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Taking Notes - Music in Comics

Banes at 12:00AM, Feb. 15, 2018
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Obviously, comics don't have sound.

But if you want to show music playing, or being performed, how do you indicate it on a comic page?

The first method that comes to mind is just writing the lyrics in a dialogue balloon, and maybe peppering the balloon with a few musical notes. Italicizing the text is optional, to support the intent that this is not just regular ol' spoken dialogue.

Another way would be to show the singer (and the band if there is one) singing and playing, with no musical notes or lyrics shown. This would be a good choice if the band are just background texture to the scene, or if it doesn't matter what the particular music is. An audience of some kind, either reacting or not reacting to the music, could go in there too, of course.

I've seen comics actually draw a musical staff (the five lines of a treble clef) sort of wafting through the panel or panels, usually twisting and folding like a ribbon, with either musical notes or lyrics or both. This is a more stylized method, but I've seen it done regularly. I guess this would be a way to make the music the most important thing, the focus of the scene.

A simple, more cartoonish method would be to have two or three lines sticking out and a couple musical notes floating there. This seems to be suitable for music coming from a source like a jukebox, stereo or ipod. It shows musical noise with no specificity.

How do you show music in your comics? Probably with various methods, including the ones I listed. Are there some other approaches I missed?

Okay, the Banes Orchestra is gonna take five! Tip your server, and
Happy Thursday!

-Banes

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anonymous?

KimLuster at 12:10PM, Feb. 15, 2018

I've done the floating notes a few times with piano playing. Also the showing someone singing playing. And also the lyrics to a song in a speech bubble inside the html braces "" to set them apart from regular text... It's quite interesting to figure out how you're gonna convey music for certain!!

Gunwallace at 11:48AM, Feb. 15, 2018

My new comic (yes, I'm actually making a comic) is about a band reuniting and has a lot of songs in it. I've not decided exactly how to do the songs, but since the lyrics are important they will end up being the focus, with the band pictured playing. But I can see the appeal of putting some 'quote notes' around it as EssayBee suggests. Hmm. You have got me thinking.

GuyWithChainsaw at 7:51AM, Feb. 15, 2018

Showing music in comics is probably on of the hardest things to do. How do you show something that is designed to be heard, not seen. Anyway, I think a great way to show music is to portray a style of music through art. Draw a band in a style of music they are playing, instead of using generic font for the lyrics choose something that fits the emotions a song is supposed to bring. Or maybe go full symbolic and make the entire world look completely different while the music is playing. Kinda like Shokugeki no Souma portrayed peopls's feelings when tasting food for example.

EssayBee at 7:36AM, Feb. 15, 2018

I just put some 8th notes attached to the musical bubble in question. This can be either for someone singing a song or just saying something in a sing-song way (such as in the first panel of http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/Dude_in_Distress/5515944/ ). I haven't had a situation with background music yet, but I like the idea of the ribboned musical staff with the lyrics ribboned with it.

Ironscarf at 6:14AM, Feb. 15, 2018

I like the floating notes approach, whether in balloons with lyrics, or free floating. Notes with stalks work best I think, with the odd sharp, flat, rest etc for variation. I don't like the floating staff because a)you might have copyright issues and b) if you are making it up, any musician can then attempt to play it and spoil the illusion. The joy of music in comics is that everyone can imagine their own soundtrack. You don't want that issue of the movie which is about a supposedly successful band, yet all their songs are patently terrible.

ozoneocean at 1:51AM, Feb. 15, 2018

I either do the floating notes or do the ribbon/musical staff thing. The trouble is that I don't bother to actually LOOK up what the music IS so I don't have the notes right and that makes me feel shitty for my laziness and my obsessive perfectionist streak is wounded by it! But my lazy, aesthetic streak just wants notes that look artistically good... Not that I'm a musician but I like to do things right and it's pretty easy to read music once you take the time to understand it.


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