Finding the right person, team, or ensemble to provide music composition and arranging services for you can be a challenging task. I'd like to describe a few concepts you might find valuable in your search.
Keep the following criteria in mind:
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It's very important to note that, for example, folks with a lot of experience writing string arrangements for rock songs may not have a lot of knowledge about writing for strings. Especially if they specialize in creating an "end product" or "deliverable" digitally. Manipulating and controlling a digital sound library is very different from scoring for strings. Yet, each specialist will be able to provide you with different results, and you'll need to make an assessment regarding your goals, the quality you are looking for, and your budget.
The music industry is an incredible potpourri in which success and competence often don't coincide in the way one might normally expect. Immediate examples: Sir George Martin's association with the Beatles; Yanni's method of composition, Pavarotti's sight-reading abilities, Schubert's desire for counterpoint lessons...the list goes on and on.
What "knowledge" does your composer/arranger bring to the table? What level and type of education did he/she receive?
Oddly, the folks with the most experience in producing/creating particular kinds of music may not be the most educated or knowledgeable folks in their fields. Having a studio does not mean knowing how to record or mix. Having a microphone does not necessarily mean that its owner knows how to place a microphone. However, in some situations, a good ear and a curious, open mind, can more than compensate for lack of knowledge or experience.
I offer this information, because there are loads of qualified, educated composers, who haven't "broken into" the commercial scene of composing and arranging music. Those that do "break in" are often so busy that they are unavailable for all but the highest paying projects.
It's possible, that with criteria such as score and audio samples, proper education, passion, and compatibility in place, you might consider a bold move, something like calling a nearby university, speaking to the head of their composition department (or to one of the composition professors), and seeing if there might be some talented student or students able to take your project on.
What you sacrifice in experience, you might just make up for in knowledge, education, and passion!
If you've got a deadline to meet, you might have to act quickly, here are some possibilities for you:
Do you see that I'm advocating creative use of new sources for music services? Try something fresh! Find someone new! Develop new relationships, it will be fun!
Let's say you talk with someone whose knowledge, skills, or experience might not be quite up to your expectations. The person could disappoint you, so, I'd make sure to put exclusions in the contract (something like 50% guaranteed amount, 50% upon acceptance); but if the person gives you a sense of passion, if the person is nervous on the phone or a little "too delighted" by working on your project...that person might bring just the "spark" to your project that you need.
Your movie might go from being melodramatic to being tasteful.
Your DVD might go from being corny to being powerful.
Your corporate presentation might go from being totally boring to being useful and entertaining.
..you get the point, but since I'm having fun, your song might go from being a flop to being a hit.
Caring and loving your musical project; giving it exactly what it needs; giving birth to your personally envisioned sound and having it come alive in the ears of your listeners...that's what you want, and that's why I'm writing these pages for you.
Don't underestimate the power of music. Stock music usually sounds like stock music. It puts people to sleep.
In my opinion, passion drives knowledge, expecially combined with a sincere and expressed dedication to the quality of your desired deliverable (the composition or arrangement you wish to have created for you).
Here's my chance to ask the music industry to expand its horizons, to allow curiosity and joy into its products.
As we know from parent-child relationships...OK, not mine...or yours, for that matter! ;-) like minds often have severe compatibility issues. We know this from playing in ensembles, orchstras, bands, etc. Sometimes, the tension of incompatibility (or the positive conversion of that tension) yields magnificent results. Maybe sometimes, people don't get along because they are very dissimilar on the outside...yet very similar on the inside. Let's continue...
Let's say you are a famous or well-known musician/act. Why look for someone you are completely compatible with?
If you are the leader of a string quartet looking to commission a work, maybe send some emails to a few raging punk-rock bands. See what happens. What if the lead guitarist studied composition or what if their producer can give you the number of someone who might just be perfect for your project? Use your ear and your gut...going further with the raging punk band example...you might just hear "something" in the guitar riffs or chords, something leading you to send an email or make a call.
If you are a punk band looking for an orchestral arrangement, it's possible that the quietest, most conservative looking or shy composer might just knock your socks off.
Goodness does the commercial music scene need some of the amazing advances in orchestral sound and color so painstakingly and passionately developed in the last 150 years!
I'm advocating some exploration, some sharing, some growth and some interchange.
The music will benefit.
What sound examples does your composer/arranger provide? What criteria are you using to guage the quality of the sound examples? It's unfortunate but true that many music industry producers, executives, critics, scouts, etc. ... can't read notes. They have all kinds of competencies, all kind of skills; they often determine what the public hears, and they make assessments about what the public wants; yet, too often, they can't read the written language of music notation. It's unfortunate, since learning the basics of the musical language is fun, rewarding, not very hard when presented effectively, makes a person smarter...whooo...the benefits are so numerous, I'll need to write more about it later.
If you happen to fall into the category of music professional who wishes to improve in musical expertise, check back later, as I am planning a series of ebooks and information products to help you.
Now, when assessing sound, try to hear the difference between high-quality composition and high-quality recording engineering. Also, the "perfect" composer for your project may have never written for the exact combination of instruments you need. That "perfect" composer may have high quality compositions with other instrumentations, but you might "hear" that special connection with your project. You might "feel" a special energy when you hear the audio samples...for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to help support dynamic interchange in the realm of musical arts, I'm going to recommend that you trust your gut.
Score samples are very very important. Composers who cannot provide score samples are likely not educated composers. Do the scores look like the kind you could buy at a store? Are they clear and clean? If you are not a very experienced musician, I'd recommend buying some score samples in your genre and then comparing the samples you receive with the purchased scores.
The score is the final criteria.
If you fall into the category of composer/arranger who cannot write music, but who produces and writes jingles or offers other creative musical services/products, please check back for my upcoming informational products or contact me about lessons.
It's very important for you to either know what you want or be able to create "space" for the miraculous to enter into your project. What I mean is that in whatever way you can, using words, drawings, colors, sketches, recordings, band names, composer names, movie scenes, your voice...with whatever you "have" at your disposal...you can create a "description" of your desired "deliverable." Be it a composition, film music, an arrangement, even a simple notation project, you can create a description that will "tune" the "emptiness" of your desired result. When you give your creative description to the composer/arranger, you will be able to give the composer what he/she needs in order to create the magic you desire.
Your desires are a description away!
Hmm...that might be true for more than just music composition and arranging services!
Happy searching, hope you find what you are looking for...you can always contact me for a no-obligation quote.