How To Use ‘Pacing’ In Your Video Soundtrack | 5 Considerations

This post was originally published on the Vidyard blog.

So, you’ve found the perfect music for your video. Now it’s time to get splicing! Some video editors prefer cutting video to music and others like their music to be dropped in after the initial edit. Whichever you prefer, the abstract, yet important technique of ‘pacing’ is what sets your video apart from the bad, good and amazing!

We just need to get this pacing thing down right. I’d like to share with you some tips for getting your video’s soundtrack just right. 


First of all, what is pacing? Pacing is arguably the most important technique in editing. It’s the sequencing of footage in order to create a cohesive story. A story that ebbs and flows has arcs, excitement, drama, tension, release, and emotion, of course.

It’s the crux of video editing and therefore music editing! The two go hand in hand, they are yin and yang. 

How To Use ‘Pacing’ In Your Video Soundtrack


1. Understand The Story.

This definitely has to be number one! It may seem obvious or even rudimentary, but a fresh perspective is good.

Use music to assist in clarifying what’s happening in the story. Determine what feel and mood is being conveyed. Music can deliver a dramatic emphasis and foreshadow events or reinforce the intent of antagonist or protagonist characters.

The viewer will become confused and pulled out of the story if the mood of the music doesn’t match the feel of the story. 


2. Pacing is situational. It’s not all about speed.

In my experience and in my research, I wasn’t shocked to learn that most editors equate pacing with speed. Faster cuts = better pacing, which is simply not true! Fast or slow doesn’t matter and the pacing can be set perfectly for either. It all comes down to the mood and feel that is desired. Pacing is ever changing! The music should move with the flow of the story and support the feel of the scene. 


3. Know how the pacing of your music will influence the viewer.

Now that we’ve touched on the misconception that fast = good pacing, we can discuss what different paces convey to the viewer. Here are some general ways that you can pace music to a video edit. Keep in mind that these are general starting points…there are always exceptions to the rule.

Slow = Building tension and suspense. Think of slowly evolving and droning high register strings and the cuts are long. The viewer has time to think about what’s happening. This is an effectively dramatic technique.

I should also mention that depending on the subject matter, slow could also be relaxing.

My example demonstrates a slow build of tension and suspense. Notice the space between the organ chords and how long they’re held for while they are hurrying to board the ship. 

Normal = Neutral. No drama here. The music is a perfect balance of tension and release. This is perhaps the most common type of pacing in a video. Picture everyday tasks and average conversation. The pace of your normal heart rate is effective in these types of scenes.

The pacing in this example is really great. Feel how it breathes and flows so perfectly:

Fast = Intensity. This could also be tension (those exceptions that I mentioned). Fast and driving drums are typically characteristic in music that works for a fast cut action scene. Check out the example:

4. Utilize key elements of pacing: Pattern, Timing and Flow.

Now that we’ve talked about what pacing is and how it is applied, let’s lift up the hood and see the interworking of pacing. In my opinion, pacing as it relates to music and video can be broken down into three different aspects: Pattern, timing and flow.


Good pacing doesn’t mean all of these things need to be happening simultaneously, but at least one element should be involved at all times.

Pattern: Recurring music cues can act as themes for characters or subjects. It creates structure and cohesion in a video. Listen to the opening and closing music cues in this video. They act as bookends, which give the video full closure.

Timing: A change in the music at exactly the right moment. The music should hit important cues within the story. I really like timing between the music and the action in this ad for Jett 

Flow: The sense of the music moving with the picture and reflecting the emotion and feel of the story. The feeling of breathing should come to mind when a piece of music is paced well with video. The neutral pacing example above is an excellent demonstration of flow.


5. Practice! Know the difference between good and bad pacing.

Having excellent pacing in your video isn’t something that comes over night. You develop a feel for when the music is paced well and when it isn’t. Listen to what your instincts tell you. You’ll know when the music should keep going or stop, change or not even be there at all.

It takes lots of practice, but it’s something that when done right can make your video stand a cut above the rest.


Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve taken away some useful advice for your next edit.