Stupid Question.


This is a totally ridiculous question, yet I'm asking it anyway.

When you have to put the music into the show, how do you know when music is needed and what kind of music would fit?

I mean, obviously sometimes you can tell... but still, that perfect song for that perfect moment, how can you figure that out?

Feel free to laugh at my dumbness now. :oops:


First off there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Second, I believe that as the sound designer, which I'm assuming thats what you are, that you have a lot of creative license. Now of course you aren't going to want to play rap during a dramatic part of the play. Now I'm a lighting designer, not a sound designer, but I think this relates. When I'm designing lights, I go and watch a few rehearsals and decide what the feeling or mood that you want to create is, and I believe that in this case its the same. Trying to send a message to the audience or help get a point across. How do you want the audience to feel while this music is playing? Now I'm not entirely sure why you want music. I have seen plays where music was incorporated very well, but others where it was just something to add on, or to give somebody a job.
So my final answer on this is that go with your gut feeling on this one. If you are watching the play and see a place where music would really enhance the performance, then add it, but I wouldn't go adding music just for the fun of it.



Yeah, i normally wouldn't even want nor feel the need to add music, but we're doing a one act that an alumni wrote, and he wants there to be music throughout.


Wireless Guy
Premium Member
A good place to start if you're not sure what to put in is to simply ask the director. See if he/she can provide you with a list of music they like, or give you some insight into what the moment means to them. Depending on the director, they may just hand you a CD and say "Use track 2." In that case, your job is done there!
I would normally ask the director, but if the playwrite is available, I would also talk to him and see what he had visioned. If they aren't sure, it's up to you and your creative license. Like NABster07 said, watch some rehearals to catch the mood and feel of the play and try to pick music that adds to that feeling.


Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
yeah I'm gonna echo what everyone else said and say talk to the dirctor/play right. It might be something as simple as the scene takes place in a jazz club so you would just play a jazz cd in the background.


Active Member
It really, isn't a stupid question. That is what a sound designer does. They view rehersals and then come up with music that will fit the show. It is difficult to do on the spot but if you have time it can be done. Most importantly add music to enhance the play not just because you fell like it.


Well-Known Member
Music is one of the major ways we create an emotional message. A good place to start is to try to determine the emotion that the director is looking for at each place that music may be appropriate



CB Mods
Premium Member
I've got to agree with what's been said here so far. I would also like to add that Having music thoughout the entire show might not have the desired effect that the playwright is looking for. I think you might want to look at a few movies for inspiration. Take a look at some old B&W movies, then look at some modern movies. I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Incredible score, all throughout the movie. Notice the way it < the score > constantly reflects the action on screen. In my opinion that is what your looking for as a sound designer for stage, but, and it's a big but, you don't get to run a soundtrack through the entire show. You get scene changes, pre and post show. Running a "soundtrack" throughout the entire show in Theatre is bound to cause confusion, and distraction in a theatrical setting. I think there are a lot of areas where we can give and take between theatre and cinema, but I'm not sure a running soundtrack is that area, for a couple of reasons. One of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, is that, in the movie theater the sound designer has gone through hours of post production and reset levels over and over to balance between spoken dialogue and underscoring. I think that might be the area that you really need to consider. If you are operating as a sound designer your name is going on the production as such, so you have the oppertunity to make choices. If you choose to run a soundtrack under the show make sure it's your choice and you feel comfortable with it. If however you feel that an underscoring is distracting or unneccessary you need to address these concerns with the Director. Having worked for a very long time at several theatres that specialized in developing "new works" I have found that often playwright have a hard time letting go. They have just birthed a baby < the play > and they want to guide it with thier vision of exactly how it wants to be produced. However, once that baby is handed over to a director and producing body < the theater > a lot of those decisions are taken out of the playwrights hands. As callous as this may sound, it's a process that has developed over a long time. It developed for the reason that too often Playwrights are way too close to the trees to see the forrest. < wow really mixing metaphors tonight. Hope this doesn't come off as a lot of rambling. Do some research, watch some classic movies, but listen to them closely feel where themusic and sound swells and ebbs, that's what you get to do. Have fun ! that's the most important part.

Oh yeah and the only dumb question is the one not asked.
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Active Member
I usually try to make a point not to have the music kick the actors' rears while playing backround music. If the acting and writing stinks (which may be true if it was written by an alumni, but it depends) then I try not to make the music "outshine" the action on stage. If the music is too good, it seems to me that the acting looks more pathetic, because it is being compared to professionals. But, the music can also make the performance a lot better, depending on the actors, and the music. Every situation is different. If the music is worse than the play, it obviously makes the whole thing stink.
But, if you have amazing actors, amazing writers, and an amazing director (I personally have not been that lucky with those areas...) then go for the best you can get.

That's maybe just my personal style, but if it helps you brainstorm...


Active Member
The feeling and mood of the music should relate to the feeling and the mood of the scene. As many, many others have said, either just have a talk to the director/producer or just watch the scene, listen to a few bits of music, and play it back in your head. Once you find something that may fit, burn it onto a CD, take it to a rehearsal and try it out a couple of times, just to see what everyone thinks.

Sorry if I have just echoed everyone here.

I agree with most of the above, especially Van's comment about stupid questions!

You just have to "create the mood". You know best what will work and what won't (often).

For one of the several Christmas carol services that I am doing sound for this week, they sorta finished with this big song which was really great, then this guy got up and said thank-yous etc and absolutely killed it.

So I just chose my favourite backing track for my favourite song, killed his microphone and put it on. Everybody was like, wow what a night... :)


Well, i would typically agree with what people are saying about the music overpowering some of the actors, but in some cases you need some background music. I am actually working on a play right now where the entire script is underscored. The script came with some music, but because the director set the play in an opposite setting, i have to go and find two hours worth of music. I started by going to rehersals to get a feel about the play and took some general notes. Then i went to the music library at school and had a chat with the professor that works there. I told him about the setting and era, and with those two things he reccomended music to me, now as the designer, i have a lot of music to listen to.

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