light bulb extending to unspoken ideas to convey communication

How to Talk to a Composer

So you’re looking for custom music, and you’ve found a composer who’s work will match perfectly with your vision. But how do you convey that vision in musical terms? Maybe you have some musical background, but maybe not. Let me help you stomp any insecurities about this so they don’t grow into an overwhelming blob of doubt.

You don’t need to be musical in order to talk to a composer about the music you want.

You are passionate about whatever it is you are creating, and that passion will translate perfectly into what it is you are needing music for. Here are some suggestions for how you can translate your needs and wants to the composer’s abilities. Trust me, it’ll work out just fine.

Talk in terms of your concept art.
Art in any form is capable of speaking to other mediums of art. If you have concept art (or a logo), you can explain the meaning behind it. What were the motivations for creating it this way? What values do they portray? How will the music be interacting with it? A picture is worth a thousand words, and a composer can use those words to make music.

Talk in terms of the purpose of your project.
What is this project for? Who is the target audience? Why are you trying to speak to them? How do you envision their reception of it? What actions are you hoping they will take after interacting with your project? All of this can influence the music. The more the composer knows about what motivates you to create this project, the better they will be able to match that motivation in the sonic identity of that project.

Talk in terms of emotion.
Music makes us feel. Our brains are able to translate and interpret to us how we feel when we listen to music faster than any other medium. And emotion creates connection and is how we decide our actions we take. Music motivates. So if you can define the top 2-3 emotions you want your audience to feel, this will be one of the most effective ways to describe what kind of music you want. Pro tip: the more specific the emotion is, the better the results. We all want to feel “happy”, but that is not a specific emotion because there are so many variables to what kind of happiness we are feeling. Are we feeling Loved, a sense of Belonging, Grateful, Curious, Motivated, or Empowered? These are more specific descriptions of emotions that motivate action and create lasting connections.

Talk in terms of what you know you like and don’t like.
You don’t have to have a musical background to know what kinds of things you like or don’t like in music. Find pieces of music that are similar to what you want – or don’t want – to give the composer references. Just be sure to check your expectations. If you give a composer a reference track written by Hans Zimmer or John Williams, you need to know that you’re not hiring Hans Zimmer or John Williams. The composer you hire has their own style and abilities. Let them know why you like that track, and what you’re hoping they can emulate from it for your project. But if you just want John Williams, hire John Williams. It will save both you and this other composer a lot of grief.

Extra tips and defined terms.
If you want to have some extra knowledge of how to talk to composers without any chance of misunderstanding, here are some terms that can help you better understand ways you can describe what you’re hearing.
-Tempo: the speed of the music, if it is fast or slow.
-Dynamics: the volume of sound you are hearing, if it is loud or soft.
-Track: the complete song from start to finish. This can also reference a specific instrument within the song (ie. vocal track, string track, etc.)
-Rhythm: the duration of notes played in the song. Often referred to as “the beat”.

When listening to the music they have written for you, write down how you feel when you listen to it. If there is feedback to be given, try to give them the specific time stamp of where you want that feedback to be applied. Be aware if the whole piece isn’t fitting your needs, or if it’s just a section, or maybe just one instrument (sound).

I promise the composer is trying to get this music perfect for you. Communication doesn’t have to be a barrier to the music that speaks freely to all people. I hope these tips help you feel more confident in getting the music that will complete your project. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please let me know! And I will update this with your feedback. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve created.

Stay Creative,
Coy Compositions

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