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Production Music Glossary


TimV suggested a glossary of production music or library music terms and I thought it was a great idea.

To quote Tim:
“For example, I would like to see definitions of sting, sting out, and needle drop. (I once tried to google “sting out”, but all I got were articles about treating mosquito bites.) Someone else recently asked for a definition of trailer music.”

If you would like to offer some definitions please do so here. If you would like answers you may ask here but as your questions are answered the question will be deleted to try and keep this uncluttered. Eventually (if this is successful) I’ll compile them in alphabetical order.

13 thoughts on “Production Music Glossary”

  1. This is basic. Can someone define for me the types of instrumental pieces. Cue, track, song, etc., and what lengths they should be? Is it better to have an “edit point” in longer pieces or just provide edits at :15 and :60? are there other crucial lengths like :15?

    • “Cue, track, song” are interchangeable terms.

      “what lengths they should be?”

      I shoot for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes. YMMV.

      “Is it better to have an “edit point” in longer pieces or just provide edits at :15 and :60”

      I try to provide edit points but sometimes I forget my own advice. I had one library who wanted them at :30. In any event I always make alt versions of 15, 30 and 60. 30s are my best sellers.

      • thanks! It does kinda seem like a track has no vocals while a song does, but maybe on this page is the instrumental point of view.

        • “It does kinda seem like a track has no vocals while a song does”

          I agree. It’s just that I hear the uninitiated refer to instrumentals as songs and technically they are.

  2. Thanks to Denis Woods for the following:

    Stems: Tracks or generally a collection of like tracks from beginning to end of cue which would enable the sound-mixer/Client to dropout,lets say the drums on a particular section. Usually Drums,bass,Keys,BVs Vox, FX,Strings etc. each grouped as a stereo pair.

    Alts. Alternative mixs of the main cue, maybe an instrumental of a Vocal cue or with a lead element taken out, sometimes referred to as Underscore if it is just chordal based with no discernible melody.

    Edit. Cut down versions of the Main track that comply to the length of Advertising for TV. Generally 30sec or 60 sec. There are different standards for this though, in Ireland and UK a 30sec TV commercial is in fact 29 secs of sound . There is a 15 frame blank at start and end so that commercials dont run into each other.

    • Hey Art,
      I’ve been getting opinions from others on the sometimes long silent gaps created by, according to the definitions, alt versions where maybe you take out the synth but that’s the only instrument playing for so many bars.
      How have you been handling that?

      • My tendency with alts is to let the whole length run but it really is a case by case situation. My alt mixes don’t usually have long gaps, maybe 4 to 8 bars and that doesn’t happen often. If I had an alt mix with lots of gaps I probably wouldn’t bother with that mix.

  3. Stingers, stings, sting outs all refer to short pieces of music, usually less than 15 seconds, sometimes as short as 2-3 seconds that accentuate the end of a scene or transition between scenes. I think 5-8 seconds is pretty average. I just had one that was 2 seconds according to the cue sheet.

    It can be a short burst of a few notes (like the famous 2 note thing on Law And Order) or a short musical piece with a solid button ending that ends a scene well.

    Sometimes it’s easy to create stingers from existing tracks with button endings by editing off the final phrase(s). You can do that yourself and provide those separate edits to libraries if they want them.

    The stinger placements I’ve had were not written as such but the music editor for the show did the edit. Occassionally, I’ve submitted tracks to libraries where by the created their own stinger alt. from my track’s end.


    • Thanks Advice, I was curious about that too. I have experimented with a few (no, not new age stings!) and appreciate your explanation for us newbies! The technique you describe of using the end of a track is what I’ve tried to do, but I was curious if at the library they hear something within the track they use – probably they prefer to have it ready to go when submitted.


      • With many libraries, it’s good to offer 30 sec, 60 sec, bumper, and stinger edits of your tracks. Some will request or encourage that.

        A bumper is usally less than around 20 seconds and can be used as a scene fades out, transitions, goes to commercial. Or in radio/TV, the end of a segment such as a 1/2 hour segment.

        Some libraries such as Scorekeepers Music do their own cut downs from your full length tracks and do not have you submit these separately.

        Very often, the best way to make these edits is to work backwards from your button ending and find a logical start point X seconds prior. Depending on the track, it make take a bit of creative editing to get the length right, especially for exact 30 and 60 seconds.


  4. Would someone be kind enough to define “sting” and “sting out” for me? I can guess at what they mean, but I would rather actually know. Thanks.

    • Its a really short piece of music. It could be of any style. An example is when Windows 7 loads and the default piano comes on as an intro.


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