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Trailer Music Terminology: Explained Easy!

A Glossary Guide For Total Beginners

If you’re reading this right now, chances are that you are either dead-serious in learning about the mechanics of trailer music or perhaps interested in making valuable connections in the industry. The thing is, to be involved with the industry also means that you’d have to encounter a new sort of language that’s exclusively spoken by trailer music communities. Whether it’s building key contacts or working your way towards mega projects, it is heavily important for you to become fluent in these words should you wish to successfully thrive in the planet of trailer music. Such jargon would enable you to talk with professionals and top clients with great ease, while also helping you decipher instructions or unlocking new information on the music field.

Learning and remembering all these technical terminologies can seem an intimidating or tiresome task at first.. but fear not! Because we’ve got some sweet delicious news for you all.

You see, dear reader, we at TMA have re-arranged all these jargon for you in easy simple-to-understand language.

This glossary guide comes with words in alphabetical order as it’s specifically designed to help you search the appropriate words you need to know in just a nick of time. Some definitions would also include sound samples to help you hear and understand what the SFX (sound effects) feel like when played in action.

Whether you’re a total beginner in the world of trailer music or even just someone who’s freshly transitioned into the trailer community from another music industry, then this glossary is specially made to support all of you! This simplified and user-friendly glossary will ensure that you avoid getting confused with the terminology; whilst also helping yourself become fully prepared for your upcoming journeys ahead in the realm of trailer music.

With this glossary to guide you, you’ll soon be able to face new exciting projects or people with great comfort and enthusiasm!

With that being said, TMA now presents you the terminologies – explained easy:

I.) General Terms
words of the overall industry

  1. Grouped Stems – A collection of specific audio elements of a track. Composers would export stem files such as brass, strings, percussion, SFX, choir, synths, atmospheres etc. in the form of sets – which publishers could play around to create original mixes, or remove unwanted elements if necessary.
  2. Hybrid – A dynamic genre within trailer music which combines harmonious orchestral music together with sound design music. Hybrids blend hard-hitting sounds such as braams, booms or whooshes in concord with the dramatic elements of orchestral music or instrumentals. Hybrids are also increasingly popular among the trailers of recent blockbuster films.
  3. Hybrid Orchestral Music – A subtype of hybrid trailer music which concentrates more power on the orchestral or instrumental side. Hybrid orchestrals have double the epic feeling and stronger dramatic themes when compared to the standard hybrid track.
  4. Main Trailer – The most important and biggest trailer of a blockbuster film. Usually between 2 to 4 mins in duration, main trailers contain the greatest amount of impressions and information about the upcoming movie. Main trailers feature impressive musical harmonies, attractive storytelling and special effects to generate potential viewers; all of that being done under the 2 – 4 min time frame. A license from main trailers pays very well due to the duration of the licensed music (payments are often 5-figure numbers).
  5. Orchestral – A genre within trailer music which focuses deeply on the instrumental or symphonic elements of sound. The major instrumental groups – brass, strings, percussion and winds – come greatly into ensemble play as they take the listener to a whole new dramatic or epic feeling!
  6. Quote – The sum total amount of money that a music publisher asks for when it comes to licensing. In other words, the final price.
  7. Quote Request – A request or inquiry for a quote when it comes to using a composer’s music – which the publisher has and sells. Film studios are the most common groups that inquire music publishers for quote requests.
  8. Sound Design – A genre within trailer music which specializes in massive industrial synth sounds coupled together with the usual sound effects heard in trailers. Sound designs themselves shape the mood or feeling of the audio – which can be similar to adding special sound effects to the music. Examples of these effect sounds include whooshes, hits, risers, transitions and of course.. the ever-famous braams! Sound designs help build the atmosphere of a film trailer and are particularly useful when creating suspense, excitement or even jump-scaring people off their seats.
  9. Stem Request – Requests or inquiries made by film directors, publishers or clients who want to customize, edit or remove certain sounds in a composer’s trailer cue.
  10. TV Spot – Also known as the little brother/sister of the main trailer (see 3 above), TV spots are similar to them in overall function with some notable exceptions. The difference is that TV spots tend to lack clearly defined structures and often possess more creative variations such as custom requests or selected bits from the general structure (which has the formula of Intro – Buildup – Climax I – Climax II – Outro). Main trailers follow this organized formula procedure whereas TV spots do not due to the latter’s quick and intense time duration (approx. 15 to 30 secs). Unlike main trailers which gives audiences a clearer understanding of the film’s plot and characters, TV spots tend to be seductive (or explosive) teasers designed to generate immediate interest in the viewer’s mind. There can be up to 60 to 70 TV spots for a single major blockbuster movie; usually a 4-figure number payment per license. There are also higher chances for a composer’s track to end up in a TV spot due to the sheer amount of number in contrast to the main trailer.

