How to Pick Good Background Music for a Video

December 6, 2021


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Article by Colette Nichol, Solo Filmmaker and Story Strategist

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Let’s talk about how to pick good background music for a video.

But first, I want to dig into the why.

Do you need background music for your videos? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Let’s go deeper.

Good Background Music for a Video
When you’ve got great music on, everything around you changes and feels elevated. The same goes with your films and videos!

Have you ever watched a horror movie with the sound off?

If you’re anything like me (i.e. a gigantic chicken) then you might have picked up the trick of turning OFF the sound when a movie gets too scary.

If you’re completely unmoved by horror films or just smart enough to not watch them, then you might not be as aware of the vast effect sound has on human beings.

Sound is something that people rarely think about thoroughly when planning micro film or video, but it’s a vital piece of the puzzle.

Without the right music, your micro film will look cheap. If you make a video with no music at all might be fine. But the wrong music can really send things off track.

Okay, imagine a James Bond movie.

Does music really matter?
Music makes a difference in subtle ways too.

You know the sexy intro to all the films where there’s an animation with all sorts of female silhouettes and the figure of Bond running hither and thither. Are you with me? Can you hear the music?

There’s usually some kind of siren song that plays along with those sexy animated titles. And it sets the whole tone for the movie. As an audience we’re being told, “Hold onto your oversized colas, this movie is about to get heated!”

Now imagine that same Bond intro with your 5-year old’s electric piano playing attempts or your brother’s amateur bongo drumming overtop…

Not so heated anymore, right? That’s an exaggerated example. But music makes a difference in subtle ways too.

The right music will keep the pace of your video going and keep the audience engaged.  

Music can smooth out any potentially rough transitions that would make the audience jerk and then tune out. It can emphasize an idea or likewise tone down something a bit over the top. It can create comedy in what was an excessively serious piece.

To review, music can do the following:

  • smooth out transitions
  • emphasize an idea
  • create comedy or drama
  • create a feeling of horror
  • amplify a feeling that’s already there
  • change the feeling completely
  • move the piece foward

But choosing the right music can be tough. Especially since unless you want a lawsuit on your butt, you shouldn’t be using famous songs that just pop into your head in a fit of inspiration.

What platforms should you be using to find good background music for your videos?

You need to be using Royalty-Free Music which you have paid for or music that is free to use under the Creative Commons.

What music do I use?

What do I use?

  • The Free Music Archives
  • (pricey but awesome music)
  • YouTube (they have 1000+ free songs)

These days, I use music from the most frequently because I have a subscription. They have a good subscription for non-pro users. Another option is which also has good subscriptions for creators.

By using these sources, it means you own a piece of music for a particular purpose, and there will be no lawsuits (or at least not over your music!.

While finding the right music for a video isn’t rocket science, it does take a good ear, a logical thought process, intuition, and sometimes quite a few hours. So if it’s taking you a while, don’t feel bad.

How do I choose background music for a video?

First, think about the pace of your video. Is it fast-paced, medium or slow and methodical? You’ll usually want to work with the natural pace of the film rather than against it.

If you’re having trouble finding music, pay attention to the rhythm of your subject’s movement or speech.

If the music is going to be on top of dialogue then avoid music with lyrics or a lot of high-pitched sounds. Guitar music is often not great underneath dialogue.

Next, find 3-5 songs that you think might work and try them all out on the piece. Drag them into the timeline and play your video to see if they work.

Is background music good for videos?

That depends on the type of video and your audience. For short narrative pieces, a musical score of some kind is often important. But for tutorials or other educational videos you may only want to have music at the start or finish. Background music is often there to keep the pace of the video moving along and to keep the audience engaged. But it’s not strictly necessary at all times.

So use your judgement. And when in doubt, experiment. Try out music and see if it works better with our without. And don’t be afraid to mix up the music. You can use more than one piece of music in a video—even in a short video!

Finding the right music is worth it. When the music is spot on, your video will be 100% better for it.

Your audience will be more engaged. And you will get more of the results you’re looking for.

Learn Filmmaking and Get the Gear Guide

If you’re interested in learning filmmaking, check out the Solo Filmmaking Mentorship Program I created for aspiring filmmakers and video creators. It usually goes live once per year. So I recommend getting the Story Envelope Filmmaking letter which comes out a couple of times per month. That way, you can get filmmaking tips for free and find out when the filmmaking course is going live again.

Also, before you go, grab the Solo Filmmaking Gear Guide and Checklist for Beginners.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Colette Nichol. I’m a solo filmmaker and story strategist based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been making videos and micro films for small businesses and global brands since 2014.

Plus, I LOVE to help aspiring filmmakers pursue their dreams and start making films. This blog is designed to help you gain the knowledge you need to become a filmmaker.

If you want more, get on the waitlist for the Story Envelope Academy Solo Filmmaking Mentorship Program. It opens up one time per year and is the best way to become a filmmaking or video pro fast!

CLICK HERE to get on the solo filmmaking mentorship waitlist.

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