Finding the right music for your show isn’t easy. Check out examples from these pros for inspiration.
The soundtrack is often one of those subtle things that can make a huge difference in a movie or even a YouTube video or podcast. Not only can it fill in the silences – or weaponize them – but it can also manipulate emotions and set the tone. Music adds to the ambiance, brings scenes together, and creates focus. When a creator successfully wields the power of sound, then it can really bring a project up a notch and give it that extra boost it needs.
It’s often best to keep subtlety in mind. Remember that the central elements of your project are you and your message, everything else is there to support and build upon that.
The readiest example of the interplay of music and production is in the movie the King’s Speech. Of course, none of your viewers or listeners are expecting such a level of music, but this clip is the standard to give the idea of the power that music has. The speech alone is perhaps not even that great, but when paired with that powerful soundtrack, it becomes something legendary and makes you wonder why Churchill is considered the great speech maker and not King George VI.
The really important thing to note in this clip is what the music is doing. The King here starts nervous and unsure of himself, given his speech impediment. The music reflects that: very soft, very delicate. But as he goes along, he builds his confidence, and the music does the same, until at the end both King George and the soundtrack is loud, powerful, and vibrant. Fantastic, isn’t it? It’s no wonder that this is the go-to example for anyone who wants to show the relation between dialogue and soundtrack.
There are several avenues to finding music. YouTube has its own outlet of music that’s free to use on their platform. And many services are partnered with music platforms that have “podsafe” music, or royalty free music that you don’t have to worry about the rights over. Since a lot of people have ready, easy, and free access to the music, it means that it’s often overused. Another problem is that it’s not customizable or adaptive.
Create Music is perhaps the best source of music. Where we do have our own curated list of stock music, our powerful app ensures that it’s always customized and adapted to your project. Easily and quickly. Just take a search on what genre or mood you need and choose from our extensive list.
Styles of music
The style of music is very important for a podcast or any other project. There are some genres that are always associated with a certain style of music. For example, a crime series might have some jazz with a very solid walking bass, bringing us back to the days of Dragnet or Tom Waits monologues, or they’ll have a serious Law & Order 80s type vibe.
Let’s take a look at some shows of various genres and see what they use. We’ll first look at YouTubers, and then podcasters.
Many people might think of “ethnic music” as only including folk sounds, but modern rock is basically everywhere too. Cari Cakes uses a modern Japanese song to introduce her trip to Tokyo.
Be aware though that just because you’re using music from another country doesn’t mean that you’re safe with copyright, as copyright is often respected internationally. Make sure you use something that you’re sure is cleared! Or for some great sounds from around the world, check out our World Experience album.
Travel vlogger Mark Harrison uses a mix of “found sounds” and ambient music like you’d find on our Dreams Atmosphere album. “Found sounds” are just random sounds that you find while walking around, or in Harrison’s case, which he probably recorded during his travel. You can also find very similar sounds searching under the “atmosphere” tag on our FX search area.
Ambient music, or some other more general style, is also a good choice for travel shows. If you aren’t too familiar with the folk sounds of that country and don’t want to get it mixed up, then it’s a safe bet to just not try and instead use your own themes. You don’t want to be that person who puts a Chinese-style song for an episode on Japan do you? So use ethnic music with care.
Shopping vlogger Lauren Snyder often uses a toned down version of a modern, upbeat dance track to kick off her sprees. Similar music you can find on our Endless Summer album and click on “Select Mix” and then choose “dialogue”. The album is perfect for shopping videos, as well as beach and travel.
Chloe isn’t known for having much music in her videos, but when she does, she typically has something modern and lounge sounding. Our weekendvibes album would be a perfect match for those trying to emulate her style or do the beauty genre.
Vlogs of History
Darius Cosden, in his docuseries Vlogs of History, typically opens with a sound effects related to the episode (here the ticking of a geiger counter, you can find similar sounds using our SFX search). Then the sound switches to his main theme, which is a kind of mysterious ambient track, like you might find on our Ambient Flux album.
Meals Ready to Eat
Certainly one of the more oddly addictive genres that have crept up in the past few years is the genre all about watching people eat MREs, the meals that soldiers, hikers, hunters, and astronauts know all too well. Former US Army soldier Christopher Chaos guides us through his favorite dried bits on his show, and introduces the clips with some heavy metal, like you’d hear on our Got the Guts album.
99 Percent Invisible
99 Percent Invisible is a great example of a show with brilliantly curated music. The show focuses on “invisible things” that affect society or people, though it tends to focus on architecture and technology. They use different songs for different episodes, often trying to fit the theme. Generally they fall on the modern minimal at a coffee house listening to a guy on a standup bass feel – a great example is on their episode “Instant Gramification”. This kind of music you can find on our Eclectic Lounge album, but with a slight edit. Go into the mix, turn down all the instruments but bass, and voila, a really cool bass line. Maybe add some percussion just to spice it up.
2 Black Girls, 1 Rose
It’s exactly what the title 2 Black Girls, 1 Rose says it is, 2 Black girls chatting about modern affairs over a glass of wine. It starts off with a nice “cultured” piece of classical music to set a more dignified tone, quickly cut by a siren leading into trap, to show the modern and urban side of the chatting. Want to try a similar sound? Check out our Parlour Games album – which would also work great for history podcasts – and use the trim feature to cut it somewhere in the middle. Then bring in a siren or other FX from the “search FX” window. And then finally, bring in some modern urban beats from our Nu Skool album.
The Bear Brook podcast goes over a cold case of a murder in the 80s, where they bring in all sorts of witnesses and people involved for interviews and to try to find out what happened. For their intro, they typically have a minimalist classical piece playing, like something you might find on our Solo Simplicity album.
Don’t over do it
Though music adds much needed tones and depth to your production, it’s necessary to not overdo it. A podcast or YouTube docuseries isn’t about the music, it’s about the dialogue. It’s good to have strong intro music and outro music to set the tone, then have some background music in various places throughout, sounds or music for transitions, and so on. But don’t let the music drag on too long or overpower the dialogue.
There are some moments when you want the music to be in the foreground, and other times when it needs to be in the background (when it should be, as the industry calls it, “underscore”). Be keenly aware of this, and tune back in next week to read about how to handle each of the situations. Make sure to subscribe to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.