A Day in the Life – Tristan Noon

Tristan Noon                                                                                          Twitter @NoonWithATune
Photo by Susan Legg

What is the role of an arranger?

I always think of arrangement as a bit of a loose term as it’s almost like orchestrating, except you’re taking a pre-existing work and using that material to dictate how to arrange it further. For example, you could take a pop song, and instead of having the guitars playing chugging chords, you could split that out and have the strings from Violin I to the Double Basses playing the chord.

Also, instead of having a synth part playing a counter melody, you could then decide that you now want a vocalist to sing that line. Sometimes it’s a case of using what material is already within the song, and sometimes you’re free to add the music parts you wish, to make the arrangement different (I would say better, but often it’s very difficult to make an original classic song better!)

How do you split your time between: performing, arranging, writing?

My time split between those three can be very varied from one week to the next so it’s tough to give a definitive answer. When I was at sixth form, I used to play in a few bands but never anything serious. Although we were fortunate enough to play at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2013 and the following year (strangely, with another band). I very much enjoyed the days of gigging, but it was never something I was fully focussed on, which often means that you’re not dedicating your life to it and I think that’s what’s required to be successful.

I have always felt, especially in the music industry that you can’t half do something. You have to go at it like a bulldozer and really put your heart and soul into it. With gigging, it requires an enormous amount of spending money to rehearse, get to venues and get merchandise out there, which will probably make very little revenue unless you hit it semi-big. I was never interested in doing any of that, nor playing to two people in a darkened pub on a rainy Tuesday. Eventually,

I fell into the writing and arranging, which is how I now spend most of my time. I also do Music Preparation and Copyist work, which means getting all of the parts tidied in Sibelius (a notation software that most of us use to get music ready before tight deadlines) and then printed, sorted into pads (Trumpets, Horns, Tuba etc). Scores are then bound before being sent to the studio to be recorded. Often, copyists sit in on the session just in case anything needs to be reprinted or if a music cue comes in late and needs to be reprinted at the session.

Where did you study music?

I studied very briefly at the University of Surrey in 2013 as an undergraduate, but only stayed for about three months after realising that it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. It was mostly essay based and I just wanted to be learning on the job. Fortunately, I’d been meeting quite a few industry people when I was at sixth form, so I had begun to make a small amount of money which meant dropping out wasn’t as risky as it could’ve been. Around that time, I was at a Downton Abbey recording session and met composer Simon Whiteside.

A few months later, Simon was looking for an assistant and I was fortunate that he asked me. After that, I’ve been very lucky to do the things I that I have done, and have met many more people in the process. The whole business is about meeting people and forming relationships, which sounds like one horrendous cliche, but it is true. Since then, I got another job to assist Stephen Baysted, as well as the work for Simon, which keeps my job varied!

I also work on my projects with my own clients. I’m a firm believer in that you can write as many essays as you want, read about it as much as you want, but you can only ever learn and gain experience by being thrown in at the deep end. It’s really the only way I’ve ever known, and I’ve enjoyed every second, despite being in some very high pressured scenarios in studios and at my home studio.


Photo by Maree Lock.

At what age did you get an interest in music?

I was a bit of a later bloomer in the way that I found music. I’d always loved the sound of the piano in particular from when I was in junior school, but never had the courage to get lessons. When I started secondary school I finally began to learn the piano and at one point had the intention of being a session player or a performer. However, once I realised my sight reading skills weren’t ‘up to scratch’, I realised that was a no-go. I began to push myself into writing songs and using music recording software at home.

I was into the Beatles massively around this time (year 8) and I was obsessed by their incredible melodies and harmonies. My parents aren’t musical at all, but my dad has a great CD and vinyl collection, so I got into music that way really. He used to play me lots of songs by The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel, so I was very much into that and not the music that all the cool people were listening to, so I was always a bit different to the rest of the kids in that respect.

