Film Scoring

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Please go to The new combined film scoring course

This course requires GarageBand.
GarageBand is inexpensive, easy to use, yet powerful enough to do film scoring.
GarageBand '08 is a small but terrific improvement over the previous versions.

This course is for high school and college students who already make their own motion pictures.

Film Scoring Introduction Lessons for Filmmakers
Introduction: Basic theory of film scoring
Lesson #1: Sound of Fear - Individual notes
Lesson #2: Sound of Joy - Rhythm
Lesson #3: Sound of Drama - Melody
Lesson #4: Butchering MIDI files - MIDI
Lesson #5: Adjusting the film edit - dialog for music
Exercises: Film scoring exercises - real scenes

Film scoring intro
for non-musicians

Click here to see other courses

Film Scoring Lessons For Filmmakers

Designed for filmmakers
Here is a series of lessons in film scoring for anyone who wants to create music for motion pictures but is not a musician. If you are a musician or have any musical skill, go to Film Scoring For Musicians.
This course is only for filmmakers who want to add music to their motion pictures. Filmmakers should send me a sample scene that they have created before they begin this course.


1. Apple's GarageBand (required)
This course uses Apple's GarageBand 3.
I have not found anything easier, faster, and high quality than GarageBand. GarageBand works on both the Intel Macintosh PC and the old G5 Macintosh computers.
2. Symphony orchestra instruments (required - select one or more)
You should also have some of the following:
  • Apple's Jam Pack:Symphony Orchestra which creates many of the sounds of a symphony orchestra. Highly recommended by your instructor.
  • Free → Ben Boldt's instrument package for GarageBand called "Boldt 24-Pack"
WARNING - Not recommended
  • MOTU Symphonic Instruments works with GarageBand but I do not recommend it. This package is awkward to use with GarageBand. Unless you have a special reason, do not buy this package to use with GarageBand. Even MOTU does not promote this package for use with GarageBand. Only the Guitar Center promotes this package for use with GarageBand which I feel is a mistake.
No acoustic loops
  • Note: In this course, we do NOT use acoustic loops. Loops are wonderful for documentaries, corporate video, event video and multimedia but never for narrative motion pictures. Midi loops are OK but with acoustic loops, you cannot modify (simplify or change notes) the music which makes is useless for dramatic scenes.

Ideal student for this course

  • Musical sound effects - The ideal student for these lessons is a filmmaker who likes to make sound effects on the piano which match the action of the movie.
  • Computer nerd - This course uses a lot of software so it helps to be a bit of a computer nerd.

Start here!

To begin the course
Start with the first lesson by clicking here.

. Start Here: . Theory of Film Scoring

Summary of the entire course
for people in a hurry!

The theory course in a nutshell

Here is the entire course abbreviated:
Film scoring for filmmakers (the theory)
Filmmakers can simply create moods for their movies. They do not need a complete film score. This course shows you the shortcuts.
The sources of music
There are five sources of music in a scene:
  1. The melody in the actors' spoken words
  2. Sound effects (because they have pitch and rhythm)
  3. Narrative music which tells a story
  4. Background music to enhance the mood of the scene
  5. Songs
Your music is important
Actors in modern (more realistic) motion pictures do not have melodic speaking voices. A song has only one mood. Therefore, you must rely on narrative music and background music to create the mood and help tell the story.
Music by filmmakers
Filmmakers can create the moods for their movies by using:
  1. Individual notes or chords
  2. Delicate rhythms (think tiny bells)
  3. Simple melodies
Filmmakers who are not musician can get all of these elements from the MIDI files of classical music created before 1923. By taking fragments from the classics, you get excellent sounding music that will create the moods for your motion pictures.

The lessons in this course

Here is a summary of all the lessons of this course:
The lesson on film scoring theory gives you the background info on music in motion pictures.
To help you understand about narrative music, take this fun "Musical Pop Quiz" - 4 points.
Note: Narrative music often requires special film editing so the narrative music and the dialog will not overlap. The film editor must add gaps between the dialog for the narrative music. You don't have to do this for soft background music but you must do it for narrative music because it is so loud.

Step 1 - Single notes

Musical effects can be created with just single note. As a sample exercise, you need to learn to create a mood of fear with a single musicial note (or a single chord) by using GarageBand with one of the many violin trills from Jam Pack:Symphony Orchestra or with the Boldt Starp Strings from Boldt 24 Pack.
Once you have created this sound of fear from a single note or chord, please send me your project file or your audio file for this sound. (10 points)
Musical effects can be created by delicate rhythms (but not drums.) As a sample exercise, I want you to use tiny bells or a harp to create a fast, repeating rhythm that sounds extremely happy. This is the sound of joy.
Once you have created this sound of joy from a rapid rhythm of tiny bells or harp, please send me your project file or your audio file. (10 points)

Step 3 - Tiny melodies

Musical effects can be created with simple melodies. As an exercise, I want you to create a dramatic feeling. Then create other simple tunes that tell a story or create a feeling.
Once you have created a very dramatic mood using a melody, please send me your project file or your audio file. (10 points)
For filmmakers, the greatest source of musical sounds is midi files. But extracting notes from midi files of music created before 1923, you can get the masters to create the three kinds of musical sound effects you need for your motion pictures.
Once you have created a very dramatic mood using a melody, please send me your project file or your audio file. (10 points)
Finally, use the points you have earned to purchase the disk called "Blindman's Production" from the Star Movie Shop. Then use the music you have created in steps 1, 2 and 3 as the film score for this scene. You will be surprised how well this works!
You will need the sound of fear (when the blind man trips over the box), the sound of joy when the man and woman hold hands and dramatic melodies to explain that the man is blind.
Send me your project file or your audio file or your complete movie of the scene when you are done with this assignment. (20 points)

Start now

Go ahead and begin. You don't have to read the lessons to begin. If you have problems, go to the individual lessons for more detail. These are the Theory of film scoring, the sound of Fear, the sound of Joy, the sound of Drama and the Film scoring workshop. Otherwise, once you have completed the steps above, you are finished with this course.

The next page

Start with the theory of film scoring. Click here to begin.

Contact your instructor

Your instructor for this film scoring class is Robert Elliott.
You can email me by clicking here.

(aka. Film Scoring Introduction)

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