I am Dave Porter, composer, perhaps best known for my work on Breaking Bad, El Camino, and Better Call Saul. My score from the final season of BCS (Vol. 3) was released yesterday by Milan Records. Ask Me Anything.

  1. Hello everyone, thanks so much for stopping by. I'm both humbled and a bit daunted by the number of questions, but I will do my very best to answer as many as I can. I'm also in vacation mode so may not be as sharp as usual, so bear with me. Also, if I answer quickly please don't think I'm being short with anyone, just trying to get to as many questions as possible in the next hour or two. Let's dig in!

  2. Was there ever any plans of including the full version of the theme song in Better Call Saul or was the idea dismissed as being too derivative of Breaking Bad?

  3. Lots of reasons why we didn't do this, but yes, foremost among those (speaking for me, at least) would be that we played that card already.

  4. Thank you! At the moment I honestly feel great satisfaction and relief. The pressure on all of us creatively, especially this final season, has been more pronounced than ever. Plus, if it is my fate to be struck down by lightening (hopefully not) it can now happen and I will have completed the creative journey of working on the whole universe. Ask me this question again in a few months, though, and I promise you I will be missing it.

  5. One of the important benefits of purposefully avoiding classical western orchestral instruments is that when I did employ them, it made them stand out... particularly presented solo. The cello for Howard is a good example. Another would be the trumpet for Chuck's final days. Or the bass clarinet for Gene in Omaha.

  6. If there is EVER a sequel movie for BCS (let's say it's final work, nothing else), would you like to work on it too?

  7. First of all, I don't want anyone to get excited about the possibility of more to come, because I truly believe we've come to the end of this universe. But to answer your question, yes, of course I would if Vince Gilligan would like me to.

  8. Only because I have kids, I am at least vaguely aware of memes, but can't say that I understand them enough to harbor an opinion.

  9. Thanks so much for all the hard work! What was the most difficult scene to work on this season and what made it so hard?

  10. Thank you for watching! There were plenty of difficult spots to score this season, but the entirety of episode 610, in which we in many ways reinvented the show (again) was the most time consuming and tricky to get right.

  11. What is your usual composing routine comprises of? Is there anything in particular you do to "get into the groove", so to speak?

  12. First of all there is ton of prep that goes into my workflow before I start writing. Watching scenes, having our spotting session (meeting with writers/producers that I'm sure I'll describe in another answer today), so that I know what my mission is before I begin. But in terms of getting started writing an actual scene, I always put that scene in a loop with the video playing, and always start with just a metronome. For me, tempo and pacing are crucial, and I like to create a tempo template for the scene before anything else. Then I like to have as many of my instruments as possible around me and start improvising ideas while the scene and metronome clicks until something sticks. Then I record that and see if I can build from there.

  13. Watching an early version of the Breaking Bad pilot and talking to Vince about his vision for the show and Walt's transformation. The opening theme was always designed to give a foreshadowing of where Walt was going to end up, so that even in the early days of the show when he was still a milquetoast chemistry teacher, it hinted at the end result.

  14. It is impossible to separate the last 15+ years of working on the BB/BCS universe from my life - they are entirely intertwined. It has been the backbone of my professional career for most of its duration to date, and personally many of my closest friends are people I've worked with on these shows. It has made me a much better composer, and I've certainly grown as a person throughout that time. Every facet of my life has been influenced by it.

  15. Lalo was certainly a favorite of mine to score because of course he is so terrifying in a unique way that isn't immediately visceral or obvious. So that score, in particular, (which returns along with him at the apartment in season 6) was designed to be cold, calculating, and menacing in a very patient and deliberate way.

  16. Hey Dave! Thanks for doing this AMA. From the first scene in Breaking Bad to the Better Call Saul finale's tear-jerking cigarette scene, you have played a huge role in setting the tone of this universe. Your score adds so much to every scene, the Methverse just wouldn't be the same without your work.

