FRIDAY JAN 22 "SILENCE & THE STILL" EP OUT ON ITUNES!! I have it up on soundcloud now for streaming.(https://soundcloud.com/jonlicht/sets/silence-the-still)

If you live in the Los Angeles area I am having an EP release show this Friday night (1/22) at Molly Malone's at 830pm. I'll be playing my song "Honor For All" from Dishonored! https://www.facebook.com/events/1713407502226267/

Follow me on FB https://www.facebook.com/Jon-Licht-184673374964991/

Twitter https://twitter.com/jonlicht

Check out my band The Roustabouts www.theroustaboutsmusic.com

IG: @jonlicht

** Just as a note I wasn't the main composer on Dexter. That was my super talented uncle Daniel Licht (www.danlicht.com) I wrote additional music for all 8 seasons as well as original songs for the show. ** ** Thank you all so much, this was a lot of fun. Wish I could get to everyone's questions! **

Comments: 440 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

benjadock269 karma

First off, I loved your work on Dishonored & Dexter. Second: How do you even get into this business? I'm an aspiring film/game composer ( My Tiny Portfolio ) and this is what I want to do for a living. do you have any helpful tips for someone like me?

jonlicht200 karma

See the comment I made on u/glou29.

Also...Like any other field you have to work really hard. Find a part time job to take some of the pressure off and then just dedicate yourself to getting better at creating unique music. Producers of anything, movies/tv shows/video games are all looking for music that is different. Find your own personal style and then just make a lot of music. You have put in the work, thats the first step. Then you have to make connections.

aman27deep109 karma

Were you as disappointed with the ending they gave to dexter as the rest of us?

PS - Loved your score for dishonored. Are you working on dishonored 2?

jonlicht165 karma

Yes. I was disappointed by the ending of Dexter.

It's hard to keep the quality of a show high for that long. Especially when it was so good to start. It's a hard thing to manage people's expectations. I think part of what they were thinking with the ending was a possible spinoff or reprisal.

SuperHighHawaiianGuy79 karma

On behalf of all music nerds...

  1. Where do you start with a composition?

  2. Do you decide the key first or do write in C then transpose?

  3. Favorite chord progression (eg. I-IV-V)?

Thank you for doing the AMA!

jonlicht104 karma

hmmm where do I start. I start with something that gets me going. You know like a little riff or something than I build around it. Maybe it's a chord progression. Maybe it's a little piano melody. You know just something to get my mind going than I just kind of build it from there.

I decide the key first. I don't really write in C and then transpose. I don't think that's a really good habit to get into. Different keys have different feelings to them.

Favorite chord progression. I don't know about that one. I guess whatever works best with the melody.

dragonbringerx68 karma

Hi. I absolutely loved your work on the Dishonored soundtrack. I've listen to that song on my ipod several times now. Are you doing new work for the Dishonored 2 soundtrack?

jonlicht80 karma

Unfortunately I don't believe I will be doing anything for the Dishonored 2 soundtrack. That's the way it goes sometimes. Check out my new EP though I have some stuff on there that is fairly similar to Honor For All.

jonmsanti57 karma

How do you pick your album art?

jonlicht236 karma

Usually I try to steal from a goverment agency.

jonlicht93 karma

Only kidding...I see album art as an extension of the body of work. It should represent the tone and theme of the music so I guess I try and find something that I think represents what I'm going for while also being able to catch someone's eye.

Roach279152 karma

Who was the coolest person you've met in your line of work?

jonlicht162 karma

I think the coolest person might have been Michael C. Hall. He's a phenomenal actor and I was lucky enough to meet him on a few occasions.

DrBillC0sby46 karma

Can I intern for you?

jonlicht237 karma

Aren't you in trouble with the law?

deliciousdino44 karma

Astor's Birthday Party song from Dexter's score always stood out as a really great work of art. What other work composed by you would you recommend for someone who enjoyed that composition but knows very little about your work as a whole?

jonlicht45 karma

Actually that piece was composed by my uncle Daniel Licht. He's a brilliant composer and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work closely with him over the years. Check out his early stuff for "Thinner" "Bad Moon" "The Winner"

deliciousdino21 karma

My apologies for the mixup, I didn't realize there were multiple Lichtes composing scores. Thanks for the suggestions, I'll check them out. Any similar work (acoustic guitar) performed by you that you could recommend?

jonlicht17 karma

Check out my band The Roustabouts! www.theroustaboutsmusic.com

Frajer40 karma

do you play the video game before you score it ?

jonlicht85 karma

Most of the time you will only get video files of levels or cut scenes to score. You have to wait until it's all finished to play!

