The right trailer can set the success of a film, a video game or a tv show before they are released. It is a major element in the big marketing machine of studios’ release plans and the music that goes along with the visual part of a trailer plays no small part in that. There is a lot of players in the game that have this formula down to a tee: Extreme Music, Two Steps From Hell, Immediate Music, Audiomachine, Brand X, Ninja Tracks, Really Slow Motion, Confidential Music, HiFinesse, Sencit, Riptide Music, just to name a few. And each of them bring a different flavor to the table.
One of the more exciting things in the modern trailer music world is the incredible phenomena where a single sound can make a trailer track stand out. Writing trailer music is a very different style of music and different style of writing as a composer to begin with. Here are some of the most recognizable trailer sounds of the recent years:
1. The “Alarm” in the Prometheus Teaser Trailer:
Original Track: Audiomachine “Judge and Jury”
2. The “Braaam” in the Inception Trailer:
Original Track: Zack Hemsey “Mind Heist”
3. The “Distortion Booms” and “Stutter Downers” in the Elysium Trailer
Original Track: HiFinesse “Radius”
4. The “Pulsating Atmospheres” in the Titanfall trailer:
Original Track: Danny Cocke “Sinister Intent”
5. The “Distorted Drum Kits and Synthesizers”:
– that you can hear in a lot of the music by Ninja Tracks, such as “Tension Ratio” or “Exposure” (below):
6. The “Distorted Risers” at the end of Twelve Titans Music’s “Artifice”, used in Avengers: Age of Ultron:
7. The “Filtered Guitar Alarm” in the Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Trailer:
Original Track: Think Up Anger “Mission Ready”
8. The “Bowed Metal Sounds” in the Interstellar Trailer:
Original Track: Confidential Music “View From The Voyager”
There’s a growing number of trailer sound libraries out there – here are some of the most popular new ones:
9. The remix of Cat Stevens’ Wild World in the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer:
Original Track: Confidential Music “Shepherd” (the track was also used on the The Martian campaign)
10. And of course the very iconic machine gun style electric guitar sound of Attila Ats track “Shredder”
– used in the Oblivion, World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness and many other trailers.
The focus on these individual marker sounds will only become more important. We live in a world where technology progresses faster by the minute and there is so much noise that is trying to get our attention. To cut through that, you need to create something that is truly memorable and instantly recognizable, because as unappealing as this may sound, trailer music is music for advertising and is there to help sell a product or to help sell tickets. Since there is only a very short amount of time in which you can sell a story to the audience you need those “Musical USPs”.
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It is very hard to predict trends or predict which tracks will work with the audience. Things that have shown to be quite popular are piano intros with a lot of reverb (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, etc.) and of course the trailerized covers of songs (see #9 on the list above). The last category in particular seems to be becoming more and more popular and prominent in trailers of all types and genres, so keep an eye out for those.
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I talk a lot to up and coming trailer guys and if there’s a list of things that you could hand out to people who are interested in getting into writing for trailers, I would say:
• Production value: Almost more important these days than proper orchestration is the quality of your track. You need to be able to deliver a highquality, polished track.
• Be loud but be reasonable with your mastering and your compression. It is totally fine to use things like New York compression and multiband distortion on the master bus, but do it within reason. Things can always be made louder at the end, but it is difficult to bring things back down from an overly normalized and compressed track.
• Write for the trailer editor and make that a priority: Provide a number of sections in each track that are easy to cut while still providing a great and cohesive piece of music.
• More than ever it is important to find your own voice as a composer. There is a lot more competition and it is very easy for trailer companies to find young composers. So take your time, do your research and find the style that suits you best. You won’t be able to do a lot of styles well, so really be honest with yourself and focus on your own style.
• Melody is still important. Despite the fact that knowing synthesis and sound design well is very important, being able to write a catchy melody still means a lot. There is only a few composers that can do that well. So you could be one of them.
• Song titles actually do matter, so keep that in mind. You want to catch the eye of trailer editor, so tailor your song titles to what movie genre you think clients could use it in.
Most importantly, if you decide to go for a career in the trailer music industry bring a lot of patience with you. It takes time to get your first placement, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t land an international blockbuster trailer within your first two months.
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About Jan Hoeglund
After finishing his graduate degree in Chinese, Jan moved to the US from Germany in 2010. “Fresh off the boat” he got got job working at an artist management agency handling the day-to-day management for bands such as Periphery, The Word Alive, We Came As Romans, and others. Being very passionate about cinematic music, trailer music in particular, he eventually switched over to working in the field of sampled instruments where he started working for 8Dio first, before joining the amazing team at Soundiron. He’s also involved in the Audio Imperia label, which was created to provide talented trailer music sound designers a creative platform to showcase their talents.
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