  17. Thank you very much. Really appreciate that. As for the near term future, I score a show for STARZ called Hightown and will return to that for our third season. After that I'm going to try to something very new and wildly different for me... but I'm not able to reveal what that is yet. So if you are interested follow me on twitter or facebook for that announcement soon.

  18. Hey David, I do want to start off by repeating everyone else and just telling you your work has been absolutely fantastic, and I really thank you for uploading it as I have had a lot of joy listening to it.

  19. Bringing back "shared smoke" was an idea I presented, yes, but not the only idea discussed. It was not preplanned, but one of several options considered. It was absolutely Peter Gould's decision, ultimately. I wouldn't want to speak for him, so probably a better question for him to answer, but for me there was a connectivity and emotion in bringing it back that accomplished a lot of things at once. It marked both their unique familiarity with each other while at the same time highlighting how far they had come. A little touch of the more things change, the more they stay the same. But most importantly, I think, by design there is a sad and futile joy about the cue (and them) which is at once both hopeful and hopeless... and I think both the satisfaction of the endurance of their love while at the same time the ambiguity/hopelessness of their future were both important to leave our audience with. Again, those are my personal feelings about it, informed in part by discussions with Peter while we were working on it, but ultimately you'd have to ask him!

  20. I compose and record entirely in ProTools, and have for 20+ years. It is the devil I know, and ProTools is where everything ends up on the mix stage anyhow. As for hardware vs. software I'm very pragmatic -- whatever sounds best for what I'm trying to achieve... and sometimes what is creatively fastest while I'm in the flow. There are times, for examples, when I'll use samples or a soft synth knowing that once I get the piece going I will go back and replace them with a real recording or an hardware synth that sounds better.

  21. As a composer do you have an overall tonal guideline for show at large, or season by season or episode by episode or is it purely just whatever the scene is about you try to fit the specific scene?

  22. I partially answered this in another response below, but finding the tone of the show - particularly in a nuanced and complicated series like these, is the hardest and most important job of the composer. The composer has to find it, using all of the creative decisions made prior (from script to lighting to performances to editing) and then enhance or highlight aspects of that tone to help tell the overall story. On a show where the protagonist is always the same person doing the same things you only need to find that tone once. But on an evolving show like BB or BCS, everyone is always in flux, and yes, I think the composer needs to always be very aware of both the macro view (which direction is this character headed long term) as well as in that precise moment (what is this character feeling right now.) To my mind, this is one of the things that makes film/tv scoring, when done well, a very specific craft.

  23. Over the past 15 years in the BB/BCS universe I've written an awful lot of guitar licks. Are you asking about the BB main title theme? If so, that is a dobro made entirely of metal that was peformed for me by my old friend Jim Heffernan, himself a composer living in the NYC area. He also, incidentally, performed the pedal steel guitar in "Shared Smoke / Shared Sentence" Nearly all of the other guitars in BCS, if they weren't played by me, were performed by my good friend/recording engineer/guitar guru James Saez here in Los Angeles.

  24. It varies, but in general I view score as a way to help tell the story, and hope to always approach it from that vantage point. So when I ask questions about what the score should be like, it is usually a question about what we should be highlighting about the story. It is then the composer's job, in my view, to achieve that musically.

  25. Lots of people asking me this question -- and yes, "Walls" would certainly be on that list. In fact, the Hollywood Reporter asked me about this also and I made a little list of my favorites across the whole universe for them -- follow me on Twitter or Facebook to check that out when it comes out (soon.)

  26. Did you find it challenging to create a similar but subtly different musical tone for Better Call Saul OST that separated it from Breaking Bad but still felt like it was within the same universe as Breaking Bad? Was this achieved with the different instrument arrangements or were there the same instruments featured predominantly in both shows?