PerendiaEshte38 karma

I have tons of questions.

What's your compositional process? Do you mainly compose in a DAW, on paper or while playing the instrument?

Which DAW do you use?

What kind of VST's are you using? What do you have your eye on?

When recording, do you use live instrumentation or samplers like Kontakt?

What piece has been sitting on the back burner for the longest, and what would it fit into?

Would you rather have an a capella arrangement of one of your tracks sung by a choir of duck-sized horses or soloed by a horse-sized duck?

jonlicht56 karma

  • I usually compose within the DAW. Or on a piano/paper first. But usually it's with in the DAW.
  • I use Logic.
  • I love stylus RMX/Omnisphere/Evolve/Waves you know all the usual stuff
  • It really depends on the project. If it's a feature film and I have time I will try and record as much live as possible. But when I'm working on a TV show the deadlines are so quick that samples end up being used a lot. Of course adding live on top is always a great way to liven something up.
  • I have been writing a lot of stuff on piano recently. Kind of classical stuff. Not sure what I'm going to do with it but it's definitely brewing.
  • I think a choir of duck-sized horses would have a nice tone to it.

blooberrys25 karma

Was there ever a period where you felt you were getting nowhere, before you managed a living off of your career? What kept you fighting through that?

jonlicht81 karma

I feel like that almost every day. Life is a constant struggle and those that you think have it figured out probably don't. Success is a relative thing. It's a tough industry and it takes really thick skin to be successful. I wouldn't even consider myself successful at this point. I have a long way to go.

I think part of what keeps me sane is doing a lot of different things. I write songs, I score projects, I play live music. Also I love music. That helps a lot.

GordieLaChance24 karma

What are your favorite TV themes from each decade (50s - Present)?

Will your write me a ~12 note composition entitled "Gordie's Theme"?

jonlicht44 karma

Here's the award for toughest question of the day. I'll have to come back to this one.

jonlicht56 karma

OK so I'm not gonna by decade but I'll listen some of my favorite TV themes: -The odd couple -All in the Family -Cheers -Xfiles -Twin Peaks -Game of Thrones -Bojack Horseman

Theandric18 karma

Do you find yourself resorting to a lot of dark and ominous tones?

jonlicht22 karma

Is this a reference to Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Love that movie. I actually related a lot to that character haha

tastyperc15 karma

What's the biggest piece of advice (other than work hard and keep writing) you would give somebody trying to get into scoring?

Asking for someone who already writes every day, finishes pieces, and just isn't sure how to start getting it heard by the right people.

jonlicht42 karma

Make connections. Move to a city that has an art scene that is thriving and meet other artists. Meet film makers and offer to score their short films for free. I've done so much work for free over the years because I see it as an investment in myself.

glou2913 karma

What's some highlight advice you would give to a starting film/t.v. composer trying to write and build their portfolio?

jonlicht30 karma

My advice would be to develop your own personal unique sound. Don't try and be John Williams. What is it that makes you unique as an artist? Use that in your music to separate yourself from everyone else. Then you simply have to put in the work. You have to MAKE A LOT OF MUSIC and keep doing it. Aside from that you need to make a lot of connections. Go to film schools and meet directors. Score a lot of stuff for free and make a lot of friends. These people might do something down the road and you want them to choose you.

you_are_temporary11 karma

What can a director do to allow you to create your best possible work? Show you examples of music types he may be going for? Try to use words? Is there particular verbiage/nomenclature that you would recommend an aspiring director learn to be able to communicate better with a composer?

jonlicht10 karma

This is a great question.

It can be a difficult thing to convey what kind of music you want for a project. I think the best way is a combination of both. Definitely have a conversation with the composer about what kind of music you want. What do you want the audience to feel? What statement do you want the music to make? Examples are great as well. It can help you get your message across when you can't find the words. Find scores that you like and use them as a reference for your composer.

Ghostspider198910 karma

What was your approach for scoring the music for silent hill down pour, considering that you were replacing Akira who's music in the franchise was so iconic.

