The soundtracks, (or “Skit Trax” as I call them) that are a part of each script package are made to enhance your performance. Some are as simple as a musical open and close, functioning as bookends to bring you onstage and take you offstage in a professional manner. Others have more tracks, with background music for scenes and sound effects. Some others are musical soundtracks that are performed with both song and skit elements. Lastly, there are the “Play/Act” soundtracks where there are no lines to learn, all the narration, music and sound effects are mixed together and you act along with the soundtrack as it plays continuously. This series of Skit Blog entries is to offer some advice and tips on using the various Skit Trax we supply.
First, not only are there musical pieces designed to add some kind of emotional content to a particular scene, but there are individual sound effects as well. For this reason, rehearsal with the CD as the actors practice is mandatory. You can’t simply hand the CD to the sound person when you go to do the skit like you might when singing a song to a soundtrack tape. The sound person must work with the performers to make it all flow smoothly.
The sound person must have a copy of the script, and must keep up with the dialog as it is delivered, so as not to miss any of his cues. The sound must be run proactively, not reactively. Sound engineer, you must anticipate, not react. Be ready with the next track cued up, follow the dialog, and play the track as it is called for. There should be no pauses while the actors wait for the sound to catch up to the action.
In some tracks, there are music and effects mixed. It is important that the actors recognize the significance of the sounds in relation to what they are doing on stage, and work with the sound, where it dictates their timing. This is where practice and familiarity with the soundtrack comes in.
Never let the music dominate the scene, it must only complement it. Make sure your performers aren’t drowned out by a too-loud musical cue. It is a background element, and as such, enhances the scene. Blasting it out without regard to proper levels will detract from the scene and distract the audience, as well as your actors. Likewise, tracks played at too low a volume will get lost in the action and become confusing. Have a person work with you when practicing by telling you from their vantage point near the stage when an element needs to be played louder or softer. Keep notes as to which tracks may need to be adjusted each time, by marking on the script at the place the track is called for.
Some soundtracks have tracks that are intended to be played at the same time. For example, a continuous background sound, such as traffic, that plays overall. The individual effects are played as the script calls for, over the already playing background sounds. To do this, you will need to record the continuous effects track to another medium or device. Play the background effects as the script dictates, at an appropriately lower level to provide ambience. Then play the individual tracks from the Skit Trax over them at a higher level as they are called for. Once again, practice is needed to pull it off smoothly.
I am always happy to answer any questions you may have, or to act as a consultant when it comes to making your use of the CDs and scripts go more smoothly. Email me from the contact page, or call me at 912-347-9579.
-Fred Passmore, Sheep Laughs Records