How to Write Background Music

By Heather Bliss
Create background music masterpieces on your home computer with composition software.

Add sound depth and emotional swells to performances, films and exhibits by writing your own background music. Compose and arrange a score at home using notation software and digital instruments. Whether background music is for a business, a film or a school project, creating background music with scores for live musicians can be created with some advanced music software. Making effective background music requires some consideration of the sound environment, the purpose of the music and of other sounds that will be playing at the same time.

Consider what purpose the background music serves. Background music that is meant to play in a dentist's office will sound much different from background music for an action movie.

Choose a notation or audio editing program on which to write the background music. Finale and Sibelius are the two major music notation software programs. Audio programs used to make background music include Reason, ProTools, Cubase and Audacity.

Determine what sounds, if any, will be played over your background music. Sounds can include character dialogue or noise from the movie scene that will play the music. Knowing what will sound during the background music can help you choose the sounds you want in your music.

Decide which instruments your background music will use. Choices for instruments include digital instruments and analog instruments. To help choose instruments, listen carefully to a piece of music that is similar to what you want in the background music.

Choose a main theme or two. A main theme is a short melody that recurs throughout the background piece. Experiment with varying the themes in different ways until you find a pattern that has the musical feel you want.

Use a notation program to orchestrate the main theme among the instruments you chose. With live instruments, you can print the notation score to give to the conductor and musicians who will perform the piece for recording. If you are using digital instruments, you can output the notation sound to a musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) file to play back the notation with different sounds. A MIDI file controls digital instruments; you can assign different sounds to MIDI files by importing them into a music program that handles MIDI.

Tip

For background music played under dialogue, choose instruments with pitch ranges that are different from the tones of the speakers' voices. This will help keep from drowning out the dialogue.

A recurring sub-theme that plays when a certain character or idea occurs in a film is called a leitmotif. A leitmotif gives a sound correlation to a presence on a film screen, strengthening the entrance of a character or theme.

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.