Ever wondered how to create those captivating soundscapes that accompany discussions on cutting-edge science and innovation? Well, you're in for a treat because, as it turns out, crafting music for tech documentaries can be a breeze.

In the world of visual storytelling, music plays a pivotal role in shaping the viewer's emotional experience. For tech-based documentaries, where complex scientific concepts meet human narratives, the right music can elevate storytelling to new heights.

In this article, we'll explore the art of composing music for tech documentaries, breaking down the key elements that make it so captivating.

Setting the Stage: Understanding the Context

Before diving into composition, it's essential to immerse yourself in the world of documentaries.

You can hear in this clip the type of music used in tech/science-based documentaries

Tech documentaries often delve into intricate subjects, from groundbreaking innovations to the human stories behind them.

Take the time to grasp the narrative, themes, and emotions the documentary aims to convey.

Here are some great Netflix documentaries to get you started:

Knowing the medium, whether it's a short promo or a feature-length film, is equally crucial for effective composition and I always suggest that when you are planning to write certain types of music, you must first immerse yourself in it.

Choosing the Right Instrument

The choice of instrument sets the stage for your composition. In tech documentaries, you'll want an instrument that embodies modernity, innovation, and intrigue...Synths or otherworldly-sounding instruments like the Pan/hang drum.

I have opted to use Native Instruments' Hybrid Keys (Included in Komplete 14).

Using Native Instruments Hybrid Keys to start our documentary music

Hybrid keyboard sounds are a popular choice because they seamlessly blend electronic and organic elements, mirroring the fusion of technology and humanity.

However, don't limit yourself. Experiment with various instruments to find the one that resonates most with the documentary's themes and emotions.

Your instrument choice will serve as the foundation upon which your entire composition rests. Here is the sound I opted for, I nice mix of synthetic and organic.

Hybrid Keyboard

Embracing Delay for Depth

One of the composer's secret weapons is the delay effect. When used thoughtfully, delay adds depth and texture to your music. It creates a sense of spaciousness and enigma, making it ideal for tech documentaries.

Delay Example

In the example provided, a quarter-note dotted delay is used. This delay type emphasizes the pulse, adding an intriguing rhythmic element that aligns perfectly with the tech theme. Finding the right balance is key.

Too much delay can muddy the sound, while too little might not create the desired atmosphere. Experiment and fine-tune until it complements the narrative.

Remember, there are no hard-and-fast rules - the end result is what matters here; if you need a sound-swamping delay - DO IT!

Melodic Choices: Simplicity Reigns Supreme

Crafting a compelling melody is crucial. In tech documentaries, less is often more. Focus on a few intervals or notes that resonate with the theme.

My chosen melody for my tech documentary soundtrack
The piano roll of my tech documentary melody

In the example, the minor third and the root note of C create an open and somewhat mysterious quality, perfect for the subject matter.

Tech Documentary Melody

Your melody should be memorable yet unobtrusive, allowing the narration and visuals to take the spotlight while subtly guiding the audience's emotions.

The Power of Key

The choice between major and minor keys (and any of the modes too) significantly impacts the mood and emotional response to your music.

In tech documentaries, a minor key introduces an element of questioning and curiosity. It invites viewers to delve deeper into the subject matter and hints at something darker.

Conversely, a major key, while suitable for conveying wonder and optimism, may not align with the documentary's mood. The key you choose should complement the narrative and the emotional journey you want the audience to undertake.

Layering for Depth

Layering instruments or melodies can enhance the depth and complexity of your composition.

Tech documentaries often feature evolving themes and ideas. Layering allows your music to reflect these changes, keeping the audience engaged.

Layering instruments in your tech documentary music
Notice I only layered a few instruments as I wanted to maintain a stripped-back feeling

While layering can be effective, it's vital not to overcrowd the composition. Each layer should serve a specific purpose, contributing to the overall narrative of the music. Consider how additional instruments or elements can build upon the core theme and create a more dynamic listening experience.

Conclusion: Elevating Documentary Music

Here is my finished track - Technology Documusic

Crafting music for tech-based documentaries is an art that requires a thoughtful approach. By understanding the documentary's context, choosing the right instruments, utilizing delay effects, crafting a fitting melody, selecting an appropriate key, and considering layering options, you can create music that enhances the storytelling and captivates the audience.

You can hear my track Pray used in this HBO documentary trailer for True Justice.

Remember that tech documentary music should serve as a supportive backdrop, enhancing the viewer's connection to the subject matter while maintaining a sense of intrigue and wonder.

Mastery of these techniques will elevate your composition skills in the realm of documentary music, ensuring your music resonates with viewers long after the credits roll.