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Trailer music ! But something seems off...

TheRealNerevar

New Member
Hello there, here is a track that i wrote in a few hours, i'm satisfied with some things that are happening in there, but there is something that seems a little weird, and i don't get what it is... If someone could help me, whether it be for composition, or arranging, or mixing or whatever bugs you 😉
 
I have to preface this that I'm a total amateur, and this is being said as merely a film watcher and soundtrack listener to, so take it with a shaker or two of salt. But I think the issue is - as you can even see by the SoundCloud visualisation - the track rises in a very linear way. That means that even with the gap in between, once the drop hits, it's expected, so it loses impact.
 

jcrosby

Senior Member
The mix quality isn't bad. The main thing that doesn't quite make this a trailer track is the structure and some edits that ultimately serve to create tension and a sense of building intensity. Your track also lacks a 'signature', (more about signatures below...) But this is the kind of track that may not need one necessarily... that said it's an important concept to understand if you're thinking of reaching out to trailer libraries at some point...

Structure: Trailer tracks tend to have a rigid structure which often to conform to blocks of time... Things generally happen in 'acts' and new acts tend to fall on 30 to 60 second intervals... (Roughly..) A classic trailer track has either 3 or 4 acts. (Intro, build, backend; or Intro, build, mid-section, backend). In both cases it's common for something from the intro or a signature to be teased at the end to create a sense of identity and closure. But that can vary depending on the album or library.

Ultimately a trailer track serves the editor/trailer house... If you watch a lot of trailers you'll notice full trailers are typically between 2:00 and 2:30, and musical changes (somewhat) often fall near 30-60 second intervals...
  • 30 seconds of dialogue to set up the story = 30-40 seconds of intro...
  • 30-45 seconds of building action = 30-60 seconds of building musical tension...
  • 30-60 seconds of peak action = 45-60 seconds of backend...
  • Possibly a small dialogue resolution at the end of the trailer = a short edit of the intro being teased again...

This makes both the trailer and your piece of music easier to cut down to 30 and 60 second versions... In terms of an actual trailer often there's bumper at the end of the trailer where the logo of the film is paired with one of the signatures from a piece of music.

Signatures: These are the ear candy specifically added to grab the interest of an editor or campaign. Great trailer labels are constantly looking to reinvent new signatures. Old ones do stick around and get rinsed to death, but ultimately there's an ever evolving hunt for new unique sounds that stand out.

Ultimately a signature is used like a musical motif. It comes in at a couple key moments and has a repetitive nature to it. It could be anything from unique synth sounds or persistent motifs, to organic unexpected processed sounds of all kinds... (Really... Everything from breaths to screams to foley used as percussion...) The main point is that even if they don't use it in the backend of the actual trailer they'll almost certainly use it somewhere during the trailer, or at the end when they show the logo of the film. (This is branding 101... The goal is to get you to associate the film with a sound that grabs your attention...)

A good trailer composer knows this and will try to find something distinct they can use as a musical motif, even if unconventional... (These are usually defined by the brief that library sends out... Typically the library's keen on new trends and will guide the composer in terms of what's appropriate). If a track doesn't have a strong signature then it almost certainly has a simple but very strong musical motif. (Example below)

Basically there's trailer influenced music (which this is - And I don't mean that in a bad way at all... It's a tricky genre with lots of nuances....) Proper trailer tracks conform to a pretty predictable structure and more often than not have one or several distinct sonic fingerprints that give it its identity... If the piece doesn't use an unconventional musical device as a signature then the theme is going to be simple and yet kind of brilliant in just how effective it is at using just a few repetitive notes that persist through the backend.

This album will give you a good feel for the pacing of a typical trailer track. (The vibe's totally different from what you have FYI!) You'll notice things really do happen in chunks of roughly 30 seconds, (or multiples... 15, 45, 60, etc) And if not familiar with Audiomachine look them up... These guys have been the current undisputed kings of the trailer industry for close to a decade now. They land most of the major film campaigns and have been setting all kinds of signature trends over the past 5-7 years. While these examples are heavily synthetic they have an absolutely incredible range of music with some really beautiful stuff as well... (See below).

