May 30, 2017

Changing Music Seamlessly

A Discussion of Hard Edits Versus Cross-Fades

As a music editor or music supervisor, you probably use different techniques when making changes to your music. At CSS Music, we watch a variety of television programs while making notes on musical styles, where the music is placed and how the music is edited. We know you’re probably familiar with the techniques we’ll discuss, but a review—plus our observations—may still be helpful.

When going from one piece of music to the next, especially when wall-to-wall music is used in a show, you can either back time from the end of piece of music—butt cutting your tracks so there’s always a conclusion—or start a track from a good point and fade out as the next track begins. We notice in particular competition reality shows, like Food Network’s “Chopped,” that hard editing is often used, with each of the exciting endings building in intensity. This proves to be a very effective way to heighten the tension. Even the incidental music used during the cooking portion of the show usually features a concluding final chord.

Watching a more leisurely reality program, one notices more use of the cross-fade technique. Is this because there’s not the urgency? Or does the fact that scenes run longer make this a preferred method? Or perhaps the repetition of today’s composition styling make this a natural solution? Either way, the end result is a smooth flow from scene to scene. One note: if a scene closes and is then followed by dialog, cutting to the ending seems to be the norm.

As mentioned above, CSS Music does pay attention to current trends and we’re constantly adding new tracks designed to serve the reality television market. Simplicity, good grooves, minimal theme development and button endings are high on our list of requirements for providing you guys/gals new material. Sure, we still have a surfeit of great tracks with a melodic evolution and exciting arrangements. But when you’re on deadline and want to make your editing go quickly and smoothly, CSS Music has you covered!

May 24, 2017

Thinking Like A Musical

Pacing Your Video With An Emotional Flow

If you’re in the process of creating any type of non-reality show, CSS Music suggests it might be wise to sit down and watch a musical or two. Better yet, support your local theatre groups or national touring companies and see one live; the impact of a live performance can be absolutely breathtaking. But why see a musical you ask?

Like a film that’s built in 3 acts, a musical does likewise, typically in 2 acts. While film and live stage plays/musicals share a commonality in exposition, development and conclusion, a musical adds another dimension: the impact of music that explores a character, advances the plot or creates moments of humor, pathos or triumph. And you can apply this methodology, even if your characters don’t sing a note!

Even putting together a corporate AV video, musical elements can take your show from ho-hum to historic. For example, when you’re writing the opening, why not get creative and use a style of music that sets the tone for the show? Remember, it’s no longer cool to be staid and simply factual. You want to engage your viewers from the start and hold their attention for the next X minutes.

As you get into the facts/figures/graphics portion of the presentation, scoring each element with music that reflects what’s on the screen can be dramatic. Even a usually starchy HR video can be brought to life with the right read from your narrator, underscored with the appropriate music.  (Don’t be afraid to use stage directions in your script! Announcers really appreciate knowing the direction you want them to take.)

If you have a talking head as part of your presentation, imagine he’s singing instead of simply speaking. While it might get a bit goofy to change musical moods on every one of his/her talking points, a couple well-edited transformations might really make your video soar.

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, CSS Music has served the AV/Video community for decades and we’re still here creating music for you guys & gals. (“Guys and Dolls?”) Rethinking your writing with an eye toward the emotional power of a musical may be just the ticket for your next show!

May 20, 2017

The Data Is In!

More On Keywords In The CSS  Royalty Free Music Library

With a diverse library like we have at CSS Music, the question may arise: How do you come up with those keywords for the database? While we wish it were as easy as elves typing furiously while we peacefully sleep, the truth is: it requires a tremendous amount thinking—and hard work!

When you’re on our website you’ll notice in our top search engine, Hand Picked Items/Category Hot Lists, that we have 3 genres of Country and 6 category for Rock. As the old joke goes, “We play all kinds of music. Country and Western.” If this was 1955, that would probably be the funny. But today, Country has gone through many changes, as has Rock and even Film music. So we’ve done our best to delineate various styles.

Once we have music in their basic ballparks, the challenge becomes assigning words that best describe the mood, tempo, instrumentation, etc. within each subcategory. And you’ll probably find that a track in the Rock (Swampy-Southern Edge-Rural Rebellion) will also appear in one of the Country lists. This isn’t meant to be redundant as much as illustrating how music styles have crossed genre-specific lines.