  27. Certainly tone is everything on shows like these that are so nuanced, and as a creative partner that consistently works on every episode I think keeping track of where that tone needs to be - both in the moment and in the larger picture - is crucial. I both incrementally evolved the score throughout both series but also made a few complete shifts/reinventions along the way... such as the beginning of BCS (the Jimmy timeline) and then again for the Gene timeline. And yes, different orchestrations are one way a composer can do that -- one prime example here being the low woodwinds that appear only in the Gene timeline. The scope and scale of those orchestrations growing larger (grander scale like 603 for Nacho) or smaller (more intimate... see 610 Nippy) is another way.

  28. Hi Dave, you're talent is incredible and frankly I would say you are one of the most underrated composers working today. But I wanted to know what are some of the best instruments to use to nail that western, New Mexico-y theme?

  29. Thank you - that's very kind. As for the southwest vibe, to be honest, although people often associate my score with the southwest because of these shows, I did very little to place it there. The one exception being of course the dobro in the BB title theme.... but of course that only appears once in the show beyond the main/end titles. What I did try to do, in both series, was enchance through music the gorgeous vistas and the vast sense of scale and scope - the isolation- of the landscape which was so beautifully portrayed in both shows. (and on the slip side, the stuck-in-time nature of ABQ) While New Mexico clearly plays an important role in both series, I always felt it was important for both shows to be universal enough that they could be anywhere... so we didn't need music's help to place them there. So very purposefully no acoustic guitars, no harmonicas, or whatever instruments that might be pigeonholed (fairly or unfairly) as being from the Southwest.

  30. As you point out, that is a question for my friend and our amazing music supervisor Thomas Golubic.... although I doubt he'd tell you specifically. All I can say about closing out the series is that, as always, all things were considered.... including complete silence. In the end what resonated best in this particular instance was an adaptation of a cue I had written for Jimmy and Kim in season one.

  31. If I knew I'd bottle it up and sell it -- or maybe do one of those ridiculous "master class" videos and shill it around... just a lifetime of loving and making music, and the ability to mine my own emotions and ups and downs of my own life and spit them back out through music. Impossible to really answer, but that's my best shot...

  32. Broadly speaking, on a show as nuanced as these, I found character motifs pretty useless. The answer as to why is complex, but the most obvious reason is that none of these characters are static.... they are all constantly evolving, so a repetitive theme wasn't going to portray that... and trying to evolve a theme over 62 episodes that many times wasn't sensical. If your antagonist is the same person showing up in a cape each week a character motif makes mores sense. Another reason I'm leery of motifs is that when BB began it was the very beginning of the streaming era... and I know from doing it myself that people were watching 2,3,4 episodes in a row. If you use a theme even a few times over an hour... that's going to feel awfully repetitive after awhile. So I wanted to find other ways to use score, and immersing our audience in a unique world they could escape in more broadly, and tell the story in a more subtle way, was what I was attempting to do.

  33. Hi Dave! Thank you so much for your contribution to both shows. They wouldn't have been what they were without your work. If you're given a chance to provide score for any movie or TV show which would it be?

  34. I've just done it. Wouldn't trade BB/El Camino/BCS from my resume for anything anyone could possibly offer me. Nothing.

  35. Thank you! Don't think there is really much different in my approach... I try in general to be 'less is more', even in action sequences. One of the most important parts of my creative process is removing things... Once I some ideas in place I like to start pulling some out and seeing if they are contributing enough to validate their existence. If not, just like a scriptwriter, you are probably better off getting rid of them. It is an easy trap, I think, for a composer to throw up a ton of tracks that may in the short term sound impressive... much tougher but ultimately more powerful to have the right instrument(s) saying the right thing in the right way at the right moment. Finally, of course, as score composer you have to always be extremely aware of what you are writing music against... is there dialogue? A gunfight? or a quiet moment on a rooftop? All of those factors dictate how much sonic real estate you will have available to you. This is another aspect of writing score that makes it very unique from writing music in general.

  36. This is a broad topic but one that i know a lot of people are interested in. For those who want the full details, I recommend spending some time looking through all the previous interviews/podcasts on my website.