Also, what was your vision behind the score in that game? I loved the game and the music and thought you did an excellent job doing something "silent hillish" while being original at the same time.

jonlicht11 karma

I can't really answer this question because I wasn't the main composer on that project. My uncle Daniel Licht was the main guy on that one. I wrote additional score for it though.

I would say it was definitely a big task for my uncle to replace Akira because he has such a distinct sound and his music brought so much to that franchise. You're kind of fighting an uphill battle when so many people were so attached to his music.

We really tried to stay in the same world that Akira created though. He was definitely a huge inspiration.

Cradle_To_Grave8 karma

What DAW did you start out on years ago in your room? Also, which instrument were you most proficient in to begin with and which others followed?

jonlicht10 karma

I started in Cubase I believe. But then quickly moved to Logic and have been using that ever since.

My main instrument growing up was piano. As I got older I started getting into guitar. Now I'm kind of moving back towards piano again. It was my first love.

Urytion7 karma

Well, my bosses told me I should try this wherever possible, I just choose not to because it's protected anyway:

I'm a performer for a few conventions in my state. Can I perform Honour for All as a part of my set?

jonlicht19 karma

You know, I don't technically own the rights to that song so I wouldn't be the right person to ask but I say go for it ;)

honeybadger19846 karma

How do you feel about Dexter becoming a lumberjack?

jonlicht17 karma

kind of stupid

swordmalice5 karma

Hi Jon, huge admirer of your work. As a musician who wants to compose, could you recommend some must-do things in order to get started? I've tried everything from formal lessons to self-study and nothing seems to be sticking. Should I concentrate on the production/mixing side or the music theory/composition side, and how does one balance the two? Thanks for listening.

jonlicht9 karma

Well I think having a balance of the two is the answer. Know your theory but then I would definitely concentrate on learning to be a great programmer. Learn to make unique sounding music with limited resources.

hunterisagrump5 karma

how often are you scoring a scene vs writing different feels / themes and they get placed in the show by editors?

jonlicht5 karma

Most of the time I am writing music for a specific scene. Sometimes if I'm working on a film I will start writing music after reading the script and not even seeing any footage yet. In that case I will send over the music to the editor and him and the director will place it where they think it fits. But most of the work is taking a scene and making music to fit the action/dialogue...etc

hunterisagrump5 karma

if you were to describe a typical workflow, would it be writing and then working with session musicians, or working with a template in something such as Reason or the like? (or do you work from scratch in different ways each time?)

jonlicht12 karma

Well it depends on what type of project I'm working on. If I'm scoring something I will usually just start writing in Logic and then start filling it out from there. I use a lot of software instruments and plugins within the DAW and then I will record live instruments on top of those synthesized ones. But every cue or song is different. Sometimes it's all live instruments. Sometimes it's all samples. But I almost always stay within Logic.

MrGlib4 karma

Do you have any advice on getting started as a film/tv composer for people who do not already have family in the industry?

jonlicht28 karma

Marry into a hollywood family.

rumcake_4 karma

Which musical physical instruments can/do you play?

jonlicht3 karma

Piano and guitar are my main instruments. I also play bass and drums. I'm learning the violin now.

Itsumcmuffin694 karma

What is your thought process when you are assembling the score of a scene? Example: Dramatic scene on Dexter.

jonlicht10 karma

You have to look at a scene and see what it needs. What will help make it better? Is there a lot of dialogue? If so you probably want something that won't get in the way. The number one rule in film scoring is always serve the picture.

kalyco4 karma

If you met someone who had similar skills as yourself but no family members or close friends in the business, how would you recommend they identify opportunities to get to where you are now career wise?

jonlicht8 karma

It definitely helps a lot to know someone already established. Opportunities are everywhere. You have to be proactive and make things happen for yourself. I started by making my uncles coffee but I pushed to be more involved everyday.

MrDonamus4 karma

I've read rumors of a Dexter S9. Would you come back to do more work on that show if it does happen?

jonlicht13 karma

Yea that would be awesome!

juggilinjnuggala3 karma

What do you listen to that people would be surprised by?

jonlicht4 karma

That's a good question, not really sure. I listen to all types of music. Maybe 90s music. I have a soft spot for that since I grew up in that decade.

