This has been a productive year for my tutorial and article writing over at Tuts+. I wrote 11 new tuts on compositions, orchestration, film scoring and music theory. I’ll be taking a break from writing for the site for a while, but it’s been a fun year and I love receiving feedback from composers and musicians who are able to put my ideas to use!

Here are all the 2014 articles:

How To Write An Effective Knockoff… Legally
Being asked to copy another song is just an everyday part of the gig. Here are some tips for both tapping in to the original’s essence while still keeping the music inherently your own.

Film Score Harmony: Chords by Thirds
How to use non-diatonic chords for a cinematic harmonic vocabulary and create any mood you desire.

Enhance Your Music with a Subtlety Layer
Adding a layer of subtle elements can bring your music to a new level, just like the right garnish and spice can turn a main dish into a gourmet entree.

How to Write Theme & Variations
In this tutorial we’ll show you how to apply simple variation techniques to a simple ABA theme to create a wide range of moods and styles.

Arranging for Strings: Part 2
In this tutorial, we’ll cover how to turn a simple four part harmonization into a complex string arrangement.

How to Modulate to Remote Keys
In this tutorial, we are going to learn a few different techniques for modulating to distant keys. The two techniques we’ll discuss in the tut are using advanced harmonic techniques and using bridge keys. Warning: There’s some deep theory in this one. Not for the faint of heart!

An Introduction to Form in Instrumental Music
Musical form is the structure and logic of a piece of music. Under the heading of form you can consider balance, symmetry, proportion, pacing, and other topics related to the overall presentation of your piece.

How to Arrange 4-Part Harmony for Strings
In this tutorial we’re going to look at six different ways to adapt four-part harmony to a string orchestra. Four-part harmony is a traditional way of harmonizing a melody for four “voices” (either literal human voices, or instruments). Many introductory harmony courses teach four-part writing because it is a straightforward method for learning chord voicing, good part motion, and proper treatment of dissonances.

How and Why to Modulate to New Keys
In music, modulation is the process of changing from one key to another. If a piece of music starts out in the key of F major but then changes, either immediately or gradually, to they key of Bb major, we would say it modulates from F major to Bb major. A piece is considered to be in a “key” if the root of the key is the tonic, also called “home” or the “gravitational center”.

How to Give Life to Instrumental Parts
“If it’s not moving, it’s dead” is a line that applies as much to life as it does to music. Yet all too often composers write background or accompaniment parts that are lifeless and dull. They might have a beautiful melodic line, but then stick a big chord made up of whole notes behind it and call it a day. The result is music that is lifeless, boring, and feels like slogging through mud.

Contemporary Techniques for Ending Your Song
In How to Write Effective Introductions, we learned about the importance of giving your song a powerful beginning. We also examined various techniques for writing one. In this tutorial I’ll discuss one specific trend in contemporary songwriting for ending a song: ambiguity.

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Kid President – Declaration of Awesome

Kid President has his own TV show! The inspirational YouTube star now has his own show on Hub Network, and the premiere was on June 17th.

For a special segment of the show, director Ben Shelton (who I work with on The FlipSide) created an action trailer for “Kid President: Commander in Chaos”. I wrote original music for the trailer, which features MMA star Urijah Faber.

Congrats on the new show, Kid President!

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“Fire City: The Interpreter of Signs” Trailer

The trailer for upcoming feature film “Fire City: The Interpreter of Signs” is now online!

Outstanding work by Taylor Glenn who cut the trailer! The film is written and produced by Michael Hayes &Brian Lubocki, and directed by Academy Award winning creature FX wizard Tom Woodruff Jr.

In a world where demons live secretly among us, one demon develops compassion for humanity, throwing all out of balance. To set things right, he must kill an innocent human girl or risk the fate of all Demonkind.

Pair with the short film King of Miseries.

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Descendants of the Past, Ancestors of the Future

dpaf2I recently completed scoring a short film from writer/director Albert Chan. Descendants of the Past, Ancestors of the Future is a dramatic short film about Andrew, the son of Chinese immigrants, who is about to become a father to a baby girl. The story explores the sacrifices immigrant families make and the powerful bond that ties all generations of a family together.


