How to Choose Music for your Film | Filmstro
You’ve just finished a great short film. The edit is looking great. The grading was amazing. You’re pleased with the actors’ performances and your DOP was worth his weight in gold.
What’s left? The dreaded Soundtrack. The one sure fire way of dragging all your hard work backwards and underwhelming your audience with stock music.
So, here are 4 tips to avoid downgrading your hard work and maintaining some integrity in your film soundtrack:
Tip 1: Juxtaposition
No, this isn’t something cheeky you do in the bedroom. Rather this is the very common technique of using a piece of music that is diametrically opposed to what’s happening on screen to create a memorable and interesting moment. Think beautiful piano and orchestra music playing over slow motion shots of carnage in battle for example (listen to our royalty-free piano music and royalty free orchestra music). Try it. You might surprise yourself.
Tip 2: Underscore
This is for you traditionalists out there. Straight from the school of ‘say what you see’ you’re trying to emulate the look and feel in your scene with the music. Is the character running away? Make the music fast. Is your character in a dark dungeon? Use low instruments that sound ‘dark’. Does your scene call for some tears from the audience? Slap on some bitter-sweet acoustic guitar music with some female vocals.
The key thing here is to avoid underscoring absolutely every scene. Remember to let the dialogue breathe and make space for your set pieces without cluttering everything up with your soundscape.
Tip 3: No music!
Following on from the above, sometimes ‘less’ really is ‘more’. If the foley in the scene is really important, or if this is your denouement (google it), then you may want to let that moment speak for itself in all its glory rather than adding music to heighten the emotion. Psycho added sharp string stabs to a murder scene, but when someone is being chopped to pieces by a chain saw you may not need to add much more to it as that may be brutal and impactful enough!
Tip 4: No foley
Lastly, the flip side of having no music is switching off the foley and on-screen audio. If you really want to enter the inner world of the character then music can often tell that story better than anything else. Turn up the volume and let the film become a music video for those extra special moments of wonder and beauty. Again, as with everything we’ve mentioned so far, you probably don’t want to overuse this particular method or else you might lose the grit that you’ve worked so hard to capture through the performances and foley.