Evenant Online Course: Cinematic Music, From Idea To Finished Recording
How to make epic movie theme? We are presenting you with a cinematic course that will lead you through the whole process, beginning to great finale.
by Alex Arsov, Januray 2018
When investing money in instruments, libraries and various tools for producing music you at least know exactly what you’re getting for your money, but when investing in knowledge it’s a bit trickier. Will I get back what I’ve paid for? Will all this new knowledge really make any difference in my work, taking it to the next level, or will I just get some smart-ass general advice that I’ve already heard and doesn’t really change anything? What can they offer me that I haven’t already found on a Youtube?
I’m quite skilled in the pop electro field, and know many tricks and techniques that help me finish my compositions in no time, and I know that it wouldn’t and shouldn’t be a problem to jump into a new genre, analyzing structures and approaches, applying rules that differ from other genres, and bring a cinematic future to my front door. And so to start with I obtained all the right tools and jumped on Youtube, spending way too much time studying how to make orchestral mockups and how to fine tune my fake orchestra scores.
I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t learned plenty of things through Youtube, but for some reason, I felt that I was still “not quite there”. Maybe cinematic music is not just another genre, as it uses some different approaches and rules. I have made a decent number of songs in this genre, but no matter how hard I try it doesn’t sound quite the same as some other people’s work. In the past I’ve made a solid number of clips for advertising, so mimicking other genres shouldn’t be a problem for me.
I started to wonder if all those cinematic courses that are constantly being advertised could make any difference. They start at around $100 USD, promising all sort of things. $100 is not a small amount for a lottery ticket, as you never know what you’re going to get. Glancing through various offers, I came to the Evenant site finding “Cinematic Music: From Idea To Finished Recording”, promising heaven on earth. They promised to lead me step by step through the whole process, to help me compose memorable and compelling themes with great countermelodies and ostinatos, help me transform my melody line into a full, realistic-sounding orchestral composition.
Quite a big bag of promises, and for $299 USD it better be true. So, I decided to dig a bit deeper to find out if this course was worth the money.
The Course Itself
It turns out that Arn Andersson, the author of this course, is a quite systematic and detailed fellow, having an effective teaching approach. By the end I’ve learned quite a bit more than I expected. I knew that my knowledge in this field was fairly solid and figured I’d just learn a few new tricks that would help me improve my skills, details that could help me smooth some rough edges. After all, this is a course for beginners and I don’t fit very much into that category. To cut a long story short, this course completely changed my approach to cinematic music and has even left its mark on my pop production. After finishing the course I went through my old orchestral works, rearranging and improving harmonies on many of them.
Of course, this is a course where you learn how to write a movie theme, but for music for trailers, there is another course on the Evenant site. However, the knowledge you get in that course is not strictly applicable only to theme music, as it goes way beyond that topic, offering advice that you can apply to the whole cinematic spectrum or any other musical work, as in this course you will learn how to find a harmony for your melody. You will learning how to improve harmonies and many other things that are applicable to songwriting in general.
Over 150 pages (in PDF format) and more than 14 hours of video clips. During those two months that I spent going through this mighty course Arn has already added some new video clips and even promised that there will be more in the future.
The most impressive thing about this course is that it starts from a very simple melody of a few notes that anyone with at least a basic musical knowledge can make on their own, and develops that melody into a theme explaining a few very concrete and exact simple rules for you to follow, leading you through the whole process that can be achieved even if you didn’t previously have any advanced songwriting skills.
The next step is to find the right harmony for your melody line. Again, we get great, exact advice on how to find the appropriate chords for every part of your melody, and if you’re familiar with some basic chords and chord progressions, you are safe. The music theory in this course is explained in a such simple way that even my older son, who comes out in a rash whenever someone mentions music theory, could go along with this. Of course, let’s not forget, this is not a course for non musicians, so at least some basic knowledge is recommended.
