Keeping Track

Alain Mayrand Scoring Process 3 Comments

musical formYesterday was the recording session for “Primary”. Today, as I  review the cues, I am reminded of something I did for the first time on this film; keeping track of themes using the cue sheet.

I am sure others have done this before, but it was the first time for me and it made me wonder why I had never thought of it.

It came out of necessity: I had three weeks to write about 45 minutes of score, with mockups, approved, orchestrated and parts ready for recording 10 musicians on the 25th. Since it is low budget and I’m on my own, that’s a lot of work and the writing had to go very fast with a high amount of clarity and control in order to get the best results possible.

One of the problems when writing is keeping track of the form. Even on a single piece of music (as opposed to multiple cues on a film)  it’s easy to get so familiar with your material that you forget that your main tune has only been heard twice for example even though you have heard hundreds of times already. Soon you start diverging from it, complicating things until it becomes an randon-sounding, unmemorable mess.

On the other hand, because I was going so fast, I was cautious of over-using the melodic materials.

So in order to avoid either scenario, I kept track of my melodic ideas/sections on my working cue sheet using the typical letters of form: A, B, C, etc… which I combined with colour coding.

This was so SIMPLE and yet SO effective. It gave me this bird’s eye view of the score and an instant perspective that made sure I always knew where I was.

Here’s what it looked like…

1M3    | A (suspense var.)
1M5    | A
1M7    | B – Andrea motive only, not whole tune
1M9    | C (epic tune mf)
1M11  | B – w/pno. ostinato

(these are just  two columns of the spreadsheet cue list. I also colour coded the themes on the spreadsheet. Other columns included in, out, timecode position, notes, check-boxes for a variety of production stages.)

And so on…

Such a simple thing, but very effective and a big help.



3 Responses to Keeping Track

  1. Jonathan

    Hi Alain!! I know you use software for music notation first. What is your approach to get mockups fast? I am starting to mockup and I think it s not good playing every line on the keyboard and setting the articulation changes by hand. I wouldnt be possible to get to that deadlines you are talking here!!

    Can you make a post about it? Thank you!!

    • Alain Mayrand

      Sure Jonathan, I can tell you how I approached it in a future post.

  2. Marc Baril

    I wouldn’t be able to do a movie without that kind of organization. It’s such a big puzzle to put together and it can be a daunting tasks to write so much music in so little time. The time you spend on doing good spotting notes and planning it all out is time well invested. It is crucial to work effectively and getting it done quickly.

    I also organize the cues by theme, character, situation, style or orchestration, source etc. according to the project and when you break it down like that, you see a clear path and it practically writes itself pretty much!


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