January 30, 2017

Understanding Film Music

When A Big Orchestra Is Too Much and Vice Vera

At CSS Music we love the movies! We see just about every major release and have done so for too many years to count. And if you’re like us, you probably pay close attention to the music! But what makes a great soundtrack and what type of orchestration works best for different films?

While a small, independent film might benefit from a large orchestral score—say for a scene of sweeping vistas—most often a smaller movie requires more intimacy. If you think about it….a quiet love scene with a huge string section playing the “lovers theme” could come off as quite camp. More likely a string quartet, solo piano or guitar or light synthesizer wash will best serve that type of scene.

The same applies to action scenes. An indie film chase scene will generally be on the low budget side and a huge orchestral track will probably sound out of place. The major action-adventure motion pictures thrive on spectacular special effects and a huge bombastic orchestral score--and of course, huge 5.1 surround-sound sound effects. The smaller film’s action scenes will be better served with a rock or country-based track or a driving synthesizer-sequencer track.

The current trend in both smaller films and certain major releases is to go the Singer-Songwriter route. This particular music style is often heard in the closing credits and may employ lyrics that relate back to the story of the movie. For you guys: CSS Music offers instrumental versions of the Singer-Songwriter style. Use our Hand Picked Genre menu and you’ll find suitable tracks under Country, (all styles except Wild West) Emotions (Lite Side) Film and Rock (Swampy-Southern Edge-Rural Rebellion.) Or try a search for “Folk” from our Keyword Alpha or Build-A-Search menus.

We want your productions to reflect current musical trends. Whether it’s a huge orchestra playing an emotional theme or a smaller group providing musical support for a comedic scene, CSS Music is here to make your shows sound great!

January 24, 2017

Using Alternate Mixes

Doing It Movie Editor Style

At CSS Music we’ve always believed in providing alternate mixes. In fact, our PowerTrax library was built around this premise. And you’ve probably noticed some new Project Platinum albums with alternate mixes and even some cue loops. The question is, how to most effectively use these in conjunction with the full mix cut? And what exactly are these alternate mixes?

Starting with the latter, an alternate mix is generally the track sans melody. This allows the alternate track to provide “space” for (usually) dialog. These mixes can also be simple stems—i.e. drums and bass, high synth sequencer, rhythmic pad, etc. Or with some of the CSS Music vocal tracks, we’ll supply a full mix without the vocal. Cue loops are very sparse repetitious sections of a track that typically run :15 to :40 that you can paste together as needed.

How to best use these alternate mixes? Let’s create a typical scene—we’ll call it “Catching The Wiley Walleyed.” Here’s how you’d use a track/companion alternate mix. (We’ll assume these are all hard edits.)

INT. truck; on way to lake; dialog                            Alternate mix
EXT: boat launches in water                                     Full mix; action section
EXT: talent in boat; ambient SFX                            No music or light rhythm
CU: casting from boat; montage of casts                 Full mix; quieter section
MS: talent talks; decide on different locale             Alternate mix under
EXT: LS of boat moving                                          Full mix; action
CU: casting from boat & dialog                               Alternate mix
CU: fish strikes!                                                        Full mix; timed to track ending

The beauty in this type of editing is your show sounds like it has been custom scored. Plus all dialog will be heard without having to duck the track very much. CSS Music recommends you audition our PowerTrax library and Project Platinum volumes 14-19. We think you’ll be cutting like a film editor in no time!

January 17, 2017

A Drone That Doesn’t Fly

Using Electronic Elements Effectively

If you’ve ever seen a film where there are scenes with tension, horror or something otherworldly, you’ve undoubtedly heard the ubiquitous (usually) low synthesizer or bass/celli drone. The static, unrelenting tone is generally the harbinger to something important is a comin’!

Whether you’re trying to convey anticipation of quietly stalking a wild animal or waiting to see if the engine you’ve been rebuilding will fire, the use of a drone can really perk up the tension. And it also serves as a sort of “intro” leading to the climax of the your scene.

At CSS Music we have a couple different sources for these types of tracks. Using our Keyword Alpha Lists you can explore topics like Evolving, Futuristic, Horror, etc. You’ll find traditional compositions that may embody some type of drone element or a track that fits the genre. But if you want to dive right in to electronic mayhem, the CSS Music 6 disc set of E-Efx (Electronic Effects) will provide you a wide selection of sounds.

