Documentary Films have a different process than a fictional narrative. Most of the time, the filmmaker has a story outline they are trying to tell, but as shooting commences, life happens! Unexpected events arise and what was going to be the dramatic climax is eclipsed by something more interesting or unusual.
To use music to score the film, you can hire a composer to start developing a library of musical themes for the story. This is something I’ve done several times and it works quite well. Because of the fluid nature of documentaries, you can provide the only constant to the whole process which is a consistent emotional tone with the music. Documentaries come together in the editing process and by having a library of thought out music to tell this story is extremely helpful.
You can also do this by carefully selecting similar pieces of music in a production music library like 300 Monks. Sometimes you can get great results by using several different pieces by the same composer or even different sections of the same piece. By the way, you can tell if a piece is by the same composer by the visual icon which are assigned to each composer.
You can also wait until a rough edit of the picture is done and then score the piece with a composer or by choosing from our music library.
Ways to Use Music In a Documentary
- Create a memorable theme that becomes the audio mnenomic and branding for the film. This is what every television series and commercial tries to do, why not you?
- Create musical themes for characters to unite the storytelling
- Create musical themes for sections of the story
- Background emotional shading – music is pure emotion and can often lead the audience to a heightened feeling that was impossible without it
- Foreshadowing of something to come
- To unite a montage of pictures, video
- Covering up the sound of bad production audio
- Masking location audio which you have no rights to, such as the radio is on in the background
- Ironic or strange juxtapositions – You can do what Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Cameron Crowe famously do, put music emotionally is the opposite of what we would expect.
Here’s a video that goes over some of the basics of music for a documentary. He forgot to mention that you can license music through a website like ours for affordable and legal clearance.