  37. The Crawl space and Chuck breaking down his house scores have been truly inspiring for me to pursuit scoring film and TV, so thank you very much for your work my friend

  38. Other than knowing that there are women and men writing great scores for video games and that is a gigantic business, I'm unfortunately largely unaware of them. When I was coming up as a composer they were not a viable way to go... and not particularly creative, so I avoided them. I know that isn't the case anymore, but I grew up inspired by film and tv and that is the path I've followed and opportunities I've been presented - at least for now.

  39. I have no regrets at all... no desire for a time machine to go back and change anything. When I go back and listen to some of the older stuff I definitely know that I would do it differently if I was doing it today, but it is about the composer I was at the time. 'Saul good.

  40. I wouldn't call myself a person who knows anything about music so I don't know the right words to describe this, but I noticed that once we got into the "Nippy" era, there were suddenly a bunch of pieces of music during the scam scenes that gave off a different vibe than I had heard in the show before. It felt... sillier? More lighthearted? I mean these in a good way, of course, I just don't quite know how else to describe it.

  41. Yes, definitely intentional. Just like the black and white photography, it is designed to make Gene feel small. Living a life that is very pedestrian and joyless compared to his heyday, and the stakes of his adventures, at least to start, are trivial and relatively meaningless.... and yet he can't help himself or get out of his own way.

  42. Thank you so much everyone - hope I was able to answer some of your most burning questions. I've typed until I can type no more, and most get back to doing what I do. If I didn't answer you it was probably because I already answered a related question, so check out all of my responses if you were hoping for one. You can always try me on twitter or facebook. Thank you so much for all of the kind words and responses -- for those of us that spend our days in a dark studio it is nice to hear. And so glad that these shows meant as much to so many others as they have meant to me. Thank you again and good night - Dave

  43. Hi Dave! I am a film composer mainly experienced in writing for acoustic instruments. Your music throughout Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have influenced my music tastes to the point of wanting to flirt more with sound design and synths!

  44. When coming from an orchestral background and writing for non-traditional instruments, as I do, I think it often helps to think of the role that different tones WOULD play if they were to take the place of a member of the orchestra. This is a technique I describe to younger composers when I talk to them, and I think it can help with balance and orchestration. After all, the same sonic bandwidth applies.

  45. Any advice for someone looking to do tv/movie composing ? Like getting into the industry or just the approach to songwriting?

  46. Don't hang out with other composers. You aren't going to work with them. Composers are lone wolves - there is only ever one on a given project - so spend your time with editors, writers, directors, and the people that you think are talented enough to create content you'd like to work on.

  47. I think some of what you are describing was originally utilized in my score for Breaking Bad, and as the BCS storyline got closer and closer to the BB timeline I purposefully used more of the influences and sounds.

  48. Hi Mr. Porter! First, thank you for taking time to answer our questions and second, thank you for composing music that makes even the most mundane activities sound intense and meaningful to the audience.

  49. Good question, and the answer may surprise you. Unlike in film, where the director is typically the chief creative architect/arbiter, in television directors direct specific episodes but then are rarely part of the process once the film is in the can (unless in addition to directing they are also a writer or producer). Television shows have Showrunners, who are typically head writers, who oversee the creative vision of the show as a whole. So for Breaking Bad I wasn't working with the directors but with Vince Gilligan when composing the music. And for BCS primarily Peter Gould, who was the primary showrunner for most of BCS. In terms of who much I communicated with them -- a lot! Vince and Peter were my primary source for learning what I needed to accomplish with the score and the ultimate decision makers as to whether I'd done a good job or not.

  50. My father is a big audiophile and we had a home theater in our basement growing up long before they were common and I was always aware of the power of music when combined with other mediums/art. I'm doing exactly what I dreamed of doing when I was a teenager, so it is hard to now imagine another path, but ironically, I've been told many times that I would have made a very good lawyer...

