Arts & Entertainment, Music


Danny Elfman

Lesson time 11:55 min

When you have a disorganized mind like Danny’s, studio and project organization are key to a successful career. He shares his process for organizing his studio, how he chooses his software, and the big board that keeps track of his output.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Time Management: The Big Board · Software: Digital Performer · Your Team


[MUSIC PLAYING] - The number one law, the first commandment, is you must finish on time. I've learned to get into my high gear when I need to. When I'm feeling it, when there's no time left, I can work super fast. I organize my sounds as best I can. And I bring out my board with minutes and cues to force me to organize my time, because I won't do it on my own. I'll spend forever on each cue. I need an external way to force myself to move at a certain pace. And that's my spotting notes, my big board, as I call it, where I have my number of days. Every night I finish, I cross off another day and I count how many minutes I have left. And the board's telling me I have exactly 27 days left. And if 27 days-- if I have much more than 50 minutes and 27 days, that's not good. I've got to push harder. You know, I never want to leave myself with more than two minutes a day to write, because that's about as much as I can do. Meaning that I'm going to get in a really active cue, if it's an action movie, where it's going to be slower, because the big, detailed action music, minute and a half, is a good day. But then there's also going to be some moments where it's more ethereal, it's more ambient, or it's a romantic section, and I might get two and a half minutes in that day. But two minutes is the max. And if I have any time over two minutes a day-- hopefully, a minute 45-- that's where I could breathe and I'm comfortable. But over two minutes, there's a red light going off, an alarm, saying, you've got to move your ass, or you're going to be in trouble. So that's how I organize my time. I make these things that are externally there. They're easy to follow and they're pushing me, they're kicking my ass, they're moving me along, because otherwise, I just won't do it. The big board. What does that mean? It's something I started with my music editor Bill Abbott. And it's literally a big piece of project board. And in it is the section at the top with the number-- however many days from the spotting session. And in those numbers are two numbers-- a countdown and a countup. So there's one set of numbers that starts with a 1 and goes to 60. There's another that starts at 60 and is going to 1. Because I want to go, okay, I'm on the 11th day, I've got this many days left. And then I cross off every day. So when I come in, when I start in the morning, I can go, all right, I have this many Xs, this many days left. Woo, look at all those cues. Because every single cue has got a box with the number, the name of the cue, and I will exit out as I go. And of course, you know, I want to walk in here and see a lot of Xs. But in that box is also the length of the cue. So it could be deceptive. I'll walk in and go, I'm doing pretty good, look at all those Xs. Then I go, oh, 32 seconds, 15 seconds, 40 seconds, 10 seconds, crap. And then I look towards the end of the board, I got four and a half minutes, seven minutes,...

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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