Change That Tune: The Influence of Music in Movies

the power of music in moviesThe use and importance of music in modern-day movies is one that has been underrated for so long.

These days, music very easily sits in the film narrative remaining consciously unobserved, whilst still stimulating our subconscious. This aids the emotional impact that such movies have on our minds.

The uses of music in movies have been constantly evolving since the early 1900s. These days, artistes are often contracted to make music specifically for movies – this is called Film Scoring.

Film Score: Music created specifically for a movie #musicbiz #filmbiz Click To Tweet

We will proceed to analyze the progress of the use of music in movies right from the start of both arts. We will also examine some of the past and current uses of music in movies, as well as attempt to predict possible uses in the future.

Our goal is to provide a holistic understanding of the true essence of music in movies.

How The Use of Music Has Evolved in Movies

Music in movies and films began back in the silent film era, featuring the likes of Charlie Chaplin.

Early on, the music featured in these films was not recorded with the film. These films were usually projected onto a big screen in front of a large audience, and because sitting in silence the whole time would be awkward, live music was always played at such screenings.

It was the responsibility of the composers and instrumentalists made sure the music went along with the movie.

With the advent of talking pictures, music once again sprouted up to the top of elements in the music industry. Original scores were soon created, starting with Max Steiner writing the first original score for King Kong in 1933.

This seemed to have injected some courage into composers and filmmakers as they began to experiment more and develop music that went along with plots and characters.

Fast forward to the 1950s and Jazz music was all over the film industry. Synthesized sounds sprung up in the 1980s and it became totally possible to film score with only one performer by using the synthesizer to create the sounds of several instrumentalists.

With the rapid advancement of technology these days, film makers and music composers have the required resources to create perfect film scores that will properly accentuate their movie plots and characters.

Uses of Music in Movies

As can be inferred already, the many uses of music in the movie industry have been continuously changing with new technologies.

Creating an Atmosphere

Music can be used to create the perfect atmosphere in a particular film scene, by setting the right tone and mood for the plot moment.

Just by the way the music comes into the movie, one can properly discern the level of drama or genre or atmosphere or mood expected of such a movie or scene.


Music can be used to create an impression or judgment about a particular scene.

In the early days of music in the film industry, the main essence of music was commenting on certain scenes. And yes, music can place labels on scenes, however it should not be overdone if the aim is to let the audience figure content out by themselves or to keep up suspense.

Music is used to create the perfect atmosphere in a film scene #musicbiz Click To Tweet

However, when used well, music commenting can help guide the audience in the right direction and evoke the right emotions at the right scenes.

Portraying Emotions

Music can be used to effectively reveal the emotions of characters.

A face with any expression can be interpreted to portray another emotion just by infusing the right music.

Want to give a movie character the right emotional weight? Choose your music wisely Click To Tweet

This function is also applicable to the audience as the right music can make the audience feel whichever emotion the film maker requires them to feel.

Referencing Social, Geographic or Cultural Factors

Music can work well in referencing the legacy or tradition of a group of people. The social or cultural heritage of a group of real life people or movie characters can be properly communicated by infusing the right music into the film.

Geographic settings can also be properly denoted with the right music.

For instance, playing music associated with a particular geographical location can be an easy way of communicating where a particular scene is taking place, ensuring there is no confusion amongst the audience.

Referencing Particular Time Periods

Music can be effectively used to reveal the time period during which a scene or movie is set.

Playing music from that particular time period will help the audience easily understand the time period during which such a scene or movie is set.

Set the mood, and the era, by using the right music in a movie Click To Tweet

Also, if there is a flashback during a movie, playing a music from the time period of the flashback will make the flashback more understandable.

Creating Contradictions or Suspense

This is a very strong use of music in the film industry, and when used properly, can help keep the audience in the direction of the movie.

Music that sounds like what is not expected in a particular scene will create a feeling that something is not right, and will alert the senses of the audience.

Music can particularly be useful in creating suspense, for instance if a character is running towards a corner, not knowing what to expect on the other side, the music can speed up, helping create a tense mood amongst the audience.

Connecting Scenes 

The right music can help attach the right scenes together.

If a movie is changing from a rather hard scene to a softer one, playing the perfect music can help smooth this transition. This helps make the audience subconsciously comfortable with the somewhat steep property differences between the scenes involved.

What is the Future of Music in the Film Industry?

Right from the early 1900s, music has been a part of the movie industry, and it is sure to grow in popularity in coming years. There are already newer uses of music in movies, such as physiological conditioning.

These uses are bound to increase in numbers, and the prospect of music in the film industry is one that is very exciting.


It goes beyond saying that music has an evolving and very intimate relationship with the film industry, hence the importance of music in the movie industry is one that should never ever be understated.

When used properly, music can help guide the audience and evoke the right emotions from within them.

Learning how to use the right music in films is an art that requires constant review, you need to understand your audience, as well as ensure you do not compromise on the plot or quality of your film. It is only right that every film maker keeps music in mind whenever a new movie is being created.

Author Bio:


Hi, My name is Faisal, I work at In this blog we share latest music news, articles and how to’s. I myself wrote an article about Music Player for Android recently. Besides working online, I like to play football and travel the United States.

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Change That Tune: The Influence of Music in Movies
Looking to set the mood in a movie, or change the timeline, era, or genre -- music can help you achieve so much in film editing
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  1. BJSilva says:

    I have written many songs and would love to write a song for a movie. That would be a great accomplishment for me. I am a singer, songwriter, performer, voice-over artist. I have recorded four CD’s. The genre is Salsa music, the last one being Christian Salsa. My question is, Do you know how/who I can submit my work to? or create a song specifically for a particular movie? Thanks!

  2. Crystal Jane Gerard says:

    Hi there, I enjoyed your article very much and always had an interest in providing/suggesting music for films and commercials. I feel I have a good ear for this and worked in music the last 11 years. Any suggestions for how to get started in this process?
    Thanks so much! Crystalblu