Customizing Library Music

“Scoring” with library music is the process of customizing it for the production.  Some things to think about while “scoring” with library music include:

  • Will the music be “wall to wall”, or some other format?
  • When should the music change to a new piece?
  • Should you start a piece at the beginning, or after the “introduction”?
  • Will you use all the repeats of a repetitive section?
  • How do you want the sections of the music to correspond to the video, for example, does the piece “build” at the right place?
  • Is there a recurring theme that reappears during the video?
  • Would an underscore version be better if lead instruments are too distracting or interfering with the spoken voice?
  • How will each piece in the video end – fade out or natural ending?

Beyond fitting the music into the timeline, the edits need to be musically believable and technically seamless.

In addition, there is the art of “sweetening”, which is adding musical instruments or effects to further customize the music. For a recent corporate video project, I selected and “scored” library music to the already assembled video and narration. I needed some short musical transitions for recurring graphic titles that the library music could not provide, so I created them with my virtual orchestra, while making sure they worked well with the adjacent library pieces. Also in this project, one of the library pieces suddenly thinned out during a part of the video when we did not want it to, so I added cellos to fill out the arrangement.

Sweetening is also often used to highlight graphics or other important occurrences in the visuals. The sounds used can be musical, sound effects, or somewhere in between, depending on the context. If the ending of a library piece is not large enough for the situation, it can be made fuller and bigger through sweetening. Sometimes sweetening is used to smooth an edit that otherwise would sound abrupt. Sweetening is a really useful tool that can be effective in a lot of situations.

Following are some example projects where I selected, scored, and sometimes also sweetened the library music.