Guitar player going to film scoring(?)

Hey guys! Long time no see, but for good reasons. I’ve been playing a bit more lately, also studying some theory (finally). Thanks to this forum I’ve learned how to practice the guitar, but that is not why I’m making this thread.

I’ve seen a few threads here about piano/keyboard playing, so I figured that someone might be able to help me.

My passion since I was a kid was film scores. I would go back home from school and put movies on the DVD player, just to listen to composers like John Williams, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, etc. Theory, keys and orchestration were very intimidating, so I never really pursued it.

Recently though I got a 25 key Arturia Minilab MKII, got some free orchestral libraries and some affordable synths, so I decided to give it a proper shot.

Is there anyone with advice regarding keyboard practice coming from a hard rock/metal guitar background? Any sources for me to look at? Besides scales and basic chords, I don’t know what/how to practice.


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Piano teachers can take you from zero to Rachmaninoff, so this question is a slam-dunk. Ideally get one that went to conservatory and has a degree in piano performance, etc.

I was a piano performance major in college, and I don’t fully agree with this advice. Most conservatory level performers have a totally different mindset than composers. The focus of training is something like 60% repertoire development, 30% technical work, 10% theory. So you might learn something valuable if you want to learn classical piano playing, but film scoring - not so much.

I’m assuming you don’t already have a background in reading orchestral scores, and frankly it’s an extremely difficult thing to learn if you don’t become fluent by the time you’re a teenager. It’s fortunately also not necessary to create contemporary film scores. Hans Zimmer does almost everything in Cubase, he has a team of experts to write arrangements and full scoring once his compositional ideas are sketched out.

My advice would be to focus on composition, song structure, learning the DAW, layering sounds, looping, editing, sampling. These are things that require a lot of experimentation and hands on learning, but not so much instrumental technique. Don’t dive into a big orchestration manual like Berlioz-Strauss Treatise on Instrumentation until you have some basic comfort with layering melodies and chords in the DAW.


Thanks for the response, seems like you understood my situation. I can move around a DAW without many issues, but that’s mostly on rock/metal music, not film scoring. It will get some time and tutorials to get used to that.

I can’t read, but I learned how when I was 8-9 years old. I forgotten everything since then, but I can always try, just to be able to read the basics.

Thanks for the advice!

I don’t think reading, or even being able to formally “play” the piano/keyboard is a requirement. Take a look at Christian Henson’s YouTube channel for instance:

He’s scored tons of film and TV. I think that kind of work is more about sound and mood than composing.

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Christian Henson is one of the people I watch most of the time. What he plays in terms of technique is pretty doable for sure, even for someone like me who starts at 25.

Awesome that you were a piano performance major! So you are likely an excellent piano teacher, and will teach piano skills correctly, what I assume OP was asking about. (Self-education in piano is wrong, in my world view.)

Regarding composition, I agree with you that this is likely best from somebody that matches the student’s needs, I cannot help here!

I don’t think it’s any more incorrect than self-educating on the guitar or any other instrument. Most people would benefit from having a teacher in their chosen discipline, but some have a talent for figuring things out without formal guidance. In the piano world, pretty much all the great jazz players up to the 1970s or so were all (or mostly) self-taught. That includes guys with monster chops like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, that rivaled their contemporaries in classical music.

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I’m trying to record my first mock up. With help from Rick Beato (he made a video on this theme), I did the intro from Danny Elfman’s Batman Theme.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

It sounds a little hurried to me. Like the strings and brass are constantly pushing, ahead of the beat. Also, to make it sound more natural, I would play a bit with dynamics and expression on the long notes. Da da da daaaaAAAAAA da! Start quiet and then increase the volume, perhaps.

I think Christian has a pretty good video on that, but you’ve probably seen it already!

This one:

All in all, nicely done!

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Thank you for the constructive critisism! Everywhere I played it people said good stuff only because it was my first attempt in orchestral writing/programming. I needed to know how to make it better because it sounds static to me.

Unfortunately I don’t have 2 faders for expression/dynamics control, I’ll probably download an iOS app for my phone that can do that. For this clip, I programmed these parameters by “pencil” on my DAW.

Thanks again, I’ll keep working on it.


No problem!

(I have to confess that I had never heard the original until now. Now I understand what you were going for. I still think the dynamics and articulation need some work, however.)

Regarding the lack of faders for expression and modulation, doesn’t the Arturia Minilab have a modulation touch strip? As well as a bunch of encoders that you can assign to any MIDI CC?

The Arturia has a Pitch Bend and a Mod Wheel on the top left side. The Pitch Bend can’t be changed to anything else, or at least through the Arturia app.

Some people have done it through their DAW, but I haven’t figured out a way to change it to “Expression” or “Dynamics” as a global setting. I can do it for each instrument, but it’s time consuming.

Man. It’s a monumental task. You can’t be an amateur film scorer(not a good one anyway). Your bread and butter should be orchestral music. Know how to read, arrange and conduct because that’s what the job entails.

If you’re not a fan of orchestral music than I say don’t even try. You need a massive vocabulary to draw from. All the guys you named are ringers as piano players and studied at conservatories and were awesome at young ages. Not saying it can’t be done but if you’re just into rock your ear might not be up to it.

I love orchestral music and film scores. Probably a lot of the same guys as you. I declared composition as my major at school thinking I’d learn about guys like that. Basically 20th century guys. But it was nothing but 12 tone scales and notated vacuum cleaner solos.

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I know it’s hard. I find it hard already. But it’s something I wanted to do since I was a kid. I figured that it’s better to try and fail, even at 25, than not do it at all and regret it.

It won’t be easy, but I hope it gets easier.

The guitarist from Tonic got into it…cool article. Sounds like if you have the passion then you have a chance to develop.

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Great example, very encouraging! I’ll read it today, his career path seems very interesting.

This is a problem for me. The guitarist for Tonic is a very famous and successful musician. His introduction into scoring was a direct result of being a famous guy. That’s not a great correlation for someone starting from scratch.
I wish you luck man but if you don’t have a history of being a composer of note or any pedigree in composition it’ll be an up hill battle.