5 differences between compositions for background scores & songs
It’s not every day that you get a chance to compose the score for a movie. We had that chance a few months back. The script of the movie was promising and it aligned well without genre, style and philosophy of making music.
As we got to the studio desk and white boarded some of the ideas we had, we came to realize that composing a score and composing a song were two entirely different things. Frighteningly, we realized the two had very little in common.
In this post, we hope to save you the trouble by listing what we thought was a departure from composing song based music. We hope it saves you the trouble when you step into such an endeavor.
Describing the story: A song is much easier to compose in that the focus on a specific aspect of the story is pretty short - possibly a few seconds. In a score, however, there might be minutes spent on a specific emotion of the character. Think about composing a two-minute track just to match the psyche of a character who just learned a disturbing fact about a friend - it’s quite demanding.
BPM: Genres of music often help us easily dictate what BPM’s might suit a song best. Most songs start with a riff or an idea which help us easily dictate the BPM for the song. In background scores, the BPM’s change drastically depending on the parts of the movie. Accommodating all that in a master track is nothing short of a nightmare
Preparation and Patience: To compose a score, you need significant patience. It demands watching each section of the movie hundreds of times, patiently mapping the different parts of the movie, determining the start and end points of tracks, efficiently cross-fading overlapping tracks and matching the track with the elements in the scene. It demands a lot more patience to be able to not jump straight to the recording.
Multi-cultural appreciation of music: Depending on the movie, the extent of this aspect might vary. For a movie set in multiple geographies or settings which bring that ( e.g.: a scene in Chinatown), it demands that the music change to accommodate for the change in location. Music and vision inform the viewer that they are in India or China or some other place. Most of us have our comfort zones in making music. Background scores push you beyond that space and force you to create tracks in areas you may not consider yourself proficient in.
Rework: If you thought the rework for a song was too much, we would suggest that you never step into music for movies at all. More than your own satisfaction in making music here, the producer and the filmmaking team has to buy into your score. Many a time, this requires you to go back to basics and rebuild the track from scratch. If you are really lucky, it might only be a few areas of retouch on.
Given all these changes, this experience imposed a huge learning curve for us. We came out of it as better musicians with a more heartfelt appreciation for those in the industry who do this on a day to day basis and come out consistently with music that makes a movie awesome.
When we watch a movie now, we’re much more attuned to the tracks that make a scene worth watching.
Have you ever been a part of something like this. We would love for you to share your experience. Comment below and we will make sure to reach out to hear from you.
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