Albert and I previously collaborated on his highly successful film “The Commitment” and he starred in Interrogation, the very first feature film I ever scored!

The film stars Albert Chan and Golden Globe nominated actress Tina Chen. Still in the final stages of post-production, I will update when more information on festivals and release becomes available.

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Study the Masters, Listen to Your Contemporaries, & Write for Yourself

Almost 10 years out of Berklee, I still spend a fair amount of time studying music. I try to study a wide range of styles and eras, but disproportionately I find myself analyzing music from the Classical period, in particular Beethoven.

Of course no one has ever said my music “sounds” like Beethoven or Mozart. It doesn’t, and I wouldn’t want it to (unless that was the gig I was hired to do!). I don’t study Classical music for the particulars of style or to “sound” like one of those guys. I study it for the universal elements of proportion, balance, tension vs. release, harmonic continuation, melody, etc. etc.

My reasoning is that the underlying principles that worked for Beethoven must certainly work for anyone else. If I’m going to spend the little time I have available to deeply study music, it makes sense that I spend it with the best.

However I hardly ever passively listen to classical music. Occasionally I’ll listen to film scores but more often than not if I have music on in the background it’s current alternative, electronica and pop.

Partly this is because I enjoy it, but also because an essential need of my career is to stay current. By listening to contemporary music I am always aware of what kind of sounds are fresh vs. outdated, what chord progressions are in or out of vogue, and so on. I also am able to hold a conversation with a director who references their new favorite song and actually know what they are talking about!

When it comes time to compose, however, I put all of that aside and just write in my own voice. In the past I have made attempts to sound like some composer or another, but the result is always a pathetic attempt to imitate rather than a genuine expression.

With a well-maintained ear for what music sounds like in 2014 and an embedded sense for what has driven centuries worth of Western music, I can write authentically without worrying about who or what my music might sound like other than my own.

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Tuts+ Music & Audio Tutorials

I’ve been writing for Audiotuts for almost six years now! The site has recently undergone a redesign and is now called simply Tuts+ with our division being the Music & Audio section. The new url is http://music.tutsplus.com

I write tutorials and articles on a variety of music related topics including music production, Logic, counterpoint, composition, arranging, orchestration and music theory.

So far this year I have had six tutorials published:

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The Impression Guys

‘The Impression Guys’ is a YouTube original HALF-HOUR series presented by Rainn Wilson’s SOULPANCAKE.

It is written & directed by Ben Shelton (who I collaborate with on The Flipside) and stars Jim Meskimen, Ross Marquand and Angela Kinsey (The Office).

Episode 2 aired this week and includes music by yours truly!

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Project Arbiter now on YouTube!

The outstanding short film Project Arbiter has gone public! You can now watch the entire 20 minute film on YouTube.

Project Arbiter, which features an original score I composed for the film, had it’s premiere at San Diego Comic-Con and is now ready to be seen by the world.

Here are two interviews I did on the making of the score: Part 1 and Part 2

Please watch, enjoy and share the film!

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‘King of the Nerds’ Season 2


I’m happy to be contributing music once again to the TBS hit show “King of the Nerds”, now in its second season.

The show is hosted by Curtis Armstrong (“Revenge of the Nerds”, “New Girl”) and Bobby Carradine (“Revenge of the Nerds”, “Django Unchained”).

Many thanks to lead composer Russell Spurlock and Whatnot Industries! More info on the official Read more

Scoring Complete on Feature Film “The Current”

TheCurrent Poster smallI recently had the wonderful opportunity to work with Scott and Diane Peterson on their feature film “The Current”. The score blends a traditional Hollywood family-drama style with lighter fun moments driven primarily by acoustic guitar. I even did an original hip-hop track for source music in a supermarket scene!

“The Current is the story of Jake who is uprooted from the home he loves in Chicago when he gets a little too close to “big city” violence. Much to his disappointment, his parents buy a campground in rural Minnesota and drag him there kicking and screaming. It is a story about God’s plan for our lives and how sometimes we don’t realize it but God is gently guiding us along throughout our lives. The screenplay was a finalist for the Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays.”

More information is available at iifilms.com. Check out the trailer below:

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