Sound Advice: Going for a Loop with Music

Music is one of the most important elements of video production. After all, music adds power to pictures. A good soundtrack can make mediocre video seem better – and good video seem great. In addition, music sets the pace of your video and provides clues that subtly convey essential information to your audience like mood, foreshadowing and tension.

If you create video strictly for personal use, you don’t need to worry too much about copyright infringement. But for anyone looking to broadcast a video, post it on the Web, enter it in a contest, show it to a public audience or sell it for a profit, copyright is an issue of concern. The only ways around copyright are to either secure a release from the artist or publisher, purchase buy-out music or compose your own.

Don’t laugh. Creating your own music is not as hard as you might think. There are a variety of products available that allow even the most musically-challenged individual to create killer soundtracks. In this article we’ll use examples from Sonic Foundry Acid and Magix Music Maker Pro, but there are other music-creation programs available (see sidebar). If you’ve been searching for an alternative route around the music copyright, read on and discover just how diverse and easy-to-use this music creation software can be.


Music Studio in your Computer

Music creation software allows videographers to create music on a computer – regardless of musical ability. With these affordable programs, you can produce an eclectic array of musical compositions for nearly every occasion. For wedding videographers, corporate video producers and video hobbyists alike, music-creation software provides flexibility, ease of use and worry-free royalty-free music.

Although each music-creation program differs in look, feel and performance, loop-based programs offer a fast and fun way to create music that will fit your shots and time constraints. A loop is a short riff or music sample that can be repeated or "looped." By combining a number of different loops together like drums, bass, guitar and piano for example, you can create some interesting and satisfying soundtracks. For videographers who like to create multimedia, these programs offer a number of audio output options.

Both Acid and Music Maker Pro are timeline-based audio editing tools, similar to many of the computer-based video editors. If you have experience editing video on your computer, the interface of these programs should be familiar to you and easy to grasp. If you’re new to the computer editing scene, the learning curve is not steep.

Both programs provide hundreds of loops in a variety of styles as well as finished songs to get you creating music quickly. They also include tutorials to walk new users through some of the basic features.

The nice thing about music creation software, unlike buy-out music CDs, is that it is fully customizable and limited only by your imagination. Both Magix and Sonic Foundry offer additional loops that you can purchase if you feel you need more.

Another advantage of music creation software is that it generally doesn’t require as much computer power as video editing software. Audio requires less RAM, processor speed and storage space. In fact, even if you still edit in a linear fashion, you can still create music on your computer and output it to videotape for editing (provided your equipment is able to perform audio inserts).

While you can only edit music loops in Acid, Music Maker Pro includes a video editing interface so you can perform some basic edits and match your music to your footage. This is a great feature that immediately lets you see how well your music lines up with your shots. With Acid, you have to import a .wav file into your video editing project and go from there.


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Tips for Building Music

Although music creation software is relatively simple to use, a few tricks will help to enhance your finished musical score. One of the primary functions of music is to help set the pace of your video. If you have slow moving, expansive shots of the Smoky Mountains, for example, you probably want a music with a pace to match. If on the other hand, you have an action-packed video full of quick cuts of skateboarders tearing it up on a half pipe, then your music should have the beat to reinforce that visual message.

Since music relies on its beat to carry it, lay down the drum loop first. The drums act as the foundation from which you build the rest of your song. Once you’ve got the drums worked out, lay down the bass, which together with the drums, will fuel the pace and rhythm of your video. From there, you’re free to improvise and experiment to see what works best. Try a guitar, piano, sax, horns and don’t forget the moog synth. Folders of loops for many instruments are available.

But don’t limit yourself to traditional arrangements of music. Many sound tracks today use rhythmic percussion as a foundation with sound effects looped to create an eclectic texture of sound.

Programs like Acid also allow you to record your own sounds and use them on the timeline. So anything from vocal sounds or words to slamming a car door or jingling your keys can become elements in your composition. Truly with these programs your imagination is the only limit.


The Final Note

Music creation software like Magix’s Music Maker Pro and Sonic Foundry’s Acid are simple, affordable and fun ways for non-musicians to create royalty-free music for all sorts of occasions. Event videographers, corporate producers, independent movie-makers and others who are looking to overcome the copyright obstacle will appreciate the ease-of-use, flexibility and customizable environments these programs give them.

Programs like Music Maker Pro and Acid provide videographers who shy away from audio the tools and confidence to flourish in this expressive and powerful medium.

By using the included musical loops, users can create as simple or complex songs or sound effects as they want. Once you buy the software, you don’t have to renew your license each year and you’re not limited by the time or style of each track. If you do need more loops, the companies offer more sound files that you can easily download from their Web sites.

For your next video project that requires royalty-free music, don’t let copyright laws stand in your way. Check out music creation software and take your videos to the next level. Your audience and clients will thank you for it. And there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that comes with creating your own composition of music. If you have the right tools, you can become your own composer.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.