Briefly…E-EFX is a potpourri volume with a variety of electronics. E-EFX II provides whooshes, zaps, swipes, etc. E-EFX III (Lite) offers more sparkly effects. E-EFX IV is more of the bizarro/alternative bent. E-EFX V and E-EFX VI are your meat and potatoes electronics with multiple versions of each category. NOTE: CSS Music recommends checking out the later tracks (approx. cut 70-100) on E-EFX II through IV. You’ll find more musical tracks that may perfectly suit your needs!

If you’re looking for music that evolves from a drone and has more of a futuristic vibe, check out CSS Music’s 2-disc Soundscapes library. This music could be deemed Electronica or Experimental—it’s definitely a unique experience!

Try flying in a drone! (Pun intended.) You might be surprised how this production element adds ear candy to your show!

January 09, 2017

Got The Blues?

Why The Blues Sometimes Makes You Feel Good

A couple Blues jokes. Q: What was etched on the Blues singer’s tombstone? A: “I Didn’t Wake Up This Mornin’!”
Q: What’s the difference between a moose and a Blues band? A: The moose has the horns in front and the a-hole in the back.

All joking aside, understanding The Blues—and understanding different types of Blues—requires a little exposition. While we at CSS Music can hardly be considered Bluesman, we do enjoy and appreciate the genre. In fact we have 333 tracks of various variety of Blues ready for your shows! On our homepage, click on Blues (all styles) from our Hand Picked Genres or choose Blues (A-G) from our Keyword Alpha List.

The Blues originated in the Deep South of the 19th Century with Black slaves lamenting their lives by singing in the fields. Later, as the genre evolved, artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, W.C. Handy and B.B. King popularized The Blues and brought the music to a larger audience. Then as people moved north, cities began developing their own brand of Blues like Chicago, Kansas City and Memphis.

And with these stylized derivations, the lone guitar—acoustic or bottleneck slide—were beginning to be augmented with full rhythm and later, horn sections. While the harmonic structure remained pretty much 12-bar-Blues chord progressions, tempos began getting faster, guitar virtuosity became the focal point and raspy, whiskey voiced vocalists became Rock Stars.

CSS Music invites you to explore our collection of Blues tracks. Need a modern ZZ Top influenced rocker? Listen to “Nothing But Smoke.” (Super Themes 47) Want to capture that smoky Blues club? Try “Baby You Done Me Wrong.” (Super Themes 29) Crave a smokin’ hot Blues Rock track with horns? Give “Rock The House” (Project Platinum 2) a listen. We believe once you audition CSS Music’s excellent selection of Blues tracks, you’ll never suffer from the blues again!

January 04, 2017

Getting Your Glamour On

A Look At Music From The Clubs To The Runway

If you’re a fan of Lifetime Network’s “Project Runway” you’ve undoubtedly heard a lot of Fashion music. The upbeat “4 on the floor” kick drum, pounding bass, syncopated synthesizer chords and arpeggio sequencers are the hallmarks of this style (pun intended) of music. And we at CSS Music want you to look your best while you “vogue” through this blog. J

The origin of Fashion music is borne out of today’s dance clubs; discos if you think old school. This music is commonly referred to as electronic dance music (EDM) or House. There is rarely any harmonic movement other than maybe two chords—it’s designed to mesmerize and move you with relentless repetition and rhythm.  

On a historical note: the aforementioned 4 on the floor kick drum originated during the disco era of the late 1970’s. Artists such as Donna Summer, Chic, The Village People, the Bee Gees and others brought the world an entirely new musical genre (and some huge hit records) via disco. In fact, the film “Saturday Night Fever” was built around life in a disco and became a huge album for the Bee Gees.

As disco evolved into EDM and House, melodies were replaced by repetitious ostinatos; live orchestras lost out to synthesizers. The lyrics still revolve around partying, dancing and the nightlife, but soaring melodies and meaningful lyrics are now rarely heard.

Using our Hand Picked Genre menu on the CSS Music homepage, click on “Fashion/Glamour/Buzz.” We have 87 of these tracks in a variety of arrangements. We believe there’s a track or five that will serve you well any time you need to get your glamour on!