05 October 2014

Q&A With Composer Daniel Hart

Q&A With Composer Daniel Hart

Composer Daniel Hart landed on the film scene after scoring the romantic film "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." He has since been named by The Playlist as one of "5 Composers To Keep An Ear Out For".

An early education in classical violin led to a passion for music, pushing Daniel to continue his studies at SMU.

Playing in bands gave him a "complete education in 20th century popular music" and even an opportunity to play with Wynton Marsalis.

 Tell us about your studio. What hardware and software do you use?

“At home, my setup is very basic. I have an Apogee Duet and a Mac. I have a bunch of microphones, but my go to is a Neumann TLM 103. I'm working mostly in Logic, occasionally ProTools, occasionally Ableton.

However, the bulk of recording we do for my scores happens at Curtis Heath's home studio in Fort Worth (Curtis just scored ‘Hellion’, and wrote several of the songs for ‘Ain't Them Bodies Saints’). He has a much more elaborate setup than me, with tons of beautiful microphones (RCA 77dx, some really nice old Beyer ribbons, an old Telefunken) a well-treated room and a UA Apollo 16 going into a Mac. Curtis also runs Logic, which makes talking between our two home studios that much easier. Curtis has spent a lot more time than me studying old mic-ing techniques (he's personally obsessed with recreating the Motown Sound) and I'm lucky that he's so willing to engineer most of my recording sessions and help me treat instruments.”

26 August 2014

Silas Hite's Commercial Scoring Workshop

Silas Hite's Commercial Scoring Workshop

Future Composer recently profiled Silas Hite and discovered why he has become one of the most accomplished commercial composers in the industry.

From iconic Apple ads to quirky video games like "The Sims 2", this Emmy-awarding winning artist has developed unique scores that continue to sell. 

On September 6th, Silas will launch a Commercial Scoring Workshop designed to give insight and experience to musicians who are interested in writing music for commercials. 

In partnership with iZotope, who is offering 50% off their products to all workshop participants, these classes will be held in Los Angeles and world-wide through web conferencing.

What inspired you to teach this workshop?

"Speaking to music classes at Universities, I realized just how much experience and expertise I had to share. I hadn't really thought about it too much until then, probably because I was just working all the time.

Also, sharing my insight with the students made me recall being a student myself. I remember being hungry for current information about how the business really worked, and where the jobs actually came from. I wanted to talk to people that were really scoring everyday for a living and try to figure out how I could do it too.

When you are on the outside of the business, all you want is a way in. I feel like this class can help open that door for people."

What are some of the topics you will explore?

"The class focuses on two aspects, the creative side and the business behind it.  

To learn the creative aspects, I give each workshop participant a commercial to score. I give them creative direction and reference tracks, simulating a real client/composer interaction. There will be revisions, creative feedback, reviews and guidance throughout the process, from initial creative considerations before you start writing to final delivery requirements.

For the business aspects I will be lecturing and answering questions about many different topics. First I begin with the differences between scoring a commercial vs. film, TV, and video games. I'll discuss the creative differences, budgets, contract pitfalls, and technical issues.  

In subsequent classes I will discuss the pros and cons of working at a music house vs. being a freelance composer. We'll cover work-for-hire, starting a publishing company, cue sheets, BMI vs. ASCAP, etc. There are many topics to cover and I generally like to let the students decide what they want to hear the most about. Typically people have very specific questions they want answered."

20 August 2014

Q&A With Composer Mario Grigorov

Q&A With Composer Mario Grigorov

Because so many of us spent our formative years coloring and eating paste, it's always shocking to hear about prodigies like Mario Grigorov.

At age 5 he became one of the youngest students ever admitted to the Sofia Conservatory. He would go on to study music in four different countries before the age of eighteen, becoming an accomplished concert pianist and improviser in the styles of jazz, classical and world music.  

As an accomplished film composer, Mario’s most recognizable work comes from his long-standing collaboration with director Lee Daniels, scoring Shadowboxer, Tennessee, the Academy Award-winning Precious, and The Paperboy with Nicole Kidman.  

His most recent project is Musical Chairs, an inspiring romantic film from renowned director Susan Seidelman, now available for viewing on HBO GO. 

Tell us about your studio. What hardware/software/instruments do you use?

"I use a grand piano called the Yamaha Grand Touch. It is a piano that has a real piano action, but without the strings or size. It acts as my mother keyboard. I also use Digital Performer as my sequencing program, and my speakers are Dyner Audio. Plus I use the Apollo audio converter."

What has been your most difficult film to score, and how did you overcome those challenges?

"All films are difficult at times, there is no shortcut. You must work very hard to come up with the compositions and then work hard to produce it. To overcome the challenges you must love what you do, be extremely resilient and hard working." 

10 June 2014

Q&A With Composer Julian Wass

Q&A With Composer  Julian Wass

Like so many artists before him, composer Julian Wass first discovered music through The Beatles.

