5 Unwritten Rules For Composing a TV Commercial, Ident or Title Sequence

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As TV composers and course leaders we come across many unwritten rules that are simple but sometimes forgotten when working as a TV composer. Some of you will agree that these are very simple but it sometimes make sense to go back to the basics.

1) When you read the brief try to understand what's written in between the lines. Remember that most likely it was not written by a musician, and so they do not have the same way of expressing music as you do. Try and think of the brief that describes the emotional journey that sets the mood of the piece, rather than always just the style of the piece. Always ask as many questions as you can, (preferably to the person making the creative decisions) before starting to compose. It also pays to ask for specific examples of existing music - this can save a lot of time and make things clearer..

2)Many people only submit a single option when they are pitching. We really think it’s worthwhile trying to submit more than one option. (some of them may be from pitches that you have done before). We normally send one version that is exactly what the brief asks for, one that is a bit more extreme and one that follows your gut feeling (ie how you think it should sound).

3) Although it is a short (ie 10 - 30 secs) it will often need to have a ‘Narrative’ of some sort. By this we mean a short intro, a middle or body and then a build towards the end and a finale. We find it helpful to think of it like a song - with different “sections” - although much shorter.

Obviously not all jobs will require this format - especially some TV commercials which want the soundtrack to sound like a slice of a song.

4) If the job needs a “mnemonic” (a memorable melody line at the end - think “Intel Inside”) make sure it is a clear memorable melody and better if it appears in more than one place in the music. Nowadays a mnemonic can also consist of a signature “sound” rather than a melody - so it’s always a good idea to ask the client what they want.

5) Subtle sound design can give lots of life to your ident composition. There are lots of sound design libraries full of sounds, so it is very easy to do. It's worth noting that you will always score more cred points if you create your own sounds - that nobody else has.

Good luck on your next pitch submission and we'd love to hear about your experiences and any other unwritten rules that you may have…

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