Some signature examples:

At 1:24 The distorted scream that comes in is used as a sonic motif every 2 bars during the build. And, at 2:14 it comes back in higher in pitch. (Also notice that it's almost a minute later from when the 1st version came in...) :


The bends that start at :27 function as a signature here. (30 second mark)... They also get repeated across different instruments, the last of which is low brass doing a response... The bends come back in at 2:07 (Again notice it's almost 1:30 from the 1st time it's introduced...)


This track doesn't have a distinct signature per se but the brass motif that comes in at 2:30 persists through the entire backend... Three notes only, tonic to min 3rd to maj 7th to, repeated over the harmonic progression underneath. It's persistent the way an ostinato is, and it's incredibly simple and incredibly effective... (This track's from the Venom trailer FYI.)


The examples above are pretty generic types of signatures. These are things you hear about as regularly as braams, but it should still get the point across...

For an absolutely killer and current example of signatures the Raised by Wolves trailer from last year is incredible. There are all kinds of voice and breath sounds used as musical motifs and are a solid example of what's currently trending... Right near the 30 second mark there's little splashes of voice based percussion that accompanies the string hits. And at the end there's a bumper where some of the intro synths come back, and the breath percussion is re-used there again as the 'branding' device...


Also... Here's an Audiomachine album that's absolutely beautiful. Totally different from the examples above and probably more relevant to your track and the style you're going after in the track above...


Sorry for the epic post :P Hopefully some useful info in there for you....


EDIT: This is a great track btw. Really nice harmony that's simple and yet emotional... Hope it doesn't seem like I'm picking it apart, just giving you the same kind of honest feedback I've received from libraries in the past...
 
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jbuhler

Senior Member
The mix quality isn't bad. The main thing that doesn't quite make this a trailer track is the structure and some edits that ultimately serve to create tension and a sense of building intensity. Your track also lacks a 'signature', (more about signatures below...) But this is the kind of track that may not need one necessarily... that said it's an important concept to understand if you're thinking of reaching out to trailer libraries at some point...

Structure: Trailer tracks tend to have a rigid structure which often to conform to blocks of time... Things generally happen in 'acts' and new acts tend to fall on 30 to 60 second intervals... (Roughly..) A classic trailer track has either 3 or 4 acts. (Intro, build, backend; or Intro, build, mid-section, backend). In both cases it's common for something from the intro or a signature to be teased at the end to create a sense of identity and closure. But that can vary depending on the album or library.

Ultimately a trailer track serves the editor/trailer house... If you watch a lot of trailers you'll notice full trailers are typically between 2:00 and 2:30, and musical changes (somewhat) often fall near 30-60 second intervals...
  • 30 seconds of dialogue to set up the story = 30-40 seconds of intro...
  • 30-45 seconds of building action = 30-60 seconds of building musical tension...
  • 30-60 seconds of peak action = 45-60 seconds of backend...
  • Possibly a small dialogue resolution at the end of the trailer = a short edit of the intro being teased again...

This makes both the trailer and your piece of music easier to cut down to 30 and 60 second versions... In terms of an actual trailer often there's bumper at the end of the trailer where the logo of the film is paired with one of the signatures from a piece of music.

Signatures: These are the ear candy specifically added to grab the interest of an editor or campaign. Great trailer labels are constantly looking to reinvent new signatures. Old ones do stick around and get rinsed to death, but ultimately there's an ever evolving hunt for new unique sounds that stand out.

Ultimately a signature is used like a musical motif. It comes in at a couple key moments and has a repetitive nature to it. It could be anything from unique synth sounds or persistent motifs, to organic unexpected processed sounds of all kinds... (Really... Everything from breaths to screams to foley used as percussion...) The main point is that even if they don't use it in the backend of the actual trailer they'll almost certainly use it somewhere during the trailer, or at the end when they show the logo of the film. (This is branding 101... The goal is to get you to associate the film with a sound that grabs your attention...)

