Introduction to Music Composition for TV Commercials | Roger Neill | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Introduction to Music Composition for TV Commercials

teacher avatar Roger Neill

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Showing Previous Examples

    • 3. Starting the Process

    • 4. Types of Sound to Use

    • 5. Starting the Process Part II

    • 6. Analyzing Your Music

    • 7. Dealing with Feedback and Outro

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Taught be a music industry veteran, this course will run through each step of the process of commercial scoring.  We begin with a scene analysis - what is the “story” and emotional tone of the commercial?  Then we move on to the first steps of composing: what is an appropriate tempo, what are the instrument choices and sound possibilities?  How can the music help tell the story and add something special. What are the delivery requirements?  When scoring for commercials our work is usually being reviewed by a committee of executives, so we will discuss all that ways that that can go wrong, and then all the ways to make sure it all turns out fine in the end.

Participants are not expected to be professional-level composers, only that they have the ability to create and record music at some proficiency level.  A music-making workstation, such as a laptop computer, is required.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Roger Neill


Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Hi. Welcome to this course on writing music for commercials. My name is Roger Neal. I'm a professional composer for commercials, television, film and then a guide you through the process of how to create music for commercial ad spot during this course and introduce you to the craft of creating music with commercials. I'm going to guide you through fundamental steps of creating the music and in the end will combine your music to the commercial to make a final video product. Let's start by looking at some work that I've done in the past, and I'm gonna describe a bit of what what goes into making these commercials? Servan orientation of of the Art of Film, Music Composition. 2. Showing Previous Examples: Okay, let's start by looking at some commercials that I've already already scored. Here's one for axe body spray. I created this baroque sandy piece of music to go with this Central European setting and some magical things happened. Let's just take a moment and watch. This commercial is one of my favorites. Yeah, well, that's right. Have really beautifully produced commercial. A lot of money went into production and, uh, and the music itself was elaborately produced with an orchestra and a choir. Probably your first job scoring commercials will not be something like this, but there is a lot we can learn from this. Nonetheless, let me just run through some of the initial creative choices that are important and the things that I'm looking for when I'm gonna figure out what kind of music I'm gonna write and how I'm going to write it. The first decision one makes when you look at the commercial is simply well, what kind of music is gonna be? Uh, let's start with how fast should ago and that kind of information you can just get from watching the way a scene unfold and fast forward here. Music off. This is a tempo of my music. Simply choosing the tempo is the most important. Consumerism was crucial first step because it it is a tempo inherent in the in the editing and storytelling. So your first definitely get to are making commercials will be choosing the tempo, and it's a very important musical decision. Now we back up a little bit with the music on this time, I want you to see some of the ebbs and flows of the story thes. They're all like little movies commercials, and you have to understand and be sensitive to moments. This is like the mystery moment Angels come and then this man is a close up, and it goes in the next level of just like beauty and wonder at a certain point when we see the young man in the city square, its climax of this build and the music also generates to this. One culmination is the angels walk together and here's the big moment. So what we want to learn from this is knowing how the music's gonna fit with the image in terms of the tempo. And then what happens to the music? What are the moments that have significant to the story and how we enhance that with the music itself. So by determining the three sections of the commercial essentially this three moments of the storytelling, the commercial, it helps us figure out what the music should do, in fact, with the music needs to do to be an important component to the commercial. 3. Starting the Process: So let's start the hypothetical process of scoring a commercial of our own. I'm gonna show you now the sample video commercial that you'll be using for your projects. There's no music on this now. I selected this particular spot, which I scored earlier this year, because it's sort of a blank slate. A lot of different kinds of musics can work on this, a lot of different tempos on a different styles. So the first thing I want to do is just watch it together and just get a feel for what this commercial is about. What is the story? What's the emotional tone? And maybe, where are the moments? It's that point when someone became more than just another someone when our friendship became official, some we knew right away. Others were discovered, slowly excavated from time spent together. This is a commercial for Facebook. Beautifully shot did it beautifully produced. So now we have a sort of feel for what the story is, um, and also be sensitive, of course, to who the client is. Facebook is trying to sell this notion of of what friends means to to each other. What means friends being to us so we're music's gonna help enhance that storyline. Now let's watch it again, and I'll talk as we watch it a bit, too. Things now that could be thinking of in terms of musical choices. It's that