Using lyrics is also doubly effective if the song is popular and the audience can be expected to know some or most of the words. It’s similar to what we mentioned earlier about the copy message using a slight variation on an existing idiom to piggyback on existing knowledge from the audience.
This is one reason why it is very popular to use a “cover” (or alternate version) of a song during a trailer. You get points for both familiarity and originality at the same time. It’s a win-win!
But not all music has lyrics. Many trailers use purely instrumental songs. This leads us to tone.
Music Decision Factor #2: Tone
The second factor is tone. Music has feeling. Some songs are happy and fun. Others are sad and brooding. Choosing the right tone is key to making the music feel organic to your movie. When done right, it will be like the song you’ve chosen was composed specifically for the trailer.
Music Decision Factor #3: Rhythm and Intensity
The last factor is rhythm and intensity.
Trailers have a natural momentum. They generally start slowly and gradually build intensity to a big finish and reveal of the main title. When choosing a music cue it is important to understand this dynamic.
Many songs will be perfect when played for 30 seconds but they “don’t go anywhere”. This means they don’t have any increase in intensity. This can make your trailer feel like it’s stuck in second gear. Like it’s not progressing. It can make it feel boring. The solution to this issue is varied.
Sometimes, it can mean you need to choose a different song. Or maybe you will have to pull out your music editing tricks and layer in a bunch of extra drums and cymbals and rises to create an artificial build of your own.
But most of the time, it means you will need to use multiple songs. Many trailers use three or more cues, this is not uncommon.
When utilizing more than one song, it is very important to keep in mind the rhythm and intensity of each successive music cue.
With rare exception, you almost never want to go from a song with a faster beat to a song with a slower one. This has the effect of downshifting, and making your audience feel like they’ve hit a speed bump.
Trailers generally follow a pattern of ramping intensity leading to a climax. Anything that trips up your acceleration will take away from the effectiveness of that climax.
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