To be most useful, our virtual orchestras need to behave like real ones. With a properly balanced template, real-world orchestrations work virtually, which lends realism to our music and improves our orchestration skill. In this class, we’ll cover template balancing, and how various articulations should sound when properly dynamic (e.g., the loudest pizz strings are much quieter than bowed ones). We’ll talk about the differences between small and large groups, and look at how mixing techniques play a role in getting the proper sound and feel. Don’t miss it!

Online Masterclass – TEMPLATE BALANCING

In 2004, I did a score for a film called “Forbidden Warrior” with a 96-piece all-star orchestra, recorded at the legendary Todd-AO studio by Academy Award-winning engineer Shawn Murphy.  Who among us could possibly complain?  It was beautifully performed and recorded; it sounds like a Big Hollywood Movie.  Well, in this class, we’re going to analyze the Main Title  Main Title both compositionally, and especially orchestrationally because today I would do it very differently; much more effectively.  We’ll talk about how and why, and reveal some of the key ingredients to the classic “Hollywood sound.”  Included in the class is a copy of the original score for study.  Don’t miss this one!

Online Masterclass – A BETTER MAIN TITLE

In this class we’ll go through each instrument of each section of the orchestra and set up some orchestration “presets” for how to use them. We’ll prepare lead/chord/countermelody/flourish templates for various styles and contexts so you have some quick, great-sounding go-tos when developing ideas or working on pieces. Epic presets, quiet presets, haunting presets, action presets, quirky, vintage, RomCom, horror and many more. Not a lot of theory, just a lot of easy-to-use formulas to get you instantly in the vibe. Inspiring and useful; don’t miss it!

Online Masterclass – ORCHESTRATION 3 – PRESETS

I’ll be honest: having been a writer, director, and editor for almost as long as I’ve been a composer makes the job of writing to picture much, much easier. When we understand what’s going on under the hood, dramatically, and how things are structurally developed, it gives us a clear template to follow and build our ideas on. In fact, it sets the stage for the qualities which define the most cherished film scores in history. In this class, we’re going to film school. We’re going to learn the whats and whys of dramatic storytelling – film, tv, games; it’s all the same – and how to use this knowledge to increase our musical skill and make our job easier. We’ll talk about developing primary and secondary theme and character arcs and various harmonic devices to mimic developments on screen. We’ll talk about communicating with directors, and understanding the way they and their producers view a project. And we’ll talk about the art of negotiation – getting our ideas heard and valued when fighting biases and temp tracks. Tons of stuff to talk about – don’t miss it!

Online Masterclass – FILM SCHOOL 101

Since its television debut in 1966, the various incarnations of Star Trek have been host to a multitude of composers – from Alexander Courage and Gerald Fried to Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. Over the decades an extremely rich library of styles, techniques, sounds, and approaches have been employed, and the soundtracks are my personal favorite place to plumb for ideas. In this class we’re going to go decade by decade, listening to and dissecting musical gems across every section of the orchestra; rediscover sounds and harmonies which sound fresh again; and celebrate the many heroic moments and mustache-twirling bad guys from every corner of this musical galaxy. Whether you’re a fan of Star Trek or not, there is a lifetime of musical gold to be found in its universe. Don’t miss this one!

Online Masterclass – 50 YEARS of STAR TREK

Alan Silvestri is undoubtedly one of the greats – his contribution to film music is immense. Across a wide variety of genres he’s been a master of theme and mood, seamlessly blending simplicity with density and color. But he’s got a few tricks he uses often, as well, and in this class we’ll break down his favorite devices and take a look under the hood at some of what makes him so formidable. One of my personal favorites and a huge influence… don’t miss it!

Online Masterclass – SIMPLY SILVESTRI

Scales, Chords and Modes, demystified! While it’s true that we can know theory inside and out and still not be able to write our way out of a paper bag, if we’re armed with the compositional principles I’ve discussed in other courses, knowledge of theory can be a powerful way to improve our writing, and recognize patterns in others’ work as well. It’s a huge subject, but after this course, you will “get it,” be well on your way, and feel confident and clear about music in a way you haven’t before – promise! It’s a bit like learning how magic tricks are done; it’s fun, so don’t miss it!

