For those among you who do both sound design AND composition, when you're doing both for one project, which do you start with? Obviously they will affect each other in the end product, but I'm finding it difficult to work out which I'd need to take into account first. Am I missing something blatantly obvious here?

Cheers Joe

4 Answers 4


Myself (and I've done a few of these) I actually do them simultaneously. I tend to cut FX during the day, then work on Composition at night - Or I'll do one day of FX, one day of Music, etc. However I tend to start with FX either way - but YMMV..

One thing I always do, is have a spotting session/long discussion with the filmmaker about where things are going to go, and what overarching concepts are happening with both Sound and Music. The good thing about this is both the Sound and Music departments are always in that session! :) Since I'm doing both, I have a fair idea when one is going to be dominant over the other, and generally avoid conflicts - although there's always a director's prerogative to change his mind! :)

The downside is of course, that's it ONLY you, and so if you run low on inspiration, there's no other co-creator to kick your a$$!

Of course these are generally indie projects, where the director/producer can give me the time I need to work on both elements...

  • I like the FX first approach; gives you an opportunity to really delve into and understand parts of the film before considering music. I'm going to use this pattern on my current project.
    – Miles B.
    Sep 30, 2010 at 13:45

I guess it depends heavily what kind of end product you're working on. In my case, whenever I do both, it is for fairly short promotional videos w fancy animations. In those situations I prefer to start with the music as it decides the flow and feel for this kind of product. I then fill up the blanks with sound effects design.

However if I was working on a movie or game having to do both (god forbid, unless you have the time for it - yeah sure, heh) I'd probably do it exactly the other way around. Or mix and match. Write the theme or lead motif of the score. Then work on essential sound design moments. Or maybe do all the ambiences first, in fact. Go back to some music. Something like that, would be my personal approach. Bit random perhaps, but I think the point for me is that there's no truly correct way of doing this.


Last year I had a number of small projects like this. I nearly always do them separately. Composition takes more time and it's what the clients expect to hear first. However I always try to push for a little more on the sound effects side, so it's not just music. Creating effects is a lot of fun..


I generally start with music, as I find that's more taxing, and do sound design when I need a break.

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