[WATCH] How To Score Trailers

trailer xpressions

Trailers are something I have always enjoyed watching. They can often be the best way to find out whether something is worth investigating further or getting a quick taste of what something is about. As a film and media composer, it is a great skill to be able to score trailers effectively. In this blog post and video I hope to help you build these skills while I take a look at Sample Logic’s Trailer Xpressions 1 and 2.

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These are two separate sound libraries containing just about everything you might associate with trailer music all carefully programmed into ready made Kontakt instruments making it easy to search for sounds or play along with the on-screen action.

To demonstrate the power of these libraries, I have made a brief tutorial on my ideas regarding trailer music and the best ways to approach getting started and scoring a trailer.

The first thing I would like to talk about is a concept I find useful for trailer music:

Mickey Mousing: This is when the on-screen action is followed closely by the music.

Although there are no concrete rules in trailer scoring, I find it very helpful to follow on-screen action with your music in an obvious way to get your message across in the short amount of time you have in the trailer.

My step by step method for scoring a trailer is usually as follows:

  1. WATCH TRAILER/ MAKE PLAN: It is really important to know all the various changes in your trailer. In planning I usually identify special moments I want to emphasize and get an idea for how gradually I can build tension and suspense.
  2. MARK KEY POINTS WITH HITS/BOOMS: This is probably the most important step and allows you to map out the various moments in your trailer. Try using a mix of different sounds to build up to moments of emphasis.
  3. ADD BRAMS/ EMPHASISE MOMENTS: Xpressions comes packed with plenty of great sounding BRAMS. These can be a great way to really emphasise a particular moment or shot. I recommend using these sparingly as they can be so intense!
  4. GLUE MOMENTS TOGETHER/ BUILD ANTICIPATION WITH RISERS: At this point in my scoring I have only got hits and brams. Adding risers helps glue together the various hits and create anticipation for big hits
  5. ADD MUSICAL ELEMENTS TO CREATE MOTION: After all of the previous steps it becomes easy to add cinematic pulses and musical elements to create emotion and feeling. As trailers can have unusual tempos and change rapidly, I recommend doing the previous steps first to give yourself a good framework to operate musically within.
  6. SUBTLE HIGHLIGHTS & MICKEY MOUSING: In the final step I like to highlight on screen activity with subtle sounds or a sound that enhances the feeling of what’s on screen. An example of this was included in my video when I saw the screaming person at the end of my trailer. I decided to enhance with screaming and distortion sounds. This really added to the imagery on screen and made the moment more memorable.

Although the above method usually works for me, feel free to make your own and build on my ideas.

Using Trailer Xpressions 1 & 2 made it very easy to make a trailer with undeniable sound quality and unprecedented speed. I highly recommend trying out these libraries to anyone who needs to score a trailer or even wants some new epic sounds to include in their cinematic music project. The quality and range of sounds on offer would be a welcome addition to any studio!

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