Cue Tips

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No this is not about cleaning your ears out! Well maybe in a metaphoric way. Matt had mentioned “editor friendly” library tracks and MichaelL had asked for clarification. Matt’s response was:

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I think most editors would say that an easily editable track has these characteristics:

– a short intro, getting to the main idea quickly (no slow fade up)

– sticking to one emotion, idea, genre

– stays in one key (some editors like modulation, but it’s easier to edit when the music’s all in the same key from beginning to end)

– for TV, ‘A-B-A’ is a useful format, with the last A section being a bigger version of the opening. For longer tracks it could be ‘A-B-A-B-A’ (each time getting bigger) or ‘A-B-A-C-A’

– breaks in the music between sections, so that the editors can cut from those points to the end easily

– a nice solid, final ending, with a long ring out (there are always exceptions of course).

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Seems to me this would make for an interesting thread. Basic tips and tricks for writing library music. I have moved the comments that started this discussion to here.

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25 thoughts on “Cue Tips

  1. Hey Matt,
    I completely agree… if you have the motivation to write outside of a deadline, you’ve got it made in a lot of ways.
    I run a boutique library that’s expanding quite a bit right now. I’m a composer myself, and I’m also trying to guide my group of composers to write the most effective cues that the editors can really use. If you’re interested, I’d love to pick up the conversation with you.
    Cheers
    Russell
    rpossum at gmail

  2. To angopop: We did this article a few years ago under our KB (Knowledge Base), along with hundreds of other helpful articles to assist our composers. The title of the article is “How to Write a Perfect Ending for Various Types of Songs” and No. 11, the very last link, is an example of a button close:

    http://www.audiosparx.com/sa/kb/article/show.cfm/kbarticle_iid.1972/noadmin.true/aatemp.0

    Hope this helps,
    Barbie

  3. Can anyone give me a definition and example of a button ending? I need to create some edits and they specifically ask for button endings.

    • A short, decisive ending that can be used for transitions between scenes, or more likely – in or out from commercial breaks. You’re hear them all the time in sports broadcasts.
      They’re really short: 1 – 4 seconds to your final note, leave the tail on unless specifically asked not to. Editors can chop that off if they need to.

  4. @Alan said “One of the reasons I did it was because I heard one of my cues in a web ad. It was pretty much re-arranged in blocks to fit the dialog.”

    Very old thread, I know… but his comment reminded me that a track I placed on a mixtape recently was edited in a way I did not care for at all. They basically cut my track in half (took it from 4 minutes to 2) which destroyed the build up. The editor didn’t even bother to try to make it sound musical, he literally just cut it in half time-wise. That terrible edit got me thinking about how far clients are allowed to go in terms of editing and re-arranging a composer’s music. Isn’t the result after editing technically a derived work, which is in essence a new work which would require permission from the composer? Or are most contracts written in such a way that this is allowed?

  5. What are your thoughts on pick up notes for cues. I recently did one where the melody had an 8th note pick up. I felt the pickup was important to the melody. When it was about done, I thought the pick up note would make editing so I cut them all and make the melody start on the downbeat of the phrase. The track will be very easy to slice/dice and loop now.

    One of the reasons I did it was because I heard one of my cues in a web ad. It was pretty much re-arranged in blocks to fit the dialog. I’m sure it was easy to do because it was a “downbeat friendly” four bar phrase type of cue. Maybe that was a selling point?

  6. It seems to me that the key to making a good living from library music is one of those aggravatingly ‘simple but not easy’ statements like ‘buy low, sell high’.

    It’s something like: ‘write when you don’t have to.’

    Six years ago I didn’t have any tracks in libraries. Today I have over 2200 – a combination of cues I kept the rights to (from low paying indie films and TV pilots) and tracks that I wrote when I didn’t have anything else to work on. I also opened up the sessions of a bunch of tracks I sold to libraries and changed them enough to sound completely different. Usually this was far less work than starting a track from scratch.

    I’ve shared this advice with a lot of composers I’ve met up with over the years, but very few of them lacked the motivation to write when they didn’t have to, i.e. that it wasn’t for any particular project.

    A well produced, well written track with an editor-friendly structure is money in the bank. Any successful library would be delighted to receive a set of such tracks. The other key to making a living writing library music is, of course, choosing the right library to give your tracks to.

