Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Digital Audio Workstations

Many MIDI tracks in Logic X

Many MIDI tracks in Logic X

Digital Audio Workstations, or DAWs, are where we as composers spend the majority of our time. It is very important to find a workstation that meets your needs, and one that you are the most efficient in. Currently, the major contenders are Logic Pro, Cubase, ProTools, Digital Performer, and Ableton Live. I am often asked which DAW to go with from prospective and admitted students; I hope this blog can help out!

Digital Audio Workstations

Digital Audio Workstations, or DAWs, are where we as composers spend the majority of our time. It is very important to find a workstation that meets your needs, and one …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Recording Session Preparation

Score Prep

The first recording session of the semester is coming up very quick (20 piece ensemble, recorded at Chicago Recording Company): this Friday the 27th. After weeks of writing, producing, score preparation, and some conducting practice, we are feeling more prepared for the session. As this is our first time conducting and recording a group of professional musicians, this definitely will be a learning experience. Many in my class are very grateful to have observed the class of 2014’s recording sessions last year, soaking in the experience. We know the process, and how the studio is set up, and definitely remember how fast you must be. If you must make a comment, make it quick, and move on to the next take!

Class of 2014 Recording Session:

Video 1

Video 2

Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten quite a bit of advice and have been trying to prepare to make the session as smooth as possible. Here are a few tips I’ve put together.

Have other people look at your score and parts. It is often more difficult to see errors in your work. This is probably because you are so used to seeing the mistakes, fresh eyes will usually see the errors much quicker. Also, make sure to print out your score and parts while proofreading. This will make it very easy to mark errors, and you can more easily mark mistakes than on a computer.

Be bold when writing dynamics and don’t write divisi with a small ensemble. Writing mp to mf is not a great dynamic change, writing p to f instead will give you a much more obvious change. When using a string section below twenty players, using divisi might not be the best use of the musicians. The string ensemble sound starts to disappear, leaving you with many individual solo lines.

Make sure your Protools session is simple, but has everything the musicians might need. Nothing would be more frustrating than to have your recording session cut in half due to the tempo click track. If you want the musicians to hear an important synth or piano prelay, make sure to have those on an individual track.

Know every entrance, and every phrase without looking at the score. If you are prepared, cueing in musicians shouldn’t be much of a problem. Then you can focus on phrasing, and overall emotional vibes of the piece.

You’re not done yet! Mixing the recording with your electronics and sampler prelays, editing the takes together, and properly blending the two together are also very important. Often times, multiple takes of strings are layered together to create a much larger sounding group. This takes patience and an ear for detail, editing starts and ends, and exaggerating dynamics with the fader. The recordings can bring liveliness to the piece, but unedited can sometimes sound flat and hollow. Make sure you spend some time in Protools to get the mix working.

Recording Session Preparation

The first recording session of the semester is coming up very quick (20 piece ensemble, recorded at Chicago Recording Company): this Friday the 27th. After weeks of writing, producing, score …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Sampling My Home Piano

Following last year’s winter project of sampling an NES, this year I thought I would sample my home piano back in Montana. There are thousands of pianos sampled, some of my favorites are Spitfire’s felt piano and even Logic’s Steinway. Why would I need another set of piano samples? The air of the room, and the unique quality of an older, slightly beat up piano make this a lot different than the other samples I use. In addition, the slightly out of tune notes actually add a real world quality to the instrument.

Sampling My Home Piano

Following last year’s winter project of sampling an NES, this year I thought I would sample my home piano back in Montana. There are thousands of pianos sampled, some of …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

My Favorites of 2014

2014 seemed to be a pretty epic year in regards to music, films, games, and tv. Obviously, there were way too many things to list, and studying took much of my time over the last year. However, over break, I had some time to sit back and take a look at some really amazing projects. Here were a few of my favorites this year.

Interstellar

Seeing this in 70mm IMAX (at Navy Pier), really made this movie experience extraordinary. The speakers were loud, and the in-your-face score sounded outstanding. Some people thought the music was mixed too loudly over dialogue, but I didn’t think that was an issue at all. The most memorable parts of the score were definitely the huge organ swells, and the lush reverb that follows. This is a new direction for Hans, utilizing woodwinds and organ instead of his go-to brass section. I love this new direction he has taken.

My Favorites of 2014

2014 seemed to be a pretty epic year in regards to music, films, games, and tv. Obviously, there were way too many things to list, and studying took much of …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Winter Break in Montana

Red Lodge, Montana

After a difficult but successful semester, I am glad to be back in Montana for break. The amount of composing was intense, especially during the last month of class. The animation screening on the 11th was a nice way to end the semester, with a very full theater and encouraging feedback from the audience. The animations are still in progress, and I can’t wait to continue working with the incredible animators next semester.

