Remixing The Music

Listen to “Remixing The Music”

Last year, Transom published a slew of excellent articles about scoring stories. The series was called “Using Music” and it featured insight on scoring from some of the best — The Kitchen Sisters, Brendan Baker, Jonathan Mitchell, Andy Mills, and Pat Mesiti-Miller. This week, HowSound adds to the mix.

Neena Pathak, a former Transom Story Workshop student, scored a story she produced for Latino USA back in April. The piece is called “Sabiduria: Negotiating Identity in a Trans-Racial Adoption.” In it, Tom Molina Duarte talks openly about being born in Costa Rica and raised by white parents in the U.S.

I heard an early draft of the story and thought there was too much music in it — that the story was “wallpapered” with music nearly every second. While that’s not necessarily a bad approach to scoring a story, I believe the music could be used more effectively if it was brought in and out at particular points. Plus, it would be valuable to hear Tom’s voice in the clear, without any music, so that he could speak directly to the listener.

So, I reached out to Neena and asked if I could remix her story — take her original session and rejigger the music. Thankfully, she agreed.

I am very grateful to Neena for allowing me to put her story under the microscope and letting me rearrange what she produced. It’s not easy to let go of something you’ve created and let someone else reshape it — publicly, no less. Thanks, too, to the staff at Latino USA for granting permission to use the story.


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  • Alex Simu



    Fantastic lesson on music scoring! thanks a lot for putting this together! I totally agree and it is an eye opener for making the most out of your existing material.

  • Walter Gallacher



    Thanks for “remixing the music”. I am trying to learn how to use music in my stories and I found it very helpful to see how you and Neena approached the same story was really helpful. I would like to hear more on finding the right music and using it effectively

  • 16barzRadio



    Love it! Beautifully done!

  • markinrussia



    Thanks Rob; it was very interesting to see into your logic and method of scoring a piece. I think your explanations will help many who struggle with scoring.

  • Jason Norris



    More! I would love to hear more stories about using music in audio productions. I talked about the 2015 Podcast Movement on a recent episode of my own podcast. I mentioned the one thing missing from the conference that I wish could be there next year is a workshop with tips on how and when to use music in audio stories. (Maybe I need to produce my own show documenting my journey to learn more about the art of telling stories with music!)

  • Rob Rosenthal



    Thanks for the thumbs up, everyone! Clearly, I need to do another one of these. — r

  • Chris Chang-Yen Phillips



    Hi Rob – I love this episode. I don’t agree with all the changes you made (maybe because I like using the wallpaper technique from time to time), but it’s fascinating to hear why you made them. I have started using this episode as part of a semi-regular training session on Fancy Editing (for News) at my community radio station.

    Thanks for making such a great resource for folks like me out in the radio world.

  • Rob Rosenthal



    Hey Chris — So good to know you’re using that episode for training. Shweeet! — Rob

  • Anne



    I really enjoyed the music in this story. I’m currently working on an audio project and I am struggling to find mellow, ambient music to use in my story. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to dozens of songs, but I haven’t found music that sounds right. Do you have any tips for finding the “right” music?

  • Rob Rosenthal



    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for listening.

    There’s no sure-fire way to find the right song. I always find it be a lot of trial and error.

    Typically, I listen to music I think will work. So, if I need something disjointed and angular, I’ll listen to music that fits that description.

    If a tune sounds right, I’ll play it along with the tape I’m thinking of pairing it with and listen a couple of times. Move it around. Change the volume. Try again. If it doesn’t work, move to the next song. Repeat until I land something that fits.

    I also have a production music playlist. Anything I hear that sounds like it could work in a story, I collect in some way — in itunes, on spotify, on a word doc…. Building that over time helps narrow down my search when it comes time to hunt and gather. 🙂

    Hope that helps.

  • Immmy



    Brilliantly put together and super useful, thank you! It’s so good to hear the different versions and then to be talked through the thought processes behind the changes made with lots of sonic ‘before and after’ illustrations. It’s just such a good format for learning about audio storytelling, to hear different ways of editing something together with explanatory narrative. I don’t know if you have anything like this for using scene sounds in a story. If not, that would be really useful too.

  • Rob



    Ingrid – Thanks for your glowing comments! Much obliged. As for scenes, you may find this episode of HowSound helpful – Anatomy of a Scene.


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