definitions, vocabulary

Film Scoring Vocabulary

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A handy vocabulary

This post will be continuously updated with definitions/explanations of concepts referenced in other articles. Make sure you check it often if you are trying to build your film scoring vocabulary!

BPM (beats per minute)

Unit of measurements of a piece’s tempo.


Any piece of music that has a start and en ending. Some cues reside within a single scene while some others can span across multiple scenes. Sometimes a cue crosses with the consequent cue, we refer to such such scenario as segue.

Cue naming convention

Every cue in a visual production has a specific code: a number a letter and a number. The first number is usually the reel number for film or the act number for TV. The letter is almost always M for music, and the second number starting from 1 progresses in increments of one from cue to cue. So 2M15 would be reel two, cue 15. Some times with each new reel the cue number is reset to 1 some other times it keeps progressing from the last number used in the previous reel. Of course there are exceptions and everyone should adopt her/his own set of rules. I like to put the cue number first to have a faster visual representation of all my cues when looking at a bunch of files. Also I don’t reset the cue number with each reel, which result in every cue having a unique number. So in my case 22M3 would be the twenty second cue from the start and it would fall in reel 3.

Frame rate

(coming soon)


(coming soon)


See cue.


The speed of a particular piece of music. Tempo is most commonly measured in BPM (beats per minute). When a less precise speed is required the use of tempo markings is available.

Tempo markings

A series of words, usually in Italian, that roughly indicate at what tempo a particular piece of music should be played. i.e. adagio (slow) or allegro (fast).


A series of numeric codes generated at regular intervals allowing to locate events in a video with extreme precision. SMPTE timecode is composed of four 2-digit numbers separated by either a colon or a semicolon (check the voice Frame rate for more info about the difference). The first 2-digit number usually represents the reel number, followed by the minutes, seconds and frames. For example 02:04:57:23 means second reel, minute 4, second 57 and frame 23.

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Also published on Medium.

Giovanni Rotondo
Giovanni Rotondo is an experienced film and television composer based in London. He has scored many award winning feature films, TV movies, documentaries and video games. More info here:

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