Working as a Producer and Composer for Wounded Buffalo Studios in Johannesburg, South Africa—a music and video production agency boasting two recording studios, a design studio, and two record labels—Dave Waugh has to write quickly without losing quality.
“I like to take time to write, but it’s a luxury I don’t have all that much nowadays,” Dave says. “Technology makes it possible to write and produce with greater ease and less time, but only if you understand how to use it.”
He credits Berkleemusic with teaching him how. “Berkleemusic really changed the way I write and how I mix,” he says. “And for me the investment has paid off. I would recommend Berkleemusic to anyone interested in furthering their careers. There is a wealth of information and resources available to students. All you have to do is tap in.”
Dave tapped into Berkleemusic in April 2008, enrolling in Ben Newhouse’s Orchestration course. A lifelong fan of film scores, Dave always knew that scoring was what he wanted to do. Though he had plenty of musical talent to fuel his aspirations, he knew he lacked the technical training in writing for orchestration that he needed to take the next step.
Before landing his current job at Wounded Buffalo, Dave worked as a guitar teacher at Kings College in Bryanston. By night, he was playing gigs throughout South Africa with Lonehill Estate, a pop/rock band with two albums and two top-ten charted songs to its credit. Still, he knew he needed something more.
Before starting his online coursework, Dave struggled with other methods of learning orchestration. “I had tried to teach myself using books, but it was really frustrating trying to grasp technical concepts that way,” he says. “I could hear where instruments were being placed, but I knew that some part of how I was writing was wrong.”
He found a very different experience while studying online with Berkleemusic. During his 12-week course, he studied a wide variety of instruments, analyzed countless scores, sequenced for every section, and composed a full-length piece for a full orchestra.
While enrolled, he also took advantage of Berkleemusic’s vast network of students, instructors, and job postings. “I sent my music to people all over the world,” he says, “and as a result I got to try my hand at scoring for a few small animation projects. It was all great for learning and character building.”
The training also helped him break through recently to the job he had coveted for nearly a year: Producer/Composer at Wounded Buffalo.
At this cutting-edge multimedia production company, Dave’s clients vary widely—from advertising companies and artists to film directors. “I wrote music for a major oil corporation one day, and recorded an artist from Zambia the day after,” he says. He was also asked to contribute a few tracks to an upcoming hip-hop album after the artists heard the piece he composed for his final Berkleemusic orchestration project. “You never know where you’re going to use orchestration training,” he says with a laugh.
“Everything we learned in Orchestration was relevant to what I’m doing today,” he says. “The training I got at Berkleemusic was awesome, a great foundation that I am continuing to build on. We covered all the tools that today’s composers use when scoring a film. I walked into my job knowing what the standard is the world over.”
Today, Dave is listening to The Dark Knight soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. “The way they use synth, sample, and real instruments is insane,” he says. “That is definitely my score of the year!” He is also checking out the latest from one of his favorite band, Muse. In fact, just two weeks before the start of his Orchestration class, he realized another lifelong dream when Lonehill Estate was asked to open for Muse at a show in Johannesburg.
With respect to advice to other aspiring composers, Dave says, “Work hard, study hard, knock on doors, and speak to people. You might get turned down many, many times. But if you've really worked at what you do and you're putting yourself out there, then really it's just a matter of time.”
Nowadays, time is more of a precious commodity than ever, with Lonehill Estate set to release its next album, and Dave focusing on his current career and future goal of writing scores “in a big way, with big orchestras and big studios.” He also has his eye on a few more Berkleemusic courses down the road. “I’m looking at Film Scoring, Advanced Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools, Commercial Songwriting Techniques, and Introduction to Game Audio. And I’m closely following the rumors that Ben Newhouse is writing Orchestration 2!”
Summing up his musical philosophy, Dave cites Nelson Mandela, who, while playing chess in prison, would often take ages to make a move. He would take his time, but he wouldn’t waste time. “I believe that when you do have time, and you are sitting behind your instrument, you should play really slowly, really listen to the notes, and think about the music,” says Dave. “Time is precious but you still shouldn’t rush it. Take your time, but don’t waste it.”