point when tempo more than just another someone and the points where before the story changes. Now, as you can see or hear and see, the motion of this commercial is constantly moving kind of a gentle, most walking speed. And to me, that suggests some temple possibilities. There's also some, you know, people moving on screen, but somehow you want a tempo that sort of feels right to this particular commercial. That's gonna be the choice you make now, let me tell you, when I score this commercial, I probably created 30 different pieces of music over the period of several months. So that's just is the point that there are many, many ways to do this because all three of them were reasonably good. Um, so it first up you want to do when you watch this is is choose a temple that you think is right for the type of music you want to write. I work in digital performer many of you were at work in logic. Pro tools. GarageBand. Any any program that makes music that you could be court music into, uh, there's a performer has the ability Teoh create a tap tempo, which means that I can click at a certain tempo into the program, and it will remember the temple that I choose. I love this because I can watch something like this and go to tap tempo. Yes, they're tapping into Temple that I think that it feels right. How much is this? Click, click, click, click quick, quick click feel about right to Me, and a tap tempo says that I clicked in the tempo of about 61 BPM. You could do this even on your phone on a metro. Me. It might every film, whatever you have, but it's nice to have that tap tempo, so you sort of determine what it feels like a natural tempo for playback. And now let's see if that works. If that sort of working right. What I'd like to do now is playback my newly established tempeh to the commercial and see if it's sort of lays correctly. It's that point when someone became more than just another someone when a friendship became official. Some we knew right away. Others were discovered slowly isolated from time spent together. Okay, that seemed to work for me. You might choose the holding different tempo. In fact, I know from past experience that many different tempos do work for this. Um, so that's how we determine my tempo. Let's take a look at this again with Thea idea of trying to determine the moments within the story of this commercial that we want to enhance the moments we might want to change the music slightly. Take a left turn go to episode, be in the music. What have you now? It's not a formal story in a way that you might find it in a movie. But there certainly is a unfolding of events that happened in such a way to have an overall impact. And it's leading ultimately to the end of the story. The culmination, the product that Facebook is trying to sell. There is no right or wrong way to to select the moments in this video. It's purely a matter what you think are the moment she wanted hit. You might feel this story sort of shifts here, or it shifts there. But it's let's walk through the lib it, and I'll show you some possibilities as you need it, so you can sort of get a sense of how to determine the various moments. It's that point when someone became more than just another someone. Music started here when our friends became official, some we knew right away. Others were discovered, slowly excavated from time spent together. But it wasn't just a friend request. That might be a thing right there. But even though even the over, um, the voiceover sort of suggests when she says, But it wasn't just a friend requests but seems to comply. We started a conversation, but I'm going introduce a new topic or go in a different direction. So maybe the music at that point has a shift. But we knew we wanted to hold on to them for whatever reason, but mostly because we wanted to see what for me. There are certain certain standout images in this beautiful montage that, of all the beautiful images, some of them which is sort of sort of speak to me a bit more and seem to sort of pop out to me. And the final part of this story is this. Road trip became friends where the music comes to conclusion. So what does that mean to us? It makes our life easier. Is composers I'll tell you that to start with because if you know where the music is going to change, then as you write, you say, Oh, I just need a few bars of this and then I could shift a few parts of that shift a few bars of that. Let's walk through this commercial one more time and I'm gonna show you where my elements are, where my beats are and these the points that I'm gonna choose for where the music's gonna shift. Starting music here It's that point. When someone became more than just another someone when a friendship became official, some we knew right away. Others were discovered, slowly excavated from time spent it. Episode change. Here we were looking for an accomplice, a future best man, sister, a choreographer, an alley and whatever here someone to find another episode change. Sometimes we didn't know what we were getting. Sometimes that was for the best. But we knew we wanted to hold on to them, for whatever reason, but mostly because we wanted to see what could happen. And then here, another shift for the end. So I've created four episodes for myself in this commercial. It's gonna help me a lot when I start writing music. 