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What is your college advice for an aspiring, Hans-Zimmer-style, hybrid composer?

EnduranceArtistEnduranceArtist 74 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 97 Junior Member
I'm currently in the process of applying for colleges. I want to go into music composition/film scoring. However, most of the colleges I'm finding have rather 'classical' oriented programs. I'm more into the digital, DAW/MIDI/sample oriented approach to composing and film scoring. Does anyone have any good college recommendations that offer a music course with such a digital approach?

My current top two picks are USC and Berklee College of music, but even with them, I'm not sure how well they'd fit...
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Replies to: What is your college advice for an aspiring, Hans-Zimmer-style, hybrid composer?

  • compmomcompmom 10579 replies76 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,655 Senior Member
    The whole field of electronics and technology in composition is complex and different people use terminology to mean different things. And you will find that many schools want to provide a classical or at least foundational education before the students go on to grad school in film-scoring. USC's program in film scoring is a grad program.

    But there are programs that will fit your more focused interests. Some are more directly career-oriented and there are even some two year programs.

    Do you do any acoustic composing? I wonder if you would be interested in a studio recording or music production program? .

    There are other parents who know a lot more about this and I hope they come on. In the meantime, maybe look at Columbia College in Chicago, Belmont, Miami Frost, and Berklee, yes. UMass Lowell is another one, maybe Northeastern. There are lesser known schools with excellent programs that might get mentioned in others' posts and would be worth looking at.

    Also any school that also has a film program, as well as music, such as North Carolina School of the Arts, Cal Arts, NYU, SUNY Purchase.

    But I really don't know a lot about this area- just electroacoustic work in a classical "new music" context. Take a look at Oberlin's TIMARA for an example of that.

    Wish I could be more helpful. Good luck and hope others respond with better ideas :)

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  • EnduranceArtistEnduranceArtist 74 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 97 Junior Member
    This was helpful, thanks!

    Yes, it would be ideal to be in a place that also has a strong film program, as many great collaborations can come from having film students around.

    While I'd ideally like all my compositions recorded by a live orchestra, I'm much more into the composing and even the sampling process (as in, making the music sound real with fake, orchestra-sample libraries). I haven't really heard of any MIDI or "sampling" college courses; it all seems to be focused around classical, pencil-and-paper notation, which really isn't up my ally.
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  • lilacsvollilacsvol 5 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5 New Member
    Composition not my specialty, but I know that Berklee this weekend put on a performance which featured its orchestra and choir performing music from video games, specifically Final Fantasy I believe. Berklee used to be mainly known as a jazz, blues, r&b and even pop/rock training ground, but now the school has moved into this whole new area of commercial music like so many other schools have too. They've never been known for having a classical training curriculum like traditional conservatory programs, but not sure how they teach theory to comp. majors. Best of luck in your college search.
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  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager 2800 replies66 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,866 Senior Member
    Check out SF Conservatory. They've just started a new technology composition program for scoring and it's only for undergrads.
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  • compmomcompmom 10579 replies76 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,655 Senior Member
    I think you might want to look into schools with music production and recording, digital or studio arts kinds of majors.
    Unfortunately the title of the major varies for this. I recently had a correspondence with a parent whose son was accepted to four programs in the area, all with different terminology for the major. Wish I could find it. You can also google. Here is my first google try:


    We don't know how your academics are but some colleges, as opposed to conservatories. might help you. I noticed on that link that Elon, for instance, has a BS in recording arts. A school like Bennington, that allows for a lot of self-driven, interdisciplinary work, might also work. Check out their music site

    William Paterson has a BM in "sound engineering arts":

    UMass Lowell has "sound recording" http://www.uml.edu/FAHSS/music/Programs/Undergraduate/SRT/Sound-Recording-Technology.aspx

    You begin to see the variety.

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  • compmomcompmom 10579 replies76 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,655 Senior Member
    ps you can do a search on this forum for "electronic music' or any of the terms above and get threads that will help. In fact, search "Hans Zimmer"- I remember another post about him! Here are two of many threads that you can read, rather than us listing them all over again:

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  • raregrooveraregroove 73 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
    edited April 2015
    Knowing what I know now, I'd go to undergrad school in New York City and grad school in LA. Or go to undergrad and grad school in LA. The simple fact is it pays to interact with up and coming filmmakers (score their films) and network(and work) like crazy where the action is.

