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I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
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I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
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I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
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Creating with Composition: Mastering Interpretation with Brisbane Composer Ack Kinmonth

Based on the Podcast Episode: “Creating with Composition: Mastering Interpretation with Brisbane Composer Ack Kinmonth” – Episode 45, The Magic of Songwriting with Francesca de Valence

Ever wondered how the music behind your favourite films, TV shows, or ads is created? Ack Kinmonth is a seasoned composer with over a decade of experience in crafting captivating soundscapes for various media. From composing for blockbusters like ‘The Wishmas Tree’ to lending his talents to beloved shows like ‘Bluey,’ Ack’s repertoire spans a diverse array of media, showcasing the versatility and adaptability required in the field.

Ack says composition is like a black art, and after our conversation, we agree. We hope the light this conversation sheds will help songwriters bridge the gap between songwriting and composition for different visual media.

What is the difference between composers and songwriters?

While both roles involve crafting music, they operate within different spheres of the creative landscape, often with different approaches. 

Let’s start with songwriters. Picture someone sitting down with a guitar or at a piano, pouring their heart into lyrics and melodies that resonate with their artistic vision. These individuals write songs for themselves or their own projects, whether as solo artists or as part of a band. It’s often a deeply personal endeavour driven by a desire to express oneself or evoke specific emotions.

Unlike songwriters, composers typically work on a commission basis. Rather than drawing solely from personal inspiration, composers often find themselves translating someone else’s vision into musical form. A media composer brings visuals to life through sound, be it in film, a television show, a video game or advertising. For example, in a film, the composer’s role is to align their creative output with the director’s vision, crafting a sonic landscape that harmonises with the narrative unfolding on screen.

Writing film music: Embracing the diverse and ever-evolving nature of the craft

Unlike traditional music composition, film scoring demands a unique blend of technical proficiency, interpretive skills, and creative intuition. While numerous courses and resources are available to aspiring film composers, the path to mastery ultimately lies in finding one’s own voice and understanding how to translate cinematic storytelling into musical language effectively.

Film music is notoriously difficult to define, spanning various styles and approaches. From John Williams’ orchestral grandeur to John Powell’s eclectic blend of electronic and acoustic elements, the possibilities are virtually endless. Rather than adhering to rigid rules or conventions, composers must be willing to explore and experiment with different sonic palettes, drawing inspiration from a wide range of influences and genres.

Essential skills for a film composer include:

  • Interpreting and executing a director’s vision
  • A spotting session, where the composer sits down with the director to discuss the musical requirements of the project
  • Whether setting the mood for a particular scene or enhancing the emotional impact of a character’s journey, composers must understand the nuances of visual storytelling and translate them into musical cues.
  • A keen understanding of music theory and composition

Remember, you may be writing a theme for a specific character or creating tension and suspense during a pivotal moment; composers must have the technical skill and creative imagination to bring their musical ideas to life.

Transitioning from songwriting to composing for visual media

Whether it’s film, television, or advertising, you’ll need a unique set of skills beyond just crafting memorable melodies and poignant lyrics to become a composer. Simply having great music isn’t enough—though it’s undoubtedly essential. So, what skills does one need to develop to thrive in the world of composing?

