Many film composers use Logic Pro X their DAW for film scoring – here’s a beginner’s guide to the whole process!

There’s a plethora of skills you’ll need to be a media composer, but the actual creation of the music can be broken down into a few steps. Of course, there are many steps within those steps, but here’s the gist!

1. Find A Film Project

If you’re just getting started, there’s a few options when it comes for finding a project to write music for.

Option 1: take an existing movie and remove the music.

Possibly the most simple, and a really great exercise. BUT, you won’t be able to use it part of a public showreel (as you don’t own the rights to the movie) and it won’t have any sound. Unless, of course, you choose a scene that originally had no music.

Option 2: compile your home movies

This is a great way to practice film scoring, and you’ll also pick up some video editing skills in the process. Go through your home movies and create your own mini-movie.

Option 3: collaborate

Find friends or local film enthusiasts and collaborate with them on a project. This is an amazing way to make contacts and grow your network. However, you need to make sure that you’ll actually be able to create something for them – if you’ve NEVER written film music before, maybe start with option 1 or 2 for your very first attempt!

2. Conceptualise Your Score

Once you have your project, you need to decide what you’re actually trying to say with your music. The best film music tells a story of its own, or brings its own twist to a story. Think carefully about what you want your music to do, and how it will do that.

The more time you spend working out these ideas, the quicker you’ll compose.

3. Setup Logic Pro X for Film Scoring

Setting up Logic Pro X boils down to five things:

  1. Setting Logic’s sample and frame rate
  2. Importing your movie
  3. Loading your instruments
  4. Setting and naming your markers
  5. Setting your tempos and time signatures

This video demonstrates how to sort out the sample and frame rate, as well as how to import your movie. I also show you how to turn on Logic’s “Advanced Tools”, which I highly recommend doing for film scoring:

4. Composing Your Score

This is the whole reason you got into this in the first place, right?

When it comes to composing you need to trust your instincts, and go with what you think sounds right to you. Basically: remember what mood you are trying to create and figure out how best to create that mood.

Don’t lose sight of the ideas you came up while you were conceptualising. It’s far too easy to get carried away and go off on a totally new track. Everything you create while composing should have purpose.

I see “composing” as two intertwined areas:

  1. Composition
  2. Arranging/Orchestration

The “composition” aspect is the big picture stuff: melody, harmony, rhythm, structure. The “arranging/orchestration” is the more detailed stuff: instrumentation, decoration, countermelody, etc.

Of course, these aren’t treated independently – you don’t do one and then the other. They’re usually totally intertwined. Usually, at least!

5. Film Score Production

The production part of the process is where you music starts to come alive. If you’re very lucky, at this stage you might be able to get live musicians to perform and record parts of your composition. Unfortunately, for most of us we’ll be creating our parts with samples (or MIDI instruments).

So, during the production phase you’ll be making your instruments sound as good as possible and mixing the actual track.

Check out my videos for some over-the-shoulder tutorials on getting your music sounding great!

6. Delivering Your Score

We’re at the finish line! Final delivery of the project depends on the project you’re working on.

If it’s your own movie, you can simply “export audio to movie” in Logic Pro X and you’ll be done. However, if you’re working with others, they might be adding the music to the final film themselves.

Make sure you know what format and sample rate they require, and whether they want a simple stereo audio file or the individual STEMs. When someone asks for “STEMs” they usually mean each track (or group of tracks) individually so that they have some extra control over the final balance. This might allow them to mute just the percussion part while there are sound effects going on, rather than muting the entire music track.

And there you have it! Six simple steps to creating a film score.

For the FULL process, check out my “Ultimate Guide” to composing film music.

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