Online Masterclass – THEORY 1

One question that comes up repeatedly is how best to modulate and develop ideas – within a single cue or piece, and over the course of a long-form project, like a film score. Expanding on the ideas in Composition 1, and 2, in this class I’ll show you even more ways to approach the modulation and development of your pieces so they stay fresh and engaging. The more we learn about this, the less likely we are to hit dry spells or roadblocks, too, because we always have several developmental options open to us!

Online Masterclass – THE MOD SQUAD

Recently, I had to score a sci-fi action/adventure film – 70+ minutes of music – in 7 days. I couldn’t rely on endless ostinatos or ambience beds to eat up minutes at a time, and I had a full spectrum of emotions to convey. In this class we’ll break down how I did it – how I structured my approach musically and logistically. We’ll look at the thematic and motivic anchors and how to bridge them in the midst of action and drama. We’ll examine the practical performance and VI input process and where to put performance priority – something I call the “magic 70%.” We don’t always get the chance to work under ideal circumstances, but we can do it even under the worst conditions if we’re prepared, practiced, and have a plan, and this can make all the difference in your career, so don’t miss this one!

Online Masterclass – HOW to SCORE a FILM in 7 DAYS

Let’s face it: a lot of us are writing on virtual instruments for virtual instruments, and while following the traditional rules of orchestration and composition is a fantastic approach, not everything translates; not everything works. In this class, I’ll show you how I handle this unusual beast – what I avoid trying to do virtually, how I approximate certain otherwise-impossible effects. We’ll talk about ways to layer and supplement parts, how to manage a template, combine different sample libraries, and more! $30 Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – VIRTUOSITY

Jazz has had a profound impact on film music and film music composers since the Golden Era; its tonalities and influences are omnipresent even today. With its strong improvisational core (“realtime composing”) and its extensive vocabulary of unique dissonances and consonances, it’s like a supercharger for our compositional engines. It gives us tons of new colors to play with, hones our structural sensibilities, and frees our creative minds. In this class, we’ll learn what’s behind these cools sounds, and how to begin using them in our work. Williams, Goldsmith, Silvestri… so much of their work is unmistakably Jazz-based; these tools absolutely belong in your tool box. Come and get them!
$30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – ALL THAT JAZZ

I think we should be able to do passable “impressions” of our composing contemporaries. Doing so reveals our understanding (or lack thereof) of the colors and styles we’re surrounded by – which naturally influence our own work! This oft-requested class explores the “essence” of the sounds from composers like James Horner, Alan Silvestri, Thomas Newman, Jerry Goldsmith and others. What makes them sound the way they do? Through harmonic, orchestrational, and structural examples, we reveal their secret recipes and approaches. Lots of “Ah-Ha!” moments guaranteed.

Online Masterclass – IMPRESSIONS

The interwoven melodic lines of great counterpoint add depth and dimension to our pieces, and vastly expand our opportunities to create tension, drama, and excitement in our work. But learning to control it can be tricky – when do you use it? How much; how little? When does it in enhance; when does it compete? What is the impact on orchestration and tone? So many questions. You’ll find the answers here as we begin the exploration of this, my personally favorite part of writing music. Don’t miss it! $30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – COUNTERPOINT 1

The impact that John Williams’ music has had on filmscoring, and on generations of composers is undeniable. Having made a study of his film work for more than 35 years, in this class I’ll be revealing the roots of his sound, compositionally and orchestrationally. I’ll show you where he gets most of his devices, harmonies, voicings, and more. We’ll examine his structural templates, go-tos, favorite modulation tricks, and more – and talk about how to incorporate them into your own work intelligently! Because of the influence his work has had on me, personally, this is perhaps my favorite class yet.
$30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – HERE’S JOHNNY!

