How to add background music to a video

Yellow laptop with yellow piano keyboards behind it

Finding the right music for your video content — one that really clicks and just sounds right — usually requires some serious searching, plus some trial and error. But it’s worth it; music completely sets the tone, the mood, and the pace for your video. Whether it’s a stirring operatic score or a low-key beat thrumming under the narrative, music also guides the viewer’s emotion.

Here’s a primer on background music, plus some guidance on how to find it, and how to drop it into your videos.

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Types of background music in videos

To get you in the ballpark of the kind of music tracks you’ll want to dig up for any given scene, consider these different types of background music and the purpose they serve:

  • Intro music. Ideally, an opening audio track should grab your audience’s attention immediately. To paraphrase the great J. Lo, this is your time to get loud. Sometimes a quick jingle will work; even a sting or sound effect can serve as a theme song.
  • Background music. The key with background music, also known as incidental music or scoring, is that it shouldn’t distract from the main action of your video. That’s not to say you have to pick something boring — good background music enhances the viewing experience without overpowering your onscreen talent or message. Consider something mellow and unobtrusive.
  • Transition music. The music you use to transition between sections or scenes of your video can might be the same as your background music — maybe you just bump it up a little louder to indicate that a transition is taking place. If you’re using a different track for a transition, it should work in tandem with your background music.
  • Outro music. Your outro is another chance to have a little more fun, especially if you’re using it to lead into an end card. (If you’re hoping your viewer will stick around to peruse your other videos or subscribe to your channel, a pleasant little ditty could help.) Think of it as an element of your branding. It should be in line tonally with whatever kind of impression you want to leave on your viewers. They might not remember your signoff, but they’ll probably remember if you sneak in a catchy tune.

Frequently asked questions about adding music

OK, so now you know how to add music to your video, but there are all kinds of whys, wheres, and whats you’ll need to work through to master the art. Here are some answers to the more common ones:

Where can I find background music for my video?

The short answer is you can find it anywhere you want, provided that you have the rights to use it. If you plan on showing your video off to the world — including on YouTube or other social media platforms — it either needs to be unlicensed or you need to have explicit permission to use it. Sometimes that’ll cost you. Here are a few music libraries to try:

  • Artlist: Artlist offers royalty-free music that’s plentiful and cleared for use across all of your personal platforms. Subscription plans start at $9.99/month, though you could try it out free for 30 days before you commit.
  • Epidemic Sound: A similar service to Artlist, Epidemic Sound offers a library that’s geared specifically toward background music, so it’s a smooth-tune paradise. It also has a month-long free trial; after that, you can pay $15 monthly or $9/month if you sign up for a year.
  • If you prefer to pay by the track, is a solid option. Everything in their library is royalty-free, and pricing varies, with many of the tracks in the $5 to $10 range.

How can I add background music to a video on my phone?

There are two possible answers here. The first is that if you’re using TikTok, you can just use the library within the app to add songs to your video files. The second is to open the video in question in a mobile-friendly video editor. If you have an iPhone, you can add audio within iMovie. Otherwise, if you prefer a different interface, some editing platforms (like Filmora) also offer mobile apps.

How can I add background music to my video for free?

If you can’t or don’t want to pay, you either have to make the music yourself or find a service that offers music for free. For background music, noodling around on GarageBand or a keyboard might be all you need to create something pleasant and unobtrusive. If you’re not musically inclined, sites like Freesound and BBC Sound Effects allow you access to music for free, as long as you don’t plan to use it for commercial gain.

How to add and edit background music in Descript

After you’ve found your background track, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of adding it. In Descript, it’s easy enough that you don’t even need to take notes.

  1. Open your project in the video editor. It’s true here and anywhere else: The easiest way to add music to video, and make any changes you need to, is in your editing software of choice.
  2. Add your music to the project. There are two ways to do this. You can drag and drop the music file right into your timeline from your finder, or you can import media the old-fashioned way by clicking on “Add new” in the sidebar and then clicking on “File from computer…”
  3. Match up your music to your video. Position your playhead wherever you want your music to start, then drag your music to that part of the video clip.
  4. Edit and adjust as needed. It’s possible your music will be perfect as is…but pretty unlikely. So now’s the time to adjust the volume, fade in and/or out, and make any other tweaks you need until your video plays like a dream.

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