  1. Adaptability: Composers must be able to pivot seamlessly between different styles and genres of music to meet the diverse needs of various projects. 
  2. Versatility: This often involves immersing oneself in unfamiliar musical territories, analysing different styles, and mastering the nuances that define each genre.
  3. Analytical skills: Composers must understand music’s inner workings—the harmonic progressions, melodic motifs, and rhythmic structures underpinning a piece—beyond simply appreciating it. This allows them to deconstruct existing music, draw inspiration from diverse sources, and synthesise these elements into original compositions that resonate with their intended audience.
  4. Proficiency in technology: From digital audio workstations (DAWs) to sample libraries and virtual instruments, composers rely on many tools and software to bring their musical visions to life. Familiarity with these technologies empowers composers to manipulate sound with precision, experiment with sonic textures, and create immersive audio experiences that elevate a project’s visual storytelling.
  5. Understanding the intricacies of scoring for visual media: This involves not only composing music that enhances a scene’s emotional resonance but also synchronising it with the on-screen action to create a cohesive audiovisual experience. Composers must possess a keen sense of timing, pacing, and narrative arc, allowing them to craft music that seamlessly integrates with the visual storytelling of a film or television show.
  6. Collaboration skills: Composers often work closely with directors, producers, music supervisors, and other creatives to bring their musical vision to fruition. Effective communication, receptiveness to feedback, and the ability to translate abstract concepts into tangible musical expressions are essential for fostering productive collaborations and ensuring that the final product meets the artistic vision of all stakeholders involved.

The three pillars of success: Willingness, Perception, and Networking

In the world of music composition and production, achieving success often hinges on a delicate balance of talent, relationships, and a bit of boldness. Whether you’re an aspiring composer or a seasoned musician, understanding the key elements that drive success in this industry can significantly impact your career trajectory. 

Let’s break down three critical factors that have propelled many successful composers and musicians to where they are today.

1. The Willingness to Jump In

One of the most striking characteristics of successful composers is their fearless approach to new opportunities. This involves saying “yes” to projects, even when the path forward isn’t entirely clear. This mindset is rooted in a deep-seated trust in one’s abilities to figure things out as they go along. 

Imagine a scenario where you’re offered a project outside your comfort zone or expertise. Instead of shying away, embracing the challenge can lead to incredible growth and unexpected opportunities. This willingness to dive in headfirst, backed by a belief in one’s potential, often distinguishes those who move forward in their careers from those who remain stagnant.

2. Exceptional Auditory Perception

Another pivotal factor is the ability to envision and interpret sound without the traditional crutch of reading music. Many successful composers have honed their ears to an extraordinary level, allowing them to “hear” music in their minds before it even hits the page.

This talent often compensates for a lack of formal training in traditional music notation. Instead, these composers rely on tools like MIDI and DAWs to translate the sounds in their heads into tangible compositions. This process might involve playing out ideas on a keyboard or manipulating digital instruments to create the desired effect. The key is the ability to quickly and accurately get what’s in their mind into a form that can be shared and refined.

3. The Power of Networking and Relationships

In the music industry, who you know can be just as important as what you know. Building and maintaining relationships is crucial. Many opportunities arise not from cold inquiries or anonymous submissions but from connections and the trust built through past collaborations.

Consider the example of a composer who consistently works with the same directors, producers, or fellow musicians. These ongoing relationships often lead to more projects, as familiarity and mutual trust make collaboration smoother and more efficient. Networking goes beyond exchanging business cards at events—it’s about building genuine relationships where people know you by name and trust your work.

The importance of being a “good hang” cannot be overstated. Being personable and easy to work with can sometimes outweigh even technical skills. Many highly talented composers miss opportunities simply because they haven’t developed the interpersonal skills necessary to thrive in collaborative environments.

Practical tips for aspiring musicians and composers

  • Be Bold: Don’t be afraid to take on projects that seem daunting. Your willingness to learn and adapt is a powerful asset.
  • Develop Your Ear: Train yourself to hear and understand music deeply. Use technology to bridge any gaps in your formal training.
  • Network Genuinely: Focus on building real relationships rather than just making contacts. Be reliable, personable, and professional in all your interactions.

For composers and songwriters, success in the music industry is a blend of taking bold steps, leveraging your auditory skills, and building strong, meaningful relationships. These things can help you navigate the complexities of a music career and open doors to new and exciting opportunities. 

Where does your songwriting journey begin?

I Heart Songwriting Club is here to support you in achieving your songwriting goals, whatever they may be. Check out our programs, and let’s work towards your next creative milestone.

By |2024-05-21T13:06:45+10:00May 16th, 2024|0 Comments
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