Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

What A Film Composer Taught Me About Pitch Shift

film composer pitch shift

I don’t always spend my evenings in Los Angeles. But when I do, I’m hanging out with Hollywood film composers in pimped out recording studios. Stay thirsty for brilliance, my friends.

Admittedly, I am not the most interesting man alive, and I’m not promoting booze. But I did spend an evening with concert and film composer Jacob Yoffee in his Burbank recording studio.

Jacob’s music can be heard on a variety of soundtracks ranging from the 2013 Crime Thriller “Pawn” to the theatrical trailer for “The Hobbitt: The Desolation of Smaug” to MTV’s family drama and breakout hit series “Finding Carter.”

He’s also a long time friend.

The studio space was smaller than you might expect, tight, but comfortable, furnished with just enough to be both intimate and functional. A cushy couch, soft lighting, black, soundproof walls, and a desk covered with Apple computer screens were proof that big ideas begin in small spaces.

Jacob opened a score he was working on and explained both the process and procedures for scoring life into a film. This track featured a recording from a native Hawaiian singing a traditional folk song using only two notes in a minor third.

Back and forth she went between notes in a tongue for all to hear but only she could truly understand.

“She only sings two notes,” Jacob says.

The film continues and Jacob’s score enters the woman’s story from every side. The music builds, and majestic images of nature’s power–of the wind, the water, and the earth–mesmerize as the woman enchants.

Then, the woman sings one step higher. A perfect fourth brilliantly placed and used sparingly–just a taste of something different and new–giving my brain the novelty it craves, a novelty for which it was designed.

“Woah, what was that?” I asked, ” I thought she only sang two notes.”

“She did. I used pitch shift. Watch.”

Jacob showed me how he digitally rasied her note up a complete whole step with additional processing to make the transition sound natural. He raised her note up so that people would hear and be affected.

Jacob took two humble notes from an a cappella folk song and transformed them into something magnificent. Greater still, he brought her voice out of isolation and re-introduced it to the world with new life.

No score was ever written without a composer, and every life is a symphony.

God takes our humble song and lifts it up for the world to see, and for his people to be affected. We may keep singing the same notes over and over again. But God can transform our humble hymn into a glorious anthem.

When you let this happen, people will be affected.

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About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.