Music for trailers

When you’re creating a trailer, music is a key ingredient. It dramatically affects how your trailer is perceived – and having the right music is essential to creating the right flow, feel and tone.
Read on for tips and ideas on how to make your project sound great with the right trailer music.
Need trailer music?
And yes, the right trailer music DOES make a difference

If you’re still not convinced that music (and some clever editing) can greatly affect the way your trailer is perceived, be sure to take a look at this alternative trailer for horror movie classic The Shining :)

Hope you found this guide on trailer music useful – and if you need trailer music (original or licensed), sound design or voice-over for your trailer, contact us.

1. Find the right trailer composer

There are many ways to source music for your trailer, from royalty-free music, special trailer music collections to custom compositions for your trailer. I’ll recommend that you bring in a composer, as this allows you to get exactly the trailer music you’re after. It gives you a level of flexibility, tweaks and adjustments you just can’t get the same way with the other approaches.

Check out some of the tracks by award-winning Epic Sound composer Simon Ravn below. He’s created custom film and trailer music for a range of best-selling films – and here you can hear some of his work:

For custom trailer music or licensing, contact Simon here.

2. Pick the music early on

The type of music you select is vital to the tone you’re setting, so find a reference track (or reference trailer) as early as possible and present it to your composer to key him/her in on the style you’re looking for. Perhaps your composer already has a track available you can work from – otherwise, ask the composer to do a draft version so you can get the ball rolling. Use the flow, tempo and timing for your key points in the trailer.

3. Draw inspiration from others

Have a favorite trailer? If so, spend some time studying how the music is being used. Chances are that it plays a major role in the structure and editing. For inspiration, here’s IFC’s collection of the greatest movie trailers of all time.

Here’s a trailer I really enjoyed – I like how it combines music, sound design in a rhythmic way:

4. It’s all about rhythm

A key ingredient in a great trailer is getting the rhythm right in your editing and in the sync between sound and visuals. Cutting out a beat somewhere or doing a sloppy edit because you have to transition to the next scene can really ruin an otherwise great trailer. Remember: You only have a very short time to make an impression, so make sure you polish everything as much as you can.

5. Use sound effects

If you’re going for a dramatic trailer, sound effects can really add a lot. Use these on transitions, taglines, titles and more for dramatic impact. For an interesting read on how sound design is done on the major blockbusters, be sure to read this interview with our friend and colleague, trailer sound designer Bryan Jerden. He’s doing sound design on some of the biggest trailers out there, from Batman to Prometheus and many more.

Here’s a trailer Bryan worked on:

Oh, on a side note: If you’re working on a project showcase, don’t skimp on the sound design. Say you’re showing ten scenes from your portfolio – make sure to get the sound effects down for each of those scenes, as it really adds a lot.

6. Keep it short

People have shockingly short attention spans – so keep your trailer short, sharp and to the point. And if in doubt, cut it out.

7. Let the music guide you

If you find a track that really fits the tone and style of your trailer, you’re getting a lot handed to you. The structure of that track can be your guideline when editing – and if it doesn’t quite fit, tweak the music or your editing so you’re hitting the key transitions and get the flow just right. Give your composer draft edits of your trailer to work from, so that the music can be adjusted to hit the right marks.

8. Use trailer music to create contrasts

If there’s a sudden change in mood or tempo in your trailer, it can be worth using several music tracks to clearly mark the shift or contrast. Just make sure you get the transition right, tempo-wise.

9. Make your trailer look as good as it sounds

Great music is one thing, but that’ll need to go hand in hand with great visuals. If you’re missing some great-looking visuals for your trailer, there’s a solution for that too. Sites such as Videohive have a huge collection of pre-made visuals, transitions and animation snippets that you can customize to fit your trailer. They’re quite affordable, so they could be worth considering if your trailer is in need of some visual polish.

10. That trailer voice

Chances are you’ll include some voice-over in your trailer too – and you’ll want to get this right to complete your trailer soundscape. Check out some American voice over demos here, and British voice over demos here. For voices in other languages, go here.

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