Starting a piece can be rough. Where to begin? Well you can begin here, with this insanely useful collection of composing “recipes!” Call them inspirations, call them seeds, call them templates… I call them Kickstarters. Steal them, build on them, make them your own. I’ll tell you exactly which instruments to put where, how to voice them, and how to structure your pieces across a variety of styles. Most of my classes are about teaching you to fish. Well this time, I’m just going to give you the fish! No theory, no concepts – just powerful, raw materials you can put to work instantly! I’ll be giving you templates for that classic “Hollywood sound” – melody, chord and comping orchestrations, voicing, you name it. Hey, we could all use a boost from time to time; this will get you going faster and more creatively than you can possibly imagine.
$30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – KICKSTARTERS

Everything You Wanted to Know, but Were Afraid to Ask. During the year, I get asked a lot of fantastic questions which nonetheless aren’t quite worthy of an entire class on their own. They’re one-offs about things like: developing ideas, modulating, runs and flourishes, writing for small groups, negotiating with a difficult director, notation, deliverables… a huge cross-section of topics. I’ve kept them in a special folder all year. Well for this class, we’re going to bring them all out, line them up and knock them down – a potpourri salad bar grab bag of useful, with a lot of gems and surprises. Don’t miss it! $30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – NEEDFUL THINGS

If there’s one thing all the greats have in common, it’s a mastery of the power, color, and drama afforded by great rhythm and masterful use of percussion instruments. Sitting in the percussion section for many years gave me some pretty strong feelings about rhythm, and the use of the multitude of colors back there, and I picked up a lot of great tricks which I now use every day in my writing. In these “epic” times, it’s not always clear what to use, when to use them, and how – beyond a wash of thundering bangs. So in this class, we’ll talk about incorporating strong rhythmic devices into each section, and how to enhance and complement them both subtly and forcefully with the most dynamic section in the room.
$30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – RHYTHM and PERCUSSION

Discussion of technique is great, but nothing beats real-world experience. This class is a comprehensive, start-to-finish analysis and breakdown of an orchestral piece – from initial conception and sketch, through orchestration, notation, vi-mockup, and live recording at Fox Studios by legendary recording engineer Shawn Murphy. In this class I’ll be taking you through the entire creative and production process on a real-world project, using the techniques discussed in Composition 1, Orchestration 1, Secret Weapons, and many others. We’ll be talking about every aspect of the composition, orchestration, notation, and production, including contracting the orchestra, and a look at the budget breakdown! $45. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Writing music is one thing; writing music to picture is another. In this class I’ll be talking about strategies for thematic development within film structure, handling cue entrances/exits and transitions, techniques for orchestration in and around dialog/sound effects, working with temp tracks, and more. Plus I’ll give you some of speed-writing scoring tips for getting scenes cued and mapped out under the gun, as we look at before-and-after examples from several real-world projects.
$30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – SCORING 1

Scoring an action scene… never an easy task. With all the cuts, sound design and chaos, the temptation is to lay beds, drones; tread water – but the best action cues never do. They have shape and throughline; they tell a story. In this class we’ll look at techniques for attacking these sequences; determining the tempo, managing the cuts. We’ll explore some approaches to incorporating thematic and motivic material, and how to avoid getting buried in the mix – essential tools for the modern film composer!
$30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – ACTION SCENES

This one’s all about moods. Heroic, wistful, ominous, elated, vengeful, bitter, liberated, mysterious – learning how to conjure a specific emotion for our audiences is a key skill. I’ll be covering some of the essential tricks for establishing a mood and discussing how to get from one to another quickly and efficiently. I lean on this skillset every day with every cue. Don’t miss this one!
$30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – COMPOSITION 2

James Horner’s music had a profound impact on me as a young composer; on a lot of us, I suspect. For all the shots taken at him during his career, he was a master dramatist, thematic composer, and craftsman, and he will be sorely missed. Join me for this in-depth look at his techniques – famous and infamous – as we relish what he’s left us, and how to incorporate some of that into our work so he is sure to live on. $30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – ON HORNER

There is a world of interesting instruments, tonalities, colors, and harmonies out there which we can use in our work. Rather than just dropping a duduk on top of some strings, lets explore deeper the techniques and effectiveness of truly integrating these gems within our Western framework. When it’s done right, it’s both exotic and familiar, and extremely effective! $30. Click on the title graphic above to purchase.

Online Masterclass – ETHNIC and WORLD