Anatomy of a library track

I’m no prolific composer but I have dabbled with library music when I can exploit my string specialism.  The track that has gained the most syncs for me (by a long way) is Vorsprung, part of an EMI album called Intimate Strings, featuring 10 of my compositions and 10 by Julian Cole.

What is it that makes it sync gold (compared to the rest of my efforts)?  This is the 60” version.

Simplicity.  1 chord per 2 bars, 1 melody, 1 counter melody, accompaniment of staccato 4s, nothing fancy.  This makes it accessible and instantly communicates an unmistakable character.  It’s also sequential, so we can more or less predict what’s coming next, especially in the melody.

Baroque-ish harmony.  Michael Nyman was the first to discover this.  Or maybe it was JS Bach.  Solid, traditional chord changes still make us feel good, preferably with a slight contemporary twist. This piece is:

Am – Bm7,11 – Em/G – F – Dm6 – Am/C – Bbmaj7 – E+ – E

Momentum.  The staccato 4s in the accompaniment give it a basic bounce and drive – forward motion.  These becomes 8s towards the end of the full version, for an extra push.

Bold statements.  The mainly melody is made up of 5-note, 16s cells, at the start of each chord change.

Space.  When the melody kicks in, there are huge spaces between each statement.

Contrasts.  Nothing clever, but contrasting elements; the 16s melody, the staccato 4s accompaniment, the sustained counter melody.

Loop and Layer.  The chord sequence is 16 bars.  For the full version of the track this repeats 5 times, no deviation from the chord pattern, no B sections.  Each repeat of the chord sequence introduces a new element.

1 – staccato chords
2 – add 16s melody
3 – add sustained counter melody
4 – add doubled-up 16s
5 – add staccato 8s for the accompaniment and a high counter melody.
The end

Build up.  Because each section loops and introduces 1 new element, the track has a continual sense of build.

Instrumentation.  The common or garden combo; nice, classical, classy, emotional instruments – piano and strings

Real musicians.  Samples sound so great, they just feel so crap.  Keep it real.  Though the piano on this one is samples.

Snip snip.  With it’s simple format, repetition, staccato chords and space, it’s an easy one to chop up for the sound editor.

Will I be using this as a template for more library tracks?  You bet.  The score for the full version is here. > Vorsprung


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