10 soundtracking tips from pros

    We gather the best soundtracking tips from Hans Zimmer, Segun Akinola and Neil Davidge.

    The soundtracking industry is booming right now, and there’s never been a better time to get involved in the music to picture world. Here’s some key advice…

    Timo Baker

    Timo has been composing for over thirty years, and has soundtracked a range of shows and movies including The Adjustment Bureau, Paul, Mud and Making A Murderer.

    Top Tip “Find a new way of doing something that is peculiar or specific to you, and then just make it fit. But also, take a look at the landscape. Don’t just think, “I’m going to do 7/8 jazz,” and expect that it’s going to get you into the film world. You’ve got to look at the landscape and what is happening commercially. I’m aware of stuff that’s on-point at the moment, and you have to capture the zeitgeist.”

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    Read our full interview with Timo here and check out his studio here.

    Alev Lenz

    Alev Lenz

    German-Turkish songwriter, producer and composer Alev Lenz has composed for Black Mirror, Dark and has recently released her album 3 on SA Recordings, alongside a collection of unique samples.

    Top Tip “I think going down the soundtracking route is certainly a viable option for artists, considering the current state of the industry. When my songs started to get synced on picture I started to see money, which was a big surprise. It was a reminder that someone still has a little bit of money, so that was great!”

    Read our full interview with Alev here.

    Michael Price

    Michael Price

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    Michael specialises in full orchestra and contemporary electronic scoring and has worked on all manner of blockbuster movies and high-profile TV shows, including Sherlock and Children of Men.

    Top Tip “Trying to get good bottom end and create perspective for TV is a real challenge: I’ll try to make my TV scores more reverberant and sit back off the screen where I can. With the bottom end, I’m trying to get as much harmonic information that’s not at the fundamental 50Hz level further up the spectrum. Sometimes, that’s about voicing a chord differently so it’s not got a bass note right at the bottom and nothing in the middle, but an octave above, maybe the fifth, and reinforcing the harmonics.”

    Read our full interview with Michael here.

    John Barrett

    Abbey Road Senior Recordist John Barrett at work

    John has 14 years of experience at Abbey Road, recently serving as score recordist for Avengers: Endgame. He has also recorded live sessions with George Ezra, James Bay, Slaves, Krept & Konan, Mike Skinner and Flohio.

    Top Tip “When you’re recording [an orchestra] together, you can also record a lot of minutes of music in much less time. Whereas if you start splitting things out, then you end up doubling or trebling the amount of time you’re recording. Sometimes, as well, when you start splitting things out, you begin to hear things you wouldn’t necessarily have heard, so you start obsessing about hearing noises or an intonation that was a bit funny, for example. When you listen to an overall blend, you wouldn’t immediately hear these things as being issues, because it just sounds like a big orchestra playing together.”

    Read our full interview with John here.

    Neil Davidge

    Neil Davidge

    Neil is a songwriter, producer and composer who has worked with artists including Massive Attack, David Bowie and Snoop Dogg, and also scored music for games including Halo 4 and the films Push and Clash Of The Titans.

    Top Tip “Don’t be afraid of the temp track, it’s actually a great way to get inside the head of a director if they’ve been involved in putting it together. You can learn a lot about what works and doesn’t work in a scene, pick out hit points and even find out what tempo you should write at to begin with.”

    Read our full interview with Neil here.

    Segun Akinola

    Segun Akinola
    Image: David Shoukry

    Television composer Segun has been working hard on the Doctor Who soundtrack for the last two years, modernising and updating the score, while retaining the spirit of the legendary Radiophonic Workshop.

    Top Tip “I often just write a piece of music that embodies what we’re trying to do with the film or the show. This may be the main theme or the lead character theme. I’ll then progress into writing to the picture.”

    Read our full interview with Segun here.

    Timo Baker

    Timo has been composing for over thirty years, and has soundtracked a range of shows and movies including The Adjustment Bureau, Paul, Mud and Making A Murderer.

    Top Tip “Find a new way of doing something that is peculiar or specific to you, and then just make it fit. But also, take a look at the landscape. Don’t just think, “I’m going to do 7/8 jazz,” and expect that it’s going to get you into the film world. You’ve got to look at the landscape and what is happening commercially. I’m aware of stuff that’s on-point at the moment, and you have to capture the zeitgeist.”

    Read our full interview with Timo here and check out his studio here.

    Javier Weyler

    Aston interview, Jack Munro with Javier Weyler
    Aston’s Jack Munro (left) with ex-Stereophonics drummer and solo artist Javier Weyler

    Former Stereophonics drummer, solo artist and recording engineer Javier is now soundtracking a range of projects using his Breaking Waves creative agency.

    Top Tip “My idea is to treat all sound as music – and really the whole audio mix of the project needs to reflect this, even down to dialogue and narration. If you have all these things well-balanced and supervised from one audio-creative’s point of view, then the end result is much more efficient.”

    Read our full interview with Javier here.

    Jesper Kyd

    Jesper Kyd

    The BAFTA-Award winning Jesper Kyd was the principal composer for the flagship games of the Hitman and the Assassins’ Creed franchises, and he has navigated an eclectic career making music for film and television, too.

    Top Tip “The difficulty is scoring an open-world game that doesn’t really have a fixed narrative, so you can choose what to do when you want to do it. Suddenly the whole world opens up and, as a composer, I have to think, ‘how do I score this, since I don’t know what the player will do!’ But one of the things I love about scoring for those kinds of expansive open-world games is how much freedom a situation like that can give you. As a composer, you have to sort of sit back and think more about the vibe, the general tone and feel of the game overall.”

    Read our full interview with Jesper here.

    Hans Zimmer

    Hans Zimmer

    A man who needs no introduction – one of the most innovative, revolutionary and highly sought after composers on the planet. Hans has scored some of the greatest movies of the last four decades, from Gladiator, the Dark Knight trilogy and Interstellar to Dunkirk.

    Top Tip “A composer has to always ask that question: ‘Why are we having music here?’ And they need to ask themselves, ‘Why is there an orchestra playing on this scene?’ A composer has to figure that out before they begin making music. When an audience comes into a movie theatre, they want to have an emotional experience. All I’m trying to do, quite seriously, is open the doors that lend themselves to that.”

    Read our full interview with Hans here.

    Petri Alanko

    Petri has scored some high profile video games, including Alan Wake and Quantum Break, as well as performing with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Top Tip “Sometimes the composer has to introduce the player to something that hasn’t even arrived yet, to alter his/her moods and modes into what’s upcoming, and it’s a bit mesmerising. Really, you’re playing with the emotions and feelings, sometimes before the exact reason is there.”

    Read our full interview with Petri here.

    Check this for more music-making tips from the pros. For more essential guides, head here.

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