Danny Elfman MasterClass Review: Starting the Music (Part 2 of 4)
This is Part 2 of my review of the Danny Elfman MasterClass, where he teaches scoring music for film. You can see Part 1 here, but let me give you a brief overview:
Unlike previous MasterClasses I’ve taken, Danny Elfman’s doesn’t have a logical “flow” to the class structure. Every video stands on its own, so it was difficult to find a way to group the course. The groupings here are just based on length and finding a way to break the class into smaller chunks, so hopefully this helps!
Also, full disclosure: MasterClass is an affiliate. If you choose to take the course through my links, I will make a small percentage off of what you pay. That being said, I will always give my complete and honest review, regardless of my affiliate status.
Danny Elfman’s Film Scoring MasterClass
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If you prefer to watch rather than read, here’s my video on today’s post:
I would think a LOT more of this class would be about instrumentation, but it’s just one 15-minute video. Danny Elfman has a “collection” of marimbas and percussive instruments, which is great. I only collect crystals and geriatric animals with health problems, so it would be cool to have an instrument collection.
Elfman tells us he’s “not very experienced” with marimbas and then proceeds to play one better than I could ever hope to play in my life.
These instruments are HUGE, so to have a large collection of them requires a whole room. We spend a lot of time watching him just dick around on these, and I have to wonder if the crew was just too intimidated by this eccentric genius to ask him to wrap it the hell up.
In my last post we discussed how different instruments can give a score a completely different feel. He touches on that again, and then tells us that he puts nails inside his piano to give it a different sound. I wouldn’t have questioned it, but he has photo proof:
Never in my life would I have thought to do this, mostly because I don’t have a piano. But if I did, I’d be so terrified of damaging it and not being able to afford to fix it that I would never put actual nails in it. But hey, cool technique I guess. He also talks about how literally anything can be an instrument, and says that he goes to stores and hits all of the things to see what sounds they make. I can only imagine.a shopping trip with Danny Elfman (hit me up bro, let’s do it).
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Like any millennial, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. It defined my childhood and I would still watch it at any given time today.
Did you know Danny Elfman performed Jack Skellington’s singing voice?
I had no idea. Chris Sarandon did his speaking voice, but Danny Elfman sang it. He goes into detail about the inspiration and process of writing all of the music. It’s fascinating, especially if you loved the movie as much as I did/do. Fun fact: my mother looks almost exactly like Sally from the movie. She hates having her photo taken, so I’ve often pranked her by using a photo of Sally in her place.
The Most Important Part of Film Scoring
Meeting deadlines is the ultimate goal. This may sound obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many session musicians do not care about deadlines. One of my unique selling points in this industry is that I’m responsible and deliver in a timely manner, which is quite honestly mind-blowing to me. I am not trying to brag at all, I just have a good work ethic and my clients’ time is important to me.
So, this part of film scoring is easy for me. However, I am planning on scoring a small film I’m making with my pets, and I have no idea what it’s going to be about or how I’m going to score it yet. I really should get on that.
How to Begin Scoring Music for Film
Part 10 is where we actually begin to learn how to get started, which…is an odd choice, but okay. I’m just glad we’re covering it because this whole time I’ve been lost on what am I actually supposed to do.
The first thing is to decide what instruments you’ll use (he calls it a “palette”) and organize them in your DAW so you won’t have to waste time looking for them. You’ll create a template based on those sounds, and you’ll let the emotions of the film dictate the tones and instruments. Focusing on what instruments you need ahead of time is the best way to get started and also allows you to have a jumping off point.
So, this is how I will begin. I mean, first I need to figure out what the hell my video is even going to be, but then I need to figure out my instruments.
Insecurities While Composing
I’m glad we’re addressing insecurities, because boy do I have a lot of them. Unfortunately, we are only addressing insecurities about composing music and not the many other insecurities I have, but we would need a whole new MasterClass for that. Elfman says that he himself is constantly insecure, but then drops this awesome quote:
He also tells us that your ego needs to be completely erased during the music process. I know that this is the case with session singing and songwriting well (I wrote a post on that here). I have zero self esteem and I’m always eager to learn, so I feel like I’m pretty decent at accepting feedback (as long as it’s constructive and not just hateful).
Seriously, I’m glad he addresses the mentality of it. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one in the world feeling lost or confused, so to have a pro say that is very helpful.
So that’s the end of this edition of Danny Elfman’s MasterClass! Here are my affiliate links if you’d like to take the class from me:
MasterClass is now offering exclusively the All-Access Pass, which means you get access to any of the classes. This makes way more sense to me and I’ve definitely gotten a ton of use out of the All-Access Pass.
Not sure what other classes there are? Here is the home page:
Whether you choose to buy a class through me or not, thank you so much for being here and reading my posts! I really appreciate you.