Book Review: Berklee Complete Guide to Film Scoring

Recently I took on a project to score a film.  I’ve never scored a film before so I thought I should start by doing some learning.  One book I read was Berklee Complete Guide to Film Scoring by Richard Davis.  Here’s the review.

Review – Berklee Complete Guide to Film Scoring

I remember when I came across this book on I thought “Holy Shit, I’ve hit the jackpot”.  I mean, a complete guide to doing exactly what it is I need to do?  Yus!  Well, not quite (and this is where half of you stop reading ;)).  The reality is that this book is a complete guide to all things around film scoring, but very little to do with actually scoring a film itself.

The book is divided into five parts:

  1. The History of Film Scoring
  2. The different jobs/positions you’d come across in the industry as related to film scoring
  3. The Music
  4. The Business of Film Scoring
  5. Interviews with people more accomplished than you

As you can already see based on the layout of the book, only a fifth of the book’s content is dedicated to music.  Actually, that part isn’t all that musical either, but more on that later.  This book is really an overview of film scoring from an industry perspective.  Its a great, and quick read.  I even learned a lot – but if you are trying to get information on what you need to do to make a good movie score – well, this book doesn’t have much for you.

There are two sections of the book where I thought I’d find my gold mine, that music section and the interviews.  The music section was actually incredibly high-level.  There’s some talk about how one might sync sound to picture, some general (and vague) ideas about approaches one would take when scoring for film.  Really though, most of the information isn’t all that useful.  Most of what is covered in the music section might be a great intro for those who are going to end up with an orchestra and a team of people – but the reality for most of us on the ground floor is that we’ll use Logic, Pro Tools, or something else entirely, and we’ll be doing the entire score by our self.  But hey, at least I know that I’m a Composer, Orchestrator, and Music Editor all in one (and not to mention mix engineer, recording engineer, and instrumentalist).

The interviews section had some good information but it also fell short.  Many of the questions were more about how a particular composer broke into the industry or how they felt about writing on a computer.  Who the hell cares how they feel about writing on a computer?  This is a “Complete Guide to Scoring Film”, not a “Complete Guide to Landing a Job”.   Furthermore, all the really good quotes were all over the text of the book; when you read the interviews its disappointing to find that every good piece of information in the interview was already presented in a previous chapter.


Part of my problem was expectation.  I was really hoping to dive into the music, techniques, case studies.  Sure the history and industry information was fun to learn, but also completely useless to someone on a mission.  This is a great read if you want to know more about the industry but will do little to help you further your scoring abilities.  You would do much better spending your time digging around on scorecastonline and watching more movies.  This guide is far from complete.

Rating: 2/5