Tip #95 – Click When Scoring

When you are scoring a scene, you are writing music to enhance the story, the vision of the director, to move the audience, and give new life to the emotions of the characters portrayed on screen. It sounds like a demanding task, but it can be done!

To make the music seem natural to the scene, it is wise to consider a click-track.

A click-track is basically a metronome that can be used for compositional purposes when writing the score, or for conducting purposes when recording the score. Either or both ways, it is a necessary part to make sure that the music is in time with the events going on – and with each other, too! And it is easy to create, too, as most DAWs have a way to create and format one to your score.

But one has to question, “how do you know what to set the tempo of the click-track at?”

Some good rule of thumbs is to hear it in your head, with imagination, as you are watching the scene without music in it. Tap out the tempo in your head and mark down the BPM (beats per minute).

Another way is the synch your BPM to the movements of the characters. To how fast/slow they walk, talk, make subtle body gestures. Or, try matching it to how frequently the camera angles/point-of-views change.

That being said, sometimes not matching the pace of the characters can have an interesting effect. Take a scenario where the character is walking slowly… but the music is increasing in tempo, faster and faster. This opposite polarity and juxtaposition can create an effect as if something is about to happen, or that the mind of the slow-moving character might be ruminating on something.

Regardless, the tempo music be a purposeful consideration.

One last note – the tempo does not need to remain the same all the time. So, as you are making a click-track, do not forget to add gradual (or sudden changes) in the BPM to best fit what you are going after is your musical storytelling.

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Tip #72 – Adjusting Tempo

Today is going to be a short tip that might sound obvious, but could be the helpful reminder in your compositional processes.

Before sending a score to print, exporting stems, or formatting a sound file of your composition – play around with the tempo.

You might be thinking about this and go: “that’s stupid.” However, you might be able to find a new and interesting feel for your composition just by increasing/decreasing the bpm by a noticeable amount of notches.

If you are making demos of songs that fit I the EDM style, you can make multiple copies of your song in different tempi to get a variety to consider before an official release.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 8.) General Guide to Understanding Tempo Markings

Before, we have only talked about how a written piece of music indicates to the performer the pitch frequencies to play, and at what rhythmic patterns to play them at. However, we have not discussed how composers indicate at what speed to play the piece at.

That is why composers include (most of the time – unless they want it to remain ambiguous) tempo, speed, markings at the top of the page.

The general format is that a composer would indicate a unit of rhythmic value (i.e. quarter-note, dotted eighth-note, half-note, etc.) and set it equal to a specific Beats Per Minute ratio amount. In other words, “quarter-note equals 120” mean that the piece will be played at a tempo where 120 quarter-note pulses will occur over a minute’s duration of time.

By default, usually the quarter-note is the tempo unit if not directly indicated. Or, look for the beat unit in the time signature for more clues.

On occasion, the composer might tell the tempo character by just giving an Italian word for it. Here is the general guide to understanding them:

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