How to Communicate with Your Composer

I’ve worked with many directors and producers, and each has had a different approach to the music for their film project.  Some come with ideas for every scene, and others hand me a blank canvas with complete trust and control of the audio artistry.  Every collaboration is different, and when beginning a new project, the first objective is to find a creative harmony with the other person involved. Learning how to communicate as a director or producer with your film’s composer can strengthen the relationship on a profession, personal, and creative level that benefits the final film product exponentially.

Start Off Strong

It’s a good idea to get together in person, or at least video chat, early on in the project’s lifecycle. Non-verbal communication conveys a lot of information that is missed or lost via phone, email, and text. 

Learn Each Other’s Influences

Our creative tendencies are often an amalgam of all the films and music we have experienced.  Some teach us what we want to do and some times what not to do. Everyone loves talking about their favorites, so talking to each other about films or music is a great way to kickstart a relationship.

Another way to exchange musical ideas and influences is to consider making a playlist for your composer.  Try to pick tracks that speak to your vision for the specific project you’re working on.  For more help on this topic, check out the blog post on making a playlist for your composer here. As composers, sounds are going to speak louder to us than any of our other senses. Being a composer means constantly chasing a sound or melody in your head. Hearing is seeing, and it speaks volumes. As a bonus, the best way to be inspired is to be exposed to new experiences. The one caveat is that as a director you do not want to become too attached to the music and exact sounds of your playlist. You want your film’s score to be original and personalized to your project without matching other music too closely. Also, songs you really love may not match the emotional mood of a given scene; your composer can navigate these sounds to create the right atmosphere.

Use Keywords to Describe Music

You don’t need a music degree to talk about music with your film composer.  Use common descriptive keywords such as dark and gritty or light and suspenseful. We’ll know what to do. These keywords are often about mood, tone, and textures. Knowing how to articulate your artistic vision in descriptive keywords is essential to communicating not only with your composer, but with people across creative disciplines. Read more about essential descriptive keywords on our blog here.

Make a Cue Sheet

A cue sheet is another essential tool for directors and producers who are communicating with a film composer.  The organization of the whole project relies on a well-maintained cue sheet. The point of the cue sheet is to notate where music feels necessary. I find it easiest to feel where music may be necessary by stepping out of the studio and watching it like I would any other film.  Only by watching a film from start to finish can you get a sense for the pulse or timing of the scenes and project as a whole. To learn how to make an effective cue sheet read our blog on cue sheets here.

It’s important to set a solid foundation to launch your music’s vision. The more organized and articulate you are with your vision the better your results will be with your team.  To learn more about how to get the most out of your composer, read on to our next blog “How to Get the Most From Your Composer.

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