Master Composing for Film

The Conservatorium van Amsterdam (CvA), in co-operation with the Netherlands Film Academy, provides a high-level master's degree programme designed to accommodate the aspirations of composers wishing to specialize in music scoring for film and other audio-visual representations. The Conservatorium van Amsterdam is the first conservatory in Europe to offer this specialization.

The two-year master's programme provides a profound training based upon a multidisciplinary teaching framework aimed at fully equipping students for the scoring demands of contemporary film & audio-visual industries. By means of lessons, lectures, workshops, excursions and special guest teachers (composers, film directors), students will be given the opportunity to work with professionals on gaining knowledge in different aspects of the film scoring industry (artistic, creative, technical, business).

Students will gain experience in dealing with film scoring assignments and film projects by Film Academy students, developing not only creative but also interpersonal skills through the different levels of cooperation necessary to fulfill these projects.

During their last semester students will work on scoring a complete film, mentored by their teachers and finally having the opportunity of recording part of it with live musicians at the CvA studios.

Please note: lessons at CvA will be in English, lessons at the Film Academy will be in Dutch. All students should have at least a basic knowledge of the Dutch language.

Artistic Leader
Kaveh Vares

Research and programme development

Programme Details

120 credits

Two years, full-time

Dutch and English

44739 (M Music)

Master of Music

Programme Structure

The Composing for Film master's degree programme prepares the student for all facets of a professional career as a composer in contemporary film music industry. Students who have finished the programme will have sufficiently developed perceptive skills and structural awareness with respect to film drama. Parallel to this they will have gained the scoring experience and competency to meet with various film categories and situations while being attentive towards up to date developments in movie production

The two-year master's degree programme is broken down into two periods (one per year) both consisting of theoretical and practical lessons as well as projects (two per year). The following methods of instruction will be employed:

Group lessons: theoretical lessons on scoring, conducting to picture, drama, film history, sound, technology (MIDI sequencers, ProTools, Synchronization). These subjects aim to provide the students with basic skills and background knowledge essential to film music scoring processes.

Individual lessons: practical lessons on drama spotting, developing motivic and thematic music material, scoring for separate film fragments and scoring for film sequences in context. In the course of these subjects the students will gain practical experience and develop mastery of film scoring techniques.

Lessons and workshops: students will receive diverse additional instruction, enabling them to navigate the film music industry.  

  • Contemporary music notation techniques 
  • Style imitation of renowned film composers
  • Virtual Orchestration and DAW programmes such as Logic and Cubase. 
  • Modular Synthesis
  • Studio recording and music technology, score preparation and technical aspects of sound recording
  • Film music industry, business introduction lectures on contracts, licensing, publishing, copyright, etc. 

The content of the programme (including information on credits and on the part of the curriculum that will be taught at the Film Academy) will soon be announced.

During the course of the academic year the students will be required to produce homework assignments for both theoretical and practical lessons. These assignments will include analysis of films on diverse levels with respect to drama and musical content/structures. Practical assignments will involve all different scoring tasks aiming to progressively developing film music composition competency. Punctual and satisfactory completion of the given assignments as well as active class participation and workshop presence will determine the student eligibility to the second academic year and to the final exam stage.

Assuming that the student has successfully completed all the necessary subjects involved in the programme, he is expected to conclude his study with a final exam. During the last semester of the programme, the students will be assigned with a complete film including sound (dialogue & sound effects) for which they will have to compose a full film score:

  • the assigned final exam film score will have a duration of maximum 30 min.
  • as a whole the score will be recorded with MIDI equipment
  • the programme will enable students to have 10-15 min. of their final exam score recorded at the CvA recording studio with live musicians. These projects will be considered as and valuated as CvA orchestra projects.

The student's skills in drama perception, scoring and arranging as well as his recording/production results (referring to both MIDI and live performed music) will be evaluated. It should be taken into account that students are expected to conduct the part of the score that is to be recorded with live musicians themselves. All preparatory stages leading up to the final exam will be under the guidance of the teachers involved.

The master's programme in Composing for Film is a track within the Master Music. The quality of this programme has been positively assessed by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). This means that upon successful completion of the programme students will receive an accredited master's degree in Music and the title Master Music. Only accreditated degree programmes are listed in the Dutch central register of higher education programmes (CROHO).


The programme follows a threefold structure divided into:

  1. Technical
  2. Drama - Theoretical & Practical
  3. Scoring - Theoretical & Practical

In order to reproduce their scores and synchronize them with the movie fragments, all scores for the assigned films of the practical part should be produced with MIDI equipment. For students less experienced in the use of MIDI equipment, the Technical part functions as a preparatory step for the Practical lessons. It involves acquiring certain technical skills in the sound studio that are necessary to be able to start working on the assigned films. During these lessons, the students will work on learning essential aspects of equipment as well as programmes that are commonly used in film music industry

Students who have experience in composition and orchestration may submit samples of their work for evaluation in order to be exempt from part or all of the preparatory stage of the programme. Samples will consist of CD and/or appropriate transcripts.

