Incorporating music in any video can really add to the overall mood and set the scene when words or pictures aren’t enough to fully convey the meaning you want. Music can be a subtle part of any video or a fully expansive series of melodies that reflect different characters within your scene. There are so many options that it can sometimes feel daunting, so here we’re going to break down a few helpful things to consider.
What to look for when choosing music for your video
How fast or slow a piece of music is can make a huge difference to how it supports your video. A dramatic car chase will often want a faster tempo to an emotional breakup scene. Choosing music with a tempo that reflects the underlying mood is a great place to start. Judging tempo can often feel quite subjective, but we often refer to music by ‘beats per minute’ (bpm) which helps when talking to composers or audio editors.
A traditional dance track would be around 120-140bpm, a moving emotional ballad around 60-70bpm and a chase scene would be around 200bpm – but these are just guidelines as a talented composer will be able to use different tempi (the plural of tempo!) to make musical assessments of what is required in the video.
A great next step in deciding on your music is to think about the instruments you want to hear. Do you want a solo piano, small string quartet, brass band, electronic music, a full orchestra – or anything in between? If you’re unsure about this step, then it’s a good idea to watch some scenes/videos that are similar to yours and see if the music reflects the same mood as you desire. What instruments can you hear?
Does it sound like a large or small ensemble (group)? You can often start by thinking about ‘instrumental families’ such as Strings, Woodwind, Brass, Percussion or Electronic instruments if you aren’t sure of the exact instrument you’re hearing. A great way to learn about instrumental sounds for video is to check out live performances on YouTube where you can see the instrument being played and hear what it sounds like.
The word pitch refers to how high or low an instrument is playing and understanding the effect of this in film can help a great deal. If you listen to the theme from ‘Jaws’ you’ll hear the double basses and Celli (plural of Cello!) playing the low pitched motif that I’m sure you can sing! Just imagine if this was played with a high flute! The effect would be completely different and nowhere near as ominous.
Can you hear the opening melody of Star Wars in your head? If not then go and have a listen because it’s one of the most iconic and easily recognisable melodies in film music and gives you a very practical understanding of the meaning of the word melody! Depending on the type of video you’re creating you might want a composer to include different melodies for different characters or you might have a melody to reflect different locations – or there might be no melody at all!
There are so many options when it comes to composing a melody but it’s a good idea to ask yourself these questions… Do I want each character to have a melody for themselves? Do I want a place or time to have a certain melody? Do I even need a melody for this type of video?
A temp track (temporary track) is a track that contains music that you know you like for the scene but might not be able to use in the video due to restrictions on copyright. This gives a composer or audio editor a really clear idea of the style of music you’re looking for and helps them either compose or find music to replace the temp track with at a later date. You might need to rethink your expectations if you want a Taylor Swift track but don’t want to pay for the rights, but temp tracks can be a good place to start putting music into your scene to reflect the mood.
Hopefully this has given you a few tips for starting to think about music in your video and some questions to help you understand the options. If you’re ever stuck thinking about music then don’t hesitate to get in contact!