The role of the composer has existed for centuries, but over the years it has shifted and changed to accommodate changing tastes, emerging technologies and new media. In the 20th century, arguably no other medium has had such an impact on the world of classical music as film, giving rise to an entirely new kind of musician – the film composer.

Here, we’ll be exploring the role of the film composer, as well as how aspiring musicians and composers can turn their hand to the world of film – from an understanding of filmmaking to proficiency with the best scoring software.

The Work of a Film Composer

In the early days of cinema, many of the most successful composers were established figures who had already made names for themselves in the world of classical music.

Today, film composers will often work primarily creating scores for films, although some continue to branch out into other media and fields. As well as being expected to have a solid grounding in the basic principles and technicalities of music, allowing them to shape and adapt their music to fit the medium, a film composer is also required to possess a similarly in-depth knowledge of the art of filmmaking.

Breaking into the World of Film Composing

While breaking into the world of film composing requires musicians to take several specific steps, it also shares many characteristics with attempting to find success in any type of composition. We’ve spoken before about the importance of self-promotion in a musician’s path to professionalism, and the same applies for an aspiring film composer. Creating a professional website and social media presence can both help to raise awareness of your work.

You can also maximise your chances of success by building a strong portfolio of work that demonstrates your talent and range. Instead of aiming straight for the top, seek out smaller projects and opportunities that will allow you to cut your composing teeth and create an evident body of work – short films, student films and music competitions can all be early-doors platforms for getting your work noted and gaining a practical grounding in the art of film composition. They may also provide you with a useful address book of industry contacts.

A proficiency with technology will also prove decisive, as several tools and programs for composing music are now integral to the work of a film composer. Often, the most successful composers working for the largest film studios will have access to resources such as live instrumentation as they work – but the majority will be required to familiarise themselves with a range of tools, including sample libraries and music notation software.

Many composers today begin their career with a sideline role such as a sheet music writer, and the world of film is no different – music programming, editing and assistant roles can all provide a working knowledge of the medium that will prove beneficial to your own work.

Over the decades, the intersection of classical music into cinema has opened up a range of new avenues for an aspiring composer. It is, more often than not, still a field in which it is difficult to gain that initial foothold – but for those with a passion for both music and the art of the cinema, it carries rewarding and fulfilling opportunities.