by Jerry Vigil
Here's a timely tip from the archives that only our charter subscribers saw two years ago, so here it is for the rest of you. The goal of this tip is to avoid putting so much Christmas music under spots, but, at the same time, please clients who want the holiday music. This is done by dressing up regular music from your libraries with "Christmassy" sounds. Traditional Christmas music usually has either some sleigh bells, some tubular bells, or both. Of course, there's always those familiar melodies, too. Here's where your sampler, synth, and SFX library come in.
Take a piece of music from your production library and lay it to a couple of tracks on your multi-track. Now, sample one "shake" of a sleigh bell from your SFX library. Send the sampler to its own track. Hit record and begin "shaking" the bells to the beat of the music. Works like a charm! This sleigh bell will get monotonous if you do it throughout the entire sixty second bed, so try it just on the first five or ten seconds of the bed, then again maybe at the end. It'll be enough to get the spirit across. Also, consider "shaking" the bells to the beat of the music a bar or two BEFORE the music actually starts. Some trial and error may be in order to get the music synced with the bells, but the result is worth it. Once the music starts, the bells can play for a few more bars before you fade them. Depending upon the music you're working with, you might be able to get away with bells throughout the cut.
If sleigh bells don't cut it, find some tubular bell strikes in you SFX library. Sample one good strike and span it across an octave or two on your keyboard. Go back to the multi-track and play around with the bells and the music until you find the key the music is in. When you're there, try to play the first few notes of Jingle Bells with the music. Because production music often has a subdued melody, particularly at the front of the cut, you should have enough time to play the first eleven notes of Jingle Bells, or the first eight notes of Joy to the World, or the first seven notes of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It works! Play around with different cuts of music and different Christmas melodies. Again, you only need these little melody bites at the front and maybe the back of the spot to do the job. Sometimes this will work without actually playing a familiar melody because the tubular bells are so easily associated with Christmas.
Along the same idea, for those of you with synths, try playing the melody bites using sounds other than tubular bells. As long as a familiar melody is used, it's irrelevant what sound is playing it.
It's cheap and dirty, but these little tricks work for most clients that want Christmas music under their spots. If they have their own music or jingle and you put the holiday spirit to it, they'll be tickled to death. When selecting music from your libraries, be sure to try the rhythm mixouts of the tracks if your library has them. The melodies are taken out of these mixes, and in many cases these tracks work much better with the melodies you drop in. Happy last minute Christmas spots!