No Letting Go – Pacing the Score

Alain Mayrand Composition Diary, Music and Story, No Letting Go, Scoring Process Leave a comment  

No Letting Go Work Diary Entry

As I am working on a cue this morning I am thinking about a few things as I make compositional decisions.

Writing a scene you should always keep in mind where you are in the film, in the arc of the story and the character’s development. How you play scenes early in the film will be different than when it’s the film’s denouement, for example.

This particular scene I am scoring is an important moment for the main character and the story. Things are getting under-way to resolve the film’s central problem.

However, it’s early in the film and, as in all stories; things will get worse before they get better. So I need to consider that in the tone of my cue.

I therefore aim to balance those two aspects:

  1. Things are getting under way towards eventual resolution
  2. It’s not the resolution yet!

So understanding how this scene fits in the pacing of the film I make certain decisions before I get a single note down.

  • The music shouldn’t get big, but still give a sense that something has gotten underway for solving the films central problem
  • It’s a gentle, positive scene, and the music should be as well to some degree, while staying hesitant since it’s early in the film.
  • At the end of it the main character is still unchanged it appears, so the tone gets darker at the end, or at least more quiet and unresolved.

The writing here has more movement than other scenes I have done so far, a bit of lightness and warmth with some degree of hesitation.

So I have chosen certain modes like Lydian and Dorian, I avoid big chord changes, orchestrated with the palette of the score: strings, harp and piano with the addition of the clarinet in the chalumeau register which I haven’t used up to this point.

Back to work!

Sale on “Score Club Composer Training: Module 1″

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Today is the last day to get $50 off my “Score Club Composer Training: Module 1″ video course.

The code is “SCBLACK”

Spelling diminished seventh chords

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Alain Mayrand Updates 2 Comments

I am currently taking on new film composition students through Skype. I currently have students in the US, Norway, Italy and Ireland.

Read about it here:

You can contact me here:

Here’s my animation reel:

Passion Project

Alain Mayrand Personal Posts Leave a comment  


“White Tiger Legend”

This is the definition of passion! Of never giving up and being true to your vision.

“White Tiger Legend” is an animated fantasy kung fu adventure from the CGI artist Kory Juul.

Kory has worked on such films as “Avatar”, “The Matrix” and “The Hobbit”. He has travelled the world to put this film together from a story that has been in him for many years. It’s really inspiring what he has done.

This is a film I would love to see and especially to score. I have seen the film as an animatic, and let me tell you, it’s a great story and it’s the perfect film for the kind of score like the ones that made us fall in love with film scores to begin with; huge, colourful, heart-pounding and thematic. With the independence of going the Indiegogo way, this is possible. And I have in me to knock this out of the park and make this a great film score.

I have been in touch with Kory for a number of years now, been witness to his incredible journey to make this dream become a reality, and he’s been a real inspiration to me. Check out the video link below, you’ll see.

There’s some nearly complete footage, a bunch of animatics,but as I said, you will the amazing steps Kory has taken so far, the travels and effort, as well as a cameo from a bald guy you might know.

Anyway,hope you’ll chip in because you’ll get a KILLER score out of it, I promise you that!


The Need for Sleep

Alain Mayrand Scheduling, Scoring Process Leave a comment  

sleepingAny leader”s goal should be to get the best out of his team, for each of them to perform to the best of their abilities to achieve the highest quality and most profitable end result.

Composition requires a high amount of cognitive clarity, we can agree on that. So check out this quote.

“Research by the US military has shown that losing just one hour of sleep per night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level. Worse: most people who’ve fallen into this state typically have no idea of just how impaired they are. It’s only when you look at the dramatically lower quality of their output that it shows up. ” Link

It’s common for composers to be given such schedules that they end up with very little sleep for extended periods. So how much better quality creative material could we deliver with more generous music production schedules?

I personally want to give 100% to the project I am on for two simple reasons:

1) it’s best for the film and for my relationship with the film makers

2) it represents me better for future work and for those who listen

So scheduling sleep is part of the equation, simple as that.

