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Creating cues before Picture

Yorkz

New Member
I'm creating cues for a kids TV series before the episodes are shot and edited. I'll be sitting down with the Producer & Director to discuss music style and we've already agreed that the created cues can be reused/recycled a bit as long as they're tweaked. This is meant to save us time as the episodes need to be delivered on tight timelines.

Are there any tips/tricks/pitfalls you could share in terms of organizing and building cues as it's my first time building a music library in advance. FYI, it's a tweener show needing some high energy and intimate family settings music and shot in a doc style format.

TIA.
 

purple

Member
I would say just write a bunch of music in the style in question. It sounds musically pretty easy to do based on the kinds of music I've heard in those types of shows. So just maximize your volume right now. Write a bunch of music and then edit it later as needed.
 

purple

Member
It's actually a living nightmare to do unless you're experienced (which I'm not). One word: overcomposing.
I've never heard of over-composed TV cues except some of the more scifi/fantasy/action stuff. Daytime television and kids shows are usually pretty simple. It's more about volume and consistency than actual detail. Which is why I think you should just get as much on paper(not really on paper, you know what I mean) as possible now and worry about editing it once you have a large body of material to be chopped down.
 

Henu

Senior Member
I've never heard of over-composed TV cues except some of the more scifi/fantasy/action stuff.
That's exactly my point- they are usually not overcomposed. But give e.g. me a cue to compose without picture and dialogue/ FX and you'll be sure it's wayyyyyy to crowded musically.
 

asherpope

Member
That's exactly my point- they are usually not overcomposed. But give e.g. me a cue to compose without picture and dialogue/ FX and you'll be sure it's wayyyyyy to crowded musically.
Yes and no. If cues are stemmed out it shouldn't be a problem dropping melodies, percussion etc to make room for dialogue, FX etc
 
OP
Y

Yorkz

New Member
I would say just write a bunch of music in the style in question. It sounds musically pretty easy to do based on the kinds of music I've heard in those types of shows. So just maximize your volume right now. Write a bunch of music and then edit it later as needed.
Sound suggestion. If I can write a high volume of material, it makes my life a lot easier. And I agree, the project will call for a certain amount of music that's 'just there - filling air time' (along with some distinctive, memorable pieces of course).
 
OP
Y

Yorkz

New Member
It's actually a living nightmare to do unless you're experienced (which I'm not). One word: overcomposing.
lol. In my early days as a composer, I tended to stuff my compositions with too many tracks/sounds that sounded great on their own but tended to compete for attention. Nowadays, I try to work as economically as possible - not because I've mastered the craft but because I'm too tired to be bursting with ideas on top of ideas. And yes, it's reflected in my real life where I'm striving to use less words to express myself.
 
OP
Y

Yorkz

New Member
Yes and no. If cues are stemmed out it shouldn't be a problem dropping melodies, percussion etc to make room for dialogue, FX etc
That's sort of what I was thinking..creating cues that sound good even when stemmed into different combinations. Was also thinking of making sure I have enough cues that can fit into the categories of low energy/med energy/high energy. Or maybe it makes more sense to group by emotional tenor? i.e. moving/triumph/disappointment etc?
Just trying to work smart and very interested in hearing about other people's experiences.
 

NoamL

Winter <3
I assisted a children's TV composer who was a genius at this. By the 2nd and 3rd season we were achieving about a 35-40% music re-use rate per episode (by runtime).

Some advice:

1. Do as much as humanly possible to keep all the music in a closely related set of keys. This is specially important if your show has act intros and outros that will generally sound the same.

2. Compose lots of act intros and outros with different general moods. Especially lots related to the title theme music of your show. Unless someone else wrote the title music ;)

3. Write your pieces to be simple, and longer than you think is necessary. It is so much easier for a music editor to cut a piece down to size than to enlarge it.

4. Look at your scripts, if you have access to them yet, and consider if there will be "stock scenes" in your show. Are there things that happen at the beginning, or the end, of most episodes of the show?

5. From a music editor's perspective, the most important part of any cue is how it ends.

6. Subtle tempo changes and cool modulations might feel nice when you are writing music by itself but they will bite you in the ass when you put on your music editor hat and try to make pre-written music fit the picture.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I assisted a children's TV composer who was a genius at this. By the 2nd and 3rd season we were achieving about a 35-40% music re-use rate per episode (by runtime).

Some advice:

1...
This is all great advice.^^

I'm starting the third hour of music for a TV show for which I've seen about 10 minutes of dialogue scenes. I do have screenplays for the first third of the season, and some costume sketches, and cast head shots.

So I understand a bit of what you're facing.

Along with @NoamL 's excellent advice, of course it's helpful to write in segments that make sense for the kind of show for which you're working. Over the years, I've found that most shows have a rhythm -- every 30 seconds a change, every 45 seconds -- whatever. So overall I'm not getting too stuck on an idea for a very long time, unless it undergoes a change or development fairly soon.

Anyway, good luck. Congratulations!
 
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OP
Y

Yorkz

New Member
I assisted a children's TV composer who was a genius at this. By the 2nd and 3rd season we were achieving about a 35-40% music re-use rate per episode (by runtime).

Some advice:

1. Do as much as humanly possible to keep all the music in a closely related set of keys. This is specially important if your show has act intros and outros that will generally sound the same.

2. Compose lots of act intros and outros with different general moods. Especially lots related to the title theme music of your show. Unless someone else wrote the title music ;)

3. Write your pieces to be simple, and longer than you think is necessary. It is so much easier for a music editor to cut a piece down to size than to enlarge it.

4. Look at your scripts, if you have access to them yet, and consider if there will be "stock scenes" in your show. Are there things that happen at the beginning, or the end, of most episodes of the show?

5. From a music editor's perspective, the most important part of any cue is how it ends.

6. Subtle tempo changes and cool modulations might feel nice when you are writing music by itself but they will bite you in the ass when you put on your music editor hat and try to make pre-written music fit the picture.
Incredibly valuable advice which would have taken me multiple projects to arrive at. Very much appreciated! I'm really going to sit with this information and try to apply it. Cheers.
 
OP
Y

Yorkz

New Member
This is all great advice.^^

I'm starting the third hour of music for a TV show for which I've seen about 10 minutes of dialogue scenes. I do have screenplays for the first third of the season, and some costume sketches, and cast head shots.

So I understand a bit of what you're facing.

Along with @NoamL 's excellent advice, of course it's helpful to write in segments that make sense for the kind of show for which you're working. Most of the time, I've found over the years, shows have a rhythm -- every 30 seconds a change, every 45 seconds -- whatever. So overall I'm not getting too stuck on an idea for a very long time, unless it undergoes a change or development fairly soon.

Anyway, good luck. Congratulations!
Thanks for the tip. It's my first time working on a series so it never occurred to me that there's a bit of an episode template that I can use to my advantage. Always find your posts a good read JohnG.
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
Some great advice from NoamL and JohnG. To build on their advice...

On children's TV shows there is often a set format for each episode with a certain location of commercial breaks, an arc to the story, etc.

Determine this format and write cues that will work in each section of the show. I.E. If there's a wrap-up at the end of each episode where the characters are back home and make some sort comment on their adventure or what they've learned, you'll probably want a similar or identical piece of music there each episode. Or, if somewhere in the second act there is always a cliffhanger when you go to commercial.

Look for these sorts of things and it can help you write cues that will have multiple uses or can be quickly adapted.
 
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