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Movie-Making Magic

Manipulating Music

Dun dun dun... Think about it: A movie without music wouldn't be much of a movie, right? Whether we notice it or not, film directors are constantly using music and sound to influence our emotions while we're watching. Today, you'll explore how music is used to enhance the actions that take place on-screen. You might even find yourself manipulating your own soundtrack.

what you’ll need

  • A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
  • A sketchbook or a journal with blank paper
  • A pencil
  • A mobile phone or tablet with a camera
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers



Ask About Today

Can you tell me how filmmakers choose the music they use in movies? What impact does music have on movies and audiences?

Dinner Discussion

If you could invent one special effect for a movie, what would it be and why would it make movies better?

Skip the Ads

Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.


30-60 minutes

The music in film—from subtle background music to an inspirational song—is essential for evoking emotions from the audience. (You might even say the music is "instrumental" to a movie. Get it?) Find out how filmmakers and composers make it happen.


Musical Feelings

In this very simple black and white scene, how do the 5 different types of music affect your feelings as you watch?


Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.


Tearful Tunes

Pixar wants to make you cry. Music is part of how they do it. (Get your tissues handy.)

For younger explorers

Musical Words

Learn all about musical notes and beats.


30-45 minutes

Music is part of the magic of a movie. Try it for yourself.


A "One-Thing" Film

Take a walk with your sibling or another family member today. With permission from your parent or guardian, take your phone with you. As you walk, pick just one thing to film: It might be a leaf, a squirrel, a stray cat, or your walking buddy—just make sure it's moving.

No phone? No worries! On your walk, sketch out three scenes you observe. On the back of each scene, create a soundtrack list for that scene. If your life was a movie, which songs would be on the soundtrack?


Make Your Own Soundtrack

After your walk, choose a song (or a few songs) that capture the mood of your clip. Using a free filmmaking app, add this music to the background of your clip. Try to capture a specific mood: Do you want your audience to feel excited? Nervous? Sentimental? Pairing just the right music can make the same video clip feel very different.

Ask Your Parents: Film Maker Pro (for Android) and iMovie (for Apple) are both free apps for filmmaking, but make sure you check with a parent or guardian before downloading anything.

For younger explorers

Story Soundtracks

Filmmakers use sounds and music to bring their stories to life. Together, all the sounds and music in a movie are called a soundtrack. You can make a soundtrack for your favorite stories all by yourself. Grab your favorite book and look at each page. What sounds can you make to bring that page to life? You can even hum a tune or sing a song that you think of when you look at that page. See if you can make a soundtrack for the whole book—then share your soundtrack with your family so they know how creative you can be!


15-30 minutes

When we watch a movie, some songs make us cry, while others make us want to get up and dance. Filmmakers understand the psychology behind music—and they use their knowledge to make us feel different things.


Soundtrack History

Go back in time with a brief history of film scoring and listen to some of the best film scores of all times. (Spoiler alert: Some of the early "silent" films had music that was played live by musicians, right in the theater.)


Soundtrack Perfection

Choosing the perfect soundtrack can make or break your movie. You have to understand the scene, the song, and how the two come together to create something brand new.

For younger explorers

Trombone Shorty

Read along with Trombone Shorty by Brian Collier.

For younger explorers

Jazz Baby

Read along with Jazz Baby by Carole Boston Weatherford.


15-30 minutes

How well do you know your favorite movie soundtracks?


Name That Movie

Listen to the soundtrack clip. What movie does it come from? Grab a piece of paper and write down your answers as you listen.


More Movie Music Mysteries

Too easy? Now, try guessing the song and the movie.

For younger explorers

Join the Pinkalicious Band

Head on over to PBS Kids and help Pinkalicious build a band.


30-60 minutes

Time to get moving to our favorite movie soundtracks.


Musical Movement

Start at Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube and find the soundtrack to your favorite movie. Maybe it's The Lion King? Ghostbusters? Black Panther? (You might find us dancing to Moana around here... no judgment, please.) Then get moving: Follow along with our favorite P.E. teacher, Coach Joe, while you listen.


Ask Your Parents: Movie soundtracks are usually available for free listening online. If you're having trouble finding your favorite, ask an adult or big sibling for a little help.

more to explore

30-60 minutes

Can't get enough movie tunes? Explore some more!


Quiz Yourself!

Learn more about film music and explore iconic music scores from classic movies as you test your knowledge of film music with this online quiz.


DIY Music

You don't have to be a musician to make music. Learn how to compose music through sounds right here in your everyday life (even when you're stuck at home!).