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

The number of frames rapidly rolling within a single second. Different mediums/countries, have different frame rates. The most common are 24 fps for film and 29.97 fps for video.

Mickey Mousing

A scoring technique distinguished by a high number of sync points. Mickey Mousing is particularly common in animation, realm from which it takes the name.


A computer simulation sounding as close as possible to a real, human musical performance.


See cue.

Sync point

Any moment where the music is intentionally highlighting a particular event in the visuals. Usually a sync point is referable to a specific frame, thus having a unique time code.


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).

Temp love

When a film maker gets so used to a temp score that she/he will hardly accept any solution differing from it even slightly.

Temporary music

See Temp score

Temp score

A temporary music soundtrack made of pre-existing music. The role of a temp score is of helping visualising the effect of a finished project while editing the film.


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.

Missing a key definition?

Help us suggesting new film-music-Related words you always wanted to know more about or that you feel would be useful to others! You can post them in the comments.

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Giovanni Rotondo

Giovanni Rotondo

Editor in Chief of Film Scoring Tips. Giovanni Rotondo is an experienced film and television composer based in London. He has scored many award winning feature films (Elijah and the Rock Creature, Orphans & Kingdoms), TV movies (Il Giudice Meschino, Il Confine), documentaries (Ilaria Alpi - L'Ultimo Viaggio) and video games (Thunderbird: The Legend Begins). More info here:

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