May 20, 2016

Wait A Minute


Understanding the Dubstep Structure

Nothing says energy and attitude like Dubstep music. The throbbing “wobble bass,” ear splitting synths, quarter note triplet figures and of course, the mandatory “drop” are popular elements found in true Dubstep. Combing this music with action footage (not necessarily shot with a Steadicam® btw) edited with quick cuts and some bizarre graphics or photo inserts is a perfect recipe for testosterone driven video.

But what you might not know: there is a particular structure used in Dubstep song construction. First, the tempo is typically 140 bpm (beats per minute) with the first 32-35 bars being a unique audio soundscape. This “intro” can be a beautiful, light sequencer-based introduction, establishment of a theme or a collage of sound effects and voices.

If you do the math, 35 bars of 4/4 music at 140 bpm equals one minute. After this opening comes the obligatory “drop.” If you think in terms of conventional music, the drop would be equal to an explosive percussion build that leads into exciting, driving music.

In Dubstep, the drop is usually a gigantic synthesizer fall-off that is enhanced with God-knows-what audio snippets quickly edited that just grabs you by the ears

After the drop, the screechy ear-bleeding music begins. Then tempo might change from a fast four to a pulsing half-time feel. While synthesizers are often used, the metamorphosis of the Dubstep genre now includes power guitars typically found in action video gaming music.


If you want to test drive a Dubstep track, give “Watch Your Step Mr. Bond” on CSS Music Target Trax “Contemporary Styles” a whirl. You’ll find the “meat” of the track really begins about one minute into the track. And we believe your pulse rate will definitely go up! J

May 10, 2016

The Three B's


Should You Use Classical Music or Modern Classical?

Anyone who has ever taken piano lessons learned about the three B’s—Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. An ivory bust of one of these guys may have even adorned your piano. These guys were really rock stars of the Classical music genre and they wrote music accessible enough that even a 7 year old could play them after a year’s worth of lessons.

Classical music is still frequently used in film music; it’s not surprising that these beloved melodies still hold up two centuries later. CSS Music has Classical tracks of well-known composers, but also film score music that pays homage to these great composers while offering a fresh, original approach.

The decision for you as an editor, music supervisor or music coordinator is this: do I want to use a familiar piece of music or something that approximates the mood of a Classical tune?

If the scene you’re editing contains important information that you want the viewer to remember, having a recognized Classical track may work against you. Remember we’re in a brave new world of multitasking. If the viewer is checking his/her email on their iPhone while eating a ham sandwich and taking in your show, information might get lost if they focus their listening on Bach’s “Air Adagio” (Super Themes, Opera and Light Classical).

If you used a track like “Scenic Sketches” (Super Themes, Acoustic Gold) instead, the music would become background; attention would focus on the narrator or dialog. And the email and ham sandwich. J Not to say that “Scenic Sketches” is blasé! But it’s a simple piano piece that sets a relaxing tone while providing motion to your scene.


So maybe save “The 1812 Overture” (Digital Ditties) for that fireworks footage and explore the CSS Music original pieces when you don’t want to call attention to the music.

April 15, 2016

Button Up!

Understanding the Fadeout and Its History

If you’re a fan of Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) or Hot Adult Contemporary (Hot AC) you probably notice that certain songs have fadeouts instead of cold endings. In the world of popular music, there are two reasons producers choose to end songs this way.

First: they are making the songs “radio friendly.” The same tune with the fade ending may also have an eight bar (or more) instrumental intro. And often, that intro contains an instrumental “hook” that appears throughout the song.

With an instrumental intro, the DJ can talk over and provide artist information, local weather, request line number, etc. Disk jockeys love nothing more than hitting the “post” (vocal).

The fade ending allows the DJ to “back sell” the song as the music fades or drop in a radio ID jingle or pre-produced station ID sweeper to set up the next song. And the record producer uses that fade ending to reinforce the song’s hook over and over again.

Unless you as the music editor/supervisor are featuring the CSS Music song under a scene sans dialog, chances of using a fade ending are pretty remote. In fact, the current trend in reality television is to use button endings from one track into the next! We figure that if you want to have a fade ending, you can easily do it yourself.

CSS Music also recommends to its composers to write hard, cold endings AND to keep the tune in the same key. Sometimes a track just wants to modulate up, but we like for the first part of track to key match the button ending.


We hope you enjoyed a little bit of “inside radio.” You’ll probably be more aware now when your teen daughter insists on taking over the radio next time you’re driving to her dance class. J

April 02, 2016

Space: The Final Frontier


The Ever Evolving CSS Music Styles

As William Wordsworth stated, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” The same can be said of the stable of CSS Music composers.

So much of today’s music, especially when discussing film scores, is filled with the glorious sound of…nothing. Space. Long pauses. Open vistas that are truly the breathings of the heart of the composer.

We’ve talked of the practicalities of providing edit points in the CSS Music catalog to make your work easier. But the beauty of letting a piece of music breathe through pauses in the composition reflects not only contemporary writing style, but also offers the listener a chance for the music to sink in before the next melodic statement.

For your video editing…these pauses in the music might lead you down a path you’ve never before explored. Maybe look at these natural moments of silence as a way to reprise a visual image that’s important to a scene?

For example: one of your show’s characters has forgotten an important piece of gear necessary to solve a problem. By using the pauses in the music to insert a shot of the forgotten piece of equipment, the viewer is clued in to the impending problem. Watch an episode of “Chopped” on Food Network and see what they do when a chef forgets a basket ingredient.

