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The Slice & Dice of Music Editing
by Brett Perry
Articles for Home & Studio Users

Job Description:

The editor's responsibilities begins with a "spotting session." The producer, composer and music editor view the show to determine places for music, either compositional (a composer is hired to write for the show) or source (songs licensed from various composers for a one-time use). The editor then details those notes in a list appropriately called "spotting notes," which contain the information for each musical "cue": SMPTE start and finish times, type of cue and a brief description of the scene.

In some cases, instead of spotting a show, an editor will "temp" music for the producer (which is usually not affordable like Sting or Luther) into the show in order to determine where they might or might not want music.

Then the editor starts to place actual music in the show. For all source cues the editor usually gives the producer three choices to choose from. The Main Title and end credits can be placed at this time if they are pre-existing. During this time the editor will also be responsible for attending score dates, running "streamers" (which identify start points for the conductor) and will be required to be on stage for filming any "visual performances" to make sure their "lip-syncs" are not disastrous and can be edited in.

Pro Tools:

Music is edited as is needed to provide starts, fades, stops, to improve lip sync, and to cut on/off stage pieces, ie: music "split" between two stereo pairs when the camera goes inside and outside a club or bedroom etc. Usually the composer's music comes last and is really a "no-brainer" since you've been working with the composer all along.

The editor attends the "dub" ("mix" in the music world) and is responsible for all music at this point. After the show is mixed, the editor produces a "performing rights" sheet. This contains all of the cues length, their composers and the appropriate ASCAP/BMI affiliation information.

What Editors Look For:

If a song creates a mood, stays out of the way of the scene, and is easily edited, then its a strong contender for TV/Film music. Melody is important as well. The drone of "I Am the Walrus" would be much less distracting than the melodic craft of "When I'm Sixty Four."

Another tip is songs with interesting bass lines work well because sometimes the bass is the only recognizable tonality at low levels.

It should be noted however that if a song is chosen to stand out in a scene and is placed up front in the mix, the above doesn't apply.

Master Quality?

It's a vague guideline, but with technology the bar is constantly being raised. Be professional about the basics, vocal pitch, instrument tuning etc.

I find that format is an increasingly important part of your odds these days. Dats are best for staying in the digital domain. CD's however are very quick and becoming the new standard.


Sure there's lots of money, well . . . and little money. Always get something for your work. I would avoid buy outs if possible. The master & sync fees paid to you can be anywhere between $75-$1000.

An Absolute:

Always get a "performing rights" sheet from the production office, as well as an air date and the network on which your song will air. The production company should handle this, however ASCAP & BMI will tell you that it is ultimately your responsibility to get them this information. So get them a copy, also keep a copy for your records. Know this!!! Errors frequently happen in this process and not at the fault of the performing rights companies either. There is only a nine month period to contest this afterwards--no contest.

This is a great way to make money in this wacky business. Music for TV and Film pays well, and if placed on a prime time network show--It pays really well. TAXI's got some great leads and they are working with those who are getting the cuts. Best of luck.

Brett Perry is a producer/music editor for Music Consultants Group Inc., and is also a songwriter/producer for Daddy Jack Music. He has had various cuts on network and cable TV, penned three #1 records in the Christian market, and a Top Ten in Japan. He is also a member of TAXI's A&R Staff.

This series of recording studio and sound engineering articles are being made available courtesy of our friends at Taxi.  The articles aim to help you make better sounding recordings in your home or project studio and will be available here or online at Taxi, complete with pictures using the link at the end of the article or better still - sign up to receive Taxi's Newsletters FREE and get them delivered straight to your inbox!