4. Types of Sound to Use: All right. Next step. We have a tempo. We have an idea of where the various episodes are in the music where the changes are. Now let's think about the types of sounds we want to use to create the music we have in mind. In other words, what kind of instruments is this? An orchestral sound. Is this, uh, so solo piano? Is it a guitar for me? Just keep things simple to start with, I wanted to rely heavily on piano. I think that was good. That will fit nicely. And I've loaded up, loaded up a piano sound into my system. So let's look again at the beginning of this. It's that point when someone became more Here's my tempo When a friendship became official some we need right away. Now I'm watching it again. I feel like that was a little bit too slow. Jack it up. Your tempo might be completed. Two completely different. But it wasn't just a friend request. We were looking for an accomplice. No, I'm gonna actually start writing music, and I promised. Have not prepared this ahead of time. I'm going to start writing something that thinks gonna going to fit, and here's part of the process I go through. I'll just get my hands on the on the piano once it start playing something. At this point in the writing, I may just want to sort of get a feel. For if this kind of music will fit with the images I'm seeing and the words I'm hearing, Let's try for the beginning. It's that point when someone became more than just another when a friendship became official, so we need right away. Others were discovered slowly, but it wasn't just a friend request. You were looking for an accomplice. That's how simple the starting process could be. You simply look at the video, you play it, you play along to it and see if the music that you're playing feels right and sometimes just the first thing I could come up with for my fingers does the trick. So now we have a new tempo that I just established for myself, and there's the moment I want to hit. And now, at this point, it could be convenient to create what's called a tempo map, meaning at this particular tempo. How many bars do I need to play something until I reach a certain point. And then how many bars or did play something till you reach a certain point? In other words, look at this way. Right now I'm working to the tempo of 70 beats per minute. The commercial itself is 60 seconds long, so that means approximately 17 bars of music One right. So how many bars of Episode one? How many bars? Episode two. Until I reach my 17 bars. That's I wanted Determine out. So it's a simple process. I'm gonna play back the video. I'm gonna listen to my click and find out where the points are, where the changes are and make a note of that. So now I'm gonna play back the commercial with my new tempo which is right now with 70 beats per minute Years might be different Probably will be And I'm gonna try to find out where the beats leg within my new tempo. Here we go from the top. That's that point. When someone became more than just another someone when a friendship became official, some we knew right away. Others were discovered slowly excavated from time spent together. But it wasn't just a friend request. But it wasn't just a friend. Request. That for me is one of my moments. I want to make a shift, and in my tempo, I've chosen that happens to land on the downbeat of Bar six. That means I have five bars of episode, one certain type of music and then probably starting around the downbeat of Bar six. I will make some sort of shift or something of adjustment to the music, so it feels like the story is sort of turned. The page, rolling back just slightly, were discovered, slowly excavated from time spent together dumb, but it wasn't just a friend. Chapter Change Episode two We were looking for an accomplice, a future best man, a sister, a choreographer, an ally and whatever someone to follow. There's my next moment, cause I just love that image in It feels like to me where the or the story of the commercial changes a bit. The young man walking across the field. This is roll back a moment, alley and whatever someone to follow and my tempo that moment lands in Bar 11 beat three. So we know that my next episode point is when he was a young man in the field. Bar 11 Beat three. Let's see what happens next alley. Here it is Go, someone to follow. The next moment I like is the holding hands moment. Sometimes that was for the best there, but we knew we wanted to hold on to them for whatever reason, but mostly because we want in here. So this toe movement was my two. Last moments are the holding hands and then the road trip that happens vaguely, roughly in my tempo at Bar 14 and Bar 16. And that was for the best there. But for 14 For whatever reason, here's Bar 16 but mostly because we wanted to see what could happen when we became friends . Five more beats out so simple. Now I have by first section, which goes to downbeat of our six, my next section with young man, the field into final sections. So let's move on to our next step of Friday 5. Starting the Process Part II: let's start writing some music we have now is our tempo and are hit points where the music's gonna shift. I'm going to start this, creating some musical gestures to sort of to see if my my plan, my tempo map, my places, everyone I make shifts with that whether these air sound, um, musical decisions where there is gonna help. What I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna sort of sort of create some very simple musical elements for Episode A and then one episode be comes in in a shift episode. See Likewise. Uh, I'm gonna sort of intentionally keep these musical ideas really simple. Never really worry about whether the right ones this is Mawr sort of to show me whether on the right track for the overall architecture of this piece of music, So we'll start with Episode one. It's that point. When someone became more than just another front, someone others were discovered slowly. But it wasn't just a friend, Really. If you is your best man, sister, sometimes we didn't know what we were getting. Sometimes that was for the best. But we knew we wanted to hold on to for whatever reason, mostly because we wanted to see what could happen. So I just improvised a basic off the cuff musical idea for what I think could fit on in this commercial. According to the temple map, I chose according to hit points, I was trying to hit, so of which worked out well, so which were a little bit less elegant. But overall, I think it worked fairly well. And, uh um, I'll be honest with you. I did not write anything ahead of time. I was I was creating that music of composing music in real time. I had no idea