The Documentary Filmmaker’s Guide to Music
As a documentary filmmaker, you might not spend much time thinking about the role that music plays in a film. You’re probably more focused on the filming and editing process, but there are many reasons why you should think about the music you want to use as well. Besides music helping viewers remember a video, it’s integral to driving emotion, moving along the narrative, and allowing your audience to sympathize with the story.
So when choosing or producing a piece of music for your film, it’s important that you get it right. Here are the most important factors to consider when scoring your documentary:
1. Remember your message.
First things first, ask yourself why and where you want to use a specific piece of music in your film and how it will make your audience feel or react. For example, if you are filming a biography, try to use music that resonates with your subject’s personality. Or if you are producing a “how-to” video, use music that’s dynamic and will make your audience excited to engage with the subject. The main thing you should always keep in mind is the reaction you want from your audience and the message the music piece conveys.
Check out the video below as an example of how music works hand-in-hand with the narrative of the story:
2. Know your niche.
When looking for the right music piece for your video, you should use music that your target audience might listen to regularly.
For example, if you’re producing a video about an athlete and her workout routine, your target audience would most likely be people who are into fitness. Researching the type of music people listen to at the gym, or when they work out, would be a good way to know what kind of music you may want to use in your film.
3. Tell a story through music.
Imagine your music piece as the story of the video you’re working on. Don’t rely on the visuals right away to spoon feed your audience. A standard narrative has a beginning, middle, and end, and a piece of music can follow that linear storytelling track as well. Let music guide your documentary’s story line, from quiet and heartfelt interviews to climatic moments of action.
4. Let other music inspire you.
If you have a specific song in mind that you think might work for the video you’re producing, make a list of similar songs to it. Bedtracks is a great place to start with building a list. Simply search for a song on YouTube, copy the link, and paste it into the search engine of the website. It will create a list of royalty free songs that are similar to what you searched, giving you more options for your film.
5. Ask a composer for help.
If choosing music for a documentary isn’t your strongest skill, you could consider hiring a composer. You might also ask your network or circle of filmmaking friends for assistance or feedback. They might be able to help you themselves or refer you to other creatives who have experience in music composition or producing.
How else do you approach music with your documentary films? Tell us in the comments below!
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By Jad-Evangelo Nasser, Storyhunter Writer