DIY Instruments: The Apprehension Engine Part 2: Application

Following up on part one, this article walks through how to build and play elements of “The Apprehension Engine.” The original, as made by Mark Korven and Tony Duggan-Smith, is a work of art. It’s a single instrument with various ways of creating fear-inducing sounds. I’m not trying to duplicate their design, but instead illustrate how my favorite elements work. Building your own DIY instruments will bring a unique flavor to your film music. Using this guide will hopefully spark your creativity when working on your next film score that requires bone-chilling atmosphere.


DIY Instruments: The Apprehension Engine Part 1: Introduction

Embracing the do-it-yourself spirit, this is the first post in a series about DIY instruments. And we’re kicking things off with a really interesting, film composer-specific instrument dubbed “The Apprehension Engine.” It combines many unique elements to produce bone-chilling sounds that are perfect for a horror movie. Let’s look at what it does and how it works. Then in future posts, we’ll look at how we can replicate its elements to create unique sounds for our own horror movie scores.


Mark Mothersbaugh: Film Composer Profile

Aside from a select few, most film composers are not household names. You probably know their music, but not their names or the other films they’ve worked on. In this post we’ll look at one composer in particular, Mark Mothersbaugh. He has had a long and varied career, and has written a lot of fun, beloved film scores.


Easy Film Scoring Strategy: Imitate The Masters

If you’re still learning the ins and outs of film scoring – or just need some quick inspiration – try looking at the work of film composers who have come before you as a template.  Film scoring is never truly easy, but you can help yourself out by basing some of your composition on existing music. This post will outline some ideas for implementing this, depending on what you need.


Finding the perfect tempo for a film score

Is there a perfect tempo for a film score? Shouldn’t it be driven by the mood of the particular moment, or the style of the music? Does it even have to be constant?

At first blush, determining the perfect tempo may not seem that important when it comes to film composing. But, while there may not be one perfect tempo, there are a handful that work better than others. Read on to see what factors make one tempo better than another for a film score.


The Top 10 Best Film Scores?

What films are on your list for the best film scores of all time? Cinefix has just released a 20-minute treatise on their favorites. Check out the video and read my analysis here.


Female Film Composers

When you think of famous film composers, how many women are in your list? Probably not many, maybe none. That’s a shame, because there are a lot of great female film composers (both past and present). In a male-dominated industry, it’s important to call out some of the women who deserve some of the spotlight.

Who knows? Maybe your favorite film was scored by a woman and you didn’t even realize it.


Film Composing Process – Sketching

The composing process is different for every film composer. When you’re in the studio, staring at the screen, how do you make your first move? How to you begin to put notes down on paper (real or virtual)? It doesn’t have to be scary. In this post I walk through how I approach the beginning of the actual film composing process – or, what I call sketching.


The Collaborative Film Composer – Working with a Director

Creative Composer Collaboration

The film composer / film director collaboration can make or break a project.  It can also make or break your future success with a career in composing. Know what to expect and have ways to approach the creative process. You can put these tips into action right away for a better composing experience, and ultimately  a better soundtrack.

The key is to think of the director as a creative ally, not an obstruction.

In the end, you are both working towards the same goal: to make the best film possible.