what is gonna play until they actually started playing it. But let's play this back and see what I what I created and what we're looking for now is, um, uh, well, are the musical choices I made so far? Are they Do they feel like the right one? Is the temple correct? And are the moments where the music shifts? Um, do they feel like my good moments? Do they help bolster the story? And how do you know if you're on the right track? Well, you know, you're there on the right track. If somehow the story itself starts become or clear if you feel like Oh, I understand this better. I understand that this is a new idea. Uh, and sometimes if you really nail it, you even start hearing the words more clearly. Somehow they just seem to really, um, come alive. If the music is enhancing the commercial spot in the right way. At this point, try something. Try the same process, just put downs or that really that post unsophisticated ideas you possibly can just to see if your attempt on your hit points feel like they're the correct ones. 6. Analyzing Your Music: So did the music you wrote. Feel like the right music? What here? The things to look for at this stage, The very basic music that you created. How is it interacting with the video? Is this storyline becoming clearer? Is the voiceover still clear? Or are you getting in the way? Ideally, the music you write is actually helping the voiceover become more pronounced him or part of the story. Um, but at the very least, you don't want your music to become confusing. But most importantly, does the music that you Britain at an important emotional element to the commercial that previously was not there. If the music is not helping to tell the story or helping to convey an emotion, then there's really no need for it to be there. So hopefully, um, music do you have created and the choices you made so far helping in all those aspects what I normally do in my own processes, I'll take something like what I what? I improvised and I'll basically like it. There was one that I didn't like, and I'm gonna fix it right here in front of hell. It's try toward the end. Sometimes that was for the best, but we knew we wanted to hold on to them for whatever reason, that one. Because no, it's a D. And I could use it to a D. Steve Sharp. And I'll be happy, I think, Let's see, for whatever reason, but mostly because we wanted to see fix that so that this is to illustrate to you that you can take the sort of basic musical gestures that you just you created. Ah, previously. And now it's what sort of about polishing, you know, if if the basic musical choices are sound ones, um, you can take that is your Azaz your foundation and just simply start producing, creating music that is going to really, really sparkle for this commercial. Now, here, I'm gonna turn the video off for a bit because I don't really need that right now to make the they make my next group of decisions. I have a nice piano part in this very simple piano performance on, and I'm just gonna add some other parts to it to sort of make that into into a musical piece. So here's the solo piano track that I created earlier, and I'm thinking I'd like to add honest a little light drum, part to sort of give it a little something special. Not too much that might work. Might not. Not sure it's going to take that drum part and just paste it in. This is mostly, um, in sort of the draft phase. I'm not gonna worry too much about with its a great part, but I think look, I know learn something interesting about how this is working or not. Working with the video is gonna change. I'm in some important ways. Um, the effectiveness of this music with our commercial. It's that point when someone became more than just another someone, someone right away. Others were discovered slowly extricated from time. So here's how this is instructive to me. I think it actually made the track worse. How so? Um, the drum pattern had the effect of sort of slowing down the music, sort of dragging it down. So now it doesn't have quite the same bounces before, which is telling me that that kind of approach is not going to help me tell this story. So let's try something different. So the first drum pattern was no good. I think it's a matter of just the the speed of the pattern. Maybe a five cent, a little quicker that is still sort of in the background. That might work. I've done a little bit of editing of the drum part, my second passenger in part, Um, and let's play this bark back and see if it sort of feels like a We're in a better direction this way it's that point with someone became just another friendship, Others we just heard from time. So I don't know of 100% convinced. But I'm gonna go with this and see where it takes me sometimes that the process you just sort of following i d and keep going until, um, it's great, or until you realize it's never gonna be great. Okay, time for playback time. Now I'm gonna show you. I did a little bit of light editing on the various parts just to polish the few things up. I'm not the best pianist always after to do a bit of editing, but as you can see, the ideas I have here are not sophisticated. Not particularly great. There simply, you know they're workable doesn't really require a great deal of ah of, ah, depth of musical training to do to create the music I just created. But still, I think it's pleasant and effective enough. So at this point, let's ah, playback my edited music and see how well it's doing its job. It's that point with someone became just way others just vaccinated. Good is not good. You decide. I think it's ah, it's solid. Um, at this point, you should have ah, sort of created the steps I've created here and and drafted out a basic composition from start to finish that is fully formed, um, and ready for presentation to your client. 