How to choose background music for your project?
By adding music to your video, you get a powerful tool for influencing the viewer. Music can both enhance the emotional effect of viewing and turn the product upside down, giving it a completely different meaning.
How we perceive music
The perception of music is subjective – everyone communicates with it in their own way and there is little rational here. A track can stay with you for life simply because some strong memory is associated with it – the genre, composition and quality of the recording in this case fade into the background. On the other hand, some absolutely fantastic composition that sounds stunning can completely pass you by, because you were in the wrong mood or environment to notice all its merits.
There are several sensations, transmission through music is more or less universal. Let’s take a look at them, noting genres and musical characteristics that do well with the message.
Music that is practically free of dissonance can be called soothing. Take a relaxed, even a little lazy rhythm, and you will have a virtually fail-safe way to relax your viewer. For pacification, ambient, downtempo, slow jazz and classical music are well suited – music with a slight emphasis on rhythm, spiced with good melody and harmony.
Tension in music is often achieved through dissonance, a kind of “wrong”. These techniques are more likely to create a sense of excitement in the viewer. Music that goes from melodiousness to knocking, grinding and other less musical sounds is aimed precisely at taking the listener out of the comfort zone, immersing him in a tense atmosphere. Minimalist tracks are well suited for creating potential – they contain a large amount of free space, which stimulates the viewer’s imagination, not only due to the excess of information, but, on the contrary, due to its absence.
Let’s turn to the classics. Let’s remember the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Despite the lack of violence in the frame, with the help of the ingenious musical accompaniment of Bernard Herrmann, each scene is accompanied by feelings of horror and fear. And the soundtrack itself is not overly complicated: the repetitive dissonant sound of strings works great to create the right atmosphere. All ingenious is simple. The same technique was used a little later when filming “Jaws” with similar results.
Remember your favorite scenes of chases, battles and fights and immediately remember that such scenes are most often accompanied by energetic, rhythmic and noisy music. Use it to add dynamism and energy to your video. Modern dance electronics are very suitable for such tasks. Here the rhythm rules, and everything else fades into the background. Avoid the overt club sound, though: that’s why it sounds like a club, because it works best in a nightclub, not on YouTube. Choose a track so that it is more versatile, so that it contains both what to dance to and what to listen to. It will at the same time expand your audience – more people will find something pleasant for themselves in your product.
When the soundtrack itself contains ambiguity, the musical phrases are structured in such a way that they seem to be a question that should not be answered, published subconsciously to expect something. Like tension, anticipation moves towards the unknown. With the right melody or sounds, we can smoothly and accurately lead the viewer to a climax or an important plot point. It is not so much the balance of the three main components that is important here, but the composition itself. Waiting scenes are often accompanied by monotonous and rehearsal music with increasing loudness or expression, leading the viewer to the desired climax on the screen.
How does the music fit into the picture or video?
It’s pretty simple here – prioritize correctly. Art simultaneously stimulates several senses, it is very important to understand from the very beginning what the priorities are and which communication channel will be the main one. What is more important what a person sees or hears? For example, if you need to emphasize the elegance of an exhibition of paintings in which spring landscapes, then choose calm romantic music that will not attract attention, but only create the necessary background. And if the dramatic climax in the film requires strong emotions, then the attention-grabbing music will greatly affect the emotions of a person, so that he will experience sadness, mental pain and, together with the characters, will survive the tragedy.
How to choose the music you want
It is useful to decide on the music as early as possible – before the final editing versions. You will always be one step ahead and can connect music and video more closely if you make a decision at the beginning of the process. Use music as a starting point! Cutting a video for a beat can give it dynamism and energy, and in the opposite case, tension. Make an informed choice depending on the needs of your product. Some producers prefer to do rough cut in order to first try different tracks and choose the best one. Once selected, the cuts are more precisely tailored to the music – a useful approach.
Usually the tone of your video will dictate the music you choose. But this is only if you want to achieve synergy between sound and picture. Sometimes the task can be exactly the opposite. Using the “wrong” music in a scene can emotionally impact the viewer. Peaceful, soothing music during a bloody scene can make it even more dramatic. Don’t be afraid to break stereotypes: “wrong music” may well become the highlight of your product.
Depending on the type of video you produce, sometimes you may find that it doesn’t require music from start to finish at all. The selections and all sorts of ratings imply a full soundtrack from “a” to “z”, but a corporate film or personal vlog can benefit from an occasional musical splash or a book cover approach (when musical inserts are used only at the beginning and end of the video) … In many cases, music can play a more powerful role if it is not used constantly – to focus on a point or climax of a video.
Should you use tracks with vocals? Yes, but wisely. Vocals in the background of a dialogue or interview, for example, can distract or alienate the viewer. If you chose a vocal track, consider whether the lyrics support what is happening in the video. Good instrumental tracks can convey the same emotion, but are much safer in terms of aesthetics and production.
You don’t have to get attached to the timing of the selected track. Mount it freely if your video needs it. The typical cadence of a commercial track may well not match your cut. It is better to cut or loop parts of the track in any editor so that the peak moment of the track falls at the right moment on the video.
It is also helpful to choose the right arrangement to convey the desired emotion and sensation. For example, ethnic music can be effective if you shoot in suitable locations. It will help develop a sense of presence in the viewer.
Remember to pay attention to the volume. You can get so carried away by music that you forget that there is still direct speech or dialogues in the video, and the audience wants to hear them.
As with any content production, ask yourself who your viewer is. What is his age, hobbies, employment, etc.? A corporate manager may not react in any way to hard rock or hip-hop, while a younger and simpler audience will be happy to like and show the video to friends.
Music should emphasize the mood of the video, enhance its effect, not overwhelm it. When mixing audio for your video, remind yourself what is most important in the product and bring that element to the fore.