Let's talk about dissonance

Description: I am composing stock music and these songs got rejected at AudioJungle. I asked for feedback at their forum and was told that I have many dissonances in the tracks. Do you also find it too dissonant? What’s the right amount of dissonance created with chords like 7, sus2, sus4 etc and in what type of music it’s common or “forbidden”?

Genre/Style: Stock Music

Creative Vision for the Track: Commercial viability as a background music for videos

Composition Details (Tempo, Key, Main Chords etc): Mid tempo, 4/4 kick, Major key, easy non disturbing melody

Main Instruments used: Drums, Bass, Strings, Piano, Guitar

Thank you for your feedback!

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Hi Adam. I find the music itself is fine and well composed. By itself, the dissonance is fine and it gives the music a nice color. However, from taking what I learned in a class about library music, in particular corporate music, color and artistry is something to be avoided in a sense. My old composition tutor who’s a great composer, had a well written and professionally mastered piece rejected because he put in too music of his own voice.

What I was taught was that for ‘corporate’ and ‘trailer’ music, you basically have to just do what everyone else is doing at the moment, because that’s what studios and directors want. Write what a good day at the office sounds like…maybe upbeat, but do you really want to be at the office anyway :rofl:? But that’s just what I learned–I am by no means a pro at corporate library music. Here’s a link to a funny, but poignant video about the subject.


Maybe try a different library and don’t label it as corporate music? When I listened to your first piece, I thought it would work for a nature show on NatGeo Wild :smile: Good luck!


Matt, thank you for your opinion. I know that video and it’s funny and sad at one time.

I’ve found out that it’s not simple to write simple. There is something inside us that makes us willing to always create something unique and spectacular and it’s hard to stay in such narrow boundaries, which define corporate music.

Anyway thanks for saying that the song is fine by itself, I feel a lot better now :smile:


I’m not specialist in stock music nor music theory, so these are just my assumptions as a listener. I assume that the stock music and especially the corporate background music should be unnoticeable as possible. I don’t know is it only me but usually when I hear dissonant chord or something similar, it catches my attention and as said, the background music shouldn’t get any clear attention.

E.g. Beginning in your second track: Overall the mood is uplifting and what I would expect to hear in corporate music but those synth chords immediately caught my attention. From musical point of view, it’s not bad thing at all but usually when companies need background music the attention should in the video, slide show, etc. to which the music has been bought.

Anyway, I believe that you’re on the right track and you’ll get your pieces to AJ, sooner than later. Just keep on grinding :slight_smile:

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Thank you for your point of view. You are right with that background music should be background, so it should not catch attention. Everytime I start a new track, I feel like “So you want it simple, right? This time I’ll create it awfully simple.” But I’m still not there. Maybe this music is not about what to add, but about forgiving myself not adding it :smiley:

I hear the dissonance they are referring to more so in the first song, the inspirational track. I think what they are trying to mean is the contrasting tones and sounds of your instruments are a bit strong and overcompensating. For example, your initial sound of percussion effect sound, the snaps, the cymbals ,the drums later on and high hats etc in end etc some of these have too strong of an emphasis and are competing with one another. Some changing in production and mixing will remove the dissonance as its not anything about the composition in my opinion. I would focus on what you what to highlight to complement the melody and harmony and use dynamics of other instruments at different times but not throughout the song. As for the second track the corporate one, that is also more about production quality and not composition, the second song to me sound less dissonant and production is cleaner. Definitely can hear these in a library and being used in many ways, they have catchy themes and Im sure they will want to hear more of your work.

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@que10musx Thanks for such a valuable feedback. Can you please name some of such libraries, let I give them a try?

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You’re absolutely right. That’s why I’ve stayed away from the trailer music; it’s not that I dislike the music per say, but I like more creative freedom rather than having to follow a formula. I write for libraries, but try to write for more TV shows/YouTube/video games that don’t have dedicated composers—which of course is very limited, but it let’s me create what I want.