PoliticalBonobo3 karma

Hi Jon! I'm trying to get my small composing career going in Denver. Finding work can be tricky. Am I severely handicapping myself if I don't move to LA?

jonlicht7 karma

I'm not sure if you're SEVERELY handicapping yourself but you are definitely at a disadvantage. A lot of the entertainment comes out of LA so it's good to be here while you start your career to make connections.

SkullRico3 karma

Hey I'm not sure if you're the right person to ask but I adore what you do. I'm 3 months away from a music degree. I'm wanting to go into audio mixing and sound design. I was looking at vancouver film school and multiple other places and I dont have the money for that kind of tuition. So I guess my question to you is, when you're going into a path such as this, is extra schooling a requirement? Is it something directors and producers look for or would they just rather see a portfolio and judge from that? I really want to do this kind of stuff but I'm worried I'm going to be on the bottom of the ladder if I Dont get some sort of certificate.

jonlicht6 karma

I would say that a director or producer will care more about the music you make than the degree that you have. I've actually never once been asked that question. Maybe try and get an internship at a studio? School is also good because you can make connections that can help you down the road. You have to weigh the costs and benefits.

monkeyseverywhere3 karma

Hey Jon! It's Jon, the director from Nzara '76 (the short about Ebola). I just wanted to say working with you was by far one of the best experiences I've ever had working with a composer. I can't thank you enough for your amazing score!

Anyway, it's an AMA so I guess I should ask a few questions. Do you have a favorite film or television score? What do you think is the best scored film or TV show this year? (Or at least your favorites)

Hope I get to work with you again in the future!

jonlicht4 karma

Hey Jon, good to hear from you!

My favorite film scores are Road to Perdition by Thomas Newman, Jurassic Park by John Williams and Days of Heaven by Morricone just to name a few. You know I haven't gotten a chance to watch too much TV this year so I'm not sure I can say.

rawrstruction2 karma

Are you working on the scores for dishonored 2 as well? OMG can't waaait

jonlicht4 karma

My uncle Dan Licht scored Dishonored 2. I did a little work on the score but not much. I can't wait for it either!

LoveandRockets2 karma

How do you score a show? Do they give you a cut and you watch it? Do they give you an emotion or cue? Do you record the music while watching a cut of the show?

jonlicht4 karma

Usually the producers will have what they call "temp music" already cut into the show when they give it to us. This will give us an idea of the tone they are going for and also the placement of cues. All of this saves us time because usually the turnaround is pretty quick for a TV show.

NotMikeLitoris2 karma

I just wanted to say I love your new EP, brilliant work! Will it be available on Spotify too?

jonlicht2 karma

Yes it will be on Spotifiy soon! Glad you like it.

Lightning_Shade2 karma

Any specific TV/film composers you particularly favor?

jonlicht3 karma

John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman, just to name a few

AManHasSpoken2 karma

Hi Jon! Good to have you here.

What is Honor For All about?

jonlicht8 karma

Honor For All is a song for the people who are oppressed. It's about how although they are struggling now there will be a day when the tables will turn and those that have all the power will have their day of reckoning.

dios872 karma

how do you deal with writers block?

jonlicht5 karma

Usually I won't try and force it. If I'm stuck I will go and do something else like go for a walk or a run and try and forget about it. When I come back usually I can see it from a different perspective and that helps me move forward with it.

jonlicht8 karma

Try Kahn Academy. It's a great free online resource. You can use it to learn just about anything.

Blacksburg2 karma

Hey. I was a big dexter fan through most of the run. One of the major expositions was M H voicing the Dark Traveler around background music. A lot of times it was the same slash similar music ... Did you coordinate pre or post production with the writers to get the sound right?

jonlicht5 karma

The V.O. was a huge part of the show and happened in a lot of scenes so the music sort of varied when it came to that.

MeltedTwix2 karma

If someone was starting to compose music for the first time with limited finances, how would you suggest they get started? (e.g., programs like FL Studio, finding free VSTs or sample packs, etc.)

jonlicht5 karma

Yea, definitely. There's so many resources out there for cheap. There's nothing stopping you from starting to make music. Just put your time in.

DishonoredSinceBirth2 karma

How would you describe your album in comparison to your past work? Big fan of the Licht family here :)

jonlicht4 karma

I think this stuff is a bit more rock than anything I've ever done.

mage2k2 karma

Do you have any go-to elements theory-, composition-, or sound design- wise that you use when you want to make something sound scary or spooky?

jonlicht6 karma

It's kind of tough to put it into words I think. I'm sure there are specific chords that are spookier than others but really I do it mostly by ear and by feel.

