MUSIC FOR SHORT FILMS

Scott Thompson

Table of Contents

USING MUSIC IN SHORT FILMS 

Your goal as a filmmaker is to pull the audience into your imagined world. 

The use of music , sounds , audio stems and sound effects can support your storyline and help make your film feel more realistic.

Some feel it is just as important to your story as the visuals. 

And when it’s done right …..your film will come alive.

This art form is better known as Sound Design.

In the past it was very difficult to get quality music for short films…. There was a lack of good resources and licensing for radio hits was far too expensive for most indie filmmakers.

Most creators would be forced to use royalty free music.

Problem is …..royalty music usually sucks .

This was a challenge for any filmmaker to deal with.

Luckily today there are great resources for filmmakers to get amazing music and SFX for their projects without breaking the bank.

In this article we will go over some common ways to use music in short films, how to license other peoples music,  and when you should compose your own.

COMMON USES OF MUSIC IN FILM 

There are sections in a short film where music is more commonly used . 

  • The Main Title 
  • Music for backgrounds ( behind dialogue , or in background of scene) 
  • Climatic Music. (music that builds to a climax)

MAIN TITLE MUSIC : 

Most all films have titles. It’s a common format to follow.

Music at the beginning really sets the mood for your film.  You want to engage your audience and capture their attention. 

WHAT IS THE BEST TYPE OF MUSIC FOR TITLES?

Although this question is subjective, there are common types of music placed in the title area.

Typically music with drums and vocals are placed in the title because there is usually no dialogue in the title section.  

TEMPO AND GENRE

Picking the right tempo and genre are both important factors to consider when picking the best music for your titles. If your movie takes place in the future use some futuristic techno , If you’re shooting an old western, find a track that fits that era in time.

Get creative and make sure all your music choices are cohesive with your visuals.

BACKGROUND MUSIC : 

There are many types of music that are great to use in the background of a scene. These are usually sounds behind dialogue or mixed into the scene very low in volume.

For ambient and other background sounds, you should aim to match the emotion of the scene.

Ever watch a horror movie with the sound off? 

It’s not scary. 

The creepy background sounds can do a great job of enhancing your scene. 

CLIMATiC MUSIC :

In scenes that are building up in emotion , try music that continually builds to a high point or climax. It can help build up the drama in your scene.

Now that we’ve have looked at different type of music for different scenes Lets explore where to get music for your film.

MUSIC LICENSING 101 : using other peoples music

Benefits to Music Licensing 

  • Saves time
  • Large selection of artists in all genres of music
  • Low cost compared to in the past

MUSIC LICENSING 101

The basic concept of Music Licensing is getting permission to use someone else’s property in your short film. There are many types of Licensing agreements for different levels of distribution. 

For a detailed article on music licensing companies read my full article here

In this article i will stick to the basics.

Today there are many great services that license music and SFX for creators at a low cost.

FOR A DETAILED ARTICLE ON MUSIC LICENSING BE SURE TO READ OUR FULL ARTICLE LINK BELOW

TOP 3 PAID MUSIC LICENSING SERVICES FOR SHORT FILMS

  • Epidemic Sound 

One of my favorite places to get music and SFX for short films is Epidemic Sound . One feature that really separates the service from the others is the ability to download music with stems.

Stems are separate layers of the Music by themselves . For example Drum Track , Baseline , guitar track , ect. 

Cick here ot get account access

  • Artlist

Another popular paid service is Artlist. Artlist has a ton of great music in a wide range of styles . One feature I love about Artlist is the visual waveform view of a song. As a filmmaker this helps us determine how climactic the track is before we even listen to it. You can see how the song builds by looking at the waveform.

Artlist also offers a large selection of stock video to use for your short film

Click here to get account access

  • Motion Array

Motion Array is a simple service that is great for SFX and music for your short film. You have unlimited downloads with the monthly service at 29 dollars.

Motion Array also offers plugins and effects for Final Cut , After Effects , and Davinci Resolve.

WHEN YOU SHOULD COMPOSE YOUR OWN MUSIC FOR A FILM

Creating custom music for your short film can add a unique touch to your film. You don’t need to be Trent Reznor to create a great score. All you need is a vision and some computer software.

Remember JAWS?  A great example of great custom music composition was whenever the shark was getting close. 

In the film you didn’t even have to see the shark, the music created the illusion. 

Which was genius.

COMPOSE MUSIC YOURSELF:

If you want to customize your music for your short film there are plenty of free tools available online. The benefit to scoring a film yourself it you can really customize your feel and vibeo. Below i made a list of popular recording software to create custom music for your film. 

  • GARAGEBAND
  • T7DAW
  • STUDIO ONE PROME
  • AUDACITY

 HIRE A COMPOSER : 

There are tons of creative people online who can help with your project. Many up and coming creatives will trade their work for portfolio plugs. Spend a few hours searching the internet and you may find someone who can collaborate with your team. Below I liked a few great resources to find collaborators.

FIND PRIVATE 

  • SOUNDCLOUD : 

PAID MUSIC COLLABORATION SERVICES

  • MARMOSET : MUSIC LICENSING COMPANY WITH ITS OWN CREATIVE TEAM & STUDIOS / 
  • JINGLE PUNKS : MUSIC LICENSING COMPANY WITH ITS OWN CREATIVE TEAM & STUDIOS

CONCLUSION 

Music and Sound Effects are a critical element of a short film. By carefully selecting music for each section you can craft a deep sense of realism into your movie.

Now go create!