Compose Music For Netflix - The Breakdown
Netflix is one of the biggest players in the entertainment space these days. Composers from all around the world are vying for a chance to compose music for Netflix shows that will be seen by millions.
The job of scoring a Netflix show for TV/streaming is no small task. The sheer volume of episodes, cast, and story is mind boggling.
However, if you can break it down into pieces and nail down each one of those pieces, you’ll be in a good position to score a job in Hollywood.
Step 1: Make sure your music looks great
Once you’ve been asked to score a Netflix show, you should try to find a composer who has a reputation for being awesome at it. This means meeting up with them to get feedback on what you’ve done, so you know you’re on the right track.
If you don’t have this kind of knowledge to fall back on, you can always look up a bunch of composers and have them critique your work. This is especially helpful if you’re new to the music game.
Be sure your score looks polished. The work we do to make movies, games, and music looks great is great work!
They just don’t want you to look like a slob. For example, if you’re working on an indie game, you’ll need to be a little more creative when it comes to cutting your video clips and playing music together in a way that’s satisfying to the ear.
If you’re scoring a show, then just keep it basic. We live in an age of over-the-top entertainment, so make sure your music has the same flair.
If you really want to nail this step, let’s start with your music/video files. Watch them on your computer, or even better, record them. You’ll be doing lots of cutting and resizing and rebuilding, but that’s the fun part!
The point is to get your music to look as good as possible. It may be your first attempt at scoring a show, but your music should look as polished as possible.
Step 2: Get in touch with the creators
Now that you’ve got a good idea of what you need to do, it’s time to get in touch with the people who’ll be working on the project. When I first wrote about this, I made a list of all of the shows on Netflix, and took the time to read about each one.
Once you’ve read about the show, find out if it’s looking for specific kinds of music.
For example, if it’s a drama, it may be looking for sad music, or big string section, but it may also be looking for things that are a little more upbeat and summery. When in doubt, ask!
This process also helps you get a better idea of what the music will sound like if it plays back on a TV screen.
Is it playing directly into the TV, or is it playing in the background? We all have a television in our living rooms, and we’re going to be watching TV a lot when a show is in production.
I recommend getting the gist of what your score is going to sound like, and then stepping it up and seeing how much bigger it can get.
Step 3: Find out what your music will sound like
Hopefully, your music is good, but now it’s time to find out how well it’ll play when it’s played on a big screen! Find out how big of a TV your show is going to be viewed on, and you can decide on a file size.
Some shows may only have a small computer screen, so you might want to scale it back a bit.
I made a personal recommendation on the sizes of the files you should be using for the project I’m working on. I only want to hear about the music while I’m at the show, so I’m using a huge file size (10GB) for the project.
It’s going to be easier for the audience to listen to, and I think the music will sound much better at a higher quality. It will also save me a ton of time, because I won’t need to go through and test each individual cue, so it’s the most efficient.
Step 4: Prepare your music
Once you’ve got your files ready, make sure you’ve prepared them in the best possible way! You can usually use Youtube and SoundCloud to find music that’s similar to what you have in your files, but there are also other sites that are excellent.
One of my favorites is SoundCloud composer search. This site will help you find a composer, and allow you to see what their previous work looks like. It also has a short feature called Listenability, which allows you to play music through different devices and see how well it plays.
By searching on the type of music your show is making, you can find the right composer. It’s also important to search for music that will play in a variety of different environments, so if it’s a show set on a boat, it’s important that the music will sound good on the boat as well as on the small screen.
Step 5: Record your music!
Now that you’ve found the right composer, it’s time to get started recording! I’m usually making all of my music in Garageband.
As a way to save money, and also because I’m terrible at computer programs, I decided to record all of my pieces directly to an SD card.
There are programs like Cool Edit Pro that will do it for you for free, but I’ve heard these are usually very slow to load, and it will take you a while to record the right audio in the program.
I found that recording directly to an SD card is much quicker, and doesn’t let the computer bog you down in it’s slow loading process.
Step 6: Edit your music!
Now that you’ve recorded your music, it’s time to edit it! I make all of my changes in two steps. First, I simply listen to the track a couple of times in Garageband.
Often times, the music is something I’ve been listening to for months or even years, and I will just sit down and listen to it. By listening to it in smaller increments, I can identify areas that need to be changed.
Once I’ve listened to it, I can make changes to the tracks that need to be changed, and also make other improvements that are more subtle.
This takes me a long time, but it’s well worth it. The process of editing your music will make a big difference in the final product! It may take longer, but it’s something that’s essential to getting your music ready for a show!
Step 7: Add your FX!
A big part of what makes an amazing show, is how good the FX are! Most shows have great music, but the FX that surround the music are often what makes it better.
You want the audience to be immersed in the show, and often times you don’t realize how awesome an effect is until you can see it live.
The most important thing is that you can see what’s happening with the screen, so having beautiful music that just brings a shot to life, isn’t as important.
The point of FX is to bring attention to an element of the show, and to be as immersive as possible.