“We have a duty towards music, namely, to invent it.” ~Igor Stravinsky
I recently sat down with Gradient’s Musical Composer, Sound Designer, & Editor Nathanael Sams to talk about how he approaches writing music for promotional videos.
“I’m actually really intimidated every time I have to start a new project. I’ll sit down at my piano and have ProTools open and just try to find the right melody. And once I find it, I begin building a chord progression around it.”
“I typically use ProTools, Logic, and Garage Band. It’s all Mac based. When I started using a Mac, I discovered MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). So everything I do pretty much revolves around MIDI instrumentation.
“In the movie What Women Want they do this ad campaign for Nike I think, and it’s really emotional and piano based and I remember that really inspiring me. I’m a big fan of piano based commercials because I think they’re the hardest to pull off.
“There’s this delay effect that people will put on the audio that makes it sound like they’re playing more notes than they are-”
(David) “It seems like it’s a lot easier to try to be really complex and overdue it, and then the most successful things are the most simple. Is that true?”
(Nathanael) “Yeah actually when I’m composing, I really try to be unpredictable. The hard thing is that your ears are accustomed to hearing a 1-4-5 chord progression which sounds really happy and pleasant. And a lot of people will try to mix in chords that don’t work well together. I’ll use Garage Band on my iPhone and basically be able to enter a chord that I’m starting with, and it will show me chords that work together with that.”
“You can always do a really powerful song using just a few notes on the piano. Like in Jaws, there’s this really beautiful, haunting melody through out the entire film.”
“Basically what I’m trying to say is that the greatest music comes from simplicity. You don’t always have to, or want to, be predictable with the music.”