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Have you ever wondered what makes a good sounding mockup? Here are five of our best tips for improving the overall realism of your mockups!

  • The first thing to consider is that the aim of a mockup is to create a realistic sound. A great piece of music that is badly mocked up is never going to sound good, and in the film world it will usually result in getting the cue rejected.
  • Make sure that you fully understand the nature of the instruments that you are using. For example, if you are a pianist who is mocking up an acoustic guitar chord sequence, you should learn how a guitarist may voice these chords, rather than how you may naturally voice it as a pianist.
  • The way a performer strums the guitar may naturally affect the rhythm, and this may differ from playing the same idea on a piano, where you are using both your left and right hands to contribute to the rhythm.
  • This should be applied to anything, from brass, strings, woodwind, percussion etc. Something as simple as correct voicing can really make a difference and ensure that the basic idea sounds correct.
  • One of the best exercises you can to do learn the way an orchestra works is to go and see one.
  • Whether or not you know the piece of music, seeing the way an orchestra plays together and really taking note of the details can make a huge difference to the way you will approach writing.
  • For example; how many players are there in each section and how are they spread around the room? Are the playing unison or divisi? Is the ensemble all playing at the same time, or taking in turns? Which instruments are filling which registers and frequency ranges within the piece of music?
  • Experiencing and then learning from existing music will help to improve your knowledge of what will work.


  • This is an aspect of music and mockups in particular which is often overlooked. Dynamics work because they have emotional impact, and completely change not only the overall volume of what you're hearing, but the intensity and timbre from the instruments themselves.
  • Having 12 horns blaring at you at fff for 5 minutes straight is neither pleasing, nor impactful because you're not experiencing what is inherently natural for the instrument. However, really hearing the true dynamic range of the instruments is where the interest is.
  • Let's take an example we all know, Time by Hans Zimmer. Not only is this cue admirable for it's wonderfully simple yet effective melodic and harmonic structure, but it is the perfect example of the emotional impact you get from the timbre change due to the dynamics.
  • Theres are many styles where a metronome is necessary, but classical and orchestral music is not generally one of them.
  • In the film industry, a metronome is not usually something that can be avoided due to edit changes and quick deadlines – unless the composer is experienced in this area, but the emotion that can be created by a musician through the use of rubato (playing freely) is unparalleled.
  • The way the music is performed can be as important as the notes themselves, so creating a “performance” within your mockup is a key step in creating realism. This is where you can truly express the way you want the music to flow, so that you can get rid of that metronomic feel which may be making it sound robotic and unnatural.
  • This can either be achieved by rapid or subtle tempo shifts during the cue, or simply by adding in extra beats where it feels musically appropriate. If used within the right context, this can be extremely effective way to enhance the realism of your mockup.
  • A mistake a lot of people make is over mixing. Sometimes if people don't realise the mistakes are actually in the way something is written or orchestrated, they will try and mix their way out of the situation.
  • Before starting to mix, it's best to take some time away from the track, then return and listen with a clear head. If it sounds bad, really try to analyse why it might sound that way, and if it's something within the orchestration or voicing that needs fixing instead.
  • If you are purchasing a string library from a reputable company, there is a good chance that those strings have already been mixed by a professional, and applying drastically different EQ will usually do more harm to the sound than good.
  • It can be difficult to mix libraries from different developers together, but in most cases we've found that as long as the orchestration is correct, less tweaking is necessary and it will generally sound better.

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