Music for Voiceover—A Different Animal Altogether

GuitarHandsRecently, we were given a piece of advertising music composed and mixed for a client by a local musician in their town. He writes pretty good music…edgy, fresh, listenable—apparently he packs the bars. But there’s a problem. Not being a media professional, he doesn’t understand a thing about the intricacies of creating music for advertising—which is a very different animal.

Breaking Down the Pitfalls

The piece of music he did was all guitar, keyboards & honked-up filtered drums. The voicing of every instrument was in the midrange—the same frequency range that the human voice occupies. Which is terrific if you’re just listening to the music. But it’s perfectly horrible if you’re trying to mix it with voice. And this music will always be mixed with voice.

As you might imagine, mixing it was a nightmare We ended up having to carve a sizable EQ hole in the jangly midrange, widen the stereo to create a space for the voice, and bring up the low and high frequencies so that when mixed, the music would still be present enough to hear without blocking the message. Oh…and it was 34 seconds long. Nice.

This is happening a lot in these budget-conscious DIY days. Local musicians are being called on to create music for advertising. They’ll typically do it for cheap, and after all, everyone has some kind of software on their computer that can mix multiple tracks of music. From Garage Band to hacked copies of ProTools, people have copped the attitude that software makes production easy. But easy and professional have never been good roommates.

Pointers

  • When arranging the music, leave frequency space for the human voice.
  • Depending on your time signature, only a few tempos will land you in the proper time. Learn them.
  • Never use trumpets or saxophones in the space where the voice goes.
  • When doing the final mix, lay in a voice track to make sure the mix works with voice. Mix, remove voice track, and master.
  • Reverb should end at :29.5 or :59.5.

Quality matters. Knowledge of our industry matters. Budget the few extra bucks it takes to get real media professionals to compose your brand music, then call Soundscapes. You’ll get far more than you expected, because we know that solid brand music for your client is very different than 34-second rock tune.