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  • Writer's pictureDenis Ankrah

How to choose music for your video project

The right background music can make your videos more engaging and impactful. It can stir emotions, create meaning, and lay rest in memory banks for days and days. Do you ever get a catchy song that keeps replaying in your head? This can be very influential.

Whether it’s helping sad scenes bring lumps to throats or supporting suspenseful clips that get blood pumping — music is a valuable medium for filmmakers. There’s evidence it can even influence buying behaviour.

But there's a flip side: the wrong music can ruin great content.

At the very least, it can create disconnection and distract from your message. And worst case It can cause your video viewers to stop watching.

So the following are some variables we consider when choosing the right music for our video projects...

1. Consider your audience

As a filmmaker, everything boils down to the audience. This includes your choice of background music.

So when looking for the right track, consider your audience. Things such as age and culture should influence the musical direction of your video. If your ideal viewer is a baby boomer, you might not want to use a techno track.

Though you may find the most success if you stick to genres that mirror your audience in some way, don’t be afraid to test stereotypes. You may be surprised by what resonates with viewers.

2. Determine the emotion you want to evoke

Background music is arguably the most effective tool you have when it comes to injecting your videos with all the feels. And for filmmakers, getting viewers to feel something is important because emotions influence decisions. It’s only after we make decisions that we rationalize them with logic.

Pace is also a factor when it comes to conveying emotion.

Want to slow a scene down? Look for tracks with a lower number of beats per minute (BPM). Or, if you’re trying to communicate energy, seek out something faster, maybe in the 140–200 BPM range.

3. Avoid songs with vocals

A lot of music for content creators are free of lyrics and typically free of vocals as well. This is intentional.

There are many websites that provide of royalty free music intended for people who make online video content, commercials, documentaries, etc.. which often have dialog or voiceovers while music plays in the background. This is all part of the creative process.

Background music for a video is usually best when it’s barely noticed (if it’s noticed at all).

That means you’ll want a relatively consistent melody and rhythm — something that gives your video personality without overpowering the message.

When you use a song with vocals, the music competes with the voice talent, making it harder for viewers to comprehend what they’re watching. Also keep in mind that voice-like instruments, such as trumpet, lead guitar, and piano, may have the same effect.

Another reason to avoid songs with vocals is that when you introduce lyrics into the mix, things get a lot more complicated from a continuity standpoint (e.g., do the lyrics fit the story you’re telling?).

If you must use music with vocals, try to edit the video so that the song vocals and the dialog aren’t heard at the same time. One way to do this is to bookend a shot with music. That means you place a short measure of music in a scene’s beginning and/or end.

These are the things we consider when choosing music for our video projects. I hope this helps you on you video creating journey!

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