  51. Thank you. So fortunate to have been a small part of it! (and with Peter Gould directing that one, I'm sure I was eager to impress him to make sure he'd bring me back for BCS...)

  52. I only have one question, but I just wanted you to know I and many others greatly appreciate the music that you composed for these shows and the work you’ve done. The Better Call Saul theme is one of my favorites period, Lalo’s theme is really unnerving and subtle: your scores in general are incredible and you have my thanks. It’s silly to ask but I am curious - Did you come up with the “Pollos Hermanos” jingle/theme that was sung/hummed by Lyle in Point and Shoot, or was that just something the showrunners came up with as a sort of levity for the episode?

  53. While I wrote many little incidental things in both shows... Marie's ringtone... The HHM elevator chime... if I remember correctly that was something that was just made up for levity --- maybe to the theme of La Cucurracha? (sp?)

  54. You've answered it in part yourself.... the story we were telling there was the mystery of what the scene was about, and how it was done, and our shared (and unabashed) joy and respect for the clever people who pulled it off. So knowing it was a long scene, musically it was about slowly building those layers of understanding and making sure everyone enjoyed the process.

  55. BB? Yes, because the pilot was like a feature film, and better than most feature films... certainly at the time. BCS? coming off one of the most important TV series ever made, yes, I had all the confidence in the world that BCS would be fantastic.

  56. Is there any musical easter eggs or callbacks that you'd be willing to share with us? I'm often too invested in the story to notice details composers often plant into the scores. Thanks for all the wonderful work!

  57. Thanks - I get this question a lot and the answer is usually that when I'm making a soundtrack I'm trying to create a good listening experience and not everything can fit. Cues that are too short are usually the first to get cut. And on the flipside many action cues are so constructed to picture that they aren't that much fun to listen to without the film. Can't please everyone, but I do my best. And remember that composer's scores are owned by the studios as soon as they are written, so we are entirely beholden to them to allow us to release anything at all. And no, I can't just send it to you. Thankfully I've had great partners at SONY who have helped me released lots of my score!

  58. Picture editor? We generally have two, one who cuts the even numbered shows and the other odds. Plus assistant editors who on our show are usually on their way to becoming editors on their own. The composer/picture editor relationship is very important, and in the best cases work together closely. This past season I worked with Skip MacDonald, who has been with us since the start of BB (and cut El Camino) and Chris McCaleb, who those who listen to our insider podcast know used to be Kelley Dixon's assistant but has been a top editor the past few years of BCS since she left. For those how don't know, Chris and Kelley are the hosts of our BCS insider podcast and it is a treasure trove of info for those who are interested - can't recommend it enough for those interested in the nuts and bolts.

  59. How does it feel being one of the only people who has been part of this project from the beginning all the way through 14 years, and what is your personal favorite piece you have made for the show? And what is your process for making music that works so well with the tone and feeling of the scene?

  60. Pretty special... most of our crew has been around a very long time, but only a few of us are lucky enough to have their names on all 125 episodes and the film. Very proud of that, and of course completely humbled by Vince's faith and belief in my music.

  61. Hi Dave, needless to say I loved your work on BB, and the BCS tracks such as Border Crossing , Shared Smoke , Stargazing are on another level. I don’t know much about music but I believe that you have always been the voice of the BB world for sure.

  62. Thanks! At least at beginning of BCS, I worked really hard to create a completely unique musical signature for the show. This allowed, as they eventually appeared, the BB storylines (mike, cartel, etc) to feel fresh again when they did start to appear in later seasons. The post modern western idea translates to all of those storylines, I think, but not to the Jimmy/Kim/Chuck side of the story.

  63. What influenced your score from the Season 3 finale when Chuck is destroying his house? Your music is great in general but that one stood out so much for me because of how "noirish" it felt and how it really communicated yhe tragedy of Chuck. Thanks!

  64. Chuck himself. His love of classical and jazz. The hopelessness and futility of his situation. And also that entire sequence is filmed with a nod to the film The Conversation. (1974)

  65. What was the most emotionally difficult scene to compose for across the two shows and movie? Thank you for all the brilliant work that you’ve done for this universe!

