How to create a story with a song

Carrie Henderson, Staff Writer

Photo credit

Photo credit

The notes fill you with a rush of happiness or a stab of sorrow; the lyrics grip your mind and either remind you of your own past inner joys and hurts or make you aware of other’s.

So real you can almost see it.

The joy in his eyes when she looks into his and says “yes” to their dreams of lifetime; the anguish in hers as she sees him leave, not knowing when he’ll come back; the happiness and excitement on both their faces when he returns.

You want to show others the story you have created in your head.

You want to make a music video. So, you grab a camera and start shooting.

Wait. Stop. You’ve skipped several crucial steps in order to make a successful music video.

Pre-production: Planning your music video

Both Shurajit Gopal and Andrew Stevens, mass communication faculty at North Greenville University, said that it is best to go in with a plan.

“If you want to put [the music video] together. . . in a hotchpotch manner, it’s going to show,” Gopal said.

“Definitely plan it out,” said Stevens, “When you get into the shooting phase you can drive each other [the people you are working with] crazy if you don’t have a plan, and you won’t get the best video that you can.”

Determining Purpose and Visualizing

One of the first steps of writing a music video is determining exactly what you want to do with your finished product, said Stevens.

A music video made commercially to show off a band on stage would be more performance-oriented, Stevens said.  On the other hand, if you want a more artistic video, such as something for a music video channel, you might include more of a storyline.

It’s also beneficial to ask the band members what they want to say with the song, said Stevens.

According to Gopal, you also need to visualize your music video. “Listen to the music. Understand what the song is all about. . . the mood of the song, the emotion of the song.”

For example, the music video for Taylor Swift’s “Story of Us” captures her inner frustration in the song by having everyone around her and her former boyfriend ripping out pages of books and throwing them into the air.

Writing the Script and Choosing Actors

The next step is script-writing, or putting your ideas on paper, said Gopal.

He said that it is best to learn proper script-writing, such as taking a class at North Greenville like Writing for Broadcast Media. At the very least, consult with someone who knows script-writing. This could be a mass communication student who has taken the class, for example.

However, you shouldn’t just write your script and be done with it.

“Once you have that script,” Gopal said, “you try to work on that script even more. . . and add creative aspects to it to make it interesting.”

According to “Making Your Own Music” on, you need to be sure to build the team that will best represent your ideas. 

Production: Shooting your music video

Production is the phase of actually shooting the music video.

As with script writing, Gopal said, it’s best to learn proper camera techniques or make use of someone who has learned how to shoot video.

You could take a class such as advanced video-television production, according to the NGU student portal or talk to someone who has taken the class.

Also, overshoot some to provide for more flexibility, Stevens said.

Don’t just take the full shot of the band during that line in the second verse. Take a few close-ups too, for instance.

Post-production: Editing and distributing your music video

After shooting your music video, the next step is editing it.

Gopal said, like with script-writing and using the camera, you should learn how to edit or get help from someone who does, like a mass communication major who has learned script-writing.

After editing, you need to have a way to get your music video out there for viewers to watch. If you are making a music video commercially, distribution will be most likely be done through the music promoter, said Stevens.

However, if your making the music video for fun, you can use video distributors like YouTube or Vimeo, or promote it through a blog, according to “17 Ways To Self-Promote And Distribute Your Music Video (If You Must)” on the website Independent Music Productions. The key is reaching out to people.

A note of warning: In order to post your music video online legally, you can get in touch with the band and/or purchase a mechanical, a license to put music and audio together, said Stevens.