Songwriting for Film and TV

I took Songwriting for Film and TV largely due to an enthusiastic recommendation from one of the teachers at Berklee Online that I respect quite a bit. I have to say that it was my least favorite class of the term.

The materials were rather dated and the class felt like a low priority to our instructor. Perhaps if the course author was our instructor I might have enjoyed this one more. For what it was, it was an okay class. Just not as good as many of the other courses that I have taken with Berklee Online.

The highlight was collaborating with a couple of my classmates. They were super nice, responsive and professional. I think we came up with some really nice pieces.

Here’s what we covered over the twelve weeks.

Week 1 – “Historical and Current Use of Songs in Visual Media”,
Introduction, Meet and Greet, History of Songwriting for Films, Synchronized Sound and Picture: The Jazz Singer (1927), Movie Musicals: The Wizard of OZ (1939), Movie Musicals: The Sound of Music (1965), Movie Musicals: 1980-1990s, Movie Musicals: High School Musical 3 (2008), Songs by the “Reel:” WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982), Song by the “Reel:” Friends (1994-2004), Cover Songs: Ally McBeal (1997-2002), Cover Songs: Grey’s Anatomy (2005-Present), Animated Film: Snow White (1937), Animated Film: Pinocchio (1940), Animated Film: Little Mermaid (1989), Animated Film: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Discussion 1.1: Technology Impact, Media Path of a Song in Film, Media Path of a Song in TV, Animation, and Video Games, Exercise 1.1: Project a Potential Media Path, Simple Is Effective, Examples: Mystic River, Examples: The OC, Examples: Grey’s Anatomy, Assignment 1: Write a Short Song, Recap

Week 2 – “Songwriting ‘On Demand'”, Apr 9th – Apr 15th
Introduction, Discipline of Writing on Assignment, Tips When Discussing Assignment, Revising an Assignment, Discussion 2.1: Scenario, The Song Has to Have Bassoon and a Reggae Beat!, Dealing with Unusual Requests, “Temp Love”, Communication, Song Characteristics, Identifiable Genre, “Temp Love” Example, Exercise 2.1: Identify Foreground and Background Elements, Remakes, Sound-Alikes, and Copyrights, Copyrights, Assignment 2: Write a Draft of a 2-minute Custom Song, Recap

Week 3 – “Writing a Visual Media Friendly Song”, Apr 16th – Apr 22nd,
Introduction, Melody Elements, Workshop: Is the Melody Distracting?, Harmonic Colors, Workshop: Is the Harmony Distracting?, Discussion 3.1: Harmony, Rhythmic Elements, Workshop: Is the Rhythm Distracting?, Intros, Vamps, and Endings, Intros, Endings, Assignment 3: Revise Song Draft, Recap

Week 4 – “Writing for Music Libraries and Song Catalogs Part 1”, Apr 23rd – Apr 29th
Introduction, Library Music, What is It?, Who Do Music Libraries License To?, Exercise 4.1: Song Catalog Search Party, What Do Music Libraries Want from Their Writers?, Intros, Stylistically Focused, Song Forms, Lyrics, Have a Real Ending, Tell Me What You Are!, Exercise 4.2: Orchestration Consistent with Genre, How Do I Stack Up!, Musical and Performance Quality, Midi Instruments (samples) versus “Live” Players, Mix Quality, Exercise 4.3: Evaluate a Song, Assignment 4: Research Music Libraries, Recap

Week 5 – “Writing for Music Libraries and Song Catalogs Part 2”, Apr 30th – May 6th
Introduction, How Much is My Time Worth?, Cash Flow, Volume, What Year and Place Was the Song From?, Guitar, Keyboard, Bass, Drums, Vocalists, Trumpet, Saxophone, Quiz 5.1: Musicians and Instruments, How Do We Make Our Songs More Flexible?, Expand the Era, Alternate Mixes, Alternate Edits, Exercise 5.1: Accentuate the Positive and Collaborate, Assignment 5: Write a Song, Recap

Week 6 – “Background Source Music Not Sync’d to Picture”, May 7th – May 13th
Introduction, What Is Source Music?, Why Can’t I Hear My Song?, Pesky Dialogue, Audio Manipulation, Electronically “Futzed”, Discussion 6.1: Source Music, Special FX on Your Source Music Song: Mono and EQ, Special FX on Your Source Music Song: Reverb and Delays, Special FX on Your Source Music Song: Specialized Effects, Quiz 6.1: Special FX, Make Your Song “Editor-Friendly”, Song Recorded without a Click Track, Song Recorded with a Click Track, Song Recorded Replacing a Loop or Bad Drum Track, Smart Use of Key Changes, Use of Interlude, Chorus to Chorus and False Ending, Orchestrative Changes, Exercise 6.1: Find Your Success Formula, Assignment 6: Background Source Music, Recap