7. Dealing with Feedback and Outro: So let's see. How do we do? Well, usually when you're working in the commercial, you have a number of people that you're answering to attack ad agency at the people behind the ad agency, the director and they all are gonna have different ideas. And after waiting for two days, they finally call you and tell you, you know, we like it. We don't like it, and we want to make some changes. Um, this is exactly what happens every single time. It's never You never kick it out the park the first time, And you could be you can expect to make change is big and small all through the process. Now, Farrah corpses. And then it just sort of sort of create a smaller microcosm of what you can expect. They say they are clients for my commercial here. They're gonna tell me that they told me the following. We like the basic idea. Like the piano thing. You don't really like the drums, and it just seems to slow. Can you Can you make it quicker? Um, he's that kind of that you're gonna get now for me. What does that mean? Okay, I'm gonna have to make this whole thing quicker. But that, of course, is going to change all of my my hit points because when it hits something in bar six now, if I make the tip of quicker, um, I won't work anymore. And I can explain that to my clients and try to protest, but they don't care. So, um, I objective now is to implement their notes, do the things that they want to have done of music, but still somehow try to keep intact the things that made the music work to begin with. So now it's pretty simple. I'm just gonna play back my music to picture and I'm gonna see if ah, faster tempo works. And then after I find a temp with sort of works with the flow of the drama, I'm going Teoh adjust the music. So the hit points work again. Wasn't just I'm at 70 bpm now. Let's, um, to make a little quicker to 85 turn off the dialogue for a moment. I kind of like that. I think that works nicely. It changed the character the music a lot, but let's see how that fits with the commercial. Bring the voiceover back. Watch it a bit and see if it kind of is is doing the things that we need to have done specifically. Is it enhancing the emotional impact of the commercial? It's that point when someone became more than just another someone. What a friendship became. Some we do right away. Others were discovered. Okay, I think I got a temper that works. I was at 70 to begin with now 82 but let's see what this new tempo has done to my hit points. It's that point when someone became more than just another someone when a friendship became official, someone right away. Others were discovered, slowly excavated from time, cementing movie music change there. But I wanted to change their way. We're looking for an accomplice. Next place. I want to use it to change on the man and field young man in the fields. And then I left with the back half the commercial without music. So here's I've discovered I'm gonna have to add some more bars here and there to make the hit points work another hand. I also sort of feel that some of the new hit points it happened against my will that went to sort of arbitrarily fell kind of felt good to me, actually. Um, but what I'm going to do at this point is take a moment to re edit and add some extra bars so that my original hit points are kept intact with the new tempo. So let's see how that works. Okay, I got the notes from the from the suits, the guys who are running the show and I made these changes. Um, and this really is a real world situation come up with and what you'll find is Sometimes you'll have to make adjustments to your creative process that aren't necessarily helping you musically, but they need them done because it helps them with their commercial. So the trick and B how do you How do you make notes that how do you address the notes In a way that more or less, we maintains the integrity of what you're trying to do and sometimes compromises air made nonetheless, you do your best. I did my best here. I've ah increased the tempo. Further suggestion, which required me to add some extra bars here in there, or mom or extra beats here and there in order to make everything line up correctly. So let's see. Uh, let's see how well I did here is the new draft too faster tempo version of this. It's that point when someone became more than just another someone but friendship became some We need right away. Others were discovered slowly excavated. OK, so you could see the results. Some, some things are better now. Some things are not quite as good, but but I think I think it's a reasonable, um, execution of the notes that I received. So at this point, you guys should follow the same steps. Find something about the first draft of music that you wrote that you really like a lot and then throw it out. Probably think you like the most. Throw it out and try to find a way to make it work. Okay, Good news. The second draft was a winner. Clients loved it on. We are done. Uh, so now we just have to wait for six months for them to pay us, which is only what happens. But at least we can weaken sleep for the first time in three weeks. Now, in the real world. Chances are you've done not two versions of this, but probably 20 versions of that piece of music. Meanwhile, you've written six other different use to music for the same spot ended 20 versions of that part of what it determines. One success as a commercial composer is how to keep your head straight during all of this confusion, both keeping the bookkeeping square like Aryan Version 16 of revised be, and also just keeping your head on straight because, um is a lot of pressure. We have make all these changes to all these different kinds of things, and when you think if you've got it perfectly, perfectly as beautiful as it could be, you have to do something new to it meshes. Part of what we do is composers, particularly in the commercial world. So I hope this isn't in an instructive exercise for you and fun, and I encourage you to take your music and post it and share it and also check out what other students are doing. And just, um, I appreciate the different approaches people are taking her to learn from it, and good luck with everything