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


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!

March 09, 2016

God Bless Irving Berlin!

He “Loved A Piano” and We Do Too!

It was 1915 when the incredibly prolific songwriter Irving Berlin penned “I Love A Piano” for the musical comedy, Stop Look Listen. Berlin was 27 years old and “Piano” was just one of the estimated 1,500 songs Berlin would write during his 100 years on earth.

Gaby Deslys sang “I Love A Piano” in the show as a tribute to this “grand” instrument; we at CSS Music shout of our love piano music! It’s one of those instruments that is flexible enough to underscore a movie like The Piano (duh!) or even the action-drama The Firm where only a piano was used for the entire score. (Dave Grusin composed the music.)

Much of the appeal of a solo piano is the space it leaves for dialog. Even in busier passages a piano track can be potted down to keep the energy moving. And with it’s warmth of tone, percussive aggressiveness or ethereal airiness, the piano is truly a chameleon. With the ability to provide bass, harmonic structure and melody all at once, its no wonder the piano remains popular.

A perfect example: think about the number of films that have used Claude Debussy’s hauntingly beautiful “Claire de Lune.” From Frankie & Johnny to The Right Stuff to Ocean’s Eleven, this famous melody has underscored so many diverse scenes.

CSS Music has excellent piano music we think you’ll not only love, but will use over and over again. Tell us the mood you’re after and we’ll email you a playlist of piano pieces!

(And if you hadn’t figured from the title: Irving Berlin also composed the beloved “God Bless America.”) ;-)

March 08, 2016

Subtle Nuances In Music That Sounds Pretty Much All The Same

What’s In A Name?

Remember the good ol’ days when your production music searches involved three criteria: style, tempo and feel (emotion)? You might only have owned a handful of CSS Music CDs and by golly you created a lot of shows with that music and were very happy with the results, thank you very much!

Fast forward to now. Thanks to the birth of the Singer-Songwriter (Simon and Garfunkel or Bob Dylan for you oldster), a bevy of new musical styles has emerged.

You may know of Indie music. But do you know the gradations of Indie music? Do you know the difference between Indie Folk and Alt Folk? Indie Rock and Alt Rock?

Here’s quick summaries of a few of the new styles you’ll see in the CSS Music catalog.

Singer-Songwriter. Typically a solo vocalist and acoustic guitar but can be enhanced with a small rhythm section. (Can also be presented without vocals.)

Indie Pop. You’ve heard this style of music for years on Apple commercials; ukelele, whistling and bells. Happy music.

Alt Pop. See Indie Pop but everything thing played more sloppily and slightly out of tune—maybe with an added synthesizer or clarinet or other unusual instrument.

Indie Country.  In the vein of traditional Country music but without that slick Nashville sound--and usually without a drummer. Can also be Americana.

Alt Country. More “cowpoke” feel and a close cousin to Bluegrass. Performances are generally quite loose; non-traditional instruments can also be used.

Indie Rock. Very pop oriented rock with catchy riffs not necessarily played on guitars. O.K. to integrate other instruments.

Alt Rock. Not be confused with Alternative Rock which is much heavier, Alt Rock is a quirky cousin of the Indie Rock sound and often use synthesizers. It’s also more quirky.

Alt Blues. The only relationship to conventional Blues is the guitar sound. No 12 bar chord progression—it’s pretty much just the main (tonic) chord with a catchy riff with an occasional chord change to keep it interesting.

There are even subgenres of these styles. And new style names pop up every day. It’s a far cry from the days of those beloved CDs but let’s face it: these times they are a changin’!