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How to Pick the Perfect Music for Your Video Projects

Danny Greer

Sound shouldn’t be overlooked! Discover how to choose the best music for your video projects.

Once you’ve got your video in the can and you’re digging into the edit, one of the first questions to arise is “What music am I going to use in this project?” From my years of experience as a video editor, I know that finding the right music for your video project can often be a challenging process – especially when a client’s involved! Follow these tips to find the perfect music for your video projects.

Define The Music Early

If you’re reading this, it’s my hope that you’re seeking out music for your project before you finalize an edit! You’ll be one step ahead if you determine your music choices early on in the production process. Planning ahead will allow you to:

  • Get your client’s approval on music early on. The last thing you want is to finalize an edit and have a client come back and ask for a music change.
  • Utilize the music in your editing pace. Cutting to the music to drive energy and pace while cutting against can create tension. Make thoughtful choices about how you use music to work with your video edit.
  • Stay within budget. Nobody likes production surprises… especially when it comes to money. Licensing music early could curtail the chances of a budget issue later.

Some editors prefer to create a VERY rough cut of an edit and try different music tracks underneath to see which might work best. Once a track is decided upon, they can clean up the edit to match the music. It’s a useful approach, but must be done early on in the post-production process.

Set the Tone

This is an easy one: The tone of your video will typically dictate the style/mood of the music track(s) that make the cut. Unless you’re intentionally trying to use music to play against the action (like a classical track under a fight scene), it’s best to find a track that enhances the feeling of your scene or film/video. Consider your target viewer… what’s their age and background? Whereas a corporate executive may not identify with hard rock or hip-hop, this may be a perfect style choice for a younger audience.

Royalty free music libraries (like PremiumBeat) give you the option to search by mood or genre, making it easy to find tracks that evoke a certain emotional response.

Music for Video

Music Throughout or Bookends?

Depending on the type of video project, you may find that music simply isn’t needed throughout. Montages and demo reels typically dicate end to end music, but a corporate video or film may actually benefit from only sporatic music or a bookended approach. In many cases, music can actually be more powerful when it is used intermittently… it can better accentuate a point or climax in the video. If music is forced throughout, the viewer may get fatigued. Allow for some breathing room and don’t forget to let the environmental and background sound help shape the audio of your project.

If you’re going with a bookended approach, it may be a good idea to pick one music track (or theme) to open and close the video – especially on shorter video projects.

Vocals or No Vocals?

Films and montages use tracks with vocals… and in most cases it may be best left at that. Vocals under dialogue or an interview can be distracting and off-putting. If you choose a vocal track for your project, you have another matter to consider: Do the words support what’s happening in the scene/video? Good non-vocal tracks can convey the same emotions without words and in most cases are a safer bet.

Avoid the Duration Traps

Don’t be tied to the duration of your music! Instead, cut it up to work best with your video. The typical cadence of a commercial song (verse, chorus, bridge) may not flow with your edit. Instead, loop parts of the track in your editing app, bringing in a chorus or emotional climax at just the right time. PremiumBeat offers loop sets for each royalty free track in the library. Cut them together will the full track version to tailor the audio to your visuals.

Need assistance in customizing track lengths for your project? See our previous blog posts on timing music for your video edits or editing music for film (without it becoming a music video).

Real Instruments? YES!

Beware of music that uses MIDI or digitzed instruments and effects. These tracks may sound corny and cheap. Instead, ensure that the tracks you’re using feature real, organic instrumentation. To the trained ear (and even the untrained!) a highly processed digital keyboard often doesn’t hold a candle to the organic sound of a baby grand piano.

Addtionally, the right instrumentation can contribute to the message of your video. As an example, regional music can be effective in creating the feeling of a certain locale. For instance, traditional Asian or African music may be well-suited if you’re profiling such a location in your project.

Music for Video - Keyboard

Music Library vs Original Composer

Depending on the scope your project, you may be considering either using tracks from a royalty free music library or hiring an original composer to score your film/video. Budget is the biggest consideration here – original composition doesn’t come cheap. Additionally, having a composer score your project is a time and labor intensive process.

Royalty free music provides a low-cost, high-quality alternative. PremiumBeat provides access to thousands of curated tracks, created by a team of international composers. Because these royalty free music tracks are exclusive to PremiumBeat, you won’t be flagged on YouTube or Vimeo for copyright violation.

Whatever you do, avoid using copyright or commercial tracks in your video projects. Despite your client’s insistence, using a Coldplay track in your video is cost-prohibitive to license and can put you in legal hot water!

As a last point, pick your music with intention and make it an important part of the process. The perfect track has the ability to drive your editing decisions, engage your viewer and enhance all the feelings of your video project. Here are a few curated playlists of PremiumBeat royalty free music. Maybe one of these lists contains the perfect track for your next project!

What’s your process when finding music for your video projects? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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