    I’m know I’m probably preaching to the choir on this site, but I’d love to hear your comments.

    • >It’s something like: ‘write when you don’t have to.'<

      Hey Matt,

      That's great advice, and should be written on every studio wall.
      I know a few composers who can't/won't write without an assignment or deadline.

      If you could elaborate on "editor friendly" I'd appreciate your spin on that.. Send me a PM if you want.

      Cheers,

      Michael

      • I’d take that to mean easy edit points through out a cue with clean entry and exit points. Matt?

        • I think most editors would say that an easily editable track has these characteristics:

          – a short intro, getting to the main idea quickly (no slow fade up)

          – sticking to one emotion, idea, genre

          – stays in one key (some editors like modulation, but it’s easier to edit when the music’s all in the same key from beginning to end)

          – for TV, ‘A-B-A’ is a useful format, with the last A section being a bigger version of the opening. For longer tracks it could be ‘A-B-A-B-A’ (each time getting bigger) or ‘A-B-A-C-A’

          – breaks in the music between sections, so that the editors can cut from those points to the end easily

          – a nice solid, final ending, with a long ring out (there are always exceptions of course).

          • Very good points Matt. Also the length of the track should be considered as well. I try to keep mine on an average of 3:00 or less, favoring the less side. You also make a good point of short intros and getting to the point as quickly as possible. I was guilty of long intros when I first started writing, but now I get to it in the first dew seconds.
            I am also in agreement with “writing when you don’t have to” I try to write everyday for a couple of hours or so. Sometimes it’s fruitful, sometimes not. I really feel that a successful writer has to have a lot of self-motivation, and discipline.

    • How should you edit .30 & 60. sec cues.

      • Carefully. 😉

      • Usually you want to pick good stand alone sections from the longer piece and end with button endings by the 30 or 60 second mark. Some suggest having your ring out be done at 29.5 or 59.5 but I’ve read that going a little further so that the end user can finish the fade out on their own is better. I try not to go over 30 or 60 but a *teeny* bit over when there is a long ring out is probably OK.

        Sometimes I make the edits by working backwards from the full version’s ring out ending and finding a logical start point 30 or 60 seconds from the end. Other times, this doesn’t work and getting your short piece to end with a button requires more copy and paste or even some recording to make an ending chord ring out.

        🙂

        • Rob (Cruciform) says:

          Advice: “Sometimes I make the edits by working backwards from the full version’s ring out ending and finding a logical start point 30 or 60 seconds from the end.”

          That’s generally what I do as well. If it doesn’t fit, I’ll find the nearest logical point as close to the beginning of what would be the 30 or 60s cue and then create a mini intro, usually by copy/pasting in from elsewhere in the main track, always musically logical.

          Sometimes, I’ll stitch a few different parts together to make the 30 or 60s piece, depending on how the main track is constructed.

        • On certain music genres I find it dificult to add or take off bits of music.
          So I reckon one must(often)resort to changing the bpm to fit in the 30 or 60 sec exactly ?
          Is it advisable or is better to leave the bpm of the track intact and let the client do it themselfs in their project.
          I see plenty of tracks in libraries that are a few secs longer or shorter then 15,30,60secs.

          • Andre
            Read up for the suggestions by myself and Rob (Cruciform). One thing you should avoid is doing time stretch/shrink because that will distort the sound. If that’s what you meant by changing BPM, not a good idea.

            😀

      • In this vein of :30 and :60s, should I be ending with LONG fadeouts or short (possibly un-natural feeling) fadeouts? Or should I be building a separate short sting to get past the potential un-natural feel?

        • Definitely NOT long fadeouts. A button ending is almost always required– that is a ring out note/chord over the last approx 1-2 sec.

          😀

          • I should have said “last few seconds”. Don’t want anyone to take 1-2 seconds as some correct formula. It varies… Has to be a natural ring out much like the end of any piece. Best thing is to listen to samples from libraries. 😉

    • DesireInspires says:

      Interesting story.

      Going big on quantity has been helpful for me. I got a lot more focused and stopped trying to make over-the-top music. A lot of the simple and straightforward music I have made has been licensed. Some of the songs that I tried to “perfect” have just sat around doing nothing so far.

      I think that making more songs helps me to improve more than critiquing a song over and over. I learned that quantity was important, so making more songs and sending them out helps to get more placements.

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