Editing 101: 6 Tips for Choosing What Music to Use When Editing Videos


500 hours of video content get uploaded to YouTube every minute. Add that number to the amount of video being produced for other social platforms, television, and theater, and you begin to see the incredible scope of video production.

Whether you’re a professional producer or an amateur, you probably understand the importance of post-production when it comes to crafting memorable projects. From the color grade that gets added to a scene to the music variety that’s leveraged, how your editor chooses to piece together work can have a huge impact on your final product.

In this post, we look specifically at music and how by leveraging helpful tips, you can find the perfect tracks to support every memorable scene in your project.

1Don’t Overwhelm Your Scene

As you pour over your music variety and genre options, a basic rule to keep in mind when selecting pieces is a track’s power. We’ve seen many producers get so attached to powerful tracks that they throw them over scenes despite the fact the music overpowers the visual content.

Unless you’re making a conscious creative decision that music should be the focal point of a moment, always go for tracks that support your on-screen content rather than overwhelm it.

When in doubt, less is more.

2Understand Consumer Associations

The same way that colors carry certain meanings with consumers, so do certain on-screen situations.

For example, a scene about technology might best be supported by cerebral music. Scenes about weapons might benefit from a track that feels powerful and driving.

If you’re not sure what sound associations your audience has, conduct focus groups if doing so is within your budget to see how people form connections with certain musical pieces. That information can then be used to make informed genre choices.

3Contrasting Tracks Make Statements

Not every music variety choice you make needs to be conventional. There are several classic scenes in cinema where directors chose to use a contrasting song to accompany a scene to entice a particular reaction.

For example, in the movie Reservoir Dogs, there’s a torture scene that is accompanied by the upbeat track, “Stuck in the Middle With You”.

If you use this contrast trick, do so sparingly. That way, you won’t reduce its impact.

4The Importance of Motifs

The music you use in your videos shouldn’t feel disjointed from one track to the next. Audiences should subconsciously discern a motif through the sounds you’re leveraging- which should then create an overarching experience for them.

If you’re not sure what that means, watch movies with acclimated musical scores. “The Social Network”, for example, features a cerebral, technological score that becomes the quiet foundation of the film. 2019’s “Joker” also showcases the motif concept beautifully.

Both films received Academy Awards for their musical work.

5Budget Matters

As you may have guessed, good music is (generally) not free. After all, somebody needs to go through the trouble of producing it and those people need to eat.

There are a few ways you can go when sourcing music depending on the budget you have. Those ways include:

Hiring a Professional

For custom, high-quality music, you can hire a composer to create your work. Depending on the caliber of your composer, costs can go as high as tens of thousands of dollars depending on how much music you’d like them to produce.

Pulling composers from college to work on your film will come at a lower cost and may give you access to extraordinary work.

Paying for Royalty-Free Tracks

Several online directories have pre-baked, royalty free music you can use in your videos. This music is bought one time and can be used for life without any further compensation to the composer (usually).

It’s important that the licenses you buy that enable you to use purchased work be retained indefinitely in case a dispute comes up later.

Scouring Free Libraries

There are royalty free music libraries that are free to pull music from. Some of the songs found in these libraries are extraordinarily good.

YouTube offers free music tracks you can access through its editor. Sites like Incompetech also offer free songs.

Pay careful attention to the licenses offered on free songs as some may require attribution or may not be used for commercial purposes.

6Not Every Scene Needs Music

A tip that’s so often forgotten yet so important is that not every scene in your video needs music. Remember, music should help punctuate scenes.

If every scene you have is punctuated the same way, audiences won’t be able to experience the highs and lows they look for in good video content.

Use good music sparingly and believe us when we say that your project will fair much better than if you try to do too much.

Leveraging the Correct Music Variety the Right Way Will Have a Positive Impact

We can’t tell you how important it is to pay attention to the music variety you use in your video projects and how that music is leveraged. Overlaying music correctly in your video can give it that last 10% of polish it needs to achieve its intended end. Overlaying music incorrectly can derail your work.

If you’re still not sure where to start with using music in your films, educate yourself by watching professional videos and noting their editor’s relationship with music. Through observation, you’ll increase your music competency and your project’s potency.

We invite you to read more of the content on our blog for additional tips on production, technology, lifestyle, and more!


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