COMPOSER TALK: DEAN LANDON

With a music career that spans over four decades, Dean Landon has become synonymous with the dynamic and emotive scores that breathe life into some of Warner Brother’s top shows. From the energetic tunes of the hot new kids show Teen Titans Go and memorable scores for Bounce and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, to grand orchestral pieces, Dean showcases a remarkable journey through the music industry. The double-platinum and gold-award-winning songwriter, producer, and composer took the time for us to interview him, peeling back the layers of his creative process along the way.

Dean discusses collaborations with music supervisors, the critical role of versatility and determination in the field, and his approach to starting new projects. Read more about what Dean thinks it takes to make it in the modern music industry, the tools he uses, and how he’s started integrating our THE SCORE into his workflow.

COMPOSER INTERVIEW: DEAN LANDON

 

Can you share a bit about your journey into composing music for TV shows? What inspired you to pursue this career path?

Dean: Throughout my lifetime, I’ve dedicated myself to songwriting. However, it wasn’t until 2000 when I ventured into composing music for television that my focus shifted. Initially, my compositions spanned various genres like pop, rock, alternative, country, and folk, primarily instrumental in nature. If vocals were introduced, they often took the form of a choir. Over time, as my catalog grew, music supervisors sought a new direction, leading me towards orchestral compositions. While symphonic elements had always been part of my songwriting, delving into full-fledged orchestral tracks was a fresh challenge. Warner Bros. Extra and other affiliated shows initially commissioned me to craft epic symphonic pieces which led to other orchestral styles. Since then, orchestral composition has become a significant part of my musical journey, shaping much of my recent work, and I’ve been a full-time composer for Warner Bros since 2003.

 

How do you approach composing music for different types of TV shows, considering their unique themes and moods?

Thankfully, the music supervisors I collaborate with are clear about their expectations. For instance, when I’m tasked with composing music for Teen Titans Go, I typically receive a detailed list of descriptors outlining the desired style from the supervisors and directors. From there, I aim to create around 10 cues that align with the specified style. Leveraging a diverse array of virtual orchestral instruments is key to my process. This extensive toolkit not only streamlines the production process but also ensures I can effectively match the desired style for each project.

 

In your experience, how important is it for composers to have a diverse range of musical styles and influences when working in television?

I believe that, as with anything, knowledge is key to success. While my primary instrument is piano/keyboards, I’m proficient in guitar, bass, and drums as well. This versatility grants me a deeper comprehension of diverse musical styles and their influences. For any composer, possessing a broad range of skills is invaluable, as it allows for the creation of music across various genres and sustains longevity in the industry.

 

Can you walk us through your typical workflow when starting a new project for a TV show?
How do you begin crafting the musical identity for a series?

Depending on the specific show I’m composing for, I select the appropriate Pro Tools template equipped with all the essential virtual instruments (VI’s) and plugins. A meticulously crafted template is instrumental in streamlining the composing process, serving as a significant time-saver. For instance, when working on cues for an epic production, I typically kick off with staccato strings and percussion to establish the thematic essence and driving force. Once I’ve established the melodic theme and groove, I expand upon it by incorporating additional elements such as horns, woodwinds, pianos, and more recently, synths into my workflow. Maintaining originality throughout the composition is paramount; avoiding emulation of other composers’ styles is crucial. Throughout the creative process, I simultaneously mix the elements to ensure a cohesive sound, facilitated by having the right equipment at hand. Upon completion, I submit all cues for approval. After receiving confirmation, I generate stems and submit the deliverables.

 

Collaboration is often crucial in the television industry. How do you work with directors, producers, and other creatives to ensure your music aligns with their vision for the show?

For almost 25 years, I’ve maintained a fruitful collaboration with the same group of music supervisors. Over time, we’ve developed a mutual understanding: they know the quality of work I deliver, and I’m well acquainted with their expectations. Thankfully, the need for extensive revisions on themes or cues is rare. While there are occasions where meeting supervisors and directors face-to-face is necessary, communication through phone calls or emails suffices in most cases today. In 2024, composers have the luxury of working remotely from anywhere, a stark contrast to the limitations of over 15-20 years ago.
When everyone involved is aligned and on the same page, collaboration and teamwork become effortless. Central to this success is grasping the director’s or supervisor’s vision and requirements.

