Hey guys, Here are some FAQs and my answers. I hope those interested in working in audio and media find this post helpful. I'll try to post more questions and answers as I get more time. Of course, I'll be more than happy to answer any questions posted in response to this thread. For those that don't know me: I'm Nathan.... and an alcoholic. Seriously, I'm a professional composer-sound designer who has worked in this industry for nearly 3 years now. My credits number 138 and include work on films, commercials, DVD menus, trailers (seen online, on TV and in theaters), stage productions (mostly choral based), Nintendo DS-Sony PSP-PC video games as well as websites. I've directed voice actors, produce voice overs and done some voice acting myself as well. I'm living proof that you can make the transition from amateur composer to free lancer and then finally full time professional. One the side I'm a published author, lecturer and have taught college audio courses. I also love to encourage, teach and help others chasing the same dream! So here goes:
Quote: Are there any industry certifications, and if so, does any online training exist for one to go to learn how to write in this industry?
No, there isn't any required, official certification to work with audio. Sure, there are audio programs (2 and 4 years) but they're not required. Can it help you get your foot in the door? Sure! But I know plenty of other pros that don't have certificates or degrees from these kinds of schools or programs. I have a bachelors in music education with a minor in comp, then a masters in saxophone performance with an emphasis on composition. The main criteria is how good your audio work is.
Quote: What was your VERY FIRST step in getting into the business? Demo CD? Meeting someone? Buying equipment? What was the very first thing you did?
Well this is tricky because I took my first steps before I realized what I wanted to do. I got the equipment first, which is a logical step. Without the hardware and software- you can't really create digital audio. I started in college and just made stupid songs for my roommates (like "I've got to take a crap" and such). You know, real high brow stuff. It was just fun at first- but then I started getting better and better at it. My focus changed from just having fun and making songs to what is the best audio I can create. You must have the equipment first- but it doesn't have to be super high end. I had middle level stuff. For most, the high end stuff will just be too expensive at the start. Save that for later when you've built up some clients and funds. From there I would create a demo and put it online then begin to network. In this business you have to be able to show off actual work. Talk is extremely cheap and the experience vets can spot a big talker from a mile away. Let your work do the talking.
Quote: I know you can score for film and tv, songwriter, and self-produce your own albums. What else is out there? What am I missing?
Websites, corporate functions and media. Also stage productions (I've done two of them and they're pretty fun.) Podcasts and radio is also a possibility.
Quote: I have a degree in music composition. I've taken theory and I've written some concert works. Do I need to go back to school for more education or am I on the right track at all for a career in video games and films?
Having a degree in music will never hurt you! Trust me, it becomes highly apparent who has training and who doesn't when working with other composers. What I've seen is those that are better trained tend to work faster. It tends to take longer for those with less training to create a pro level sounding song. Is it possible? Sure! Is this true for everyone? Of course not. I've also met some highly talented (and rare) composers that have practically no training- just a severe level of talent. I kill them on sight. Only kidding! If you can write good music, then you don't need to go back to school. In fact even if you feel you're music should get better- I wouldn't go back for more musical training. You can improve yourself outside of school if your foundation is good enough. I would focus on learning about audio, mastering audio, working with virtual instruments, sound design and all of the ins and outs related to all of this. Depending on your aptitude, you can either do this on your own or back at school. I did it on my own- but started back in 2000 during college.
Quote: Are there actual contracts I could eventually expect with, say, a record label or production studio to be a professional songwriter or queue composer?
I know the record industry has composers on hand to write music- but I would imagine these are far and few. The competition to land something like this would be very, very high and I would imagine there is a large number of other composers already in line. Not to be discouraging, but the odds are hard for that kind of position. I would imagine the ones that land those kinds of positions already work as studio musicians on many professional CDs and begin to get to know the artists, producers and record execs. Something like that will take time.
Quote: Basically, if there's a good book I could buy that's worth a good read or a good place to go to fill in all the holes (think of my knowledge as like, SWISS CHEESE), that would be perfect. I've learned pieces of information over the years, but I've just never gotten a great overall picture of what's out there. I was too busy fighting the good fight in academia just to learn what I don't need to know so I can get down to learning what I DO need to know.
Yes, there are several books. 1) Aaron Marks: The Complete Guide to Game Audio This book is a VERY good read and will teach you a great deal about the business side of game audio. (Rest assured many of the lessons and topics can carry over to film work as well as other contract work.) What this book will not teach you is a step by step method of working with a particular sound program. This makes sense because there are simply so many out there- it would make the book 10 times longer. 2) George "The Fatman" Sanger: The Fatman on Game Audio This book is more fun than straight informative- but it still provides a good deal of insight into the industry and some of it's history. The Fatman provides some great advice on how to structure your studio and how to organize all of your files. 3) Bob Katz: Mastering Audio This is a FANTASTIC book that will go very in-depth about audio. It will teach you about the CD production process (the Mother and Father discs, the clean room) as well as almost anything you could ever want to know about the nuts and bolts of audio production. It isn't the easiest read- simply because he uses a great deal of industry lingo without explaining some of it first. I'd often sit by the computer and google terms so I can fully understand what he meant. Aside from books, getting your hands (and ears) dirty with the tools and practice of creating digital audio media is probably the most important step to growing and maturing into a professional composer-sound designer. I know that it is expensive, but I'd also recommend learning several programs instead of just one. The programs I use in my home and at work routinely are: ProTools 7 Sonar Producer 7 Sound Forge 8 Pro Digital Performer 5 Logic 8 Pro Cool Edit Pro 2 Reason 4 Finale 2006 Various VSTi plugins Various Audio Signal Processing plugins Proficient at both Mac (OSX Leopard) and PC (Win XP) set ups Knowing one or even two programs can limit how marketable you are to clients (especially those with in-house set ups).
Quote: Do I need to know much about sound design or just music composition?
Many composers get "pushed" into doing sound design if trying to work full time in the digital audio scene. Why? Because it adds another niche and slew of paying clients. I started with composing, but then eased into sound design work. When I took my first full time gig (at FUNimation Productions) I was exposed to a whole other level of sound design. It was there that I learned how deep it goes. We all can respect and understand how deep composition can go- well sound design goes just as deep. Many folks seem to short change sound design thinking it is just a matter of "inserting a gun shot here." That isn't sound design. Wait. Let me rephrase that: it's crappy sound design. Professional level sound design can involve a much deeper approach and really get into the nuts and bolts of audio physics and processing. It can also be a great deal of fun! The best way to learn about sound design is to: 1) Read up on it with various books and articles. 2) Train your ear to be able to pick out what individual sounds were made to create a new sound effect. We train our ears to learn harmonic progressions, solfege and melodic dictation in music schools. Why not apply the same practices to sounds? 3) Try to make a sound out of other sounds completely unrelated to it. For example: make a car crash sound using no metal or smashing sounds at all. See how you can use various plugins and processing to create a synthetic sound that will sound like a car crash. Sound design is an art that takes just as much attention, practice and focus as music composition does.
I hope that helps! Thanks, Nathan
Edited by jbadams, 04 January 2013 - 06:33 AM.