by Michael Laskow

Dear Passengers,

So, did you try my little experiment? Were you surprised by how much music was in just three hours of TV shows?

The funny thing is, most people assume that the music we hear on TV is scored by somebody waving a baton at a room full of musicians. It's not! Most of the music you hear comes from production music libraries or small publishers.

And where do they get their music? People just like you!

The publishers build libraries of thousands of tracks – some are instrumental, and many are songs with lyrics and vocals. Some of the publishers supply post production houses with libraries of CDs containing all kinds of music. Other publishers pitch their music when they find out about a particular job or show. Others send tracks they think will be appropriate when the shows' producers call them.

Nearly all the top libraries and publishers use TAXI as their favorite resource to find music, but I'm not trying to make a pitch here, so let's move on.

For this week's letter, I want to give you some tips on instrumental music. I'll cover tracks with vocals next week.

Instrumental music comes in all shapes and sizes. Some tracks are big scored pieces, but many are not. And that's what I'd like to turn you on to – the opportunities for simple instrumental tracks.

Imagine a scene with a young couple, kissing goodbye for the last time in Paris. As the girl turns, and begins to walk away, with tears streaming down her saddened cheeks, what might you hear?

I hear two instruments – an accordion and a single violin playing sad, lilting, minor notes in unison. I'm guessing the scene lasts about thirty seconds. Can you make a track like that on your home equipment? Uh-huh . . . I thought so!

If you put your mind to it, you could probably come up with TEN tracks like that in a couple of hours. Some might be solo piano, some piano and violin, some could be an acoustic guitar with a flute or tin whistle, and others might be just a lone cello playing legato, minor notes. The point is that it's not about big, lush productions, it's more about the mood and the "texture."

Now, imagine an action flick with a military theme. Can you hear the drums? Barump-ba-bump, Barump-ba-bump! Now add some trumpets doing unison, da, da, da, da dah, da, da, da, da, dah's. Cool . . . I just drove the spellchecker on my computer completely nuts!

You get the idea, right? This is NOT rocket science, but there is SOME science to it. You need to think of all the different emotions you'd commonly see on screen, and write for those moods and moments.

You don't need lyrics. You don't need verses and choruses. You just need melodies that capture moods. It also doesn't hurt if your melodies are fresh and catchy. But, trust me when I tell you that even that's not very important. It's more about making the person watching the scene feel what the writer, director, and actors want them to feel.

And, as I pointed out earlier, it doesn't take an orchestra to accomplish that.

So here's your homework assignment for next week: Video tape five scenes from some of your favorite shows, and make some tracks using no more than three instruments and 8 tracks on your recorder.

You can do this. And I'll bet you'll have a great time doing it!

Talk to you next week,


P.S. Make sure you do this exercise. Remember, I'm going to teach you how to make $150,000/year doing film and TV music. But I can't help you, if you don't help yourself!

 Read Part Three

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