Effective Comedy Production Music

When we run comedy type listings for the Music Library I co-own, one of the biggest issues that results in us turning tracks down is that composers try to make the music funny.

That may sound counter intuitive, right? After all, the client will be going to the comedy album to look for funny music, right? Well, sometimes…

…but usually not.

 

“Not funny music” can make things funnier.

 

One of the things I talk about in my book, An Introduction To Writing Music For Television, is how, if you watch most TV sequences that are funny and that have music, the music isn’t often overly funny. Or even funny at all, on it’s own. I spoke to Family Guy composer Walter Murphy about this in the book and he’s in agreement. Even in modern day cartoons it’s often the case. 

What you’re trying to write is music that let’s the humor in the show shine through. Sometimes it might be slightly cheeky music. Sometimes just light and curious. Sometimes slow and lumbering, or urgent. But often, the music is the straight role off which the visuals bounce off and it’s that that makes things more funny than the music emphasising that “this is a funny scene.”

The editor/director will often be going to comedy type library albums to find music for their funny sequence, but not necessarily to find music that screams comedy by itself.

 

An Example Of Production Music Synced To A Comedy Trailer

 

I actually often wonder if it’s easier to score a comedy scene with funny music than to write comedy Library Music where you have no idea of where it might be used. However, for the latter, I’d say choose your angle. Cheeky, lumbering, uncertain, etc. The rest is then up to the editors to see if it’s right for their scene.

Below is a track signed to Universal Production Music that was edited to the trailer for a film called “The Personal History Of David Copperfield.” The combination just won the Music And Sound Award for “Best Use Of Production Music In A Film Trailer/Promo.” The period of the music obviously is a big factor in what works, but check out how it’s fun and jaunty, but never overly comedic in itself. All the humor comes from the visuals, sometimes punctuated by stops in the music.

To hear the track as standalone audio CLICK HERE. (I highly recommend you do, it’s eye opening to hear it without the visual context.)

 

What are your thoughts on this track and the use of it to picture? Feel free to leave any comments below.

 

 

Comments

  1. Avatar
    1. Michael Kruk Post
      Author
  2. Avatar
    Susan Hillman

    Yes very enlightening! I wouldnt say its serious music, but certainly not over the top in your face funny. Light and energetic. I listened by itself and with the sync.
    That was interesting…I dont write this genre, but do appreciate it.

    Thanks Michael

    1. Michael Kruk Post
      Author
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    Laurel Gonzalo

    Incredible revelation! Thank you, Michael. Hearing it without video was eye (or rather ‘ear’) opening. Classical in origin with light drum kit! And then no resolution to the I chord at the end. I’m going to try a few of these!

    I think the BPM is important, too. Too fast and the music would sound frenetic-which one would think would be comedic- but no! It needs to feel (or groove) as slightly bouncy but not cute.

    Again, thank you
    Laurel

    1. Michael Kruk Post
      Author
      Michael Kruk

      Hey Laurel – yes, I think you make some brilliant points there. Slightly bouncy but not cute is a great way to describe it. Classical with light drums would make for a good concept for a library album, huh? 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Edd Charmant

    Now that you mentioned it. 😁
    Good editing. Hitting some funny moments with silence certainly works here. Draws attention away from music & to actors.
    Hardly noticed the music as well until it’s absence …sign of a good underscore surely.
    Nice example. Thanks for this Michael.

    1. Michael Kruk Post
      Author
      Michael Kruk

      Totally agree, Edd. The funny moments with the silence is a great example of why stops are important when writing library tracks.

  5. Avatar
    Ryan Trebilcock

    Fantastic article Michael!

    I love the fact that the track has editable points/space in between and definite sections whilst all being ins one key, I can picture the markers in my DAW right now!

    The reason I point them out is because I’m guessing that’s why clients use production music like this so they can edit it easily, right? 🙂

  6. Michael Kruk Post
    Author
    Michael Kruk

    Thanks Ryan! Yup, it’s a great example of why getting in those stops and hit points into library music is so essential. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!

  7. Avatar
    Kelly Belanger

    Very interesting! The music is spirited and very slightly quirky, but only enough to add character. The music is not actually silly or funny sounding. It supports the visual very well. Great editing with the trailer. This is a great lesson. Thanks Michael !

  8. Michael Kruk Post
    Author

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