Composition Lessons

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Got a few spots open for private composition students over Skype. You can find out more on this page here.


Elysium Notes #1

Alain Mayrand Orchestration, Post Mortem, Recording Sessions Leave a comment  

As most of you know, I was orchestrator and conductor on “Elysium” which came out a few weeks ago. I had a great time conducting at Abbey Road and I’ll be sharing with you a few notes I made from my time on the podium.


The indication “Tr.1/2″ could be interpreted as either half-step/semitone trill or only half the section doing a trill and the other half ord.

It is clearer and more universal to write accidentals with the trill sign like so.

TrillSharpsign-1 TrillFlatsign-1



Or if many notes are performed using trills in succession, to use “S.T. Trill” (semitone in UK and half step in North America), or “trill s.t.” instead of 1/2.

Using “1/2″ which we read as “half” is really just for North America since we say “half step” and note “semitone”.

So if you are headed to Abbey Road, remember: semitone.


Elysium notes

Alain Mayrand Updates Leave a comment  

elysium_score_390Well, tonight is the cast and crew screening of “Elysium” as well as the start of it’s run with a special 10PM screening.

I will be in Los Angeles on the 23rd to take part in a panel on the making of the Elysium score. It’s called “Bringing the Elysium score to life: tips from the team.”

Tickets are on sale so if you are around and available, drop by!

Lucky on Purpose

Alain Mayrand Budgets, Business, Composition, OPed, Recording Sessions, scoring sessions Leave a comment  

I have heard this many times “you are so lucky to have your music played by live musicians. That is my dream.”

During the recording of the score for “Primary”, my friend Brian Campbell ( recording engineer) said he understood why composers use samples rather than live players: perfect intonation, no microphone bleed, no noises from chairs, clothes, breathing, papers or noisy instruments etc…I will tell you now, luck has nothing to do with it.

Using live musicians is a lot more work. And costs money. And takes more time.

Low budget productions don’t even consider live players these days. When I offered it for “Primary” the answer was “really? We would love to but there is no money.” I explained the costs and options and it became a possibility. The director was on board and we made it happen we what we had. Same exact scenario on “Comforting Skin.”

But it wasn’t luck.

  • I found viable options to make it happen in terms of players, engineer and studio space. I have built some great contacts here over the years, so it’s possible.
  • I sold the idea to the producer and he found a bit of extra money that I could budget with. The point is that most film makers want live music, it adds to the film; live is production value that goes on the screen.
  • It was low budget so I did all writing, orchestrating, part and score prep. So that was a ton of work that meant I had to work twice as much.
  • Using live musicians on a low budget means a lot of careful planning because of fewer options. More things to keep track and more can go wrong.
  • The reality is that using live musicians I sacrificed time and money. I could have kept more of the money and had less work.

The other argument against live musician is a tight post production schedule, which happens a lot. I had to deliver an entire feature film score in a month, which is not the shortest schedule ever, but pretty short when doing it on your own. It broke down like this.

  • Week 1: sketches and concepts for the score. Discuss with  director and find direction. Choose instrumentation and start making phone calls.
  • Week 2-3: Write the score. Send mockups and get approved.
  • Week 4: Orchestrate. Score and part prep. Send MIDI/tempo map and time stamped pre-records to mixer to prep ProTools. (Note: I also had some orchestration work on a major feature during this time, so it was very busy and I had to pace myself  well to make it all fit.)
  • Record score.
  • Week 5: edit and mix. Deliver.

The bottom line is: You want live musicians? I know I do. So do it.

For me, having been writing for real musicians for so long, I can’t stand being limited by samples. I don’t want to write down to samples.  There are many moments while recording “Primary” that it was clear why live was vastly superior to samples.

While I was in the studio, listening to my expressive cello lines and tender clarinet tunes coming to life through great players, all the hard work was worth it. I did feel lucky then.

PS: A side benefit of stubbornly using live musicians on my own scores is that it led directly to my gig orchestrating on “Elysium” and “Ender’s Game”.



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