  66. Thanks so much for the excellent work! I wanted to ask if during the Breaking Bad scenes in BCS, if you specifically used similar instruments used in the original BB score, as the music in scenes like Jimmy getting held hostage sounds straight out of the original Breaking Bad run. Would love to hear any details about recording for those throwback scenes specifically.

  67. Absolutely, yes. especially this past season one of the roles for score was to help our audience navigate all of the time shifts. There are many examples, but here are two that come to mind -- the reintroduction of "the cousins" in 601 and the return of the RV in 611.. which is on the vol3 soundtrack as "Crystal Ship Returns" for which I very purposefully went back and used many of the same instruments and techniques that I would have originally.

  68. Hey Dave, aspiring media composer here, hoping to follow in your footsteps one day! Would you ever consider doing a video tutorial of how you approach a new scene? Perhaps a 10-15 min video on your YouTube breaking down how you assembled the score for a recent scene from BCS? Talking a bit about how you decide what vibe the scene needs, when to add/take away instruments, what emotions you decide you want to follow through the scene, all through the actual laying down and tracking of the parts, and how you finalize the piece to fit against the dialogue and action? I-for one-would LOVE to get a window into your process and learn hear from your mouth how you articulate your process in your head, rather than guessing when I attempt to emulate your approach on my own. I honestly can’t think of anyone I’d rather learn from in this category, and I KNOW I’m not alone!

  69. Lots of questions here -- since you are invested, I highly recommend going through the previous interviews and podcasts in the NEWS section of my website where I cover a lot of my process with various interviewers. To answer a broader theme I'm getting from your questions, the easy route is never going to be the most creative route. Nothing wrong with libraries, etc, and I use them. But you are never going to sound distinctive doing only that. For the parts that matter, invest the time to play it yourself, make it yourself, or interact with other musicians who will have ideas of their own that will make you a better composer. My two cents, anyhow.

  70. What characters would play what instruments at summer orchestra camp? I think Kim is definitely the oboe player, and Jimmy/Saul is a trumpet player

  71. Ha! Good one. I like Kim on oboe. I think Jimmy/Saul is on bass. Mike on xylophone. Chuck on tenor sax. Gus on... flute? piccolo?

  72. Your score can be absolutely captivating. How'd you come up with the piece that plays during Kim's drive to the target's house?

  73. Hi Dave! Thanks for coming here to answer questions. Your score really ties the atmosphere of these shows together and it's really a huge contributor to why these shows are so amazing.

  74. I start through improvisation - which could be some melodic or percussive, depending. no set rule there, whatever feels like a first idea that might have legs.

  75. Vince created a very open atmosphere that is welcoming and collaborative for everyone on the show and Peter has certainly carried on that tradition. Everyone's ideas are welcome, no idea too small or silly, and everything is always possible. But at the same time when it comes to making a hard decision, they are both decisive.

  76. Hey Dave! Congratulations on finishing an incredibly versatile and moving score for two of the greatest series of all time. Your contributions are a huge part of it!

  77. I make my living the same as you. I just wanted to give one comment about a particular piece: “Walls“ , The season three finale scene where Chuck loses it.

  78. Hi Dave! I’m wondering what if any classical/film score composers you’d count among your biggest influences (or just your personal favorites)?

  79. Hi Dave, correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t really hear a lot of looping in your music, which is something a lot of film composers are doing thanks to influencers like Zimmer. Is this intentional to retain your style or unique to the show?

  80. Certainly can't/won't speak to what other composers are up to, but personally I have always loved slow evolution in music, especially film scores. Transitions between dissonance and the expected, interesting time signatures, and I definitely love patterns and rhythms, as long as they are constantly shifting and morphing and going somewhere. Perhaps influenced a lot by the NYC minimalists that I studied so much (and worked for) when I was younger --- Steve Reich, Philip Glass, etc.

