Bending Music | A Sound Education from Dynamix

Bending Music

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Bending Music

Most productions that go through our studios at Dynamix have some kind of music. It can be a jingle, custom, or library ("needledrop") music. A jingle can be great for branding your client over the long term. But, it's usually the most expensive item in your production budget, sometimes the only item. If you're producing a film, custom music can give cohesiveness to the soundtrack, but can also be expensive - sometimes as much as 15% of your total budget. That's why many projects that have a quick turnaround or tight budget lean towards using library music.

But, library music is usually thought of as not only the cheap choice, but the bottom-of-the-barrel, second-rate, low-grade, inferior, shoddy, chintzy, el cheapo, junky, tacky, cheesy, ticky-tacky, two-bit, or dime-store choice.

Hold on, this isn't your father's library music. Today's library music is heard on national television ads and programs, documentaries, and even in major motion pictures. When a piece of music is just right, it doesn't matter if it's custom or not. In fact, most library music composers regularly write for film and TV, so they know exactly what moods need to be created. Alternate versions with different tempos, instrumentation, phrasing, etc. are commonplace. And the quality of the recordings and musicianship are phenomenal.

What about timing? You don't have to always take it like it is. We regulary edit the music into the project by slicing, cutting, moving parts, changing tempos, changing keys, adding instruments, adding reverb, and other techniques that almost make the music "custom" when we get done with it. We've even been complimented by one of our major music libraries for changing a music cut around so much that it sounded like another piece. In other words, we try to "bend" the music into a project, sometimes against its will.

So next time, think about using a "custom" library music cut in your next production. We feature DeWolfe Music Library, the oldest production music library on the planet, as well as dozens of other libraries.

Dynamix Tech Notes

Today's tools for editing music have come a long way since digital audio workstations came onto the scene twenty years ago. Although synthesizers and samplers have been around longer, most music is still recorded with microphones. Once recorded, it's difficult to significantly alter without losing "believability." But the new generation of digital tools is breaking down that barrier. For example, the tempo and rhythm of real drum tracks can be changed dramatically without sounding fake. Whole orchestras can be retuned. And, T-Pain aside, pitch correction is undetectable.

When we edit whole music tracks, like library music, we often stretch or squeeze portions so that musical events happen at a particular time. If we're blending two cuts of music, the pitch-shift tool gets both pieces into the same or complimentary keys. Don't like the end? Make one with a percussive hit, natural break, or a slice from another piece of music. Want another beginning? Create one with a MIDI keyboard and synthesis program, or put the end on the beginning and reverse it.

Want your music to come from inside a mailbox? Recent digital advances allow us to record a sample sound inside a mailbox and apply the acoustic and reverberation characteristics to the music clip. Makes you wonder how different "Return to Sender" would have sounded had Elvis had digital.

Neil Kesterson
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