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I have written a lot of music over the years and even scored two feature films, one getting a theatrical release. However, all the music I’ve ever written went directly from DAW to tape (finished audio file). One of my biggest fears is that someday someone might ask me to score a film and want to use a live orchestra. I watched an interview with Danny Elfman on YouTube at https://youtu.be/712ntdvBBTg and I was thinking to myself, if I could just have 30 minutes with him to ask these questions: How do you get your mockups off your DAW and to the scoring stage? What are the steps you take to get your DAW cues into the hands of an orchestrator and then into written parts for each player in the orchestra? Do you give the orchestrator a mix of each cue as an audio file that they “transcribe”? It’s obvious you don’t hand write out your cues; plus you mentioned that a lot of what you have on your DAW stays in the final mix (especially percussion) and that you only replace the strings, brass and woodwinds samples. This has always held me back from really going after more film scoring work. Not too many film scoring mentors here in Minnesota . . .

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Question number 1: Can you read music?

Yes.

Rodney Carlyle Money said:

Question number 1: Can you read music?

Thank you!

Dave Dexter said:

I'm assuming Clinton can read music, unless his avatar photo is just for show :) Though I'd much contest that being unable to read music makes you stuck, just in general.

If you're using, or plan to use, orchestrators then a lot of the work is potentially done for you. You might get away with never needing all the specialist knowledge and terminology, the instrument capabilities and ranges as Bob said, and the many many other details. Some composers write purely on piano and a team takes this and turns it into music for full orchestra. There are orchestrators whose contribution to a soundtrack is so great that it becomes at the very least a co-write, to my mind. In the short term, if you fear being asked to write for orchestra, orchestrators are your way.

Long-term, it sounds like you're going down a similar route as me; I'm working on being able to write everything myself to a standard that experienced musicians would be fine with, partially out of pride I guess. I create a pretty good quality midi mockup in my DAW, to help myself and as a general guide to potential players, orchestrators and conductors, and then create the score from that. The more faithfully your mockup emulates the instrumentation of an orchestra the easier it will be. This is a few thousand words in itself so I won't get into it here.

Last year I saw a composition contest with the local philharmonic to create two scores. I had six weeks to do something I'd never done before, much as with you if you suddenly had to write for orchestra, and of course the scores were complete garbage and I didn't win. I liked the music and still do; the translation of it to notation was nonsense. It takes time to learn these things (this forum helped). I recommend starting to write traditional score as best you can, or orchestrating old scores, and finding a personal orchestration tutor who can look at them and tell you what's wrong.

Also this blog is excellent, it's allayed a lot of my own second-guessing.

I've abandoned trying to learn to produce scores and sheet music with my DAW. It's just too hard. The software is capable to do the job, but it asks too much of the composer, who may or may not be sophisticated in software technology. My fears are the same as Clinton's. What if some Music Director wants to perform my music and asks for a score? I'll be screwed. I think that some of my music is good enough to be well-received by concert audiences, but there's no way that I know of to deliver it to an orchestra in paper form.

What might be helpful to DAW composers would be some way to make the larger Arts community aware that we even exist, and that a lot of good music is created by us that might succeed in different venues other than just digital film venues. 

I trust the day will never come when an audience pays money to sit in a theatre and watch the gaffer walk on stage and press play on a computer. (LOL BTW)

So here we have a problem we never had in the past. It is now possible for somebody who thinks that 17th century technology was as good as it will ever get. That if music is conceived any other way than with parchment and a quill pen, it is no longer real music. That the essence of music is the image of pen-and-ink figures on wood product.

In the past, as will be in the future for all time, whether it be for orchestra or for a single wooden flute, music starts as an invention in the brain of the composer, produced out of his (her) imagination and creativity. 

What I think Bob is saying is, "What you present as 'music' may sound like 'music', and you did a good job of fooling us, convincing us that it is, in fact, 'music', but if you can't give us a pen-and-ink pictogram, then it's really just a fraud".

"Someone who knows nothing about music" . . . indeed. Frankly, I'm pretty offended.

Dave, if you are able to invent music that evokes the sounds that move people in the way you intend, and it conforms in a form that is  generally accepted as good, sound music, then you are, in fact, a successful composer, and you know what you need to know about music. You may simply not know how to get it to performers in an acceptable form. I don't either.

Rob, you didn't imply anything. You wrote it, straight out.

There are only a couple of people on this comment thread talking about the merits of DAW composing. Who else could you be aiming at, Rob?

Ah! Those are the words I've been aching to hear, Scapegoat! There actually are people who can do that for you? Great to know that. 

Dave, you are, indeed a diplomat. Kudos!

Your meaning wasn't clear to me, Dave. Perhaps I need a brush-up in reading comprehension. Are these people who can take an audio file and write the notes that they hear? I have a problem believing that there is anybody who could do that with complex music. I certainly couldn't. Somebody who could take a MIDI project and produce a written product seems more plausible, although It's hard to imagine that anybody would be willing to undertake that. They must certainly ask tons of money in return.

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