  81. Practice, tons of trial and error, and humility. And asking lots and lots of questions to be sure you understand the role of the score.

  82. Here's one I've always been very proud of -- this theme in particular but the whole series and wish more people were hip to it -

  83. Hey Dave, my favorite song is the one in Dead Freight when they are attaching equipment to the train while Kuby stands guard. Unreal how much that adds the scene. Wondering about your DAW and what sort of synths you use. Thanks.

  84. Thanks -- appreciate it, that was a big one. I write and record and mix in ProTools and yes, use all kinds of electronic instruments in addition to acoustic ones, and spend a lot of time manipulating sounds after they've been recorded. Breaking Bad was a long time ago now but if you can find it there is a Keyboard magazine issue from back then which documented my studio and gear at that time, and a good interview that went with it. Should also be in the depths of the "news" page of my website --

  85. For me if I'm going to write for a synthesizer, its gonna be a synthesizer. If I write for the bass flute (as I did a lot from 610-613, for example) it is going to be a real bass flute. So yes, while I play many instruments myself, I've been fortunate enough to have some of LA's finest studio musicians play my notes when I cannot.

  86. Hey Dave! I love your work and have the vinyls for Breaking Bad and El Camino. Similar to the Breaking Bad deluxe release, do you know if there are plans for a Better Call Saul complete vinyl box set?

  87. Thanks for doing this! I have a few questions regarding the scrapped “Glovebox Gamble” track on the El Camino vinyl:

  88. My recollection of this was that Vince was leaning towards staying dry (no music) during the glovebox scene was but interested to hear what I might come up with. It was much discussed, but ultimately we all agreed it was better without. Certainly there is no convincing going on... Vince (or on BCS Peter) is the ultimate decision maker, but both are very open to everyone's opinions. I don't have a lot of music that I wrote that didn't make it into the shows, but certainly a few. Sometime a song proves better, sometimes silence. Some, like Glovebox Gamble, I've even put on soundtracks because I think it is an interesting tidbit. Answers to these things are often not better or worse, but just slightly different nuances.

  89. Thank you! I think I covered this at length in my first AMA 9 years back -- check there or in the NEWS section of my website --

  90. Hello David, thanks for doing this AMA! Your work across BB, EC, and BCS is simply superb. I am in no way knowledgable in music terminology, so bear with me on these questions!

  91. I wanted to ask you, how much information do you have to work beforehand, do you know the plot twists, the scenes that have to be done or just some vague information? How’s the process to actually create such great scores!

  92. On this show I'm one of the last things to happen, so I'm working with a nearly finished show. I could read the scripts if I wanted to, and will if I need to for some reason, but normally I like to wait and watch them when they are done. I get to enjoy them like a fan that way, and also lots can change from script to final edit

  93. Originally piano, which I started at age 5. But essentially any and all keyboard instruments, lots of percussion and pitched percussion instruments, etc. I'm terrible at guitar but recently had an old friend make me a beautiful custom one that I'm determined to get better at.

  94. Just want to say, I love the sounds of the synths you use, they inspire me to include more in my own music! Any favorite plugins or analog synths that are your go to?

  95. This changes all the time, but on a desert island as of today I'd want my Nonlinear Labs C15 and the new Oberheim Ob-x8. But synthesizers are like paint colors, there is an excellent use out there for and and all of them.

  96. I don't really have a question, but I loved the music in the Gene timeline this second half of season 6 so much. One of my favorites was when Gene was contemplating hitting the guy in the head and ominous music is playing, but when the guy passes out again, it switches to cartoony stealth music.

  97. Thank you for your inspired and innovative work. I've always been impressed with the immersive sound design for BCS in general (including very subtle things like light hum and room sound). The sound design consistently supports creating the low level 'sense' of existing right there inside this world. How does the visceral feel of spaces and places, and associated room/sound effects, influence your choices about musical scoring?