Winter Break in Montana

After a difficult but successful semester, I am glad to be back in Montana for break. The amount of composing was intense, especially during the last month of class. The …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Collaboration Between Departments

John Hagley working on OBELISK

Over the last year, the Music Composition for the Screen, MFA program has been collaborating with more and more departments on student films, video games, and animated shorts. Thanks to our incredible professors Kubilay Uner and Andrew Edwards, we have seen many more opportunities arise for collaborating with other Columbia students. We can bring in these projects as our homework, and get feedback from the professor and fellow classmates. So far this semester, as a class we have had a meet and greet with the MFA directors and producers, and started scoring roughly a dozen animated shorts and around eight video games. Networking with these students is really invaluable for our careers.

The animation department looked to our program to provide original scores for about ten senior projects (created by one senior animator), as well as two group projects known as Animation Production Studio (APS). These two classes meet for an entire year, from early storyboards to the screening during Manifest in May. It is a great opportunity for us to work with a large team (about 20 students), and to get started early on in the process. I am currently working on one of these group projects and attended one of the classes. It was a very interesting look behind the scenes of how an animated film is made, and gave me a better idea of the feel of the film. I look forward to working with this very talented group next semester!

If you would like to attend, there is a Animation Program Screening on 8pm December 11th, at the Film Row Cinema featuring:

Film Row Cinema

“Bad Magic” music by Sean Pack (2014 Graduate)
“A Spider Story” music by Sara Broshofske (Class of 2015)
Various in progress animated shorts – music by many of us in the Class of 2015!

We also had the opportunity to work with the video game department on a variety of games that were demoed at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair on November 22nd. It was a fun experience to see random people demo the games and to see their reaction. Many of these games we will continue to work on over the winter break and into next semester. The fair even had a yoyo contest, giant walking dinosaur, lots of Settlers of Catan!

Catan… Rug

Collaboration Between Departments

Over the last year, the Music Composition for the Screen, MFA program has been collaborating with more and more departments on student films, video games, and animated shorts. Thanks to …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Alumni Spotlight: Sean Pack (Internship in LA with Kim Planert)

Sean Pack

The capstone to the Music Composition for the Screen, MFA program is the summer internship in LA, where students intern with experienced Hollywood composers. Sean Pack, graduate of the class of 2014, had the opportunity to intern with Kim Planert, who has worked such projects as Castle and The Unit.

Alumni Spotlight: Sean Pack (Internship in LA with Kim Planert)

The capstone to the Music Composition for the Screen, MFA program is the summer internship in LA, where students intern with experienced Hollywood composers. Sean Pack, graduate of the class …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Internship in LA: Brittany Dunton (Mark Isham)

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Mark Isham – photo credit: imdb.com

The capstone to the Music Composition for the Screen, MFA program is the summer internship in LA, where students intern with experienced Hollywood composers. Brittany Dunton, graduate of the class of 2014, had the opportunity to intern with Mark Isham, who is well known for titles including Once Upon a Time and Crash.

Internship in LA: Brittany Dunton (Mark Isham)

The capstone to the Music Composition for the Screen, MFA program is the summer internship in LA, where students intern with experienced Hollywood composers. Brittany Dunton, graduate of the class …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Faculty Spotlight: Gary Chang

MusicComp.Chang

For this blog, I had the opportunity to interview Gary Chang; associate professor and co-director of the music composition for the screen program. Gary’s experience is vast. He has written music for projects such as The Breakfast Club, Under Siege, and Storm of The Century. In addition, he has worked as a studio musician for artists such as Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, and Robbie Robertson. He also worked with film composers Henry Mancini, Patrick Williams, and Giorgio Moroder (recent Daft Punk collaborator). Every week I look forward to Gary’s class. He is always up to date when it comes to current film scoring techniques, gear, and the film music business.

Faculty Spotlight: Gary Chang

For this blog, I had the opportunity to interview Gary Chang; associate professor and co-director of the music composition for the screen program. Gary’s experience is vast. He has written …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Internship in LA: Steven Melin (Joel Goodman)

Joel Goodman – photo credit: ascap.com

The capstone to the Music Composition for the screen MFA program is the summer internship in LA, where students intern with experienced Hollywood composers. Steven Melin, graduate of the class of 2014, had the opportunity to intern with Joel Goodman, who has worked on numerous documentaries including The American Experience. Joel is a very active composer, with seven movies coming out this year.

Internship in LA: Steven Melin (Joel Goodman)

The capstone to the Music Composition for the screen MFA program is the summer internship in LA, where students intern with experienced Hollywood composers. Steven Melin, graduate of the class …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605