A good trailer composer knows this and will try to find something distinct they can use as a musical motif, even if unconventional... (These are usually defined by the brief that library sends out... Typically the library's keen on new trends and will guide the composer in terms of what's appropriate). If a track doesn't have a strong signature then it almost certainly has a simple but very strong musical motif. (Example below)

Basically there's trailer influenced music (which this is - And I don't mean that in a bad way at all... It's a tricky genre with lots of nuances....) Proper trailer tracks conform to a pretty predictable structure and more often than not have one or several distinct sonic fingerprints that give it its identity... If the piece doesn't use an unconventional musical device as a signature then the theme is going to be simple and yet kind of brilliant in just how effective it is at using just a few repetitive notes that persist through the backend.

This album will give you a good feel for the pacing of a typical trailer track. (The vibe's totally different from what you have FYI!) You'll notice things really do happen in chunks of roughly 30 seconds, (or multiples... 15, 45, 60, etc) And if not familiar with Audiomachine look them up... These guys have been the current undisputed kings of the trailer industry for close to a decade now. They land most of the major film campaigns and have been setting all kinds of signature trends over the past 5-7 years. While these examples are heavily synthetic they have an absolutely incredible range of music with some really beautiful stuff as well... (See below).

Some signature examples:

At 1:24 The distorted scream that comes in is used as a sonic motif every 2 bars during the build. And, at 2:14 it comes back in higher in pitch. (Also notice that it's almost a minute later from when the 1st version came in...) :


The bends that start at :27 function as a signature here. (30 second mark)... They also get repeated across different instruments, the last of which is low brass doing a response... The bends come back in at 2:07 (Again notice it's almost 1:30 from the 1st time it's introduced...)


This track doesn't have a distinct signature per se but the brass motif that comes in at 2:30 persists through the entire backend... Three notes only, tonic to min 3rd to maj 7th to, repeated over the harmonic progression underneath. It's persistent the way an ostinato is, and it's incredibly simple and incredibly effective... (This track's from the Venom trailer FYI.)


The examples above are pretty generic types of signatures. These are things you hear about as regularly as braams, but it should still get the point across...

For an absolutely killer and current example of signatures the Raised by Wolves trailer from last year is incredible. There are all kinds of voice and breath sounds used as musical motifs and are a solid example of what's currently trending... Right near the 30 second mark there's little splashes of voice based percussion that accompanies the string hits. And at the end there's a bumper where some of the intro synths come back, and the breath percussion is re-used there again as the 'branding' device...


Also... Here's an Audiomachine album that's absolutely beautiful. Totally different from the examples above and probably more relevant to your track and the style you're going after in the track above...


Sorry for the epic post :P Hopefully some useful info in there for you....


EDIT: This is a great track btw. Really nice harmony that's simple and yet emotional... Hope it doesn't seem like I'm picking it apart, just giving you the same kind of honest feedback I've received from libraries in the past...
I’ve never seen this expressed so clearly and concisely. It’s really great. You should think about posting a version of this as its own thread.
 

jcrosby

Senior Member
I’ve never seen this expressed so clearly and concisely. It’s really great. You should think about posting a version of this as its own thread.
That's a great idea actually. Maybe something like "Trailer music vs trailer influenced music"?

@TheRealNerevar it really is a great track so far. Looking forward to hearing where you take it regardless of wherever you feel the arrangement should actually go....
And @davidson thanks for the kind words!
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
That's a great idea actually. Maybe something like "Trailer music vs trailer influenced music"?

