How to Choose and Arrange Music for a Video

  • When the right music is played at the right time in your video, there is real magic.
  • Just as with any other content production, ask yourself, who is your viewer?
  • Don't forget to pay attention to volume!

We all love YouTube videos with good music. It’s nice to consume a coherent and balanced product. But how do you achieve that in your videos? What to focus on and what to start from when selecting a track? Complete guide “How to choose the right music for a video“.

We all love YouTube videos with good music. It’s nice to consume a coherent and balanced product. But how do you achieve that in your videos? What to focus on and what to start from when selecting a track? In this article, we’ll look at organizing music as such, and then use that knowledge directly in our work.

What is music? What are the key characteristics of a piece of music?

Let’s start with the basics. So, what is music and what does it do? The simplest and most universal definition of music is sound in time. Any piece of music you’ve ever heard fits this definition, whether it’s Japanese noise or a street musician singing to a strummed guitar. All music is a combination of three key characteristics: rhythm, melody, and harmony.

Rhythm is primarily pulsation – periodic, structured bursts of volume caused by any instrument. The most popular rhythmic instruments are, of course, drums and percussion. But every element of a track can play a rhythmic role. Rhythm is what makes us dance, move.

A melody is a gradual movement of the voice or instrument up and down through sounds of varying pitch (notes). A melody, depending on the role assigned to it by the author, can be a solo element of a composition or a secondary element – for example, emphasizing a certain moment. A melody is something that we hum.

Harmony is the consonance of two or more notes. It is used to build the emotional message of a composition, to convey its mood and emotions. Harmony enhances the sensual coloring and gives the overall scale of the composition.

There are several sensations whose transmission through music is perceived more or less universally.

The balance of these three whales often determines the genre of the composition. For example, in techno, the rhythmic component is the most important: most of the elements of the track fulfill a pronounced rhythmic role, and the melodic and harmonic components are practically absent. On the other hand, it is possible to give an example of ambient music – it is dominated, first of all, by harmony and often there is no rhythm as such. Further in this article we will categorize musical works based on the balance of these three elements.

Having familiarized ourselves with how music is organized, we move on to experiencing it.

How do listeners perceive the music in the video?

Adding music to your video gives you a powerful tool for influencing the viewer’s emotions. Music can both enhance the emotional impact of viewing and turn the product upside down, giving it a completely different meaning.

Of course, the perception of music is subjective – everyone communicates with it in their own way, and there is little rationality here. Some track may stay with you for the rest of your life, just because it is associated with some strong memory – genre, composition and quality of the recording are of secondary importance in this case. On the other hand, some absolutely fantastic track that sounds stunning may completely pass you by because you weren’t in the right mood or environment to notice all its merits.

There are several sensations whose transmission through music is perceived more or less universally. Let’s take a look at them, noting the genres and musical characteristics that do the job well:

Tranquility. Music that contains virtually no dissonance can be characterized as soothing. Take a relaxed, even slightly lazy rhythm, harmony that is pleasant to the ear, and sustained notes, and you have a virtually foolproof means of relaxing your viewer. Ambient, downtempo, slow jazz, and classical – music with a little emphasis on rhythm and a good melody and harmony – are good for relaxation.

Tension. Tension in music is often achieved through dissonance, a kind of “irregularity. These techniques are more likely to cause the viewer a sense of excitement. Music that switches from melody to clanging, grinding and other less musical sounds is aimed precisely at taking the listener out of his comfort zone, immersing him in a tense atmosphere. To create tension, minimalistic tracks are well suited – they contain a lot of free space, which stimulates the viewer’s imagination – only not at the expense of excess information, but on the contrary – at the expense of its absence.

Drive. Think of your favorite scenes of chases, battles and fights – and remember that such scenes are often accompanied by energetic, rhythmic and noisy music. Use it to make the clip dynamic and share the energy with the viewer. For such tasks is very well suited modern dance electronica. Rhythm rules the ball here, and everything else recedes slightly into the background. However, avoid overtly club sound-it’s a club sound because it works best in a nightclub, not on YouTube. Pick a track that’s more or less universal, so it has something to dance to and something to listen to. This will also broaden your audience – more people will find something they like about your product.

Expectation. When the soundtrack itself contains uncertainty, and the musical phrases are constructed in such a way that they seem to be a question for which there is no answer, the audience begins subconsciously to expect something. Like tension, expectation moves toward the unknown. With the right melody or sounds, we can bring the audience smoothly and gently to a climax or an important plot point. What matters here is not so much a certain balance of the three main components, but rather the composition itself. Waiting scenes are often accompanied by monotonous and repetitive music with increasing volume or expression, bringing the viewer to the desired climax on the screen.