Soon after, music became the soundtrack of his life, from the grunge of 90's alternative albums to the epic scores of his favorite Nintendo games.

After studying composition and computer music at Stanford, Julian has emerged as a promising young film composer and musician. This summer he will release three original motion picture soundtracks and is a member and producer of Los Angeles based band Fol Chen.

Tell us about your studio. What hardware/software/instruments do you use?

"I'm drawn to odd instruments; anything that feels off-the-beaten path is very special to me, like it's lost and needs a good home. The instruments that I love to use include a parlour guitar from the 1920's with a weird hula girl/palm tree stenciled onto it, various thumb pianos and idiophones, my white lacquered piano and of course, my synthesizer collection

I work with outside musicians whenever it's needed or possible, but I love layering and working with my little instrument crew here to create new sounds. I'm really interested in the intersection of electronic and acoustic, and that is at the core of my one man ensemble.

I do all my work in ProTools, from recording, editing and mixing to midi programming. I'm very fast and comfortable in ProTools, and even a slight uptick in speed can make a huge difference for me on a project. I always used to say that I was going to take some time and learn Logic, but I still haven't found the time!

In terms of software instruments, I don't use a whole lot, but I'm absolutely in love with the products from Soniccouture. The way in which they go about locating and meticulously sampling unique instruments, or sampling a common instrument using extended techniques is something I feel a strong connection to. Most sample programs sound really good, but I sometimes fee like the connection to the actual instrument has been severed along the way, but with the Soniccouture stuff, I still feel a spiritual connection to the instrument, and I think it's because they take such care in what they sample and how they do it."

29 April 2014

Q&A With Composer David Ricard

Q&A With Composer David Ricard

Emmy-nominated composer David Ricard has a knack for scoring cartoons, with credits including The Pink Panther & Pals, Maya & Miguel, The Ant & the Aardvark and more.

His latest project is a new Tom & Jerry series, which premiered April 9th on Cartoon Network.

When he's not writing music for cartoons and comedies, David is a big band composer, arranger and leader.

How did you get into composing for cartoons?

"I had been scoring commercials in New York City when I started to notice that the spots where my music was chosen were mostly comedies and cartoons. At that time, commercial composers were sort of divided between rock/electronic/remix writers and serious orchestral and jazz guys. It didn’t seem like anyone was dying to be the funny guy so I set out to develop a style and become well-versed in all the musical idioms that go into comedies and cartoons.

When I did my first series, Maya & Miguel, I hadn’t worked on a cartoon before and I had to learn a lot on-the-fly. I was determined to be more prepared for my next gig. I started studying cartoon scores, paying close attention to how comedies were scored and, over time, developed my own approach. I’d say to score comedies/cartoons you need to be well-versed in tons of styles of music but it’s really your approach that makes your scores unique."

You're now scoring a new Tom & Jerry series. What can you share about the production process for scoring a show like this?

"The turnaround time fluctuated a bit on this series which, I’ve found, is normal in animation. For most of the episodes I had a week to deliver the music for a 10-minute short. The challenge is creating a dense wall-to-wall score with the full Scott Bradley treatment in such a short amount time.

I have a template set up that covers a lot of ground while also isn’t so huge that I’m constantly paging around looking for instruments. I have a few time saving techniques but for the most part, there aren’t a lot of corners to cut.

Scott Bradley was a genius! He was equally brilliant at writing classical orchestrations as he was with jazz and show music. Creating realistic, natural-sounding scores like his with samples takes a tremendous amount of time, finesse and patience."

07 April 2014

Q&A With Composer Silas Hite

Q&A With Composer Silas Hite

Music and art are a seamless connection for composer Silas Hite. When encountering writer's block, he picks up a pen and draws. When the ink stops flowing, he trades it for an instrument.

This unbridled creativity has led to an Emmy nomination, award winning scores, and work as a producer and songwriter.

Silas began his career at Mutato Muzika alongside his uncle, Mark Mothersbaugh, a top composer who is famously known for co-founding Devo. Building on his experiences there, Silas has since written scores for some of the most recognizable video games and television shows of the past ten years.

He currently composes from his Los Angeles studio and continues to create illustrations and drawings for art galleries and magazines.

Tell us about your studio. What hardware and software do you use?

"I run Logic on a Mac. I've got most of the sample libraries and a slew of 3rd-party plug-ins, but I record as many real instruments and players on recordings as I can. I just prefer that sound. Budgets these days don't always allow for a lot of players, but I play a lot of instruments myself, so that helps. I will usually play the guitars, bass, drums, piano, percussion, accordion, mandolin, etc myself and hire players if I need strings, winds or brass.

As for hardware, most of the time I am recording with my vintage Neumann U-47 that I run through Neve pres. I use Earthworks SR-25s for recording drum overheads and the kick. My philosophy is to keep the recording chain simple but every link on that chain must be high-quality."
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