@TheRealNerevar it really is a great track. Looking forward to hearing where you take it regardless of wherever you feel the arrangement should actually go....
And @davidson thanks for the kind words!
Making a separate post would make it easier to assign (for classes I teach), and easier for folks to stumble upon with search. In the context of its own post, it might also elicit some useful responses. The virtue of your account here is that it is detailed while also being concise.
 

ashX

Member
Wanna mention what I noticed: if you want to make a trailer track, you should consider having more stops/changes. For instance when you think people should speak with no music. And usually in trailer music every part ends with that stop/downer thingy.
Every part should have some tension rising.
Also dont forget signature sounds. Modern trailer music has a lot of synth benders (pitch bending synths), braaams.
In Trailer music every part is usually different so think of it like glueing a lof of different songs together, every part should differ.
Also 1:48 when you have loads of strings playing everything sorta clashes.
Overall your track is more of a soundtracky not a trailer track what I think. But idea is good and I personally like it.
 
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TheRealNerevar

TheRealNerevar

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Thank you very much @jcrosby for this wonderful explanation, full of knowledge and experience. It is very useful for me, and i take the fact that you like my track as it is, with pride.

Also thank you everyone else for giving me advices who will push me forward in the path that i took a few days ago (trailer is a good way for me to move on from the boring things i used to do).

Justin, i will take everything you said in deep consideration, and with the good feeling of a new little challenge to take on, so i've decided to rework this whole track in a suitable way to bring it closer to a trailer track.

Excuse me if this post is a little too formal, but i'm feeling a new energy, my heart speaks 😉

I'll work hard, and when it will be perfect, i'll re-post, so stay tuned 🙂🔥
 

dzilizzi

Senior Member
I really know nothing. My only thought is the choir is too loud at the beginning in comparison to the music. At the end fits being loud, but I would prefer more of build up.
 
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TheRealNerevar

TheRealNerevar

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I really know nothing. My only thought is the choir is too loud at the beginning in comparison to the music. At the end fits being loud, but I would prefer more of build up.
You say that you know nothing, that's perfect (even if i guess you know a lot more than you would admit 😉)
Because you are the one why i'm making music, you are one of many people, the guys i must convince.

In the end, people watching trailers or movies might not know a lot about music or how it is made, but it has to work with them, it has to make them feel "wooaa, how amazing !".

So you have definitely your word to say, and i will take it in consideration above all 🙂

Thank you 🙏
 

SupremeFist

Senior Member
I don't know anything about trailer music but I am loving how @jcrosby is explaining it to us, and I really like this piece which had me literally going 🤘🏻by the end. My only thoughts were in terms of mix, the brass sounds a little too distant/quiet, while by contrast the solo vocal could use a bit more reverb?
 

lux

Senior Member
I like the track, it's musical.

on a strictly personal standpoint, I would work on the overall sound, to me sounds like it's been squashed to death before defining the mix, it sounds overcompressed and focused on mids, at times almost hipassed. While I understand your aim to get it as loud as some of the references I would get there by steps, first by having a smoother and more balanced mix to squeeze without sucking the life out of it. As Supremefist pointed out looks like some of the elements sounds they have not been coherently reverberated, expecially the vocals, which sound pretty upclose to my ears. I can also hear some weirdness in the stereo image and depth.

I would be curious to hear an unprocessed version of this track. Like virtual instruments with a little bit of high rolloff to let em sit in the mix and a send to a reverb with the right amount of bandpass on it. A barebones mix shaped with simple reverberation and basic panning to define at best your starting point. That would help you taking the right decisions about the bass/mid/high ranges, stereo field and depth by small changes.

At least thats what I would do, the track is cool and deserves the effort.
 
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TheRealNerevar

TheRealNerevar

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I like the track, it's musical.

on a strictly personal standpoint, I would work on the overall sound, to me sounds like it's been squashed to death before defining the mix, it sounds overcompressed and focused on mids, at times almost hipassed. While I understand your aim to get it as loud as some of the references I would get there by steps, first by having a smoother and more balanced mix to squeeze without sucking the life out of it. As Supremefist pointed out looks like some of the elements sounds they have not been coherently reverberated, expecially the vocals, which sound pretty upclose to my ears. I can also hear some weirdness in the stereo image and depth.

I would be curious to hear an unprocessed version of this track. Like virtual instruments with a little bit of high rolloff to let em sit in the mix and a send to a reverb with the right amount of bandpass on it. A barebones mix shaped with simple reverberation and basic panning to define at best your starting point. That would help you taking the right decisions about the bass/mid/high ranges, stereo field and depth by small changes.

