Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

Music

Film music

Page:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  1. Next

The music in a film is known as the film score. Each piece of music within the score is known as a cue.

Film music

Film music can be divided into two categories - music contained within the action, and background music.

  • Music contained within the action is usually referred to as diegetic music. It is included in the story, eg music heard on a radio. Most film music is non-diegetic.
  • Background music is often referred to as underscoring. It adds to the mood of the scene, reinforcing dramatic developments and aspects of character.
Film spool and sheet music

Music is an important part of film

Film music serves to:

  • establish atmosphere, time and place
  • move the action forward
  • describe character
  • accompany scene changes
  • add to the dramatic impact
  • provide continuity across edits

When the music is precisely synchronised with events on screen this is known as Mickey-Mousing, eg someone slipping on a banana skin could use a descending scale followed by a cymbal crash. Mickey-Mousing is often found in comedy films.

In a film score, the orchestration (or choice of instruments) and instrumentation (how the instruments are used) can be very important.

Instrumental colour can suggest images eg bagpipes evoking Scotland or muted brass suggesting something sinister.

Page:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  1. Next

Back to Popular music index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.