Arts & Entertainment, Music

Creating Your Template

Danny Elfman

Lesson time 7:53 min

Identifying the tone of the film can dictate the sounds that make up your template. Danny walks you through how he creates a template from which to build a score, and he tells you how being prepared can help you realize your vision.

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Topics include: Making Your Own Sounds


[MUSIC PLAYING] DANNY ELFMAN: When I start a score, the first thing I'm thinking is the tone. And so, yes, the tone involves color, orchestration, and I'm going to build a template in my software based on what I think I'm going to need for that score. So I'm going to put a whole week of work into just building my template, because obviously, once I start writing, I want to be as clearly just focused on writing as I possibly can. Kind of an analogy, I-- a long time ago, there's a wonderful artist named Francesco Clemente, and a friend of mine, who was an artist, brought me into his studio. He was just setting up for a show, a new series of paintings. It was just the very beginning, and the room was lined with blank canvas, and he was getting all his colors, all his pigments, lined up in the middle of the floor. And I learned a lot from this because this is actually the image of how I begin to try to get my shit together when I'm starting a score. He was getting all the hues and pigments he thinks he was going to use for this project from one side of the floor to the other, and that was his way of organizing himself. Now, I have no idea what his mind is like, what his process is like, how chaotic or not chaotic it is, but I liked that idea. And so when I'm trying to spend that week or 10 days at the beginning of a score organizing myself, I see myself as doing the same thing. I'm lining up these pigments, so when I begin painting, I know where most of them are. And that doesn't mean I'm not going to want to find a color that I didn't imagine I was going to want, but it does allow me to start with some organization, lining up my sounds-- my colors, my pigments-- in a way that I'm going to know where to find them, at least. But on top of that, I might have a feeling that, for this score, I'm going to need a lot of ethereal sounds. I'm going to really look at everything I have in bowed glass, in synthetic sounds, and on many scores, I might spend a week just programming synthesizers. If I'm going to use synths, I'm going to go through my library, and I'm going to tweak sounds. And in that template, I'm going to have 20 ethereal synth sounds that I'm already liking. If it's a certain type of score, I might be building arpeggiated things. And so even though I'm going to want much more, I want to start with 20 arpeggiated sounds that I like, that it feels like I'm getting into the ballpark of what I think the color of the score is going to be. If I'm looking for samples, I might go and do a deep library I've done on prepared pianos and piano harmonics because I love piano overtones and piano harmonics, and I'll find the ones that are appealing to me. So, yeah, there's a lot of work in the beginning that's going to go into, before I've written anything, a feel of color, and/or another word for tone, of what I think the film is going to be. And then over the course of, as I'm starting to write, I'm going to expand on that. But I want to...

About the Instructor

From The Simpsons theme to the soundtracks of Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Danny Elfman’s compositions are original, memorable, and exuberantly weird. Now the Oingo Boingo founder and four-time Oscar nominee shares his unconventional (and uncensored) creative process. Step into Danny’s studio and learn his techniques for evoking emotion and elevating a story through music.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Danny Elfman

Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman teaches you his eclectic creative process and his approach to elevating a story with sound.

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