5 Rules For Choosing Music For Your Magic Show

Music can have a strong impact on the feel of your magic show. That means it can support and uplift your artistic objective, or just as easily undermine your efforts if you make poor choices. Whether or not you are a silent act, you should be using music to set the mood for your audience. I have a few rules I employ for choosing the right music.

Rule #1 - Use Obscure Music

I enjoy keeping my ears wide open, and listen to an eclectic mix of music on a daily basis. Due to this, the music I use in my show is likely a song that you've never heard before. Even if you listen to Top 40 radio, I still think you should be digging deeper for your show.

Music can have strong connections with people. They say the appeal of a one-hit-wonder is that the song becomes strongly tied to a specific point in your life. Hearing the song brings back a flood of memories and emotions. This is a bad thing for an audience watching your show.

When you're performing you are trying to control people's emotions, to communicate what you're trying to express. If the music you use is causing your audience's minds to wander, you're not making that connection. Rather, if you are using obscure music, you are working with a blank slate and forming new emotional connections.

You can inject the emotion into the song that is intended to go along with your show. Ideally, should they ever hear that song again they will be reminded of you.

Rule #2 - Don't Steal Soundtracks

The music composed for Cirque de Soliel or Blue Man Group is strong, dramatic, and great for theatrical shows. However, it is a bit of an artistic cop-out. A lot of thought went into the creation of that music specifically for the original show. Slapping it onto your own performance is rather lazy.

Are you selecting that music because it's the right piece, or the low-hanging fruit? This also ties back into obscurity. If your audience is distracted by picturing you as a bald man painted blue they won't be connecting with your performance. That said, if the soundtrack is obscure enough to be unrecognizable then you are back in the business of forming new artistic associations.

Rule #3 - Avoid Lyrics

If a song has words in it, the odds are very slim that the lyrics will match what you're trying to do. It can be distracting if the audience's attention is split, paying attention to both the story within the song, and the story on stage. Use instrumental music, and let your magic become the lyrics.

Rule #4 - Avoid Randomness

While this is a difficult rule to meet right away, it is something to strive for. The idea is to build a collection of music for your show that feels like a unified set, rather than a random assortment. If you use swing jazz to open, a rock ballad in the middle, and end with a chamber orchestra the show feels like a patchwork of music. Rather, if you find all the moods your show needs within the swing jazz genre, then your show has a stronger artistic statement.

If you don't stick to a genre, you can find a common bond in instrumentation. If all your music featured was primarily played on piano, you could jump from classical to jazz to pop while maintaining consistency.

Rule #5 - It Has To Fit You

Remember when I was saying that all the choices in your show can be filtered through your character? You will look silly if your music doesn't fit you. The leather-and-sunglasses style magician shouldn't be performing to classical baroque music. Meanwhile you shouldn't be in a tuxedo producing doves to heavy metal. Find music that supports your character

Music Suggestion

Here's a piece of music that I've found to have potential for a show. It has a dramatic storyline, starting slow, then building with excitement. Have a listen and imagine the sort of act it might fit with. Mastretta - ¡Vivan Los Músicos! - Tiovivo

These are just the rules that I personally think about when choosing music. What are your criteria? Leave a comment.

Published: June 28, 2011

Channel: Blog

Access: Public

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