  98. Oh yes, hopefully always. If the score isn't helping tell the story the writers want to tell, I'm the first to say we should remove it or try something else.

  99. Hi Dave! For Better Call Saul did you get to incorporate any new instruments in the score? If so, which one was the most satisfying to do?

  100. Tons of different instruments in BCS that never appear in BB.... a few favorites.... mellotron, bass flute, many different types of electric pianos, pedal steel guitar....

  101. That sound is a recreation of an Aztec war whistle, performed by my old friend and former neighbor Julio Moreno.

  102. Dave, how in the world do you mow your yard without breaking into a cold sweat for fear of the sound of approaching Salamanca boots?

  103. Hello, Dave. Thank you so much for joining us for this AMA. I’m an amateur composer/orchestrator myself who has been blown away by your exceptionally tasteful scoring throughout the entirety of the Breaking Bad universe.

  104. Thanks very much. I've answered some of this elsewhere, but as to your question about pace I do my best to manage it, but television scoring can be a grind. Every week another episode and only a few days to score it. I don't sleep as much as I should, but one rule I really try to follow is to stay focused on one project/task on any given day. I find jumping around creatively difficult. Set modest goals and exalt when you accomplish them and just shrug it off when you don't. Some days are prolific and others a complete waste.

  105. How did you get your job? Was it thru personal connections? No judgement if it was, I’m just sort of on a mission to find out of everything comes down to nepotism or personal connections. It seems to.

  106. No nepotism here. I'm the first in my family that I know of to be foolish enough to try to work in Hollywood. Personal professional connections, yes, of course, no one succeeds in this town without proving to others that you can do a great job..... same as most other industries. I was first introduced to Breaking Bad by others who were already working on it that I had worked with successfully before on other projects.

  107. What degree or master did you study to become a film or tv show composer? Is piano a must? (beyond harmony or counterpoint) I have a music degree and I'm looking for a master

  108. No masters degree, but I studied mostly music at Sarah Lawrence College, and was playing and studying classical music since age 5. Piano definitely best and most common among film/tv composers I know, but it varies. For practical film/tv composing you might be better off skipping the masters and getting into a place where you can be around the craft in the real world.... but there is not proven path -- everyone has to find their own way.

  109. That sound is an instrument called a Japanese koto, which I obtained as a student studying there, which I recorded myself playing through a variety of guitar effects.

  110. Are you familiar with or inspired by any video game compositions? Half-Life/Portal composers Kelly Bailey and Mike Morasky feel quite similar to your scores.

  111. Hey Dave, I’ve always wondered, what is that instrument that you use in tension filled suspenseful scenes that sounds like a synthetic bell, or percussive synth capturing some of the vibe of a xylophone? I’ve always associated the sound with impeding danger, for reference it’s the sound you used it in the BCS finale for the transition to Gene and Bill Oakley talking about Kim on the airplane to Kim in Florida eating lunch outside, right around the episode midpoint. It was also being used to generate a haunting melody durring the scene where Saul hides in the dumpster from the police and searches for his fallen diamonds at the top of the episode. My favorite use of the sound is easily in season 4 episode 5 in the opening when Walt is rushing to find Jesse after Gus had Threatened him and his family in the desert at the end of the previous episode. As Walt is furiously driving, he’s on the phone barking commands at Saul. Afterwords, he hangs up, pauses for a moment, and makes another call. The music changes to a beautifully haunting almost music-box like theme using that instrument, as we see Walt leave skylar a message essentially saying goodbye and he loves them as he speeds off to what he assumes is likely his death. Amazing scene, and so much of the disconnect between Walt’s actions and assumptions about the people he’s hurting are made so clear by that music! They might be different sounds in all those scenes, but you use them in similar ways, and I’d love to know whatever you can tel us about how you designed those sounds, why you chose them to symbolize a character leaning into “danger” with bad choices, and when you realized how powerful that sound was for communicating suspense and creating tension for the audience!

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