Standard musical cues for TV programs?
July 23, 2014 11:11 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn about the types of musical cues that are commonly used for television programs.

I think I don't have the right terminology to do a proper search for this. So I'll describe it, and somebody can maybe go "oh, you want to learn about NAME OF THIS THING." And that would probably be enough.

I said "TV" instead of "film", because movies often have a complete original score composed for them. I am interested in the cheaper form of music used in TV shows, which reuses a lot of smaller pieces of music (or "cues" as I am calling them). For example, if you watch an episode of Seinfeld, they have that short bass-plucking thing that plays as a transition between scenes or returning from a commercial break. A show like Family Guy has more variety, using longer pieces of music for action sequences. Or sometimes there is a suspenseful note before one dramatic moment occurs in the story, when you then hear a flourish. Or a character may say something sad, and just a few chords play along as they talk--not a whole song. That kind of thing.

I've written this kind of music. I've cobbled it together from samples. I have a feel for it.

But I want to approach it again in a more textbook-like way. I'd like to find a list of all these little cues and common ways they are put together. Where should I look?
posted by ErikH2000 to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A musician I know suggested an actual textbook: "Scoring For Films" by Earle Hagen. (That's the fellow who wrote and whistled the Andy Griffith show theme song, and much else besides.)
posted by in278s at 11:59 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm on my phone but it sounds like you're looking for "incidental music"
posted by Room 641-A at 12:07 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Scoring for Films" sounds like what you need, but as a supplementary text, pick up The 5 Cs of Cinematography.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:40 AM on July 24, 2014

Do you want "Name of the Thing"? Then you want to look up either "library music" or "production music".

A few starts:

De Wolfe

All these sites are pretty commercial, but they have plentiful audio samples available if you dig in a little.

The little "cues" you want will be under "stings", "links", "bridges", "under 10 seconds" and possibly indeed "cues". This is one of my minor nerd interests so if you need more information just say so.
posted by solarion at 1:49 AM on July 24, 2014

When I work with them we always call them stings.
posted by Mchelly at 3:37 AM on July 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Programs I've worked on usually refer to this as "bumper" music. "Bumpers" being the short logo or title element going into or out of a break.
posted by DaddyNewt at 7:09 AM on July 24, 2014

Response by poster: Much thanks to everyone who answered. I got a few good book suggestions, and a vocabulary lession that should be helpful in learning more.
posted by ErikH2000 at 7:06 PM on July 25, 2014

You might like this classic AskMe: What is that song they always use? Lots of examples inside.

The TVTropes pages for Standard Snippet and Mickey Mousing are likewise goldmines.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:52 AM on July 26, 2014

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