out yourself. You get original music for cheap or free, they get practical experience to learn the craft. And you're not spending tons of money to get music for films that are not as great as you probably think they are. Which isn't to say that you can't find good stock music, or that the composers will do a great job and not drop the ball (lord knows I have done both). But you build a relationship that in a few years, will pay off for everyone in your film community.

Oh, and "only diagetic music" was one of the Dogme 95 requirements, so lots of those out there.
 
I've had 4 composers so far tell me they were going to make me a track for a 3 minute short I did, so far none of them came through. One strung me along for months.
I'm surprised to read this, did you pay the composers or did they work for free?

It is said that if you pay zero for music the perceived value of music is zero. But if a project pays you zero, the perceived value of this project for the composer may be zero as well.

You should put in a reasonable budget and I am sure you will find reliable composers to work with.
 
First time I've heard that term, so I looked it up.
A term I didn't know either.
Diagetic is not a term I've ever heard used in the business, I only came across it in academia. Using the term to professionals screams "student" to me but maybe that will change as time passes. As I understand it, it's not a very precise term, or rather, it's not used very precisely. Basically any music which occurs on screen, as part of the soundscape of the scene, can be described as diagetic: Elevator music, music from a TV, radio or PA system (say in a shopping mall), as well as actual live music, say in the case of a band or musician playing on screen. As a general rule, diagetic music will be "futz'ed" in some way, to simulate the acoustic of the scene/location and the device playing back the music.

As a musician i truly have to say: to use silence (in the right moment) is the hardest part of composing for games and movies.
It's not up to the musician/composer when to use silence. That's a decision for the sound designer and director, and silence is virtually never used in film anyway. Maybe that's why you've had such a hard time trying to use it? :)

A modern trend in indie film these days is to not have any non-diegetic music. Films have become quieter and tend to lean toward "realism." Bombastic John Williams scores are not necessarily in style anymore.
I don't follow indie film scene assiduously enough to say exactly what the most current indie trend is, but films in general have become louder rather than quieter. John Williams' style scores are still in demand, although obviously it depends on the genre of the film, but Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore and the like are as sought after as ever.

G
 
Where do you look for your composers and at what stage of the process do you tend to start looking.
Stick around this thread for a while; already several composers on it. Maybe one will offer you some links to their work.

Like Josh was saying above, the composer could be involved after production or at a very early stage. For instance, I know a friend who is planning a slasher movie, so I offered to make him an 80's style piece (HALLOWEEN/PHANTASM style bell melody on the top keys and low synth on the bottom), so he can get a feel of the mood, before production starts. A theme or example can set the tone for the director/producer. A lot of people write, while listening to scores, which often implores them to seek a similar type of sound.


Also, is original music something that you find worth investing in or are you more likely to find affordable library music?
I'm huge on having an original score; a voice of the movie that no one else can use. You should probably already know the answer to this question (either you care a lot about the score or you look at music more as background filler).


I've had 4 composers so far tell me they were going to make me a track for a 3 minute short I did, so far none of them came through. One strung me along for months........Hell maybe i will just teach myself the piano and get a keyboard. At least I would have someone reliable then.
Exactly how I got into the music end, many years ago! I had directed shorts for 4 years (using my favorite copyrighted scores from Hollywood movies) and wanted to switch to original stuff. I always had an ear for cinematic music, but my sister got the piano lessons. Anyway, I got mad about flaky composers and plunked 2k down on a synth and never looked back. Pretty soon, I had a room full of them. It was one of the best things I ever did. These days, with cheap apps, I would think it was a no-brainer to at least have available.


today i collect every metallsound i can find or record it by my own. I love it.
Same here! Metal hits are cool for TERMINATOR type music and scrapes are just creepy. One of my faves is from my backyard gate, which is has a great sound.


In my original statement I said it was more of a trend in indie film, since almost every studio film has a score or heavy non-diegetic soundtrack.

Some great examples of the indie films I'm talking about are:

Cache
The Sacrifice
L'enfant
Amour
Dogtooth
Menthol
Computer Chess
Funny Games
Even The Birds had no music
Thanks! I did know you were mostly talking indies. Your "realism" statement got me thinking. This is a case where a sound designer comes into play, much more than a composer, to enhance a scene's mood. Just as a filmmaker can use a camera to show the story from a certain perspective or point of view, the same could be said about the microphone. For instance, you could have a man and woman argueing, but maybe you want to show them from outside of the house as a dog watches. Instead of hearing the actual words, the mic may be picking up wind passing through leaves and a wind chime in the distance.

For anyone wondering about diegetic, I though this was a nice sum up:

Diegetic sound is any sound that the character or characters on screen can hear. So for example the sound of one character talking to another would be diegetic. Non-diegetic sound is any sound that the audience can hear but the characters on screen cannot. Any appearance of background music is a prime example of non-diegetic sound.
EDIT: AudioPostExpert posted while I was writing. I'm not trying to be redundant. :lol:
 
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directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Diagetic is not a term I've ever heard used in the business, I only came across it in academia.
I mentioned the term to to a composer friend yesterday as we were
leaving a screening at the Hollywood film Festival. He just laughed and
said the same thing; he hadn't heard the term since leaving college.




I don't follow indie film scene assiduously enough to say exactly what the most current indie trend is,
I do. I spent that last two day seeing indie films at a festival (3 each day)
and will see 2 today and Saturday. That's why moonshield's statement
jumped out at me. I haven't seen this trend in indie films these days.
Sure, some films use no score at all, but the majority of indie films I see
do.

moonshield, I'm pleased to say I've seen all the movies you mentioned. I
recall "Menthol" using some underscore. But I saw it at the SBFF over a
year ago. "Computer Chess" and the Haneke films are good examples.
I guess I'm just not seeing the trend you are.
 
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