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Video Background Music: Getting the Volume Perfect

Background music can do wonderful things for your video. It can help create emotion, drive the pace and flow, and even hide pesky audio edits. But counter to what you may believe, the most successful background music is the music that you didn't even know was there.

If the volume is too high, the music will overpower the spoken narrative of your video. This… is no good. If background music is too low, it can paradoxically draw attention to itself by making the viewer strain to hear it. The goal of background music to invisibly assist your video, not create a distraction.

Mixing the music volume in your video takes practice, and there's no exact formula for what level the music should be relative to the voice. It's all about training your ears to feel when the music is sitting just right in the mix.

To start your training, play around with this interactive volume video and try to listen for when the volume sits right in the mix. Click each different volume option below the video to hear the difference:

I watch a ton of videos that use ducking, where the music level comes down when someone is talking on screen, then instantly rises when they finish. This technique ensures that the music is not overpowering the voices on screen, but it fails by constantly calling attention to the music.

Personally, I keep the music at a consistent volume throughout the video. For this technique to work, you really have to find the right piece of music. Unless the video is highly specialized, I look for music that's simple and free from distracting elements (for example, group "whoa"-ing). In this case, I mix the music volume as high as I can get away with while making sure it doesn't overpower the narrative.

I'd be lying if I said I get the music volume right every time I edit a video. I've been known to mix the music too loud and make it tough to hear what's being said on camera. In these cases, I promptly remix the audio and use the good ol' Replace Video feature in Wistia.

Before you export, it helps to check how the video is going to sound in the real world. To do this, I listen to the video on headphones, external speakers, and even on the built-in laptop speakers to get a more realistic understanding of how the video will be watched in the wild.

What's your music mixing technique? How do you make sure the music volume is perfect in your video? How do you find the perfect song to match your narrative?


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