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  • Writer's pictureRandy McGravey

Song Structure for Instrumental Music (Sync Licensing)

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

Today we are talking about song structure for instrumental music licensing tracks. Most sync placements (and other non-sync placements) use instrumental music, since there will most likely be talking on top of the music. It is important for the music to be interesting and evolving without being too intrusive. Simple melodies are your best friend, rather than shredding solos.

Here is my go-to formula for a licensing track, though variations are inevitable, especially with different styles.

A section - B section - A (with variations) - B (with variations) - A (with stinger ending)

As one section goes along, it is beneficial to add instruments or change something every bar or two. This keeps the listener interested without the music sounding too repetitive. You can also remove instruments when coming out of a big section.

For example:

A section

Bar 1 - Start with rhythmic and chord instruments

Bar 2 - add in melody

Bar 3 - Add shaker or tambourine

Bar 4 - increase strumming pattern or comping style for chord instruments (or add sound FX)

B section

Use a new idea with all instruments in, with maybe a different instrument in the background (tambourine instead of shaker). Try changing the key for the B section. Build up intensity with melody, sound FX, etc.

2nd A section

Bar 1 - Strip the instruments back down to just a modified melody and chords (for example).

Bar 2 - add drums back in


These are just some ideas, but the idea is to get creative. A lot of the ideas here will work for many styles. Some styles won't necessarily change instrumentation much if at all (minimal music, solo instruments). In these cases it helps to alter the melody slightly to maintain interest. Basically it shouldn't sound like a loop, and I would strongly advise against using pre-made loops!

When I watch TV or YouTube and hear commercials, I actually pay attention to the music and listen to their composition. I would suggest that anyone in this business do the same. This gives you an idea of current trends and may give you a spring board for your own music.

Special thanks to Steve V from In Sync: Music Licensing Forum for suggesting this topic! If you have a topic you'd like me to discuss, leave it in the comments below.

If you are an aspiring music licensing composer, learn all about this field and how to succeed in my new book: "Making Money with Music Licensing"

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