So if it’s not elves busily typing overnight, how does the data get entered? That’d be our busy composer elves. After a disc is completed, we asked our stable of talented composers to use an Excel spreadsheet to enter as many keywords as they can think of. So if you’re looking for a very specific mood or style, and want to search what these writers were thinking, we suggest using our Build-A-Search engine at the bottom of the Keyword Search page. That way, something that may be a little oblique, will yield the track you seek. Even the keyword “searching” will bring up 5 search result pages!

The CSS Music database is always being updated so what you may not find today will be there with one of our quarterly updates. We know how busy you guys are and we’re doing all we can to make your work go faster and smoothly. And we always welcome your feedback!

May 13, 2017

What’s In A Name?

Understanding The Public Domain

What do composers Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, George M. Cohan, Jerome Kern and Gus Kahn have in common? You might say they’re masters of the great American Songbook. But the answer relevant to this blog is: they all have songs in the Public Domain. Your next question may be, “What doesn’t CSS Music have their great songs in their library!?”

If we were simply serving the U.S. market we’d have many more PD tunes. (You’ll find a number of familiar Public Domain songs in our 3 volume Digital Ditties library.) But the problem is this: while anything before 1922 is in the public domain in America, other countries can sill hold copyright on these songs. In many of the European countries, the copyright stays in effect 50-70 years after the composer’s death. So in the case of the great Irving Berlin who lived to be 101, his works won’t be available until September 22, 2059—yikes! In the case of George M. Cohan, who passed in November of 1942, his compositions became public domain in 2012 in most countries of the world.

So why don’t we have Cohan’s rousing “Yankee Doodle Dandy, Over There, She’s A Grand Old Flag and Give My Regards to Broadway” in the CSS Music library? As mentioned earlier, the “ life +70 years” rule isn’t universal. First, the Bern Convention of 1989 tried to standardize the rule but not all nations on signed on. And re-registration of songs became a murky mess. Not that we give a flip what Afghanistan thinks, but in 2003 our neighbors to the south—Mexico--decided they’d change the rules to “life + 100 years.” Maybe they wanted to resurrect a copyright on “La Cucaracha.” J

If you guys had shows only running in United States, we’d fill your hearts with “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, Smiles, and Look For The Silver Lining.” But CSS Music is a royalty-free library and we won’t risk having one of your internationally broadcast programs levied with a royalty fee from some publisher in Mongolia. Even if we wanted to specify excluded countries, the metadata would truly be a nightmare to create. So enjoy the Classical and the Public Domain music we do have in our library. Perhaps by the time we have colonies on Mars, you’ll have “ I Love A Piano” available for your shows!

May 09, 2017

We Mean Business

A Look At Music for Business in 2017

You may remember the days when business music was typically orchestral with low brass/tympani with punctuating rhythms under a serious, corporate-style melody. If you watch television commercials like we do at CSS Music, you’ve probably noticed that companies are veering away from this sound and replacing it with hip, more youth oriented tracks.

In an attempt to reach the coveted 25-49 year old demographic, national advertisers are turning toward the contemporary singer-songwriter style to advance their messages. Acoustic guitars and whistles have now replaced brass sections and woodwinds. Or in the case of the Apple/Microsoft/Samsung, etc., they’re moving to retro styled, hip music that appeals more to the millennial generation. Crazy pop rhythms and ear candy hooks, married to bright graphics, quick edits and shots of young people having fun with their tech toys now dominate much of American marketing.

While we have a very large number of Business/Industrial tracks on the CSS Music/Hand Picked Genre menu, you may find what you’re after exploring categories like Rock (Alternative-Indie-Roots Revival), Technology, Dance or Eclectic Retro Lounge. Sure, we have traditional corporate-style tracks when you’re underscoring a serious presentation--sometimes something too hip may distract from your message—and you’ll find variety aplenty when needing this type of music.

If you’re searching for something cutting edge that reflects “the sounds of today,” we’ve got you covered. And when the job requires a more established sound, CSS Music’s vast array of Business/Industrial tracks will undoubtedly have exactly the right track for your show. Don’t forget to try our Keyword Alpha Lists or the very useful Build-A-Search by Keyword at the bottom of our homepage. Keeping you in “business” is very important to us!