A musical score for film, television, or a video game endures several stages between the composer’s pen and the live orchestra recording. One of the final checkpoints is with the sequencing programmer, who converts sheet music to a simplified digital track.
Working closely with the composer, the sequencing programmer uses notation software and music sequencing software like ACID Pro, Cinescore, or Logic Pro to create MIDI tracks of keyboards and synthesizers for use in scoring a film, television show, or video game. This process is also helpful in sequencing music for use by the composer and music editor to review before recording the score with a full orchestra. It is less time consuming and far less costly to iron out the kinks in a composition from a digital file than it is to make changes to the music with a full orchestra on the clock, racking up rental fees at the scoring stage.
Modern sequencing software is capable of recording and playing back an expressive performance by a live musician; this means that instead of simply playing back a series of notes at the same length and interval, the software can accurately recreate the exact tempo and intensity of an actual musician. Certain software also has the ability to replace the need for multiple synthesizers with virtual instruments available via plug-ins to the application—think Apple’s Garage Band program. Many workstation keyboards used by professionals include an onboard MIDI sequencer. MIDI, musical instrument digital interface, is an industry-standard protocol for enabling synthesizers, drum machines, and other electronic instruments to communicate and synchronize with computers and each other. The sequencing programmer either plays a live keyboard or uses virtual instruments to record the MIDI file, refine the digital recording, then submit it to the composer and music editor. He or she may work directly from the composer’s musical notation or from sheet music prepared by an arranger.
Skills & Education
A college degree in music composition or recording arts is recommended for this position. The sequencing programmer should be adept at reading and writing musical notation and be an accomplished musician on the piano. Proficiency in the use of sequencing and notational software is necessary, and this person should be comfortable using digital workstations and recording consoles. Courses in music appreciation, recording technology, and musicianship are encouraged. The programmer must understand the film scoring process and be flexible in working with composers in a collaborative environment.
What to Expect
Sequencing programmers may find employment opportunities as freelancers working on contract for specific projects or as a full-time employee at a post-production facility or recording studio. This is the same for film and television production, as well as game development. Some game studios do employ full-time sequencing programmers in the music department, but this career is separate from that of the audio programmer that ports the soundtrack to the game engine for final deployment. Experience as a copyist or arranger is valuable in reaching this career, which can lead to employment as a music editor or composer. Most sequencing programmers begin as a trainee or apprentice at a post-production facility or recording studio. You can expect to work at least 40 hours per week, with a good possibility for overtime and weekend hours depending on the production schedule.
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