The theoretical part involves the analysis of films focusing on music scores, aiming at study and awareness of music functionality as well as the role of music in the communication of meanings and emotions in different film categories.The film corpus is distributed in categories in such a way as to address different narrative styles and different modes of representation in the cinema. Each category involves two films, the first one to be analyzed in class and the second one to be analyzed by the students as a homework assignment once the first one is concluded during the lessons.


Identification / Spotting / Sketching / Creating a Temp-track
* The students will be given an assigned film and will be working on the identification of different moods and spotting of important moments by making a sketch of music cues throughout the whole film.
* The next step involves selecting stock music from the Composing for Film workgroup section at the CvA library, matching the music cues and editing them on the film as a temp-track.

Composing Themes & Motives
* This second stage involves learning how to deal with film as a unity. In this context, simple themes/motifs will be composed to accommodate the selected music cues decided upon during the previous stage. Themes may be built around specific a) character(s), b) mood(s), c) idea(s) / situation(s) and will further provide the main thematic / motivic material of the assigned film (See 3. Scoring - Practical).


Arrangement & Development
Several film scores will be analyzed in context of different thematic approaches.  Example of film score analysis dealt with during the theoretical part: Bernard Hermann's Vertigo: breakdown / analysis of the score, deconstruction of thematic material and study of the ways of development of its motivic material.
Readers, powerpoints and musical written scores will be used during the lessons to facilitate a multilayered understanding of the different issues that will be approached. The students will be expected to watch the films intended to be studied in class beforehand, in order to not only be aware of the plot but also of different mood settings, turning points and layers of meaning.


Assigned Film
As a next stage to the Drama - Practical, students will proceed to work under the supervision and guidance of the teacher on actual scoring. This will be done progressively on three different levels which will all involve:
* learning to work from certain thematic/motivic material adjusting and arranging it for different purposes
* learning how to make choices with respect to rhythm, harmony and instrumentation
* learning how to extract motivic material from a basic main theme and to build upon it.

1. Scoring for isolated film fragments
Learning to deal with diverse moods and score accordingly for assigned film fragments addressing different dramatic settings. Students will be asked to score for assigned fragments from various films and they will be expected to produce MIDI recordings of these scores, ready for synchronization with the assigned fragments. After completion, all results of the same assigned film fragment will be evaluated in class. This way, the students will learn from each other's approach while at the same time they will experience a simulated situation of evaluating scoring results with a director.

2. Scoring for fragments within film context
This next stage addresses a more unified approach towards film where film fragments are treated as part of a filmic context and not as isolated units. Various films that have been dealt with during the Drama - Practical will be re-addressed for the purposes of working on thematic development and arrangement with the goal of producing scoring results that are interrelated both musically and dramatically within their filmic context. This practical will be a preparatory stage for the final exam of the master's degree programme.

3. Scoring for NFTA students film projects
Under the supervision of teachers involved, students will partake at an early stage in short film projects by NFTA students. This will help them develop a deeper understanding of constructive collaboration relative to other film disciplines.

4. Scoring for an Assigned Final Exam Film
During the last semester of the programme, the students will be assigned a complete film including sound (dialogue & sound effects). This will be the main material for their final exam, for which they will have to compose a full film score.

Admission Information

Please find the deadlines for application and submitting your composition material (video clips, audio clips, music scores) here.

The application form can be downloaded here.

Please submit the following:

  • 3 recordings of your own compositions. These recordings can be live or MIDI/Sample. The duration of your total audio material should not exceed 10 minutes.
  • 3 video clips with your own film score(s). These can be film clips with your own original score, or clips from existing films to which you have added your music (this will show us how you deal with drama, dialogue and other sound elements of film). The duration of your total video material should not exceed 20 minutes.*)
Music scores, if applicable (this will give us a good impression of your musical skills, therefore including them is highly recommended).
  • Please add a clear content list of all your material, and in the case of video material, a timecode list of the film music cues that you want to bring to our attention.

*) [HINT: try to use video material that is diverse in story and drama. For example if you have one action scene, try to also include a video with a love scene so we can observe your versatility in supporting different subjects and genres]

Based upon your submitted material, the committee will decide whether to invite you to the admittance interview. The exact date and time will be communicated in advance.    

  • Versatility of musical styles is of importance to our jury members.
  • Audio material should be in mp3 format - a maximum of 10 minutes.
  • Video material should be in mp4 or mov formats - a maximum of 20 minutes.
  • Music scores and formal application material should be in PDF format.

Please submit your composition material before the deadline (see above) to our study secretary Annemiek de Jager:

You can use one of the following methods to share your files with us:

  • WeTransfer: ( Please make sure to copy-paste the WeTransfer link of your files to the body of your email. 
  • Google Drive: If applicable you can use a link to your own Google Drive where we can download your files to our systems.
  • Youtube: You can send us YouTube links to your video material.