Week 7 – “Foreground Source Music Sync’d to Action”, May 14th – May 20th
Introduction, How Do I Know When the Music Should Start and End?, Visual Time Code, Pre-Roll, Sonic Impact, Creating Pre-Roll from Nothing, Audio Layout, Exercise 7.1: Ask the Right Questions, Quiz 7.1: The 10-Second Method, Quiz 7.2: The 16-Beat Method, Quiz 7.3: The 16-Bar Method, Different Approach, Variable Click, What If …., Visual Continuity of Instruments and Sound, Guitars, Basses, and Other String Instruments, Keyboards, Drums and Percussion, Structure of the Song Based on the Scene, Quiz 7.4: In Time of the Butterflies Story, Assignment 7: Write a Song, Recap

Week 8 – “Collaboration Part 1”, May 21st – May 27th
Introduction, Why Collaborate?, Work Opportunities and the Spin-off for Future Success, Discussion 8.1: A Few Questions, Strictly Business?, Business Matters, Songwriter Splits, Collaboration – Tools of the Trade, Audio Formats, MP3s, Creating an Audio Footprint, Full Audio Formats, File Naming, MIDI Conductor Track Tutorial: Part 1, MIDI Conductor Track Tutorial: Part 2, File Storage and Access, Staying on the Same Page, Assignment 8: Collaborate, Recap

Week 9 – “Collaboration within the Production Phase”, May 28th – Jun 3rd
Introduction, Importing Digital Audio Tracks from a Collaborator’s Studio, Establish Effects and Recording Guidelines, Mixdown Guidelines, The MIDI Musician Collaborator, Exercise: Identify Contacts, Manipulate the Data!, Replacing Sounds and Editing MIDI data from Your Collaborator, Changing the Song Structure, Cleaning Up the Audio Data, Which Track Are You Using?, Vocal Tracks, Instrumental Tracks: Drums and Bass, Instrumental Tracks – Guitars and Keyboard, Exercise: Identify Your Classmate’s Strengths, Contributions Deserving of Wider Recognition, The Tracks, Deal, and Who did What?, Exercise 9.1: Reharmonizing Melody, Discussion 9.1: “Production Phase Scenario”, Assignment 9: Collaborate, Recap

Week 10 – “Featured Songs”, Jun 4th – Jun 10th
Introduction, TV Theme Songs, Sit-Coms – I Love Lucy, Sit-Coms – Gilligan’s Island, Sit-Coms – All in the Family, Sit-Coms – Family Ties, Sit-Coms – Seinfeld, Sit-Coms – Murphy Brown, Sit-Coms – The Office, Talk Shows – The Tonight Show, Talk Shows – The Late Show, Talk Shows – The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Cartoons, Drama Series, Daytime Drama (Soap Operas), Discussion 10.1: Research a Genre, The Montage – Six Feet Under, The Montage – The Wire, The Montage – Other Examples, Discussion 10.2: Which Song Aired?, Film Feature – Easy Rider, Film Feature – Animal House, Film Feature – Day Off, Film Feature – Titanic, Film Feature – Slum Dog Millionaire, Film Feature – Juno, Film Feature – Falling Slowly, End Credits, Assignment 10: Final Project, Recap

Week 11 – “How Do I Get Paid for My Songs in Film/TV?”, Jun 11th – Jun 17th
Introduction, Should I Give Up My Rights, Research the Music Library Company, Green Light?, Two Music Library Deals, Exercise 11.1: Research Potential Libraries, The New Publishing Model, Exclusive Publisher, Nonexclusive Publisher or Third-Party Publisher, How Do Nonexclusive Publisher Work?, Ownership Splits, Writer and Publisher Split Sheet, Work-for-Hire, License Request, License Confirmation, Screen Credits and Cue Sheets, Getting to Yes, Five Action Items, Negotiating Call Example, Discussion 11.1: “The Negotiation”, Quiz 11.1: Getting Payed, Assignment 11: Final Project, Recap

Week 12 – “Final Projects and into the “Reel” World”, Jun 18th – Jun 24th
Introduction, Get Your Songs Ready for Work, Create Cd Quality Full Mix, Create Mix with “Vocal Down”, Judicious Use of Reverb, Prepare and Archive Alternate Mixes, Finishing Touches, Check your Mix in Mono, Quiz 12.1: Into the “Reel” World, Delivery of The Material, Demo Specifications, Full Audio Files, Exercise 12.1: Make a List, and Check It Twice, Demo Reel!, Choose Your Best Songs, Prepare for Delivery, Prepare a Cover Letter or E-Mail, Assignment 12: Final Project, Recap