The Essentials of Scoring Film


Are you interested in learning about film scoring? The score of a film is the background music that establishes mood and reflects the theme of the film. Big budget Hollywood movies, amateur films and even short films can all benefit from a quality score.

A complete score to a film is actually made up of many individual “cues.” These cues may be a composition for an orchestra and choir. In modern times, the typical film score is a combination of orchestra and electronic music. Digital technology and audio sampling make background music much more affordable for independent producers.

Traditionally, films are scored after a great deal of the movie has been shot, though some composers may begin work after previewing a few sample scenes. The director and the musician collaborate on the score style in the process known as “spotting.”
Preliminary work involves using MIDI mock ups of cues and themes.
The music is composed for orchestra and then performed by the conductor.

The purpose of film scoring is to make the audience experience a mood, and as subtly as possible. Some directors and composers will tell you that every dramatic scene has music in it, long before you add film score. The words of the actors are the music. The composer basically recreates the same feelings through notes. The notes also change according to sentences, not merely scenes. This illustrates the complexity of film score as opposed to inserting a finished song. A song only has one mood, whereas a score has a series of many complex interactions that follow characters.

Background music tends to be soft and complements the other action taking place on screen. Narrative music actually tells a story through notes, and is usually inserted in between dialogue. The most important issue here is that good background music does not overlap the dialogue. In fact, the best type of background music is the one that doesn’t stand out—and yet makes the overall film emotionally affecting.

If you are shooting a film then the easiest way to add background music is to work with a professional composer. A composer has experience in creating professional quality music and usually works with musicians in the orchestra phase. For the best results, choose a composer that has experience in the type of genre you want. Study a composer’s film credits and determine whether that style will work for you.