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combining tones drones with music film editing

Sound Design: Editing Tones, Drones & Music

Sometimes when you’re editing, you’ll find that the footage doesn’t necessarily need a full score of melodic music to serve the story and the emotion. That might be too much.

Sometimes it would be better served with a more understated ambiance, which you can usually create with a combination of tones and drones. In this post, we’ll explore how to use these powerful musical elements in a variety of circumstances.

We suggest you watch the video to hear the audio examples, but we’ve also got a short transcript below!

Let’s begin with the basic definition of a drone.

A drone is a sustained sound that can be pitched higher or lower. It often establishes a tonality upon which the rest of the piece is built. A drone can come from a real instrument, a vocal sound or from an electronic keyboard, such as a synthesizer or sampler.

Now lets look at some common types of drones you might use in a cut. We’ve listed 3 samples (along with visuals of their waveforms) to cover a wide spectrum of moods and emotions:

1. Low and Ominous Drone

This drone is created digitally using synths and pads. It’s a staple tool in the editor’s arsenal for creating danger and tension whenever those feelings are called for. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with drones like this, unless, of course, you overuse them.

music and sound design how to edit with drones

2. Light and Peaceful Drone

You can imagine using a drone like this whenever you need to create a hopeful, dreamlike or ethereal mood.

how to use tones and drones when editing music

3. Light and Warm Drone

Now, our third type of drone exists somewhere in the middle. It can usher in pretty much any type of emotion or gently blend with any kind of music, making it much easier to transition in and out of sections of a cut.

different types of drones to edit with music

Drones like these are the perfect tool to gradually bring on some music after a dry scene without the music feeling like it comes out of nowhere. They have a relatively ambiguous feeling and thus are able to transition us into any cue. The example below shows a light and warm drone (pink) transitioning into a cue that’s relatively upbeat and cheerful (yellow).

editing how to transition a drone into a music cue

But it could just as easily take you into something scary and dark. In this next example below we’ve got that exact same drone leading into a much more intense cue, as you can see by the waveforms.

how to combine a tone drone with music video editing

The nice thing about these middle-of-the-road sounding drones is that they’re flexible. You can use them on their own or for leading into a wide variety of music. The drone might begin and carry on for as long as you needed it to before you gently ease into full score.

If you find our tutorials helpful, let us know! Or if you want to ask us a question leave a comment below, we read them all!


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