I new a bit about modern music, but at the time I wasn’t interested. I just wanted to play The Beatles’ music all day, every day, trying to work out their chord progressions. It was only really around year 10 when I went to one of the BBC proms that I realised I wanted to be a film/television composer. Despite not being a Doctor Who fan, I liked the score by Murray Gold, so my dad and I went along to the Proms to see it. I can’t tell you the feeling that came over me that day. It sounds so cheesy, but I had this enormous desire to write to picture.

The BBC had a live orchestra which was playing along to a screen which was hanging down in front of the audience, playing the footage. I loved the feeling that the music gave you when it was juxtaposed with the footage. How one note or even a chord can hit you emotionally; make you laugh, feel sad or angry. I just loved the feeling that it gives you, and I still do. When writing to picture, I get a huge exhilarating feeling when I know that I’ve finally nailed the mood of the scene, having slaved over it for hours. Although sometimes it comes straight away; the picture is the inspiration.

Do you use traditional scores for your work or a computer?

90% of the time, I’m working digitally on my computer, so there’s no need for scores unless you’re lucky enough to get your music recorded by live players. If I’m at a session, there will always be a score to ensure that everyone can see what’s on the page. Usually one A3 copy of the score is needed for the conductor, and one for the composer. Then 2/3 A4 scores are needed for the engineer, assistant engineer and potentially anyone else sat in the studio. The copyist will read the scores from their laptop so that another one doesn’t need to be printed out. It’s a waste of money and paper otherwise.

Directors/all clients like to hear what we refer to as ‘midi mockups’ which is basically a digital demo of what the score will sound like (with samples) before it is recorded by a live orchestra. It’s too much of a risk for a production company to trust everything that you are creating is what they want before they get to the recording session. To stop this potential major drama occurring, the composer will mock up each cue using their sample libraries (digital sounds). Once that is agreed, it is then sent to the orchestrator to create the scores and parts for the players, then onto the copyist for tidying, and to be printed and bound. If there are no live players, the mockups are kept and used. This is most common on something that a BBC1 or ITV1 drama where budgets are tight, so fake instruments are used instead of hiring a real orchestra!

Which software would you recommend to someone just starting over?

You’ll need a powerful computer with at least 16GB’s of RAM, but I’d recommend 32 to be safer. You’ll also need a sound interface and lots of hard drives to store sample libraries on. In terms of orchestral sample libraries, your best bet is to head over to Spitfire Audio and Orchestral Tools. They are the best for orchestral samples, and most of the people I know use most of the libraries they produce! Things like a keyboard are useful, but you can get away with inputting notes into a sequencer manually. I use Cubase 8.5 as a Digital Audio Workstation, so I write all of music music in that program. It’s very intuitive to me and simple to use.

Photo by Simon Whiteside

You’ve worked at Abbey Road studios. How did it compare with working in other studios?

It’s a pretty amazing place, but just becomes any normal building after having been there so many times. Though I still get a buzz when I walk through the gates, up the stairs and through the doors into the hallowed walls! The sound of Studio One in particular is a favourite. The room has been treated so well acoustically, it’s hard to make something sound bad in there. The first time that you go it’s important to tell yourself that it’s just a job, you can’t be star struck or in awe of the place too openly.

Everybody is simply doing their job and nobody kicks up a huge fuss about it when you’re in there. The history of the place is impressive, and sometimes you pinch yourself when going up and down the staircases where you see all the framed photographs of the incredible musicians that have recorded there. I think the fact that The Beatles had so much history there is one reason it remains very special to me.

Any advice for parents?

Be supportive. Your kid probably isn’t going to be earning much for the first few years, but once they gain trust and experience, they’ll find their feet. Often parents don’t want their children to do creative subjects because there’s a stigma that there’s not much money in it. That can be true, but I know a lot of people that make a good living from music. At the end of the day, I’d rather do a job that I loved doing, rather than spend my whole life doing something I hated, just to earn lots of money…

The art of composition – it’s not over until the final mix

Below is an example of the art of composition and how music is arranged to create maximum impact. In the 1960s The Beatles worked on eight tracks, now a composer can create a piece using 20 or 100 tracks.