After developing the theme, Arn goes through all the details about structure, orchestration and smaller elements like contramelody or ostinato, explaining the whole process in the simplest way possible. With a good professor even quantum physics can be easy to understand, and there I should give all credit to Arn. In the first third of the course we didn’t even touch the orchestral tool as everything is built around developing a piano sketch that should fix all possible issues regarding orchestration, even before starting with orchestra sounds. When all harmonies, contramelodies and even ostinatos are fixed and in the right place, working well one with one another, it is time for orchestration. I found this method to work perfectly, and in any case, it works quite a bit better than messing with orchestration from the outset. If nothing else, it is much more transparent in all aspects, and as Arn suggests, if a sketch is done well nothing else should be added during the orchestration process. Agree.
The next step is to transform our harmonies to work better with the orchestra. Arn demonstrates a few nice tricks that look quite obvious but never crossed my mind, and after all these processes, and harmonies are ready to be separated into different string sections, he explains how to build the whole song out of the main theme, explaining different structures, giving various advice on how to avoid repetition and preserve listener attention through the whole composition.
Before starting to deal with orchestra issues, Arn take us through his choice of sound libraries, also showing us how to build an orchestra template. The next step is the recording process, where we can go with Arn step by step, building the whole song. The best part is that he takes his time, showing us some incorrect approaches which are pretty common for cinematic beginners, suggesting better solutions, comparing both approaches all the while. After finishing the recording and arranging part of the course we go through the very detailed mixing and mastering part. Equalization, compression, reverb and all other parts are represented separately with additional video clips and tips and tricks showing us what we should do and how to achieve better results.
The only thing that I missed in this course was a video demonstrating how to use the mod-wheel for achieving better results with string instruments. I wrote to Arn about this and he told me that he had already thought about that and that he’ll add a video showing the whole process in detail. I don’t have any reason not to believe him as during my two months working on this course we’ve had almost ten new video clips for various parts of course. The course is like some living thing, constantly evolving and growing from week to week.
It sounds simple when I briefly explain all those steps, but the whole course is very extensive with a step-by-step learning curve, no missing details. After a few years it was the first time for me to spend so much time just around one musical clip, but the whole course gives me a wealth of new knowledge that I could apply to all my upcoming cinematic courses. I needed two months to go through most of the course (if you have all time time in the world, it could be done in a week). Perhaps I should add a few more elements to my first song, like some countermelodies and transitions in harmonies, but let’s not agonize over these things – for a first go it is more than OK. 🙂
The whole course offers plenty of concrete advice – what should be followed to get better results, from tips on how various elements in an orchestra should be arranged to avoid muddy and undefined sound, to the quite specific advice on how to set up various parts of orchestra to get an impressive, bigger sound just by following your piano sketch instead of adding more and more new elements. Less is more is the main rule here.
Not being a total beginner I skipped some of the mastering section along with few others that go through topics that I’m quite familiar with. No matter that it is mostly a course aimed at beginners, I believed that even more skilled musicians that already have some basic knowledge about cinematic music can find plenty of useful tips and advice here.
I learned some things that look quite obvious, so obvious that I mostly missed them. I also learned how to improve some techniques that I was familiar with, but hadn’t used them in that way. To be honest, there were also a number of things that were pure mystery to me. Thankfully Arn has a totally non-academic approach, explaining everything so easily and vividly that you’ll never fall asleep during the lecture. And as the main bonus, at the end of course you will have completed your first movie theme.
Also, we should not forget to mention that in some chapters we find additional advice from professionals. Every chapter ends with a discussion section where you can ask Arn anything you want or anything you don’t understand, or you can just go through various questions and answers that other students have addressed to him. Let’s say that customer support is pretty fantastic here, as Arn answered most of the questions (except those rhetorical ones, those that even a god couldn’t answer).
I was born smart 🙂 and now being a bit older, I finally figured that there are plenty of things that I can still learn, even from much younger fellows than myself. It is not easy for me to admit this, as I’m supposed to be quite a skilled musician, but this course is one of the best investments that I have made lately. It will cost you less than any of those advanced string libraries, but what the hell can you do with an orchestra or string library if you are not quite sure how to use it properly? So, consider this course as a manual that you get along with your mighty string library, a manual that goes far beyond explaining just basic articulations. Cinematic Music, From Idea To Finished Recording could push your music career to the next level. It’s down to you.
Price: $299 USD