Composer Spotlight – Jacob Hamil

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This week MakeMusic and the Garritan Blog interviews composer Jacob Hamil. In his interview with us, Jacob describes his background, workflows, tips, and inspirations.

MM: Tells us where you’re from!

JH: I’m originally from Odessa, TX but, now live in Lubbock, TX.

MM: What is your background in music? 

JH: My whole family is musical in one way or another. We all sing. I’ve loved music my entire life. My dream for a long time was to become a hard rock artist, but I’ve always had a sense and major love for movie soundtracks. I started playing guitar when I was 9 years old and picked up french horn in 5th grade. When I got to high school, I attempted for a year to be in band and choir, but the work load was a bit too much for a high school freshman. I had to leave band, but continued with choir through graduation through the fall semester of my junior year of college.

MM: In a recent post, you spoke about upgrading your DAW to reduce limitations? What software programs are you using these days and how have they changed your workflow? 

JH: I actually upgraded to the New Garageband 10 and found it really difficult to compose in. I do everything by ear and MIDI workflow. I’ve never been one to write sheet music, because there are too many difficulties for me in notation, and I can shift MIDI notes around without having to erase and figure out what key I’m in. MIDI has made me lazy in some ways, but much more diligent in others. I actually still point and click all of my MIDI, which is probably the more difficult way to do things, but I like having a snapped control with my notation and I don’t own a MIDI keyboard.

MM: You’ve composed a beautifully emotional piece called “My Desperate Prayer,” which was inspired by a trip to the Ukraine. Walk us through the piece and tell us a little more about what each mood represents to you. 

JH: The whole intention for the piece was to orchestrate Ukraine’s equivalent of “God Bless America” called “Prayer for Ukraine.” For the beginning of the piece I really liked having that ominous string tremolo because life in Ukraine, from what I could gather, was and is still up in the air. Things are not easy for them. When the first cello comes in, it’s that little bit of unease that you feel when you visit the country. There are a lot of amazing people there, but life is a difficult day to day process. So there’s a bit of the sadness I felt in the introductory phrases that I felt for the people there. The transition that is just the flute and the violin 1 leads the path to the “Prayer for Ukraine” melody carried by the english horn, then later by the french horns. This is my Prayer for Ukraine. When the louder trem ½ step strings come in, that signifies the recent, rising tension of the Russia/ Ukraine conflict. The SAM Brass is very Russian inspired. I love Russian music with big, thick chords. From there, it really is a hopeful mood. My hope is that Ukraine makes it through this conflict and comes out in a brighter place. Even, though this is terrible, it’s a prayer that things will turn out for the best of that beautiful country.

MM: Share a classic Jacob Hamil trick or workflow with our audience of Garritan users. Perhaps tell us how you achieved a certain effect you’re proud of from a recent composition?

JH: Copy and paste is your friend! Sometimes, I really love a phrase in the music, so I can copy and paste for revoicing in another instrument keeping it in that instrument’s natural range. This is really, really helpful in producing some great counterpoint. You can hear it in this particular piece several times.

MM: Tells us about your upcoming projects! Where can we find your updates on the web (website? Events page for an upcoming project?)

JH: My brother, Ross, and I own a production company called “Hamil Bros Studios” ( where we do lots of video production for weddings, TV commercial, and short films. I love writing for all of those. Sometimes we use my compositions, and sometimes we find stock music better suited for that particular purpose. That website is the best for projects and updates. You can also find me at, on twitter @jacobhamil27, or on the Hamil Bros Studios facebook page.

MM: What advice do you have for composers or students who would like to follow in your footsteps?

JH: My biggest advice is carry a voice memo recorder of some type in your pocket at all times. You never know when a golden melody will strike you. Also, don’t spend too much time on a certain piece or you’ll get burned out. Sometimes, you have to step away from it for days, weeks, months, etc and let it breathe. Then you can revisit it and build something beautiful. My last bit of advice is, BUY THE GARRITAN PERSONAL ORCHESTRA. It works wonders.

Do you have a question for Jacob? Would you like to learn more about his music? Leave us a comment below.

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