Making Your Music More Cinematic: Hits, Ostinatos and Rhythms

In the first part, we looked at how we can use atmospheres and pads to create a new sense of depth and interest in your cues. This time around, it’s time to add some more impact and energy to otherwise calm and static musical passages. More than anything, this technique will add more weight and power, and can make the simplest musical cues fit right in the cinema. We’re talking about using sub hits, impacts and transition effects to subtly take your tracks to a whole new level.

Those of you who have been through the trailer music course should be pretty familiar with the use of sub booms, wooshes and hits. These are all crucial and common elements in the realm of music for motion picture trailers, but what’s not mentioned as much, is their ability to enhance musical cues of nearly any other genre and style. Of course, some places it might work better than others, but I’ve successfully used these effects in everything from pop verses to orchestral climaxes with great effect. Let’s look at some practical examples.

We’ll start out with the piano theme from the previous week’s example. We added a new dimension to our cue by adding a background ambience consisting of pads and atmospheres. It made a rather generic piano cue pop out a bit more. That said, there’s a lot more we can do to enhance this cue. Let’s go through a few:


Sub Booms

The first thing I usually look for when I want to add some more weight and impact is sub-booms. These are fairly versatile, as they are very transparent, don’t take up a lot of the frequency spectrum, and don’t necessarily add an abnormal amount of energy (like a full trailer hit would). This makes them good fits as standalone elements under a piano cue (like you will hear in about 24 seconds from now), under string parts, or as a low end layer under a massive hit for more epic parts.

But I’ll stop rambling for a minute, and let you listen to an example to show what I’m talking about. Here’s the piano cue from earlier, with sub booms added:

Now, let’s check out how it was before.

Go back between them a few times, and notice how the simple sub hit immediately gives it more power and depth, a more cinematic feel. Naturally, to experience the full effect, a good sound system with a subwoofer is recommended, although a good set of headphones will also give you the right idea. Anything as long as you’re not trying to make your iPhone 5 speaker do the job of convincing you.

To get such sub hits, libraries like Gravity (which is what I’ve used here), Project Bravo and various trailer music libraries all come to mind as good, reliable sources. There should also be something to work with if you’ve got our trailer music course, with the included trailer music sound design pack from Generdyn. If you want to be one of the cool kids and make yourself from scratch, Walid made a great tutorial explaining the basics here: