Finding a Formula: Composing for 'The Brain Eater'

Here I am finally with a second and a half to go over my thoughts on 'The Brain Eater' composition and what I did to write classical music in such a short period of time. I was given the challenge as a last minute ring in to write music for director Enoch Toa in his upcoming grad film 'The Brain Eater'. This was always going to be a big challenge for me because I had never really written a traditional piece of classical music before, let alone one that would be screened to a potential audience outside SAE or even Australia. 

My Mad Method

I spent the first week of my project doing some research into film scoring, and even music notation (Oh god, I never thought it would rear its ugly head again). This time I embraced it though, and found a website called MuseScore, which I had used to help me in my first track teardown of Deadmau5 'Ghosts and Stuff'.

This method struck me at first as something that would be more time consuming and would take away from creative jamming, but on the contrary Stephen! you were wrong. It is one of the fastest ways to write motifs or lead lines. It has also been really beneficial in forcing me to think about music theory and songwriting with the circle of fifths (open the link to go to Rand Scullard's Interactive circle of fifths). 

I know this may seem like another person just saying "go use classical music theory, because it is so easy" when it clearly isn't, but I understand. I do have a bit of prior knowledge when it comes to these dark arts, however, there are places to start if you need a way in. Firstly, use a keyboard or midi sequencer in your DAW (some DAW's have notation engines anyway) to learn scales, then use the circle of fifths to build melodies with alternating patterns and notes. Just knowing the circle of fifths can make you look good in front of any musician. If you'd like to get in depth with music theory and have decided today is the day, then head over to to learn all bout' it. They have great courses in just about anything and I wish I knew them but don't. So that was for free.

Some advanced songwriting tips for classical composition for those who want to get even more deep into the dark art

What I Learnt from The Brain Eater

I learnt you can only write as good as your reference track or teardown. I went in to this with no teardown and only snippets of reference tracks, which seemed at the time to be very difficult to reproduce. They were, but they weren't impossible to emulate. So I tried, and came up with a few very different results. This wasn't ideal, but the music wasn't bad, so I showed Toa what I had done anyway. He was impressed, but still needed a Tango style rhythmic string section at twelve minutes into the film. Then I wished I had of done a teardown of a Tango song. I came up with a Tango bass line, but struggled to come up with a satisfying string section that could liven the score up. This will need to be a project for me over the break, as I found it hard to write over an offbeat rhythm and am interested in how the influences of classical and jazz come into this style of music.

This project also taught me to be more organised and to make sure I do everything at the one computer while working with Midi. One of the biggest struggles I had was, when I had to change computers or go use a desktop outside the studio and I either couldn't access NI Kontact, or the Xpand!2 plugin would change settings on each new computer. This nearly made me lose interest in film composition through midi, but have decided the answer instead is to stock up on post-production equipment and do most of my work from home.

How I'm Going to Use the Knowledge

So, where too now on my journey to 'Skywalker Ranch'? I now know after this project that my songwriting skills would get a huge boost with some classical melody writing research and also the addition of some new software and sample libraries. I don't want to rely on trying to find the most real samples on the internet, If I can write, then get someone to play what I have written or have a decent synth engine that can emulate classical sounds. That would give me a massive advantage going into next trimester. Thanks to the two film projects I've worked on this year, I can safely say I know where I want to end up. Post-production looks like the end goal for me, and if it ends up being in the valleys of Skywalker Ranch or for Journey 2, then I'll be the happiest audio kid in town. 



Advanced Music Theory - Melody Writing. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

AIR Music Technology. (2018). Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

deadmau5 feat. Rob Swire - Ghosts N Stuff. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

Free music composition and notation software | MuseScore. (2018). Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

Interactive Circle of Fifths. (2018). Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

KONTAKT 5. (2018). Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

Music theory and notation. (2018). - from LinkedIn. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

New in Live: Discover the new features Ableton Live 10 has to offer | Ableton. (2018). Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

Tango Music Genre Overview | AllMusic. (2018). AllMusic. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

Tear Down This Track - Deadmau5 | Ghosts 'n' Stuff ft. Rob Swire. (2018). Sonic Bakery. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from

TV, F., & Do, W. (2018). Skywalker Ranch, Marin - Lucasfilm CampusesLucasfilm. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from