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Documentary Background Music: A Step by Step Guide for Choosing BG Music for Filmmakers

Documentary Background Music

Documentary background music isn’t the first thing on a filmmaker’s to-do list.

Yet, there are multiple reasons for you to focus on a soundtrack or various sound effects that play along when a significant scene is unfolding on screen. It’s important to remember that music plays a pivotal role in building up the mood and driving the story. You can use it to make your audience cry, laugh or sit at the edge of the seat as they reach the climax.

In other words, consider documentary background music as an emotion-stirring plot device. Without it, your documentary—despite your wonderful direction and actors’ moving performances—will not create an impression on viewers.  As a test, watch a couple of videos with the volume turned off and compare it with your reaction after you can hear the background sounds.  Did you notice a difference?

Imagine your passion project losing viewers because of the lack of documentary background music. You wouldn’t want that. That’s why you should read the guide below to learn how to choose the right piece for your documentary.

Let’s begin.

Getting Started: How to Choose Documentary Background Music?

Documentary Background Music

You need a good ear and razor-sharp focus when choosing documentary background music. You can’t add music randomly to fill the void. Instead, consider it another element of your story that takes viewers forward or adds to the performances played on screen. Once you understand this, you have a better chance of selecting poignant music for your video.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to streamline your choices:

Step 1: Understand YOUR Niche Audience

Whether your documentary focuses on the beauty of wildlife, trials, and tribulations of a corporate worker, the loyal spirit of a lost generation, or commentary on social injustices, you’ve got a target audience in mind. Think of the music genres and instrumental tracks these people listen to daily. Use that as a reference point to select a background score for your video production. For instance, a documentary on Africa needs to feature folk music and cultural symphonies. Otherwise, your soundtrack will divert attention instead of grabbing it. Likewise, you can’t appease teenagers with Beethoven-Esque tracks unless you’re making a documentary for history buffs or musicians that play/like classical music.

Moreover, the period you’re covering matters as well. You can’t play contemporary music if you depict the Regency Era doesn’t serve you well. That’s unless you pull a Bridgerton and use classical covers of billboard hits.

Music Note: Watch different documentaries and observe how they use background music. Take tips from acclaimed videographers and directors to create a score that aligns with your niche-specific production.

Step 2: Dig Deeper

The difference between a great filmmaker and an average one lies in strategy.  You can’t select a genre and use it throughout the documentary.  Such an act will generate a lukewarm response from the audience and, at times, might appear pointless.

If you want documentary background music to pull heartstrings, you need to become more considerate.  Think about when and where you want to add music and how it influences the narrative.

Ask questions like:

  • Does this specific sound create the right mood?
  • How will my audience react to this song?
  • How long should I play certain music?
  • Is this dragging the scene or uplifting it?

Use such questions to eliminate fluffy non-essential tracks and make a beeline for background music that has relevancy. Then think of how it will resonate with an audience. If these aspects create a cohesive picture, you should add the background documentary music. Otherwise, we request you to continue the search until you reach satisfactory results.

Music Note: Here’s a cool video that discusses the 3 Best Music Genres for Video (Our Top Picks) | In Tune.

Step 3: Become a Storyteller via Documentary Background Music

Does your selected score tell a story?

Consider their connection once you choose the bits and pieces that go well with different scenes. If your music isn’t taking viewers on an emotional journey through strategically placed sounds alone, then you don’t need it. Adjust volumes and placements accordingly to build a cohesive narrative through your song (and sound) selection.

Once that’s done, you’ve got a masterpiece in your hand.

People Also Ask: Can I Get Documentary Background Music for Free?

Yes, you can find good documentary background music for your production without exceeding your budget. Several streaming sites (like ours) give users access to a varied range of music. It includes classic tracks, contemporary beats, sound effects, and many other genres recorded by aspiring artists and local superstars.

Even though you might find background sounds that cost nothing, you should opt for royalty-free music. That’s because the one-time payment method proves feasible for documentary directors on a budget. It’s also a way to discover quality music with finished sounds and well-mixed records. Conversely, you might not find the same standard of music if you only choose free music as they tend to have a generic sound. With music (or song) that requires one-time licensing, you receive unique content at a reasonable rate with minimum replication or copyrights issues.

Music Note: On a budget? Learn How to Make a Great Low-Budget Soundtrack for Your Film with a few smart tricks and actionable tips.

Lights. Camera. Let’s Play Music!

In the end, your documentary background music can either elevate your scene or cause an interruption. The tips and tricks shared in this guide shall point you towards the right genre, musician, and mood.  All you’ve got to do is listen attentively and look at how specific sounds and melodies influence how you feel about a scene. Then add the background music you like to build up tension, diffuse it or create a comic relief. Choose wisely to evoke the right emotions and have a long-lasting impact on your target audience.

Ready to add a musical twist to your documentary? Explore our online royalty-free music library to play sample music and choose a melody that fits your narrative.

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