As I embark on a new project today, I want to share some examples of the music and some thoughts about how I’m creating it. In my last post I wrote about the iPad notation application, Symphony Pro; that’s what I used last night to sketch out the “Desert Winds” theme. I then fleshed out a rough score in the Sibelius notation program today. Using the LA Scoring Strings sample library, I’m realizing a demo of the piece that will eventually be enhanced with key live players.

The music is based in the Major-Phrygian mode also known as the Flamenco Mode. Since I am evoking a general Middle Eastern feel, I ‘ll stay away from the typical Andalusian Cadence of Flamenco music. Why did I choose this mode instead of the obvious choice of Harmonic Minor? Because I think it offers some interesting harmonic opportunities and colors that work for this piece.

Here’s a short portion of a rough music .mp3 and the accompanying rough score sketch.

Desert Winds example 1 Music

Desert Winds example 1 Score

© Glenn Scott Lacey, 2011.  all rights reserved

I’ve been trying out a music notation program for the iPad called Symphony Pro. While you’re able to construct quite complex scores, I’m more interested in using it as a scratch pad for jotting down ideas or voicing sections of a piece. Then I’ll do the heavy lifting of writing the score in the main music notation program I use, called Sibelius. What I like most about writing music with the iPad is the ability to get away from my music cave and venture out into the daylight. I also think it’s nice to write away from all the bells and whistles of the studio and concentrate on the basics of melody, chord progression and structure.

Symphony Pro’s interface is a little clunky, but again I’m using it only to sketch ideas and it’s plenty nimble for that purpose. There is an extensive sound set of woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, guitars, bass and synth pads. Most of these sounds are what you would expect from a thirteen dollar application playing back on an iPad inside a notation program. Surprisingly, the acoustic grand piano is very easy on the ear and great for longer work sessions. I’ll probably just stick with the piano sound when working out any parts for the orchestra.

One of my favorite things about the program is the integration of email. You can send yourself the file in many useful formats right from the export screen. Symphony Pro supports exports as MIDI, MusicXML, MP3, AAC, PDF, LilyPond and it’s own native format. You can even export the score directly to Photos on your iPad.

You can pick up a copy of Symphony Pro from Apple’s Ap Store.

O.K. now I’m excited to write something for a new project I’m starting tomorrow. It’s 8:30pm and I’m already on the couch watching TV. Time to break out the iPad and Symphony Pro.

© Glenn Scott Lacey, 2011.  all rights reserved

From contract negotiations to creation to notification to verification, it’s important to understand how cue sheets work.

When you are hired onto a film project as a composer, part of the negotiations will include publishing and writer’s royalties for the music you will create. For the most part the production company will try to retain publishing rights to the music for that particular project. In some instances you may be able to negotiate a percentage of the publishing. For example, if you have some clout in the industry or the upfront pay is low, I have found there is room to negotiate a 50/50 split of the publishing royalties. Rarely will you retain 100% of the publishing.

The second part of the equation is the writer’s royalties. These are absolutely non-negotiable. They belong 100% to the composer and should never be split with anyone. If you work for any period of time in the industry you will run into unscrupulous people who ask for part of your writer’s royalties as a kickback to get the job. Sadly this practice is not uncommon. If the job is worth it, point out that this is unacceptable, or better yet have your film music attorney raise the red flag. If anyone continues to pressure you to give up part of the writer’s royalties, that are rightfully yours, walk away from that job. You don’t want to work with this type of shady company.

Once the film mix is completed a cue sheet outlining duration of cues and royalty distribution will be produced as part of the deliverables package that the production company will need when the film goes to theaters or airs on television, or is projected in any public forum that is monitored for royalty distribution. PROs,  (performing rights organizations) such as ASCAP or BMI will receive a copy of the cue sheet from the production company and from this will issue payment based on things like what time slot the program airs, and the type of music be it visual vocal, background instrumental, and several other categories I’ll touch on later in this article. As a film composer you should register as both a writer and publishing company with one of the performing rights organizations. I am a member of ASCAP, so I will focus on their cue sheet workflow, though other PRO’s act in much the same manner.

So, who generates the cue sheet? Most of the time it will come from the music supervisor or production company. As part of my contract I always ask for the right to review the cue sheet. There are legitimate mistakes that can be made and it’s best to correct them early. Sometimes for small productions you will be asked to produce a cue sheet for the production company. If you create the cue sheet it’s important that the production company file the cue sheet with the PRO. A cue sheet filed by a production company will carry more weight than a cue sheet filed by an individual and it’s best practice to have the cue sheet filed by the production company.

You can download an example cue sheet from ASCAP here:

You can download a blank cue sheet from ASCAP

There is also a cue sheet alert form that you can file with ASCAP to alert them that they should have a cue sheet for a production that is about to air.

You can download a cue sheet alert form from ASCAP

There are several categories of music usage type that need to be filled out on the cue sheet. They are:

MT = Main Title (Opening theme used in multiple episodes of a program)

VI = Visual Instrumental (Onscreen instrumentalist performing a song)

BV = Background Vocal (Vocals are heard but the not the focus of the scene)

VV = Visual Vocal (Onscreen Vocalist singing the song)

ET = End Title (Closing theme used in multiple episodes of a program)

BI = Background Instrumental (underscore)

T = Theme (main theme used in the body of the score)

The last step is to verify the cue sheets that have been filed with your PRO. With ASCAP you can verify them in the member access area. This is an important check that you should do to make sure the cue sheets you signed off on from the production company are the same cue sheets that were delivered to the PRO.

© Glenn Scott Lacey, 2011.  all rights reserved