MUS 401: Film Scoring

Prof. Christopher Kozak
3 credit hours


MUS 312 or permission of instructor

Course Description

A study of the art of scoring music for films. The course will examine the evolution and the aestetics of film scoring as developed by the pioneers of this art form (Max Steiner, David Raksin, Hanns Eisler, etc.). Emphasis will also be given to the comprehension and application of the click track, i.e.: devising hits, spotting, timings, footage conversions, etc. Synchronization principles will also be discussed in great detail. Musically, the student will focus on the 30 and 60 second jingle format for both radio and TV. Emphasis will be placed on developing the hooks and writing a flexible jingle for different needs, for example: doughnut, full sing, vocal in/out, tag, etc. Once the projects are written they will be recorded in the Jazz Studio and produced for the student’s portfolio.

Course Goals & Objectives

The primary objective of the course is to develop the student’s skills to quickly ascertain and comprehend the needs of the specific music as dictated by the film and director, then creatively compose, arrange, and orchestrate the project under the guise of a strict deadline. The student will also develop skills to conduct a recording session successfully, learn to find and correct mistakes by aural recognition and/or score analysis in a time effective fashion, and learn the basics of sonically producing a project for final presentation to a client.

Required Materials

The Reel World: Scoring for Pictures, Jeff Rona. Miller Freeman Books, San Francisco: 2000.8.


Weekly readings will be given as new material is introduced in class. There will be three projects due in the course. Project #1 is in two parts. The first half is an analysis of existing jingles. The students are responsible for video taping 10 different TV jingles, including both regional and national, transcribe all themes and analyze each jingle for class presentation. Each student will be expected to evaluate the successfulness of the jingles and present criteria why it is or is not successful. The second half will be due in the latter half of the semester. The student is responsible for an analysis of a film, i.e.: main themes, thematic development, amount of music in film, evaluation of effectiveness of the score, etc. Project #2 will be musical cues composed, arranged, and orchestrated by the students to depict story lines of their own choosing. Instrumentation is limited to 8 musicians of any instrument. Project #3 is another musical cue assignment. The students will be responsible for 4-5 minutes of music scoring for film clips reserved in the Jazz Studies area. The primary emphasis of the cues is to creatively and musically use click tracks for precise hits with the action of the scenes. The instrumentation is limited to a maximum of 8 musicians of any instrumentation. All cues will be mixed, produced, and dubbed to video for the student’s portfolio.


There will be a final examination for this course and will cover all material discussed in the course.

Policies & Procedures

Grading System

Assessment of the student’s work is based on the following criteria:

  • Comprehension and command of material covered in the course.
  • Completion of projects by the deadline. Late projects will result in lowering of the final grade.
  • Leadership qualities and abilities to the conduct the recording session.
  • Effectiveness of the musical cue.
  • Examination/quizzes.

The student’s final grade will be drawn from grades received for each component of the course:

Quizzes: 15%
Project #1: 20%
Project #2: 20%
Project #3: 25%
Final Exam: 20%

95%-100% = A
90%-94% = A-
86%-89% = B+
82%-85% = B
79%-81% = B-
75%-78% = C+
71%-74% = C
68%-70% = C-
64%-67% = D+
60%-63% = D
57%-59% = D-
0%-56% = F

Attendance Policy

Attendance of all classes and recording sessions is expected. Three absences from class will result in lowering the final grade by one letter. Any extenuating curcumstances must be immediately discussed with Thomas Wolfe. There will not be any make-up quizzes or examinations

Course Outline

Week 1/2: Music for the Movies: The Hollywood Sound
Week 2/1: Finish Music for the Movies: The Hollywood Sound. Review syllabus & assignments. View previous student projects. Assign 1st reading assignment.
Week 2/2: Introduction to evolution of film scoring: silent films and music. Movies and scores, 1935-1950. Film Music, Prendergast, pp. 3-97.
Week 3/1: Film Scores, 1950-present. Aesthetics of film scoring. Film Music, Prendergast, pp. 98-200.
Week 3/2: Music for Film. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 1-13.
Week 4/1: Project #1 – Part 1 due. Analysis of jingles.
Week 4/2: Project #1 – Part 1 continued.
Week 5/1: Music for Television. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 21-39.
Week 5/2: Developing a Style. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 40-59.
Week 6/1: Beginning a Career. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 170-186.
Week 6/2: Career Challenges. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 187-218.
Week 7/1: Making a Living. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 219-261.
Week 7/2: Project #2 due. Record projects. Time TBA.
Week 8/1: Project #2 continued.
Week 8/2: Project #2 Mixdown.
Week 9/1: Project #2 Mixdown continued
Week 9/2: Setting Up a Studio. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 83-97.
Week 10/1: Technology: click tracks, sequencing, etc. On the Track, Wright/Karlin
Week 10/2: Review of assignments. Continued synchronization/hits review in class.
Week 11/1: Project #1 – Part 2 due. Film Analysis.
Week 11/2 Project #1 – Part 2 continued. Film Analysis
Week 12/1 Project #1 – Part 2 continued. Film Analysis.
Week 12/2 Writing the Score. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 98-122.
Week 13/1 Recording the Score. The Reel World, Rona, pp. 123-169.
Week 13/2: Student mock presentations of Project #3 cues.
Week 14/1: Project #3 due. Record projects.
Week 14/2: Project #3 continued.
Week 15/1: Project #3 Mixdown and Video Dub.
Week 16/1: Project #3 Mixdown and Video Dub continued.
Week 16/2: Review of projects and materials for Final Examination.