    And get your classical chops together. You don't have to be a genius, but you should get a solid enough background so you don't have to fake your way through scoring for a bass clarinet using the Vienna Symphonic Lib. The libraries are getting better and better but it doesn't matter if you don't know how to score realistically. Its easy to get abstract and weird but a lot harder to "fake" real comp chops if you need them.

    Recording studio and tech classes will be useful but you basically need to spend a lot of time becoming a Protools and plug in master along with getting experience with real recording sessions with acoustic music, doing mixes, vocals, etc.

    Oh by the way start scoring and analyzing scores now. You don't need much to get started if you're interested in the digital recording end of it.

    You have picked one of the most difficult fields to make a living at so I would take the musical training part quite seriously.
    edited April 2015
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  • lilacsvollilacsvol 5 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5 New Member
    I would also be asking your private high school theory or piano teacher (if that's your instrument) to be weighing in heavily on your list of music schools. If you are serious about pursuing music as a profession--in any capacity-- then your college should at least also be NASM accredited since many Music concentration--vs. Music major-- schools' programs are not. Most important to get your teacher or musical mentor's input when coming up with your list of schools, though, aside from that piece.
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  • compmomcompmom 10579 replies76 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,655 Senior Member
    edited April 2015
    Actually some really good schools are not NSM accredited, not sure why.

    One other point: check out admissions requirements for some of the schools that interest you. Many will require a portfolio, and some may want acoustic, even handwritten, compositions.
    edited April 2015
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  • honestmomhonestmom 421 replies7 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 428 Member
    My S is finishing his senior year at Belmont, majoring in composition. He went there as a commercial guitar major but was strongly interesting in film scoring. He found the composition program at Belmont suited him well and transferred into it. It is more oriented toward contemporary-classical styles. Belmont students can take film classes at the Watkins College of Art and Design and composers can work with film students there. My son has already had an opportunity to score a film that was just shown in the Philadelphia Independent Music festival, but that happened because a high school friend of his acted in the movie and the friend's older brother directed it. He would have loved to attend NYU or USC but did not have the grades. I would recommend either of them if you can get in and can afford it. Berklee actually has a major in film scoring, but I have heard that it is basically a program that shows you how to use the software that puts the music into the film, not so much emphasis on actually composing the music.

    Most schools will let you know if their composition programs are or aren't appropriate for a primarily electronic composer. BUT -- you never know what you will really like until you get into college. My son fell in love with classical guitar and traditional classical music in general once he got into his college level lusic classes, especially those in music history that weree required. He does very little electronic composing now
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  • kmcmom13kmcmom13 3904 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,915 Senior Member
    @EnduranceArtist can you tell us a little more about your background so we can give you tips that fit?

    Eg. Instrument, performance background, music theory, stats, etc.?

    If you have a strong math/computer academic background and fairly developed composition capability, for example, the University of Michigan school of music has a four-streamed program called PAT - performing arts technology, that includes a scoring/multimedia emphasis, sound engineering, etc. with degree designations from BMus, BFA to Bsc.

    Portfolio requirements include: stereo mix of 3+ acoustic instruments, original written composition, performed composition with production notes (can be electronically instrumented), sampling samples and an electronic instrumentation of a Bach fugue.

    Since the portfolio requirements are quite diverse, that's a hint that the program likewise incorporates both pretty rigorous technical and programming/engineering training plus a wide range of styles in terms of music composition, primarily electronic, but also foundational classical composition.

    A good candidate for the program would be someone fairly accomplished in classical or jazz with a strong music foundation, but also a depth of experience in digital/DAW/midi etc. if you're the type to play around with max/Msp and the like, yet have a strong foundation in traditional music, it might be a great fit for you ;)

    PAT B in particular has a composition emphasis but is not traditional in the same way that Mich's pure composition program is, though many of the same profs are involved (and are active in scoring, btw.) some degree requirements include working with the film department in both sound and scoring.

    The program is competitive to access and in this case, your academic stats are germane, though will not trump talent and musicality.

    My son loved this program. Here's a link if you'd like to learn more:
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  • compmomcompmom 10579 replies76 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,655 Senior Member
    kmcmom is your best resource here :)
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