At least thats what I would do, the track is cool and deserves the effort.
Bingo ! You told everything that is currently freaking me out, since i've started to rework the track, i'm really struggling to get my template to sound closer to Audiomachine's trailers and i can't figure out what is right to do EQ wise with the orchestra (strings mainly CSS, Brass CineBrass). I know that it should be processed by a good amount (it already was for this track, eq ed and saturated and compressed ad nauseum), but that frequency curve on these already released trailer tracks by Audiomachine and others has been haunting me night and day ever since, following mr Crosby post. Anyone have any clue on what Eq and processing would be suitable ?
 

lux

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Its definitely a complicated topic, there's plenty of videos and tutorials out there to start with. As a general rule there's no swiss knife EQ settings, it all starts by analyzing the raw sound that comes out of the single instance of Kontakt or whatever instrument you're using. This is important as by just applying a "Strings 2" preset on your material can kill everything and transform your strings in the worst synth ever. Each library has an own sound and carries a few frequencies overload. Also, orchestration changes everything. So I would at first check your orchestration and how everything sounds without any processing. I always start from there, my track needs to sound at least decently balanced in an unprocessed context. Then I can start thinking as an audio engineer (which I'm not).

There are quite a few classic reasons why you should consider EQing your orchestra, one is an excess of bass range (which prevents your master to get loud unless you squeeze it like a toothpaste tube) and the other is an excess of mid-highs. I often tend to tame the high range with a large high shelf and a very subtle cut. Also tape plugins can give a bit of additional warmth-glue reducing harshness and a chirurgical sound.

That said is just a matter of analyzing the sound you hear. You should keep in mind that every frequency range of your orchestra may have a competitor in a synth, voice, even percussions frequency wise. Thats something you should figure out before applying any processing. Also keep compression for the end, applying a compressor to a virtual instrument before having the full picture is like wearing the hottest shirt before knowing if its summer or cold winter. It just doesnt make sense. Compression serves the scope of reducing the dynamics where an excess of dynamic range prevents you from having a balanced mix. Often is used also to add color to the mix. But definitely it's not something I turn on before I start mixing.

I say let your orchestra sound decently without processing working on arrangement and volume balancement. Then you can start accomodating instruments eachother by small eq scoops, small coloring steps (tape, compression with almost no gain reduction or console emulations), and eventually compression/limiting.

Once you get there you can start creating your mixbus/mastering chain.
 

lux

Senior Member
Also, consider using a bus reverberation, otherwise your balancement will be heavily influenced by a plethora of reverb instances kept open on your single tracks. Make sure your reverb is bandpassed (again lots of tutorial about reverb processing on YT). Make sure to not use any stereo ehnancing until youre working on your mastering chain (at least that's what I do) and keep working on pan until there.

Please consider that trailer music needs a slightly more narrow approach and that having a hugely panned orchestra can be an issue, so find a good balancement with that by hearing lots of references
 
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TheRealNerevar

TheRealNerevar

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Thanks for the answer, but maybe my question wasn't clear enough : i was asking for this particular genre.
I know pretty much how to handle the usual orchestra, doing the least harm possible while taking care of unwanted frequencies, and sweeten some elements with tape saturation and so on... This time for this genre it seems it asks for a little more i guess... But what is it ? My bet is everything is carved in a way that the master can be pushed as hard as possible, and by looking currently at the spectrum analysis of some tracks, their frequency response are absolutely flat (with a 4.5dB tilt ), while mine are not
 

lux

Senior Member
understood, it's not magic trick. A mix is a mix, in your case to my ears it sounds like it has issues before any mastering stage. No magic can make it sound like your references without starting from scratch again and mixing the whole again.

At least that's what happens to me most the times. While it may sound a pita at the end of the process I'm always happy I did.

That said if you like you may post your unmastered version so we could hear how many of the oddities come out of mastering and how many are just in the mix.
 
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