Our job is to write music for you, not ourselves. At the same time, letting moments of “breathing of the heart” from one of the CSS Music composers may lead you to inspiration from your own heart.

The Ever Evolving CSS Music Styles

As William Wordsworth stated, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” The same can be said of the stable of CSS Music composers.

So much of today’s music, especially when discussing film scores, is filled with the glorious sound of…nothing. Space. Long pauses. Open vistas that are truly the breathings of the heart of the composer.

We’ve talked of the practicalities of providing edit points in the CSS Music catalog to make your work easier. But the beauty of letting a piece of music breathe through pauses in the composition reflects not only contemporary writing style, but also offers the listener a chance for the music to sink in before the next melodic statement.

For your video editing…these pauses in the music might lead you down a path you’ve never before explored. Maybe look at these natural moments of silence as a way to reprise a visual image that’s important to a scene?

For example: one of your show’s characters has forgotten an important piece of gear necessary to solve a problem. By using the pauses in the music to insert a shot of the forgotten piece of equipment, the viewer is clued in to the impending problem. Watch an episode of “Chopped” on Food Network and see what they do when a chef forgets a basket ingredient.

Our job is to write music for you, not ourselves. At the same time, letting moments of “breathing of the heart” from one of the CSS Music composers may lead you to inspiration from your own heart.


March 30, 2016

What’s The Alternative


Making Use of Alternative Mix-outs

Whether you’re using a CSS Music track that’s structured like a song or the ever-growing cue music style, having a secondary--or alternative mix--may be just what the doctor ordered for your next show!

We’ll leave the best way to use these sparser mixes up to your own particular workflow preferences. But one method we might suggest is to line both tracks up in your workstation. This allows you to make the music stand out when you have action without dialog and then cross fading to the alternate mix (which might even be just a solo instrument or a drums and bass mix) with clips that have a lot of dialog.

While this is particularly effective when working with a busy music track, it also has its place with cue music tracks. But wait, you say! Aren’t those cue music tracks already composed to work well with dialog?

Absolutely.  But what if your scene has someone whispering? Or there’s a voice off camera that’s low in level? Maybe there’s ambient noise or wind? You can either pot up the voice track OR keep the audio levels consistent and drop the music down using a sparse alternative mix.

Not to say that an alternative mix from a CSS Music track isn’t the perfect first choice for music! Sometimes just a catchy rhythm from one of these mix-outs is all you need to set a scene.

Either way, we want you to know that we’re listening to you and will endeavor to keep evolving the CSS Music library!


March 23, 2016

Haven’t Got A Cue?

The Difference Between Cues and Music Tracks

You have incredible action footage with a minimal amount of dialog that you really want to punch up with some exciting music. The scene runs nearly a minute; cutting footage to a song that has some “ear candy” would be perfect. 

As you audition tracks from the CSS Music library, you might notice that some music doesn’t seem to go anywhere while other tracks build, evolve and excite, sounding more like songs without lyrics.

A little history: Once upon a time production music was pretty much composed to mimic songs. The structure (in songwriting speak) was typically A-A-B-A-B-B with the “A” being a verse and “B” the chorus. (Sometimes a refrain or “C” section was composed as well.) Music that didn’t follow this structure was called Underscore music.

With the advent of reality television and what you guys in the field are demanding, CSS Music now refers to the aforementioned Underscore music as “cue music.” We still offer a healthy selection of “song styled” tracks—like in the above scenario where you want the music to go somewhere to enhance your video—but we’re finding your requests for more innocuous music growing in popularity.

What makes a track “cue music?” Often it’s based on only one chord or a short chord progression. It’s all just a variation on an “A” section. Variety and musical interest is achieved by bringing various instruments in and out. While you probably wouldn’t create a road trip mix tape with this type of music, it definitely works well keeping scenes moving or creating moods--all without getting in the way of dialog.


CSS Music is adding as many styles and moods of cue music that we can dream up. Feel free to let us know if there’s something you’d like for your next show!

March 17, 2016

“Cut!"


Writing Easy Edit Points for Your Shows

If there’s one thing we’ve learned at CSS Music over the past few years is this: Make music that’s easy to cut.

We know how frustrating it can be to find the perfect track that doesn’t have an easy-to-paste ending or points where you can cut on an ending. We know you want a simple, tonic-chord-ending that can be spliced on just about anywhere.

Our writers’ main responsibility is to compose the music in the same key. While this may make the track less exciting, it will guarantee the last chord always matches. (See “Haven’t Got A Cue?” for further discussion.)

We then ask the writers to create edit points throughout the track. This is where the genius of the CSS Music professional composers shines. The art of writing natural sounding stops or pauses is a true art form! And for you the end user, having the flexibility with various segment lengths and easy-edit endings makes your editing job much faster.

We are also experimenting with a double ending on a few new tracks. The idea is to provide a short, strong tonic-chord-ending and a second ending that “hangs.” For example, you’ve found the perfect CSS Music track that’s working great for a scene in your show and you’d like to reprise it in a bumper.

Simply cut on the short ending to wrap the segment and then edit the longer, “hanging ending” for your bumper. Of course, both endings will edit well into just about any point in the track.

If this is something you’d use often, please let us know and we’ll add some tracks with the double endings in the near future!