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Tips for Movie and TV Writing

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 brings you everything you want. So, what do you want? My new-year’s goal is to place more music in film and television programs. To do that, I want to write better songs, write more of them, and write them faster. Maybe take a stab at writing music cues. Here are a few tricks I’m going to apply.

Tip #1 – Whittle to Focus: Do you know the heart of your song? Sometimes after a verse or two, songs start to ramble. So test yourself. Write four lines to describe the story of your song. Next, distill the story down to two sentences. Then write just one to explain what the song is about. If you can do that, you’ll clarify your vision for the song.

Tip #2 – Listen to TV: If you want to write music cues to scenes, you have to not only watch a TV show, but listen to it as well. It’s not the same “chilling out” factor as most TV viewing experiences. But by keying into how music is used beneath the visuals, you can learn a lot. Listen for where a cue is used, how it’s used, how long it lasts, what the instrumentation is, and so on. Become an ear sleuth.

Tip #3 – Map it Out: I’m working on three songs for a film project. Before I begin writing lyrics or music, I map out the scene in my DAW program, creating sections based on the script. For example, I might need 30 seconds of instrumental music under dialogue, 10 seconds of lead in before the lyrics begin. Then one minute for lyrics before dialogue begins again. That structure frames my song so specifically, it actually makes it easier to write.

Try these tips on your next songwriting assignment. Whether your song is for film or television, or Internet Radio, having a plan to get there is half the battle.

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