Hello Robin. I am Ewa, Im violinist. I study violin in music academy in Poland. I liked a lot (excerpts Ive heard) of your violin concerto and I would love to read it all! but the problem is that I cannot find a source to get it in any way. Is there a possibility to get your music piece? Greetings!

I'm sorry, the rights for the composition lie with Anna Karkowska who recorded the piece. If you want to get hold of the score sheet(s) you need to contact her.

Hey Robin. I contacted you a while back in regards to a school project I had, and I greatly appreciate your contribution. I need your help again, but this time it's not with a school project. Did you have a mentor? If so, how did you get a mentor? If not, how did you find the right connections? Alexander C Torri

I had a mentor who is a composer in my hometown and I got his contact from my music teacher at school. Later on I studied composition and had 1-on-1 tuition with my composition professor for four years.

Hey Robin, Is there any way you could send out your daily tips in email form? I'd love to wake up to it every morning. Most days I forget to check. He11o2

I don't think that's technically possible with my limited knowledge on this subject :) How about setting an alarm clock just for the tips? :)

Although it is completely possible to have a song sound alike like another, can you get into copyright issues with another artist? Especially when parts of a song sound really close. Also if you like a melody or something from another song, can you put it into your own song?

I'm no lawyer, so I can't really give any qualified input on that. But as you might have heard just a while ago the trial against Robin Thicke/Pharrell Williams, which was won just for the song creating a "similar vibe" as another song. While it is completely impossible to avoid similarities as our brain actually gravitates towards the same musical structures over and over again, it is definitely not a good idea to incorporate a melody from another song into your own.

Hey Robin. First of all, a huge applause for your brilliant and inspiring music! I wanted to ask: What is your opinion on atonal music? Do you think this is the right way music should evolve?

Thank you. First of all, music is way past atonal music. Atonal was a big thing at the early 20th century but by now is not really a "fancy new thing" anymore. I personally need a emotional justification to accept atonal music. Schönbergs SURVIVOR OF WARSAW is a brilliant example how atonal music works extremely effectively as it perfectly expresses the pain, the desparation and the incredible brutality of the story behind it. But I personally most of the time cannot enjoy atonal music as a "listening experience" - only as a "rational cognitive experience". However, being atonal doesn't neccessarily mean to sound dissonant. I can totally understand that composers see their artistic way in developing music forward, experimenting with things not heard before etc. I actually think that there is some incredibly well written contemporary music out there. Still I wouldn't consider it being the music I would want to write all day long.

Do you think 61 keys is an impedance to 'pianistic' style composing? Am I accepting a limitation? How important do you think 88 keys are to someone who aspires to create more 'pianistic' passages... Is it vital?

I think it depends mainly on your working process. If you actually do write stuff on the piano, 88 keys might be better, but if you're more composing in your head or on score sheet, 61 should be enough...

Hi Robin. Been reading up on Q&As and your tips (good stuff). When doing a cue for a slow paced scene having to stear clear of the dialouge would you go for a rubato approach or find a suitable tempo, abandoning the metric of measures falling in 2/4/8's this way staying away from the dialouge? Thnx!

I would not do too much rubato, mainly for practical reasons, as it is hell to record that when you don't have endless session time. I would prefer staying more or less in the same tempo and maneuver around the words by incorporating odd time signatures and generally ignoring standard forms.

What are your immediate thoughts on paying to be affiliated with an agency?

Sounds very fishy. No agency should ask for money from artists. I would leave my fingers off...

Hi Robin! First of all, I love your compositions and productions!! My question: How do I reach these clearness and "in the face" - strings, that you let hear in your trailer music example "A Piece Of Eternity"? Do you use compression on the strings or even on the whole mix?

Well first of all those are real instruments you're hearing there, but I usually outsource the mix to someone who knows what he's doing. I've made the experience of rather spending some money for someone who knows his sh*t and being able to deliver a decent final product instead of trying myself and delivering something that is just mediocre but have a few bucks more left.

Gibt es eine Aufnahme der Percussive Adventures?

Nicht, dass ich wüsste...

Hi ! Would you like please to explain for us in a tutorial how to write a standard trailer music mostly know (epic music)

I would if I had the time, but sadly I don't so I won't :) (at least not in the forseeable future)

Do you double your woodwind lines often i.e. a2, a3 or a4? I hear you can run into intonation problems in exposed lines. I'm interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

I double them when they are doubling in a texture anyway (e.g. 2 flutes doubling 1st Violins) but generally use them solo when they are exposed. It's not just intonation issues (which is a minor problem with pro players) but rather losing brilliance.

Hi Robin, my name is Madison Anglin. I attend a performing arts high school in the U.S. I was hoping to receive advice on getting started with my goal of becoming a film scorer. I've started with simple piano scores for short clips. I'm trying out Sibelius and have a good knowledge of music theory. Madison Anglin

It is never too early to actually start scoring films. Get in touch with film students or amateur filmers around you and try to get some scoring work from them, maybe even unpaid at the beginning. It's a long and slow path so don't lose faith. And keep building your craft!

