This CD was so much fun to create in collaboration with wonderful guitarist J Hayes for the Sonoton library . We composed and produced it back at the “turn of the century”, and it is still getting used around the world in 2019. We produced the rhythm tracks and some of the solo instruments at SmithLee Productions in St. Louis, then sent orchestral scores and tapes (!) overseas for overdubs by the Budapest Orchestra.
“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.
There is a huge amount of production music available today, instantly accessible from the comfort of your own laptop. Many libraries are “royalty free”, but they are often niche-y as to what they contain, and the quality is highly variable. “Royalty free” does not actually mean “free”, as these libraries generally have license fees and sometimes unique rules about how their music can be used.
Generally the best quality, most variety and easiest search process comes from the larger production music libraries. Which library you choose and how the video will ultimately be used (in-house, broadcast, for sale, Internet, etc.) will determine the licensing fees.
Some of the many considerations for choosing library music are:
The role(s) the music will play in supporting the story or message
Who your audience is
The musical style, instrumentation and tone that best supports your program
How you want the music to effect the audience’s experience
How the the pacing and fullness of the musical arrangements works with the visuals and/or spoken voice
Once you have narrowed down your choices, there are still other considerations: Is the piece long enough? If not, is it interesting enough to survive lengthening it by looping? What kind of changes happen throughout? If the piece has a section that all of a sudden doesn’t seem to work, can you work around that? How does the piece start and end?
Happy Hunting! – or contact me and I can help with this! 🙂
Production music libraries are music publishers that license music for uses such as television shows, movies, radio and TV commercials, corporate communications, and video games.
I had the great fortune to be commissioned for CD projects in the past for the Sonoton and FirstCom libraries, and had wished for a long time to do more. There never seemed to be a good time to start my own project, between projects for clients, and our daughter’s complex medical needs. I finally decided to just start working on it here and there whenever possible. Eventually I created demos of 10 original compositions, in hopes of landing another project with Sonoton.
Sonoton did accept the demos, and commissioned my newest CD, “Positive Purpose”, which was released in America by Sonoton’s representative, Associated Production Music in September 2017.
My inspiration for “Positive Purpose” came from working as a library music consultant and editor, and the issues I run across when selecting and editing library music. One of my goals for this CD was to strike a balance between keeping the feel consistent throughout each piece (no strange middle sections that suddenly veer off in another direction), but also keeping the music interesting, progressing and not too repetitious. I was also mindful of making the main themes around 3 minutes long, as sometimes what seems to be the perfect library piece is disappointingly too short. There seems to be a never ending need for new positive, upbeat, “forward-looking” music for underscoring videos and commercials.
I am hoping producers will find “Positive Purpose” helpful and useful for their projects. If you would like to check it out, here is the link. Positive Purpose