II.) Structure Terms
words of the trailer body

  1. Backend – The final part of a trailer; another way of saying “climax” (see no. 3 below).
  2. Buildup – The part of the trailer (arising right after the intro) which gives the viewer a deeper understanding of the movie’s contents. In other words, it’s that time in the trailer where the film’s plot and main characters are shown to the audience. Usually 20 to 40 seconds in duration, a buildup generates intrigue and suspense that prepares the viewer for the dynamic or explosive climax that is coming next.
  3. Climax – The utmost intense and powerful segment of the trailer – designed to impact the viewer’s senses in maximum blast! Some of the film’s significant or top action-packed scenes are featured in the climax; often blended together with rapid video cuts to increase the thrill. In some cases, trailers would have a secondary climax (also known as Climax II) appearing right after the pause or break from the first climax. Secondary climaxes are much shorter in duration yet greater in intensity for they serve to thrust the viewer’s attention into unexpected twists – similar to a sudden jolt movement in a rollercoaster ride!
  4. Intro – The most fundamental part of the trailer which focuses on captivating the audience’s attention through subtle and suave ways. The intro is designed to show the viewer a proper first impression of a specific movie’s overall mood; commonly with help of panoramic footage plus brief but gravitating dialogue/narration. One can imagine the intro as an entrance door to a film trailer – able in seducing the viewer’s attention towards the bubbly buildup, before leading the mind to the explosive climax.
  5. Outro – The finishing touch of the trailer which sums up the entire mood or feeling of the film. Additionally, outros reveal crucial information on the film such as release dates as well as official logos/names. Equally important as the intro’s first impression is the outro’s leaving impression too. A good leaving impression has the power to imprint a memorable experience to the viewer’s mind; ensuring that the viewer would be interested in watching the actual movie for the purpose of re-living those scenes that he/she witnessed in the trailer.

III.) Sound Terms
words of special sound effects

1.   Boom – Powerful hit-type, low-frequency sounds which generate dramatic “vibes” to the trailer with such gravitating impact. When accompanied with suspenseful drone/atmospherical sounds, booms further amplify the trailer’s magnitude – especially when huge panorama shots from the film (such as a ghostly town, futuristic city, fantasy landscape etc.) are combined. Booms are super useful when you wish to create an epic ambiance to the trailer; or when you feel like adding nukes to a scene even! Booms in essence are the kind of sounds which signals the audience that something profound and epic is coming up!

Boom Examples:


2.   Braam – Mega-powerful long sounds that are commonly used all over trailers in recent trends. Braams are also fan favourites of many composers in the industry, for these sounds have the ability to generate heart-pounding suspense and thrills to the listener! They’re also jokingly known as the angry boat sound to composers who adore them too much. Braaaaaam…

Braam Examples:


3.   Downers/Drops/Subfalls – A type of sound effect that falls in pitch. These sounds often come in when there’s a momentary break in the trailer.. and it is from here that downers provide a deep feeling of impending doom.

Downer/Drop/Subfall Examples:


4.   Drone/Atmosphere – Ethereal and ambient background sounds that are steadily droning in one or more notes. Ideal for intros and outros, drones provide that perfect chilling or sinister feeling you need for a trailer. Drones are perfect for horror or suspense-type trailers. If used correctly, drones are capable of scaring the living shish-kebabs out of the viewers!

Drone/Atmosphere Examples:


5.   Hit (Short Hit) – Powerful short punch-like sound effects that can be layered with a grand multitude of other sounds such as percussion, digitally designed smacking sounds, synths, bursts and a whole lot more! WHAM!

Hit/Short Hit Examples:


6.   Riser – Super-intense sounds which increase slowly but steadily when used in a trailer. The intensity can increase with pitch, volume and texture; sometimes even with faster rhythmic elements. Full of adrenaline rush and vitality, this sound has the power to invigorate trailers like no other!

Riser Examples:


7.   Whooshes – Sweeping windy sounds similar to objects (such as jets or spaceships) flying by in uber-fast speeds. Whooshes are great for transitions and when layering with hits!

Whoosh Examples:


8.   Whoosh-Hits – As the name already implies, this sound effect consists of two main components: a hit and a whoosh – with the whoosh acting like a riser (see above no. 6) to the hit. Whoosh-hits work great for transitions that either end with a break, or when highlighting a crucial scene in the trailer.

Whoosh-Hit Examples:


This glossary will always be available here to guide each and everyone of you reading right this now. As you progress towards your journey into the world of trailer music (and remembering the meaning of these words), you’ll be able to thrive successfully in the industry while also build friendships with many talented folks at the same time! At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal experience and trying things out. Please be sure to look out for TMA’s new upcoming articles ahead to help you get a clearer vision of how these sounds and structures come into actual play!

Last, but not least, all of the above-said sound effects can be found exclusively at Trailer Tools Vol. 1 which you can download for FREE right here.

Remember, everyone..
Words have power.
Sounds have power.

And once you know how to craft pro-quality sounds by remembering the definitions of those words, you’ll be able to spice up upcoming blockbuster trailers with your newfound musical innovations.

May the braaaaam be with you.

One thought on “Trailer Music Terminology: Explained Easy!

  1. Don Suite says:

    Austin K. Yajima: Thanks for this website, A lot of great info here.I have been working on trailers now for 5 Months every day.I don’t have any connections for Trailers .If you have someone I can turn to that would be great. I have many Library’s to choose from in my arsenal.

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