Featured Film Score Composer: John Beal

He is credited with having created the musical voice for contemporary film trailers. He began scoring trailers in the 1970s. and in the course of a thirty year career, created original music for over two thousand movie trailer projects, including Star Wars, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Aladdin, The Last Samurai and The Matrix.

John Beal in the studio

Whom are we referring to? John Beal.

John Beal is an American film composer in Hollywood, California and is notable for music composition for numerous hit T.V. series, as an orchestral conductor, and work with the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra.

This famous Music Legend was more than willing to answer a few of our questions.

TrailerMusicVibe:  How did you come to be a composer & what sparked your curiosity?

 Beal: I had studied enough piano at ages six through eight to be able to read, but at nine or ten years of age, I found myself compelled to switch from printed music to improvising on the piano.  It definitely wasn’t great, but I had full emotional storylines in my head and my parents lovingly approved.  While I was actually a percussionist and jazz drummer, having studied with the major studio and symphonic musicians in Los Angeles like William Kraft, I continued to write something almost every day.

My Dad was a theater organ enthusiast, and from a very early age, he had taken us to see all the greatest silent movie organists.  I was awestruck by the talent of guys like Gaylord Carter.  Full feature films with the most incredible scores imaginable – performed live. I fell in love with film and film music during those performances.  One of our neighbors was Academy Award winning composer George Duning. He took me with him to a scoring session for a major film and that was it.  I knew what I eventually had to accomplish.

When I returned from combat in Vietnam, I spent a long time on the road conducting and arranging for major celebrities of the day, but found time to study film scoring with several different mentors and film music timing with composer Earle Hagen and music editor Ken Johnson.   One of the big projects I did early on was the entire music catalogue for an animal adventure park, with music from around the world and every style imaginable.  One of the biggest agents at that time was Al Bart and his partner Stan Milander played my tapes for him.  We signed together quickly and they helped me get into a couple of great projects right away.  At the same time my career in composing original scores for trailers (not library) was taking off, so it was an amazing time of my life.

TrailerMusicVibe: What inspires you?

Beal: Great scenery, great art, great music, great actors.  Anything that speaks to my heart fulfills me. When I’m writing to picture, I find quite often the work of the character actors inspires me more than the performances of the lead actors. But there’s something in every project that really causes an emotion to well up when things are working properly.

TrailerMusicVibe: You have composed scores for numerous movies and tv shows over the last few decades. Which was your most enjoyable venture?

Beal: That’s always my hardest question to answer.  I’ve done so many projects, and all were difficult for different reasons.  But once you stand in front of  the most talented musicians in the world and hear them breathing real life into your notes on the page, it’s a love affair.  And more memorable for a longer time than certain other pleasures.   Writing for trailers, I’ve had the opportunity to study and write in the styles of all of our top film composers, and I’m honored that they have always responded with kindness and praise.

TrailerMusicVibe: What are your thoughts on the future of trailer music?

Beal: Well, I realize we are in a new era of film marketing, but it would be wonderful if the studios would return to the practice of scoring the teaser and trailer from beginning to end for every motion picture in the pipeline. The directors and producers have mortgaged their lives (and sometimes souls) to make these films, and it seems only right to score the mini-movie designed to put people in theaters to see them.  We’ve gone from one piece scored top to bottom,  to three or four different cuts, to as many as thirty.  The end result is often as choppy as the editing, rather than something that glues it all together.  That said, there are a few excellent libraries out there,  carefully crafted to work specifically for trailers and designed to be cut and pasted into a coherent piece of music.   Because we are in the era of focus groups and endless versions of a trailer, it’s easy to understand why a studio wants to be able to pull things off the shelf.  It behooves the creators of trailer libraries to understand the need, the process and the desired outcome.  But first of all, it requires a love of film and filmic music for their music to have the best impact.

TrailerMusicVibe: Any other comments?

Beal: I’m very pleased to see the interest in trailer music and I love that the Internet has made it possible for everyone to share and learn about this terrific genre.  I’m extremely grateful that I continue to get fan mail after all these years.

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