Soundtracks of the Ocean

Thursday January 31, 2019 / Behind the Scenes

71% of the Earth is covered by water and while we don't typically think of it as a place full of sound, it really is. There are natural sources of sound made by crashing waves, rain, and marine life. There are also man-made sources of sound such as ships and military sonar. In the treatment of video, these are all sounds that can be replicated by music producers and sound engineers like your one and onlys here at SoundSuite, Jamie and Eli.

Even more fun are the musical soundtracks that can be applied to bring ocean scenes to emotional life. If we think about a nature video or documentary, soundtrack styles can range from music that reflects the majesty and beauty of the natural world such as what we have applied to the clip above, or they can reflect the drama and tempo to match a predatory scene where the ferocity of nature's food chain comes to life.

If we think about movies and TV shows, there are so many great examples out there. One of our favorite underwater movies of all time is 'The Abyss' (1989) starring Ed Harris. Alan Silvestri, a maestro of action movie music as heard in the 'Back to the Future' series and more recently 'The Avengers' series and 'Ready Player One', was the music composer. If you watch this trailer starting at about the 1:20 mark, you hear what we call 'big sound'; very full, resonant sound that amplifies the wonder of the moment but also some dramatic tension. It's similar to the clip we posted above, but with a higher level of emotion related to the impending discovery of what is in the abyss.

Of course when we think about water and sharks we think of the template for water action and horror, the legendary 'Jaws' (1975) as composed by the great John Williams who is almost always astride his Director pal Steven Spielberg. Just that two note escalation of "duh-DUH" instantly brings to mind a shark attack. More recently, 'The Meg' (2018) was a blockbuster in movie theaters and recreated the Jaws sensation but on an even more colossal scale, with music composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. In the below clip at the 1:45 mark the shark attack starts, and by the 2:00 mark as everything is going bonkers we are hearing pounding drums and pulse-driving orchestral music. It's amazing what music combined with visuals can do to one's blood pressure!


So how do we bring all of this ocean action to life through specific instruments? We mentioned the notion of 'big sound' and we like to use Cathedral kits in our software that produce instrumental sound as if it's surrounded by the stone of a cathedral. Stone provides natural reverb, giving off a big, wide sound as opposed to being in a small room or studio that provides a drier and more compressed sound.

The drum kit used in our clip above was provided by the great drummer Jason Bonham in a cathedral setting. He has an amazing kit that he tunes in such a way that it sounds so live and real.

Then we added an original 1936 Martin acoustic guitar which resonates beautifully without the 'twangy' sound of other guitars. If you listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash, they use Martin guitars to great effect.

We plugged in a German grand piano with the lid fully up which gives the fullest sound, and a precision electric bass guitar which also provides that wide and full sound.

Finally, we added a standard French Horn which gives the feeling of slow and calm movement, along with some synthesized dolphin clicks to bring in the harmony of nature to it.

Hopefully this gives you some idea of our process and the amazing technology that we are able to bring to bear on music composition. We would love to hear about the video project you are working on. We are always available to recommend some very affordable stock tracks (everything now priced from $6 to $10) or discuss the potential for making a custom piece just for you.

Quality Soundtracks, Simple Licensing, Personalized Service. That's the SoundSuite way.

Keep Creating,

Jamie & Eli


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