In a piece for the BBC, Tristan explains how the music was broken down into small individual parts.

“The high strings are providing the melody (1st violins and the violas in octaves for added depth) and the 2nd violins, and violas drive the music forward with the repetitive ostinato-like figure. The celli and bass play accented crotchets to further drive the piece.

The Horns are providing a counter melody and then a similar rhythm to the strings are at bar 16 with the trumpets and trombones playing the melody in 8va.
Synths are adding power and depth and more rhythm to the piece.
Percussion (and choir) drive the piece with their rhythms.

     ‘Over the Mountains’ – full piece

   Synths part only

   Strings part only

   Percussion part only

Example of score


Tristan Noon – CV



Tristan Noon
Media Music Composer | Orchestrator | Copyist
0794 8494 246



If I get Inspired


If I get inspired I’ll write you a short prose piece, something to turn you on, words to prepare you, excite you, entice you, To make you sigh, to fly to a higher place as fingers explore, seduce, slip inside you.

I want to initiate, facilitate, escalate your desire to make yourself breathless beyond your illicit dreams. Oh, to take you, lead you to a long perfect release.


Busy fingers find you, tease you, slip away. I wait for any movement, any slight inclination.

The pleasure rolls on, until it dissipates your need.




“It’s Facebook and Google who came along and ate up all newspapers’ classified ads. Yet it’s the BBC, who run no ads, that gets the blame, while it’s Google and Facebook that get the helpful tax arrangements from HMRC.” – Guardian Edinburgh international television festival, 2015 – Armando Iannucci


Unfortunately the BBC has become an organisation which would not commission any of his programmes now. The talent has long ago sailed away from the BBC and the ship is not about to come back. Documentaries are dead. Original drama is dead. Music and Arts are nearly dead.BBC is truly a journalistic organisation now, it has always wanted to be that.     I don’t think there is any future for it.

The Tories will finish it off in the next five years.

The public will only defend it when it is too late. Sad but true.

Regarding drama one offs and series Netflix and HBO have replaced the BBC.

A few years ago HBO, against the trend, decided they would continue with original drama and Netflix decided to get into it having been a channel which only bought it. They have now moved into feature film production.

I recall the great speech which Kevin Spacey made a few years ago regarding original dramas and the need to back writers.

BBC was great while it lasted.

Ministers want BBC to consider ‘assisted suicide’, says Armando Iannucci


Kevin Spacey – speech at Edinburgh, 2013


You Say you want to Break Up

‘Break up’, you say you want to ‘break up’.                                                                                           I would fall apart, fall to pieces, become a                                                                               fragment in your story.                                                                                                                            Do not fracture my heart,                                                                                                             shatter my illusions or splinter my soul.

You say you want to break up.

Perhaps we could explode,                                                                                                                    blow up or blow ourselves apart;                                                                                                     better than letting it crumble,                                                                                                   deteriorate, decay, decompose at a slow, slow pace.

I don’t want to rot in your memory,                                                                                                 perish the thought, or collapse into                                                                                                                an emotional wreck.

You were such a wonderful degenerate in bed;                                                                                        I think we should teeter toward an                                                                                                                        informal bust up, rather then be smashed to smithereens.

I say I want to break up.

The Conversation – two

The Conversation – two

It started with a stroll through the park,
then quickly developed into a situation which created a spark.
A thought passed through a mind to excite, to receive an invite.

Someone not too far away imagined cries, deep sighs, a movement over thighs
as the situation meandered through non verbal communication.

Remember the lost lover’s lament
Be kind, turn on a mind, let a seeker find.


The Conversation

The Conversation

It started with a strawberry, cream and grapes.

It swayed to the beat of possibilities, subtle possibilities.

A short line here, an extended line there, a pause.

Suddenly it received a second rush of energy

with the arrival of a mango.

It developed and drifted onto a higher plane

but later the rain pushed in, the energy drained away.

Later it came, with the wave of a steady hand, to a satisfied conclusion.