The trailer music industry is a small but daunting industry. Nonetheless, if you give it your best when producing music for trailers, and you do it successfully, the reward can be very significant. Our friends at evenant.com did the groundwork for all of us by collecting useful (and efficient) tips you will find below.
October 1st, 2018
Let us start by saying, that the author of this article writes: “as a disclaimer, I am focusing on trailer music that gets placed in trailers, resulting in big sums of cash for the composer. You can compose trailer music for the fun of it without any intention of getting licenses, and that’s perfectly fine, but this will be for the composers who want to make a living off it.”
Thus, without further ado, here are some tips to help you compose better trailer music and get your tracks placed in Hollywood trailers:
Tip #1. How to get licensed in the trailer music industry
It goes like this:
- Figure out what’s trending, and what genre and style you like.
- Search up cool tracks on YouTube and take the trailer cue structure that works 95% of the time.
- Start composing simple but powerful parts, while learning to produce appropriately.
- Get feedback from professionals.
- Improve the track to an agreeable and pleasant state, not to perfection – there are many other fishes to fry
- Finish it, and repeat the process with the next track.
Tip #2. In trailer music, quantity matters
If you think you’re going to make money and live the platinum trailer music composer’s life by making one or two hit tracks and releasing them with a big music publisher, you’re mistaken.
What you want to focus on is quantity with high quality, do not obsess about having a ‘perfect’ track. Instead, make a good enough track that meets the high Hollywood standards, and if the supervisor is happy with it, you move on to the next one.
Your goal is to make a lot of great, qualitative, licensable tracks so that you keep on increasing your chances of succeeding in locking in placements. The more, the merrier. If you end up spending thrice as much time on one track to make it “absolutely perfect,” instead of making three great tracks that might easily place in trailers, you are reducing your chances.
It’s important to state here that aspiring to make fantastic music is encouraged, and will actually increase your licensing chances, but fervently obsessing over one track won’t in the long run.
Tip #3. Use powerful source sounds
Trailer music is music on steroids. Yes, you should use clean and clear-cutting sounds, but always keep this in mind: trailer music is supposed to be very exciting, powerful and energetic.
Thus, when selecting your sounds, you should always remember to use the most powerful of the sounds you have. Start with a strong source sound to make your job a lot easier! – this goes for all of the elements in your track; brass, hits, percussion, strings, synths, and so on.
If you start building the majority of your music on quieter, less powerful sounds, it’s going to be very hard to get it to a level of intense excitement.
Tip #4. Start with chord progressions, not melodies
Having a solid structure ready for your new trailer music track will help you tremendously in reaching a finished cue quickly. And we all know speed is essential in this industry.
While having a melody in mind is good, and might be more inspiring and catchy than just chord progressions and harmony, chords are much more deciding to the mood and vibe of your track. Ultimately, it’s the chords and harmony that decide how your track feels – the melodies are fundamental, but not as vital.
When you start with the structure of your track, putting down chords, placing breaks, transitions, and risers down, all while having ideas for melody, will help you compose the track quicker and eventually finishing it in less time.
Tip #5. When out of ideas – simply listen
Whenever I feel I’m out of ideas on what to write, or something’s not really clicking, I always take a step back and listen to some great trailer music cues.
Doing this will help release the strain of having to come up with good ideas with no real inspiration. When you listen to new (or old) trailer music, you will find inspiration. Try this and see if it works for you!