I hope that you have found my previous posts helpful.
This one might just give you the kickstart that you need to get into the trailer mindset.
I want to start off by saying that Trailer music isn’t for the faint hearted. When speaking to people in the industry you are often advised that it could take up to 5 years to get a track accepted, and even longer (possibly never) to get a track placed (in a trailer). So if your thinking that the prospect of landing a big hit will be simple, just tread carefully.
i just want to write a disclaimer here, as i myself haven’t got any tracks placed yet… and I’ve only had two tracks that have been considered by a top Trailer Library. This is partly because I also write other production music and run a recording studio, so i use my spare time in the evenings to learn, and though i could have had syncs with smaller libraries i chose to take the long route around because i didnt want something of mine to be put out there when i wasnt completely satisfied with it. thats just a personal view, and not one that i often take… but in this case that is what i chose to do. So far ive been writing trailer music for a year and a half: here are the things that i wish i was told when i first started… some of these will only apply/or apply more if your background is in working with audio like myself.
MY TOP 5 TIPS
You’re not working with Audio so dont trat it like you are.
What i mean by this is, dont go compressing your stems and EQing them within an inch of their lives. The stems you are creating have already had 99% of the work done to them in that respect. so the only compression or EQ you will need to do on your tracks will be minimal. think subtle high pass or low passes to let other instruments get heard easier. an example of this would be EQing the low end out of your strings/Horns and Synths up to 100/120hz to let the percussion though… this is nearly all that you might need to do. in terms of compression, you may need to do a little bit of limiting on Brass or Drums to help them breathe a bit… but this is only in extreme circumstances… the rest might just be slapping izotopes ozone 9 on the master bus for bringing up the listening level.
Get ready to invest.
Sadly, it’s a very, very expensive game getting into the trailer music business… You’ll need to do your research on what libraries works well in a trailer track and aim to get those. I would steer clear of libraries that include everything in them such as Albion1 or nucleus. these libraries are fantastic for general use but not for trailer music. I fell into this trap when i first started. If you are starting off with a Library like that which is fine, it just means you’ll need to do a little more work with shaping the horns and strings with EQ (yes i know I’m contradicting myself here but its the truth… ill touch on this again in a bit).
More parts isn’t better.
This is something i already knew, but as a composer you need to know how to arrange. the general rule is use no more than 4 parts in the whole track at any one time… and even then that may be too much. try and limit yourself to a top part, a bass part, a drums section and harmony… though the harmony can be swapped out for sound effects if required.
Following on from this, as we all know if we have listened to a trailer track, the main rule is that they get bigger like a crechendo (hairpin). just to reiterate the last point, don’t write new parts… double your parts through the orchestra and hybrid elements… Then get them to sit well together with some subtle EQ cuts (don’t add frequencies when doing this).
Strings aren’t how you’d expect them to be mixed.
This one really threw me when i was sent a string reference track. Generally, strings have nearly no low end and are really tinny in a trailer piece… So considering that they are usually one of the main elements, this seems a bit weird. this is the only time i EQ drastically in a trailer piece. a big high shelf and a low cut sometimes up to 300hz will get you most of the way there. you’ll have other smaller cuts too that you’ve made so your strings sit well with the other instruments but this as a rule is the way that you need to go about it. The reason you get away with this measure of manipulation is because of the sheer amount of strings that you include. you could include up to 3/4 libraries sometimes, and they’ll all have different patches open for longs and spics… Often resulting in around 15 tracks just for strings. but if you pick your strings wisely then you might not have to do as much leg work to get that sound as me. All of this work helps the strings sit well and cut through the rest of the dense orchestra.
Note pad and pen time
Here are a few do’s and don’t:
- Do - map out your piece start to finish before orchestrating.
- Do - create sounds before you start a project.
- Do - ask for help when you’re unsure, but have a go anyway.
- Do - Bounce out any sounds that youve made that you might want to use again (risers/doners/pitch bends etc)
Don’t - start a project without doing any research about the genre, sub genre, or layout.
Don’t - use sounds you don’t own. You’ll be caught out. i know a fe people who have been burnt badly by this.
Well, there you have it folks. I wish I had known this when i had just been starting out. I hope that it helps you all in your trailer making adventures… I know this is pretty heavy stuff, It’s a lot… and it can be scary to start at first but if I can attempt it and make progress, then absolutely anyone can!