Trailer Music - Top 5 things I had to learn the hard way

Hey all,

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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. Double trouble.
    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).

  5. 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.


  1. 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!

Happy composing!!!


Thank you Geoffrey,
these tips are very helpful, although i just compose for hobby.

Best Regards,

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That’s great Michael, sometimes a hobby can turn into something that you can make money from further down the line though. Just like anything we try, it’s good to start it with integrity. So many some of these tips might get you started on your trailer adventure on the right foot.

Personally I also compose for a job is, but I’m honoured to say that my hobby and biggest passion is also one of my jobs. Anything is possible with the right motivation.

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i always say, never stop believing!

You always have to fight for your dreams and motivate yourself.

There is no gift in your life, its hard work every day.

We all need to keep that in mind.

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Some great points! I would also add

  • watch as many tutorials online to learn. Alex Moukala has loads and you’'ll learnt shed tons
  • The structure of trailer music is very unique and you have to really understand it and how i differs to make any headway i.e sync points
  • having unique sounds in your track is a big bonus and helps you stand out

One tip I got from a trailer house i recently submitted was be careful doing big classic orchestra as the big trailer houses can afford to hire a live orchestra for these and will simply sound better than what you can mock up.Hybrid sound design and uplifting stuff is genres he recommending trying to stand out in.

Some of the trailer houses have over 200 composers on their books with 100 being active so you have to find a way to stand out. Which sadly is easier said than done as it’s difficult to do and keep structure and what works etc.

Just my two pence :slight_smile: Hope it helps! Im on the same journey trying to get tracks placed. Had my first track picked up by a big trailer music channel on youtube last night so hard work does get you somewhere eventually .

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Definitely agree with all these. Great points Ben!

Alex’s videos were a life saver when I first started, especially for getting the percussion to sit how it should.

You raise a lot of points that I would have raised if I was talking generally which is great. I tied them all up by saying “go study the genre” :joy: but my main goal with this post was to talk about things that you won’t find online… things that generally you have to find out on your own. I hope I did that… obviously there so many more than what I’ve stated above, but this hopefully will help people starting off.

The point you raised about focusing on hubris and uplifting is a really good one. Similar to what I’m hearing, though I think this differs when you get to the in house composer level. As soon as you get given customs they start to ask you to write for those classical genre styles if your able. Though, even when you get to that level you really need to be on you A game with string arrangement and counterpoint for them to even consider your piece.

In regards to you making signature sounds that stand out, are you recording your own samples? This is something I highly recommend. I also recommend you make your own kontakt libraries that you can use in your work… this is an extremely good way of manipulating and playing in pre made samples.

That’s really awesome news! Happy for you man, I’m sure that it’s the first of many!! Would love to hear your work.

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Yeh the tough part is certainly getting into trailer houses in the first place!

I’d love to make my own sounds but don’t really know how if I’m honest. Might take evenants course on it to learn more. Haven’t seen any videos on youtube that really explain that stuff but maybe I’m missing them.

Here’s the track their gonna feature :slight_smile: actually not my fav of my tracks i’ve put up but there ya go haha.

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Really like it man! Has a great vibe and I like that you’ve gone for the slow burn, works really well. Could have got a lot bigger but I enjoyed it, when I say that it wasn’t small at all.

Yeah it’s a minefield learning sound design. If you inbox me I’ll share some tips. Too much to post here, but I’m happy to share tips privately to get you started. Plus I’ll show you a track I’m working on at the moment :smiley: it’s being put to a label so I can’t share publicly.