How To Make A Travel Video: Music

The How To Make A Travel Video series looks at the different aspects of capturing travel memories on film. You’ll see great examples to inspire and learn about the gear and techniques that help make great travel videos better. You can find the rest of the series here. I've written about the effect music can have on travel and your ability to remember things. The same rings true for music in travel videos. I can't tell you how many times I've watched beautiful images fly by but don't give them another thought because they're accompanied by "Achy Breaky Heart" type songs. You end up only remembering the crappy music and not the romantic kiss beneath the Eiffel Tower. So lets take a look at how the soundtrack can shape your travel videos.


Music, Editing and Shot Length

First things first. A lot of the leg work behind the perfect music track really depends on your editing. Cutting to the beat or by dynamic moves can totally ramp up the tension and emotion of the images that are being displayed. This can be as quick or as slow as the music but it also doesn't have to be consistent. If you start off cutting shots to the beat don't feel like you're stuck with that for the whole video. Long pauses force viewers to take a breath and ponder what is happening in front of them. In the example below, "I Was Not The Fyrst" you'll find some great examples of using lulls in the rhythm and volume to accentuate landscapes.

Chehade Boulos chose a semi-ambient track to go with his mostly wide shots. At 1:23 the dynamics pick up just as the drone shot crests a ridge and shows the watery expanse below. Instead of using a cut, the beat pushes the narrative forward. The image at 3:23 of the man looking out with light guitars playing in the background is breathtaking. Now, imagine that same shot with someone singing a country song over it. Loses something, right?

A great example of editing to music can be seen in the video "A Week In Norway." The beat pushes shots into the next ones and keeps your eyes moving as the scene unfolds. Cuts take place on beat and even employ quick cuts (example at 0:27) that give only glimpses of whats to come. Editing tightly to music helps amp up the visual movement and keep viewers engaged.

Ambient Noise & Sound Effects

I'm bad at using natural sound in videos. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and when I'm out shooting I'm not worrying about audio as much as I should. Ambient noise can really bring a viewer into the visual story. In the video below, "Serbia - Land Coloured With Life," we're treated to some beautiful images but they're accompanied with some very out of place sound effects

The screeches of the chain and the wooshing effect makes me immediately want to stop watching. It effectively pulls me out of the world that is being shown. It's unnatural, overpowering and only serves to cheapen the images being shown. Now contrast that with the subtle ambient nature sounds in "Patagonia" below.

Instead of taking you out of the environment, the subtle noise plants your feet into the grass and rock of Argentina and Chile. The ambient sounds almost feel like they're a part of the music, not simply playing underneath it. So make sure to capture some of the surrounding audio, just in case.

Music As Narrative Focus

Walter Martin's song "Amsterdam" was basically made to accompany whimsical videos from the Dutch capital. It sets the scene, mood and everything else. Seriously, just go make that video. Another way to use music to set the narrative focus is to use a song that has lyrics that speak to your journey. The video below is about a couple traveling in Asia and they chose a song from Kidnap Kid that focuses on moments.

The lyrics move along with the journey like a pseudo music video for the song. Some music videos are basically travel videos, I'm looking at you Death Cab For Cutie. The beat in "Moments In Asia" helps move the journey along, taking you along for the ride. The use of a GoPro also helps by getting you up close and personal with the couple.

Another way to use music as narrative is to pick music that helps identify with a place. Think reggae beats in a video about a Caribbean trip. The ease of identity helps draw the viewer into the narrative. In this video by Jose Matos, the first notes of the song set the scene for what is coming ahead. You can practically feel the air of Paris blowing across your face as you hold a cappuccino in your hands.

Movement In Music

If you're watching a snowboarding video that is accompanied by really slow folk music, odds are you're left scratching your head. Where's the energy? Action shots call for certain types of music that match their intensity and slow moving walks require something completely different. In "The Quiet City: Winter In Paris" we see a city that seems like it's slow, languid and serene. To help get us in the mood, Arvo Pärt's "Spiegel im Spiegel" plays softly in the background. This also happens to be one of my favorite compositions and pairs beautifully with the slow moving pans and shots of cars gliding down cold, crowded streets.


A good soundtrack can make or break a good travel video. It can also make it much easier to edit and put together in post production. You can find great music to license at places like The Music Bed and Premium Beat. There's also free options like Free Music Archive. Check with local musicians about using their music to give your videos an indie flair and help them promote their projects. With plenty of places to find great music, don't steal something that's copyrighted. It costs a lot of money to make good music and musicians should get paid for their music and not have it ripped off. So please, get permission or a license before you put music in your video. It's better for everyone and could keep you from having your video taken down.