Hey Robin, I play Cello, Guitar, Piano and made music all my life. 1,5 years ago I decided to go into Filmmusic and started a one year study on a private school for film music and composition. I finished it now and am wondering whether you have some advice for next steps. I am 30 years old though :)

Network! That's the most important thing. Get your name around. Try doing a few low profile jobs (student movies etc.) to get your name around and actually have some references that proof that you can deliver something! Of course it also depends on where you are in the world but thanks to the internet, you can even work remotely.

hi what movies did you create music for

It's all on my website :)

I like to explore chords and write complex harmonic progressions, but I have two problems: First, I don't don't want to sound old-fasioned (i.e. Romantic period chromaticism, or the ever popular V/V chord in the baroque), and Secondly I have trouble finding chords that I like. Help?

Study modal harmony, scale-based chord and extended chords. This is all part of Jazz Harmony so you might want to get books on that. Reading recommendation here: 20th Century Harmony by Vincent Persichetti. Should give you a good few ideas where to explore for more modern sounding harmonies.

What can you say about finding a melody / theme for a movie, a character and so on? I find it difficult to find a theme that fits perfectly to the character of the movie or locations and so on. Thanks!

Yes, that is part of the magic :) There's not much to say about this apart from this being always a struggle for every composer. But that's part of the game. If it was easy, we would have millions of Raider's Marches. Let yourself be inspired what the character or the location is really about and try to find something that feels right. There's no science behind it. It's just something we all need to struggle through :)

Hi Robin. In writing for film orchestra is it more recommended to think in terms of lines or in terms of chords? I think film music is more about chords.

It is both! The ideal score sheet has an interesting musical line for every single instrument while still managing to create well sounding vertical structures. This is one of the trickiest things to achieve when learning to become a composer but in the end you need to get to a point where you have control over both the vertical and the horizontal structure. If you ignore or not put enough attention into one of them, your music will stay below its theoretical potential.

When I compose melodies, I consider the "emotions" of the intervals, so if I want to convey a heroic mood, then I look for fourths and fifths - for a romantic mood I look for sixths and seconds and so on. Is that a good way to write melodies with certain emotions? Thanks!

Generally yes, but that's not all that is to it and has quite a lot of limits. Depending on what harmonic context this is in, you can even make a perfect fifth sound very depressing and painful. So choosing intervallic structures to create certain emotions is just a part of the puzzle. If all the other musical elements work into the opposite direction, no intervallic structure can save your desired emotion.

Hey man! Got a really important question: When it comes to creating a score, how do you know what key to have it in? Does it really matter (not including the emotional/atmospheric understanding)? Is it dependent on people's voices? e.g. why did Hans Zimmer put his score 'Time' from Inception in G m

Good composers chose their key according to their orchestration. Some keys sound better on certain instruments than others. For example strings sound better in the first few sharp keys while brass sounds better in the first few flat keys. So depending on what is your orchestration focus, you would choose accordingly. Also you would chose certain keys to get really important elements of the music into the best possible register, eg you chose your key so that your main theme in the horns really gets into their sweet spot.

Hey Robin! Just studied JWs cue from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUQHyKLlUGc and I wonder how to mockup such complex "avant-gardish" music with samples. Any ideas? Any advice for further score studies? (also concert music composers...) really appreciate your advice! great site!

No chance to mockup something like that unless you fall back to prerecorded avantgarde effects that however never will exactly fit what has been written in the score sheet. If you want to go for more of these avantgarde studies, check out Penderecki's Symphonies. Also, I have always been quite impressed with Howard Shore's Non-LOTR work. There's some really cool avantgarde stuff in there. You might want to check out the score for THE CELL but also what he's done for Fincher and Cronenberg.

Do you think studying intensive scores of Mahler (symphonies) will help to develop a great orchestral canvas and style for filmish orchestral music? Any advices? And can you recommend orch. sample libraries that suit perfect for that type of music?

Yes, Mahler is great for that but you shouldn't limit yourself just to his work. Film music uses influences from many more composers, especially of the late romantic period. Try getting your hands on some Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Debussy, Stravinsky etc. There's a lot to learn from their works. Regarding the second part of your question: there is no perfect sample library and it also depends on how much money you would want to spend. In the lower price range you might want to get Eastwest's Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra while higher up there are several options. Just don't get Vienna Symphonic Library. And please no shitstorm by VSL users now :)

Could you tell me the secret of the different transitions that many hollywood music composer use for the orchestra ? Lately I have discovered that one I always loved was only a Timpani crescendo along with a cymbal swell. In the midst of the music, it is hard to pick out all of them.Thanks!

I don't fully understand your question or it seems just asking for a way too broad topic. Timp swell + cymbal swell is pretty common but also the lazy man's crescendo :)

Earlier you mentioned that you used to search for hobby, amateur and student film groups and offered your services which eventually lead to bigger projects. Do you have any recomendation, what site is ok or where are those groups to find etc? I´m searching on my own aswell, but maybe you have a tip

That has been quite a few years back, so still when social interaction on the internet happened mainly over ICQ or message boards. These times there were quite some filmmaker message boards but I'm pretty sure most of it has migrated to social networks. I would look for Facebook groups on that subject today.

What belongs to a composers vocabulary? What should I have in my vocabulary so that I can score any film scene?

This question is like asking "What vocabulary do I need in *add foreign language* in order to hold any conversation?"


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About Robin Hoffmann:

Composer - Orchestrator - Arranger

Berlin, Germany