Build your music portfolio

Learn how to make a portfolio to show off your skills and get work as a composer for screen.

Icon showing a musician with an electric keyboard and a portfolio with sound waves

If you want to be a composer (animation) or music editor in the screen industries, you will need to show examples of your work. This can take the form of a showreel – a short video that shows a selection of clips of your very best work. It can also be a website, where you can show a more comprehensive portfolio by including audio tracks, text and scores. If you want to be a music composer for games, you should present your music as part of a video clip of gameplay. See Build your games portfolio for details of software.

What should a music portfolio have in it?

If you want to be a composer or a music editor for screen, you will need your website to include:

  • a video showreel
  • video clips of projects you’ve worked on with your accompanying score
  • audio files of recordings of your compositions
  • videos of your music being recorded live
  • PDFs of music notation of your compositions
  • a short piece of writing about the brief for each piece
  • your contact details

A good way to include tracks you’ve composed on your website is to embed specific tracks or playlists from a platform such as SoundCloud, where you can host all of your work. This way you can easily include full tracklists of pieces you have composed for a project, alongside a showreel or specific clip from that project.

Alternatively, you can upload MP3 or .wav files of your tracks.

If possible, try to get any orchestral compositions recorded live. Use your audio editing skills to edit these tracks as needed. Or use the best sample sounds available to you. If your music is electronic, use the best sample sounds available to you.

You might want to have a hard copy of your portfolio also, on a disc or memory stick that you can send to employers to listen to your tracks.

Tips for building a sound or music portfolio

Make sure you demonstrate versatility. Show that you can compose, mix or design sound for different moods and across different genres. However, you should still show that you have your own signature style, as this is what people will hire you for.

  1. Make your show reel approximately two to three minutes long.
  2. Demonstrate versatility, a range of dynamics and sounds.
  3. Showreels for composing roles are different from those for camera roles, which often use lots of fast cuts. In order to get your work across you need to let each clip play for a little while, maybe for around 30 seconds.
  4. Always render your audio at the highest possible quality.
  5. Make sure all the content loads quickly and plays on a variety of browsers and devices.
  6. Be clear about the contribution that you have made – for example, mixing, sound design, recording or composing.
  7. On your website, have an organised and uncluttered homepage with clear, well-labelled categories.
  8. Detail any related audio skills you have, for example, if you are a composer, state that you’re confident mixing and editing your own tracks (but make sure you’re telling the truth).
  9. Include a short biography detailing your experience and background.
  10. Have a contact page and include your social media links. It needs to be clear how to get in contact with you.
  11. Get feedback. Ask family and friends to take a look at your portfolio so you can see how it comes across to the viewer or listener and whether it is easy to interpret.
  12. Make sure you use your best work in your portfolio and keep it up to date with your most recent projects.
  13. (For composers) show collaborative skill. Show how your musical craft served the creative vision of the director or producer; your ability to empathise with what is actually required for the project.

Where to host your portfolio and showreel

You can host your showreel on the following sites:

Vimeo: A video hosting site and video player. Offers a free package called ‘Vimeo Basic’ to have an account.

YouTube: Free video sharing platform. (Less of a professional sheen or reputation than Vimeo, but is widely-used.)

You can build your portfolio website using the following free platforms:

Portfoliobox: A portfolio website for creatives. There’s a free version available, which offers the ability to host 30 images and 10 pages and has a 0% commission e-commerce.

Wordpress: There’s a free version with up to 3GB of storage space. Other paid plans are available.

Free Audio software

You can use the following software to start creating your own work to build your portfolio:

Recording, mixing and editing software

Ocenaudio: Audio editor useful for analysing audio files
Operating system: Windows and Mac

Frinika: Free digital audio workstation with MIDI sequencer and synthesizers
Operating system: Windows and Mac

Audacity: Audio recorder and editor, easy to use and useful for getting to grips with the basics of editing
Operating system: Windows and Mac

Composition and notation software

You can use the following free notation and audio workstation software to create and score your own tracks. The better your notation and presentation, the quicker and easier the session players will perform your music. Musicians always appreciate clear, well laid out parts:

Denemo: Score to video easily using timestamps with functionality to playback scores with video
Operating system: All

Musescore: Good quality notation and samples but with no volume mixer
Operating system: Windows and Mac

Noteflight: Completely online free version with functionality to easily share scores
Operating system: Web-based

LilyPond: Uses optical font scaling, spacing and ledger line handling to produce an engraving style similar to professional scores
Operating system: Windows and Mac

LMMS: A free digital audio workstation, similar to Cubase
Operating system: All 

To learn how to build an audio programming portfolio go to build your games portfolio.

Paid audio software

Professional composition and notation software

Sibelius: Used by the many composers, arrangers and copyists in Europe and North America
Operating system: Windows and Mac

Finale: Widely used in North America and Japan
Operating system: Windows and Mac

Dorico: Newer software than the other two paid ones listed, used by composer Allen Silvestri 
Operating system: Windows and Mac

How should I share my portfolio?

When you write a CV or covering letter, put in the link to your website or showreel.

Include a link on your business cards or in the bio of any social media accounts that you use strictly for professional purposes. Also, include a link to your professional social media accounts from your portfolio page.

When you apply for jobs or universities, link to your portfolio website from your CV or covering letter to show you have the skills and creativity to work in sound.