How to Create Your Own Background Music

By Heather Bliss

Background music is everywhere--in movies, elevators, dentists' offices and on telephones when you're on hold. Background music can help a store sell its wares or entertain customers while they wait. Because new background music is always needed, making this type of music can be a good career for a beginning digital musician. Using some basic music making software, you can make background music to sell or use in your place of business.

Download or buy some music creation software and install it on your computer. Reason, Audacity and Rebirth are music creation software packages that are flexible and user-friendly for digital music beginners (see Resources). If the software does not detect your computer's hardware, set the hardware settings to recognize your sound card. Hardware settings are usually located in Options or Preferences.

Choose the main sounds. Think about the setting in which the background music will be used. If you need to make background music for a waiting room in a dentist's office, choose soothing, soft sounds that will make listeners feel comfortable, such as strings, flutes and mid-range woodwinds like the tenor saxophone. If you are making background music for a telephone hold/wait, choose sounds that are bright and upbeat, such as video game sounds.

Choose the tempo. Tempo is the speed of the beat of a song, measured in beats per minute (BPM). If you want a slow, soothing background song, choose a tempo between 55 and 75 BPM. If you want your song to be upbeat and fun, choose a tempo between 100 and 130 BPM.

Choose your drum sounds. If you are making a soothing song for a waiting room, keep the drum sounds quiet and minimal. If your music making software offers a drum machine option with a brush kit, try it out to see if it works with your background music. For upbeat background music, try island sounds like steel drums.

Decide whether you would like a melody in your background music. Some background music has a catchy melody that is repeated throughout the song, while other background music is amorphous and contains melodies that seem improvisational. Some background music might have no melody at all, relying on the beat and chord structure to keep the listener occupied. Keep even volume levels, and make very little change to the loudness and intensity of the music throughout the piece. When you create your melody, consider something simple that can be varied slightly throughout the song to keep from sounding repetitive. A good melody will be at least two bars long. A bar is a unit of measurement that groups beats into measures. In the case of most background music, a bar will be four beats long.

Loop your music. For background music, it is best if the music can be seamlessly looped without disturbing the listener. Background music tracks are usually between six and 10 minutes long to keep song change interruptions to a minimum. You can then export your music to a CD or music player.

Tip

When starting out in music creation software, check to see if you need to add a music track or instrument to get started. You may also need to load a default sound into your software instrument plugins to get sound to play

Warning

Make sure that you get proper permissions and give credit for any sounds you use which might be the intellectual property of another musician.

About the Author

Heather Bliss has been writing professionally since 1998, specializing in technology, computer repair, gardening, music and politics. Bliss holds an Associate of Arts in journalism from Moorpark College. She also has a Bachelor of Arts from California State University, San Marcos, completed with a focus on music and performing arts technology.