As far as your tracks are concerned, I think they quite nice. Like I said, maybe pitch them for something other than corporate music.

No I don’t. :thinking:

Matt has touched on some great points.

I’ll just elaborate on his already awesome advice. Your Cv piece is great as a stand alone track. Though some of the harmony you’ve chosen doesn’t work together in a traditional sense. This is just down to the nature and style of how you’ve chose to harmonise the track. I can hear that your relying on accidental harmony created from a few ostinatos that are repeating and crossing over and different times.

Sadly, libraries won’t like this approach. :confused: which is sad, because the publishers might actually enjoy it.

Here’s a few guidelines to follow when making library music.

  1. Stick to one scale… you flick between modes in your tracks which is really cool but not needed to write library music.
  2. If you are getting bored while listening then that’s a good thing. Library music is too repetitive. Your music is repetitive but in a distracting way… and I mean that as a compliment. Your ear is drawn to the music because it’s interesting, libraries don’t want this in corporate music.
  3. Start more simple. Keep the track rising to the end, imagine a hair pin opening up as the track goes on, lots and lots of layers!
  4. Make sure you have 3 distinguishable sections.
  5. If you can, leave breaks in between sections, this will help with syn ability.

On another note, I know @Mikael has a great video in writing corporate music.

Here it is: https://youtu.be/mZjQAS3cnQY


I’m writing this really quickly, so please forgive the brevity. Others have already given you some great feedback too.

To add to the conversation rather than repeat what others have said:

Firstly, I agree that the tracks sound great - it’s a real shame they didn’t make it through. That’s the subjectivity of music though I guess!

And secondly, the “dissonance” they’re referring to might not be the chords/nots specifically, but more the voicing of them. For example, in your first track, the movements around the 0:38 mark are all a little “clunky” (not meaning any offence) - the entire chord shifts, giving a big movement. You could voice it a little smoother so that it doesn’t SOUND like as big of a movement. Voice leading, basically. And it’s perhaps voiced a little bit too low, which on lower quality speakers could sound quite muddy/dissonant.

Likewise, they could also be referring to “dissonance” in the mix. Generally the tracks are mixed fine, but the tone of the soft keyboard in the second piece is arguably a little muddy.

Try listening to the pieces on crappy speakers, or on your phone, and really critically ask yourself whether every sound and note can be heard. If not, fix it!

Hope that helps :slight_smile:


Thank you very much guys, I appreciate the feedback a lot. This one is my favourite :slight_smile:

If you are getting bored while listening then that’s a good thing. Library music is too repetitive.

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Thank you Adam. Glad you liked that bit of info. Anytime you want to talk music feel free to message me! :slight_smile:

Hi, Adam! Very nice work on both these pieces!

In my experience each library has it’s own approach or sound it tends to favor. AudioJungle perhaps used the “dissonance” card here for that reason. It’s as much a “flavor of the day” thing rather than a criticism of the music. I do voice overs and I have been rejected for being too formal, too conversational, to “old” (that one hurt :wink: ), etc. I’ve also been hired for being formal, conversational, and “mature” (better than being called “old”).

One thing to consider about “dissonance” is that it draws attention to the music and away from the visuals. I can’t recall if AudioJungle is the same house that did a lot of the stock work for reality / home improvement TV shows a few years ago. If so, then their entire goal was to keep the focus on the “stars” or "go out and sell this product"message.

I had the opportunity to pitch some music to Paramount a few years ago. The woman loved the music. She closed her eyes and was moving to the piece. Her assistant told me in confidence that this person NEVER did that so I definitely made a connection. At the end of the day she didn’t have a project she could use it for at the time. I asked if she could recommend a library she thought this would fit. She shot me an intense look and said “This is far too GOOD for libraries.”

So there’s that aspect, too.

You’ve also gotten some great advice in the other responses here. Heed them.

Keep writing music that is true to you. It sounds great!