Fear. Let us turn to the classics – let us recall the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Despite the absence of violence in the frame, with the help of Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant musical accompaniment, every viewing of this scene is accompanied by feelings of horror and fear. And there’s nothing overly complicated about the soundtrack itself – the repetitive dissonant sound of the strings works wonderfully to create the right atmosphere. Everything ingenious is simple. The same technique was later used in the shooting of “Jaws” with similar results.

How does music combine with visual media?

It’s quite simple here – get your priorities right. In art forms that stimulate multiple senses simultaneously, it’s very important to understand from the beginning what the priorities are, and which channel of communication will be the main one. Let’s say we’re making a video for a song, the music comes first and then the video that supports and enhances it. And if we’re shooting a drama video, we have to decide which musical lineup (or lack thereof) will best convey and amplify what we have in mind. When we need both the eyes and the ears of the listener, we always have to decide which is more necessary and which will play a supporting role.

Jokes are jokes, but this is a very good example of the misallocation of priorities between audio and video. See how funny it is when you start strictly from the music video and write the song to go with the video after shooting it:

Now that we better understand the role of music in video, we move on to the most painstaking stage: production.

It’s helpful to decide on the music in your video as early as possible, before the final edits.


It’s helpful to decide on the music in your video as early as possible, before the final edits. You’ll always be one step ahead and can connect the music and video more closely if you decide at the beginning of the process. Use music as a starting point! Trimming your video to the beat can make it dynamic and energetic, but otherwise, it can make it tense. Make informed choices depending on the needs of your product. Some producers prefer to make a very rough cut so they can try different tracks first and choose the best one. Once selected, the cut is adjusted more accurately to the music – a useful approach, but again, it should be applied at the beginning of post-production.

Normally, the tone and mood of your video will dictate your choice of music. But that’s only when you want to achieve a synergy between the sound and the picture-sometimes the task can be just the opposite. Using the “wrong” music in a scene can allow for an emotional impact on the viewer. Peaceful, soothing music during a bloody scene can make it even more dramatic and unrealistically horrific. Don’t be afraid to break stereotypes-the “wrong music” may well be the highlight of your product.

Depending on the type of video we produce, sometimes you may find that it doesn’t require any music at all from start to finish. Picks and tops of all kinds require a full soundtrack from “a” to “z,” but a corporate film or personal vlog might actually benefit from occasional musical insertions or a “book-cover” approach (where music is used only at the beginning and end of the video). In many cases, music can play a more powerful role if it is not constantly used – to accentuate a point or climax of the video. If the music is forced, the viewer may tire out.

Do I use tracks with vocals? Use them, but use them wisely – a vocal part in the background of a dialogue or interview can distract or alienate the viewer. If you choose a vocal track, consider whether the lyrics support what’s happening in the video. Good instrumental tracks can convey the same emotion, but are much safer in terms of aesthetics and production.

You don’t have to be bound to the timing of the selected track. Feel free to edit it if your video needs it. The typical cadence of a commercial track (verse, hello, etc.) may well not match your cut. Better yet, cut or loop parts of the track in any editor so that the peak moment of the track is at the right moment in the video.

It is also helpful to choose the right arrangement to convey the desired emotions and feelings. For example, ethnic music can be effective if you shoot in the right locations – it helps to develop a sense of presence in the viewer.

Don’t forget to pay attention to volume! You can get so caught up in the music that you forget that there’s also live speech or dialogue in the video, and that’s what the audience wants to hear. The music should accompany the video, enhancing its effect, not suppressing it. When you’re putting together sound for your video, remind yourself of what’s most important in the product and bring that element strictly to the forefront.

Just as with any other content production, ask yourself, who is your viewer? What is their age and background? A corporate manager may not respond to hard rock or hip-hop, but a younger, simpler audience will be happy to like it and show it to their friends.

And in general, choose and add music in a meaningful way, making it an important part of the overall product. A perfectly matched track can not only guide your editing process, but also attract viewers and multiply their emotions from watching.


We’ve covered the basics of analyzing and selecting music. Hopefully, now it will be easier for you to find the right soundtrack for your videos. When the right music is played at the right time in your video, there is real magic. Your viewers won’t just be watching, they’ll be feeling and living every second of it.

If this material is useful to you, share it with your friends – it will increase your chances of hearing the conscious soundtrack in the next YouTube video you watch.

Emilia Bartner

Acquiring a wealth of experience in writing articles on trends and prospects for the development of the game industry in the world I I've found myself as a Freelance Journalist. I am writing now about blockchain and cryptocurrencies trends, sometimes covering importance of bitcoin for various other industries.

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