It really depends on the project though. Sometimes adding a sweet melody to something can make it spooky. Or sometimes you have to be more on the nose. You always have to serve the picture. So find whatever it needs to make it spookier or scarier. Maybe it's just a low pad. Or maybe it's high strings. It depends.

Vidjagames2 karma

Red Road and Dexter have opening themes that do a great job reflecting the series. I imagine you get production notes and have discussions with staff to understand tone, but I'm curious if theme song creation differs heavily from scoring individual scenes.

Does knowing the plot arc or series tone dictate how you create your opening sound?

Ever wish you could change parts of a theme after seeing how the series (and your work on it) evolves?

jonlicht4 karma

The opening cue for Red Road was created by my uncle Daniel Licht. The opening for Dexter was actually written by Rolfe Kent. A very talented composer.

The opening theme is your first shot for establishing a tone for the show or whatever the project is. So yea you definitely need to know what tone the creators are going for before you make that music. You're making the audience feel a certain way so that they can get the most out of the show or movie...etc.

Ka1eigh2 karma

I live in Wales, UK. I have one of your pieces as a ringtone on my iPhone. Is that strange or cool that people the other side of the world appreciate your work?

jonlicht8 karma

That's awesome to me. It makes me happy.

deandimarzo2 karma

How much would you say your location contributes to your opportunities? Does someone outside of LA (say in upstate NY), stand a chance of breaking into the industry?

jonlicht5 karma

I'd say it definitely helps to be out here where a lot of the entertainment is produced. That being said I think because of the internet the world has gotten a lot smaller so it's definitely easier to work from anywhere now. It's just easier to make connections when you are out here.

Lamec972 karma

serious question; who paid for your college and what was the average income of each of your parents?

jonlicht6 karma

I didn't go to college.

calvinball351 karma

What software (if any) do you use to compose with? What inspired you to become a more of a composer rather than a performer?

jonlicht4 karma

I use Logic.

I love film and TV so I guess that's part of why I like composing. I was also influenced by my uncle Dan Licht. Growing up I was always amazed by what he was doing so when I got the opportunity to work with him I couldn't pass it up.

Performing is something that I love as well. I've been doing a lot more of that recently and it's something I really enjoy and want to keep doing. It's so much more different than sitting in a room by yourself which can get a little lonely.

FAVORITE_COLORS1 karma

What is your favorite color?

jonlicht1 karma

Blue

solarplexus71 karma

Is there any significant benefit to recording a live orchestra versus using a synthesized one? They're pretty indistinguishable these days.

jonlicht5 karma

I think there's a huge difference. It's hard to emulate the live feel of an orchestra. Yes there's a big benefit but recording an orchestra is very expensive. Working on your programming can be very beneficial. With the samples out there today it's possible to put together some great sounding strings.

Awesomedude2221 karma

[deleted]

jonlicht2 karma

My uncle Dan Licht actually composed the Blood Theme.

JakeSteele1 karma

So, I used to have dexter OST on my mp3, and every once in a whille it would shuffle to the blood theme rap ("die this way"). Why would you ruin a perfect score with that?

jonlicht2 karma

Because I was young.

Rockytana1 karma

Were TV and Video games always your goal for music?

jonlicht4 karma

When I was younger I'm not really sure I had goals for music. I just liked making it. As I got older I saw scoring as a way to make a living by creating music which is not something a lot of people get to do. My main passion growing up was songwriting.

hyperproliferative0 karma

How did you manage to steal NASA's image of Plutos atmosphere for an album cover mere days after its public dissemination not to be used for profiteering?

jonlicht19 karma

Honestly I wasn't even aware that there was a public dissemination about this from NASA. As far as I was aware NASA images are in public domain. http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html

I have the highest respect for NASA and what they do and would never want to use their images or content simply to profit.

Kz_Rob-1 karma

What do you look for "talent wise" in other musicians? Do you ever play live? Let's jam :)

jonlicht7 karma

I play live all the time. I have a band with some of my close friends called The Roustabouts, you should check us out! I look for people that are passionate mainly. If they enjoy playing music than I love playing music with them.