 

How do you navigate the balance between meeting deadlines and maintaining the quality of your compositions?

I ensure ample time for both creation and mixing in my workflow. When crafting a theme, if it doesn’t resonate with me within the first few bars, I’ll rewrite until I’m satisfied with the result. Typically, I establish the essence of the theme within the first day of work. Depending on the project’s demands, my workdays span between 12 to 16 hours. As a general practice, I start new projects on Mondays and aim to have rough deliverables ready by Friday. Once my work receives approval, I submit all final mixes, occasionally including full mixes without lead melody lines, along with stems and other necessary elements.

 

Many composers today rely on sound libraries to enhance their compositions. How do you use sound libraries in your creative process, and do you have any favorites or go-to libraries?

In the past, I’ve contributed music to several libraries as a means of generating income. For composers, library work is often a dependable source of revenue unless they have a chart-topping hit. Personally, I don’t have a preferred or exclusive library that I rely on. Fortunately, I’ve been privileged to be a signed composer for Warner Bros. Whenever a new show emerges, I’m typically called upon to compose for it. This accessibility has truly been a blessing in my career.

 

What role does technology play in your music composition process? Are there any specific software or hardware tools you rely on heavily?

Today, the quality of orchestral libraries is truly remarkable. As a longtime user of Pro Tools, I’ve experimented with other Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) over the years but always find myself returning to Pro Tools. Instruments like Native Instruments (Kontakt), Spectrasonics, Spitfire, East West, Vienna Symphonic, and Arturia are just a few examples of the fantastic tools available. My studio setup includes a range of outboard equipment such as MTRX Studio, Lynx Aurora, SSL UF8, UF1, and UC1 controllers, UnFairchild, GML 8200, Bricasti, Teletronix, Neve, and Amphion Two18 with Base25 monitors, among others. Having the right tools is crucial, and a properly treated room is essential for accurate composition and mixing. Additionally, I utilize the Trinnov D-MON for extra room correction, as every improvement contributes to the final result. While all this equipment isn’t necessary to begin, over the past 20 years, I’ve accumulated gear that I now find indispensable to my workflow.

 

You recently checked out THE SCORE. What aspects of this sound library stood out to you, and how do you see it complementing your workflow?

THE SCORE is an exceptional virtual instrument that I’ve incorporated into my compositions over the past few months. Both the Ensemble and Lead features have proven to be incredibly valuable tools in my workflow. Often, I’ll start by generating a melody using various time signatures and then expand upon it until I’ve developed my main theme or groove. I particularly appreciate the ability to create percussive patches by holding chords, as well as the option to modify the FX settings, which enhances the versatility of the instrument. In my opinion, both aspiring composers and seasoned professionals will find THE SCORE to be highly intuitive and user-friendly. I continue to explore its capabilities and am consistently impressed by its functionality.

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What advice would you give to aspiring composers who hope to break into the television industry? Are there any lessons you’ve learned throughout your career that you wish you knew when starting out?

Persistence is key in the music industry! While it’s true that there’s a plethora of composers out there, dedicating time to your craft, collaborating with others, and establishing connections with directors and supervisors will eventually lead to your first contract, opening doors to more opportunities. Strive to learn from experienced individuals and allocate sufficient time each day to compose as much as possible. With continuous practice, your creative ideas will undoubtedly improve. Moreover, thanks to the ongoing advancements in computer technology and software/hardware, communication and submission of material have become more accessible than ever before. Reflecting on my own journey, I often wish I had access to the tools and resources available today when I first started out—it would have certainly simplified things. Last word of advice, try THE SCORE, and never ever give up.

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As you can see, whether used for sketching or developing more polished works, THE SCORE is the fastest way to turn your ideas into musical reality. Check out our product page for more.

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