Episode 14 : Importance of Music

by Ian

in Audio, Design, Podcast, Storytelling

Set the scene, create the mood and make a point with music.

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Music can have profound effects on the mood of an audio Life Story and in Episode 14 of Create Your Life Story we are going to dig in and see how to use it for our benefit.

When I first started Your Story I realised that music was an important component to include, not because of anything other than because it’s always used in every decent radio, television or film production and I was happy to follow along with the status quo. What I’ve realised over the years since starting these projects and in comparing situations where music has been used and not, is that music can have an effect like probably nothing else in setting a mood and helping with the flow of between content components.

Create the mood and feel the era

Music is used at a subliminal level. It’s designed to create a feeling, rather than being something that you listen to. So in choosing your music always reference to how it makes you feel, while considering the audio it will be enhancing.  Feel how it washes over you rather than listening to it.

music to create emotion

Music makes the Mood

Music has multiple applications within a piece of audio:

  • Create and introductory feeling for the incoming audio
  • Leave the listener with a feeling of completion after listening
  • Linking between chapters, periods or themes
  • Developing storyline with evolving musical styles
  • Subtle background atmosphere to create mood
  • Use lyrics within tune to add to the story

We are all fully aware of how music is used in films but the same applies for us in creating the subtle effects on our Life Story project. A piece of music can set the emotional scene for a Life Story so seriously consider the style of music to use with a particular chapter of a persons life. Things to consider are:

  • Period of time being represented – jazz – 30’s & 40’s, big band – war years, rock’n’roll – 50’s, lounge or punk – 70’s
  • Music to suit the persons individual personality and tastes
  • Style to balance with the subject matter – fast, melancholic, dreamy, slow, frantic…
  • Development of the mood that is desired – reflection, hope, enthusiasm, regret, etc.

You’ll feel the correct music

I choose music carefully but in a very intuitive manner. I have initially edited the audio to remove all the conversational issues that spoil an easy listen so I know the piece that I want to select music for. I know the persons personality and I know what they are talking of, including the period of time in which it is placed. I have a feel for the cadence of the conversation and the personality of that section of conversation. Then I start to listen to music that I think is roughly of the era and style that suits the audio that I’m marrying it to. I start listening to all the music I can locate. I start with playing the music, skipping every twenty or thirty seconds to get a feel for the piece, how it feels more than how it sounds. What are the feelings that this piece helps to create in me as I reflect on the audio that I have just recently become so familiar with. As I quickly move from one track to another I note every time I feel something about a piece. If it feels just okay, even if I’m not sure why, I note it and then move on.  This is done quickly. Some tracks I know won’t work within one or two notes. Other pieces I’ll listen to ten sections of the track before noting it. Some tracks are obviously not suitable, some have possibilities while others are obviously just the perfect track.

When you know the track is perfect it can be added into the mix and away you go. It’s the more subtle, possible, could be, may be, tracks that we have more of an issue with in deciding. The best method is if you have a few tracks that you think may work, then try them out. Select one and drop it into the editing software and listen to how it sounds move it around or select maybe just a portion of it to use. The obviously correct or incorrect tracks are the easiest to deal with – keep or dump as it feels right. It’s the tracks that you are more uncertain of that will require you to sit with and see how you feel and I mean feel rather than think about.

We are creating an atmosphere of feelings based on the whole of the experience. Everything comes together including

  • Sounds of the back ground
  • Content of the conversation
  • Cadence and style of conversation
  • Period of time being described
  • Personality vocal styles
  • Emotions created from the information
  • Chosen music
  • Background interruptions
  • Atmosphere of audio background

I’m constantly amazed with how I can choose a track without fully listening to it and sometime later come back to realise that there is a melody or some lyrics that epitomises the conversation is some way.

By taking the time to become intimate with the audio before selecting the music your subconscious will identify the track that resonates best with that audio. For this reason if there is a period of time between the audio editing and selecting the music it’s worth taking some time to refamilurise yourself with the conversation before you start selecting the music. Then it’s just a case of throwing the music in front of your subconscious to feel for the right track. You will often select the perfect piece by gut instinct.

Just using music as an introduction has powerful effects in ways previously mentioned but using it in more complex ways, akin to a radio documentary you can create an entirely different effect on the final piece of audio. This is where your creative pursuits can flourish as you choose if you should use music minimally or otherwise, it’s entirely up to you. Allow yourself to be creative.

I mentioned on the podcast that I have recently completed some short audio pieces for the Queensland Theatre Company’s 40th anniversary oral history project which you may be interested in listen to.


  • Choose the audio chapter where you want to insert music
  • Consider the era, style, tempo or any other aspect
  • Find multiple tunes to generally suit
  • Listen to all the pieces as mentioned and select the most suitable piece
  • Transfer to the editing software and listen to it in context
  • Edit the music by adjusting levels or location to suit your creative desires

What method do you use to select music?

Feel free to write a comment below this post and help share your ideas with us.

If you’re new to Create Your Life Story, welcome and you may be interested in downloading the free e-Book Recording Life Stories.

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Music is from

John Lissauer
“Opening Credits” (mp3)
from “Apartment 1303 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”
(Red Parlor Entertainment Group)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album

Today Nick Hollywood
“Deep Henderson” (mp3)
from “White Mink : Black Cotton (Electro Swing vs Speakeasy Jazz)”
(Freshly Squeezed Music)

Buy at Napster
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album

Jill Barber
“Chances” (mp3)
from “Chances”
(Outside Music)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album

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