How To Add Background Music To A Poem or Reading

Emily Bronte – she done poetry didn’t she?

I often get asked how to put a reading of a poem to music.

You can just glue two things together and hope but like any time you come at things head-on assuming that it will be simple yet magical, it doesn’t quite work out.

Here are the vary basic tasks and some options for better results.

You need to:

  1. Have your poem written
  2. Record it
  3. Either choose the music you want to mix in or engage a composer.
  4. Get a proper mixing environment (commonly called a DAW these days) and put the voice & music on different tracks then balance them
  5. This is just levels (volume) at the simplest but really to be done well you usually need to EQ both the vocal (and often use compression too) and the music so they play nicely together. In the end, no one is likely to notice that his work was done but that is the real art of being a Mix Engineer.

There are some things to consider here:

You can just wack on a piece of music (assuming that you have permission for copyright usage) but it probably doesn’t really mesh/vibe with your reading as they are two separate things that weren’t meant to work together. The solutions are normally to:

  • Decide on the music and then do your reading against the music so they become like one performance. The reading ebbs & flows with the music. Some of this can be done by a skilled Mix Engineer cutting & moving an existing reading but there is nothing like a reading done against the music as it changes the way the voice is used.
  • Bring in a Composer to write music to your poem. If it were me, I’d ask for a reading and want to talk to you about the Story of your work so I can be building on that. I may well start working to your initial recording (hoping you didn’t just rush it and make it without space) and build the shapes & feels we need to lead the listener to where we want them to be. After that, we probably record the voice part again so you are performing to everything we now have. Your voice will flow with the music and the two will become as one and feel a lot deeper.

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