Orchestrating Success: Sonic Stories with Roland Bingaman

Published December 7, 2023

Today’s Sonic Story is pulling back the curtain on Score a Score’s very own Roland Bingaman! Prepare yourself for an illuminating discussion where Roland shares his perspective on the evolving world of trailer and ad music.

Sonic Stories with Roland Bingaman

What is your creative process like?

My go-to for anything is sitting at the piano and coming up with a melody. Even for my brooding slow-burn trailer tracks, I tend to find the melody first and foremost. The rest of the track then gets built around that idea. It’s a constant struggle to put the right puzzle pieces together. And then, sometimes, the unpredictable happens and I find a super weird sound that inspires the whole song.

What is your specialty/what are you known for when it comes to your compositions with SAS?

With SAS, I assume most clients would know me for my trailer score work. I have had some exciting placements with custom ad work as well, but I’d say trailers are my “thing." I hope that the thing that connects my music to agencies and supervisors is the melody; the hook that gets stuck in their heads. A good melody transcends genres, so when you apply that to trailers, you get to cross over into lots of sounds and styles.

Are there any new trends or techniques that you are loving right now?

I do love a classic A24 trailer that’s almost nothing but sounds and subtle low synths and textures. Although I can’t pull those off because of the lack of melody in them, I still enjoy them. When I attempt those types of tracks 100% of the time it ends up with a massive full-blown melodic act 2 and act 3.

What is your favorite piece of gear in your studio, and what is your latest gear purchase?

I’m not sure I could choose a favorite piece of gear to be honest. I’m quite thankful for the tools that I have at my disposal. If anything my computer is probably my favorite because I love working “inside the box.” I don’t NEED any of the external gear that I own, but it’s great to mix things up occasionally. My latest gear purchase is the Soyuz Deluxe pre-amp and my lovely Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina mic. The combo of those two has been THE sound of my folk artist project.

How did you discover SAS?

I discovered SAS in 2018 through composer Daniel Ciurlizza. I had decided that year that I wanted to pursue being a composer full-time. Eventually, I reached out to many composers asking how they started. Daniel was the only composer who responded and shared with me how excellent the folks of SAS were and have been to his career. I immediately placed them at the top of my “I hope to work with” list. He gave me a lot of feedback until my music was solid enough to eventually pitch to them.

What are your top three spots/placements that you did for Score a Score that you are most proud of?

I think my top three placements would be the See Season 2 trailer, Charlie Brown's ‘To Mom (and Dad) With Love Mother's Day special trailer on Apple +, and my very first placement for SAS, which was a commercial for ServiceNow. It was a charming Christmas ad that I put a ton of love and hope into and it ended up being my first big placement.

Your work with Score a Score covers both music for ads and music for trailers. How does your approach differ when composing music for advertisements as opposed to trailers?

I feel very fortunate to be able to switch back and forth between trailers and ads with SAS. I thrive off of the short-form variety of this job. One day I can be making a hip-hop trap beat for a hip Gen Z ad, and the next day I'm grunting into my mic creating some dark Viking fantasy trailer. Ads, to me, are a fun way to keep up with my pop production chops. I enjoy the upbeat cues but also the more emotional cinematic hybrid cues. The nice thing about ads is that typically you're scoring to a locked picture. Whatever the genre is, it's always nice to write music to go hand in hand with moving images. Trailer music, on the other hand, is a great sandbox of experimentation. While the formula remains the same, the sounds you can fit inside are always changing. I love honing into a darker/cinematic soundscape when creating trailers. I also love watching trailers so that makes it even more fun. At the end of the day, either for ads or trailers, the hook is still king. When someone is finished watching, can they leave humming the melody line or your cue? I'm always chasing down that melody.

What are some of your favorite TV jingles?

Two theme songs that literally shaped my composing interests have always been Batman The Animated Series as well as Gargoyles. Two cartoon shows that I obsessed over as a young kid. Hearing those dark-building theme songs with powerful motifs really left an impact on me. I highly recommend looking up both of those themes and being blown away that these were written for kid's cartoons in the '90s. They had no business being that amazing.

What have you learned about yourself as a composer since creating music with Score a Score?

I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned as a composer with SAS is how quickly you can actually write something. If left to my own devices it would take me weeks to write music. When you have a 48-hour deadline to turn in a finished piece of music, you can really dig your heels in and make it happen. That process has pushed me in my growth and speed.

What's the first piece of music you ever composed, and how do you feel about it now?

One of the first pieces of score music that I remember writing was about my childhood pet cat named Rigatoni. I had this idea to make a cartoon about that cat as he went on various quests. The song and subsequent show was called The Adventures Of Rigatoni. The melody holds up, but that’s about it.

What lesson took you the longest to learn in your career?

Oof… Restraint! I’m still learning this lesson when it comes to trailer music. My main instinct has always been to make something sound epic, you have to use every instrument at your disposal. That usually results in a clumpy, muddy, bland mess (which many of the early trailer tracks were). As I listened carefully to my favorite trailer tracks from other SAS composers (Daniel CiurlizzaDan RosenSteve SopchakJoni Fuller, etc.), the thing I picked up on was their ability to practice musical restraint. Each moment and section has a purpose to fulfill while also needing to leave space. That’s a lesson I’m still challenging myself to put into practice.

If you could talk to your younger self when you first started composing, what would you say?

I would eagerly tell my younger self to stop trying to tour in a pop punk band and start writing library music and trailer music. Pop punk was just a phase so stop it. Stop it right now.

When was the last time you surprised yourself both personally and professionally?

Professionally speaking, anytime my music lands in anything I feel the same excitement that I felt with my first placement. I don’t think that feeling will ever get old. It’s always a wonderfully thrilling surprise when I see that “Placement Locked” email come through. Musically, I feel surprised anytime I finish a trailer track and I don’t think it’s terrible.

If your life were a movie, what genre would it be and who would compose its soundtrack?

So my life often feels like a Paddington The Bear movie or like Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. By that I mean the happy, whimsical parts of life are often just that. Whimsical and happy. But those movies dive into some really heartbreaking emotions too and life, while beautiful, gets rather grim. The struggles in life have purpose too though and build us up. I would love for Alexandre Desplat to score my life.

That's a Wrap!

Our sonic story with Roland has come to an end but an encore is in store! Stay in touch with us for all SAS updates by subscribing to our newsletters. Chat soon!