Music videos - styles, conventions and techniques (2023)

throughDavid Mitchel|July 17, 2019|Miscellaneous|1 Comment

Music videos - styles, conventions and techniques (1)

Most musicians will recognize the importance of music videos. However, when it comes to music videos, artists consider their options but may not be aware of the full availability of the music video type being offered. This article breaks down video clips into different styles, conventions, and techniques that can be applied to your video, with links to examples to clarify usage.


Your video style will depend heavily on the genre of music you or your band play. Most artists choose a style and stick with it throughout the video, but that doesn't mean you should stick to one style in one video or in future productions. Their musical styles also vary in terms of lighting, angles, locations, costumes, etc., and all of these must be considered when choosing a music video's style.

style of pop music

Videos for popular music genres often reflect the genre of the music.

Gender will also be reflected in the costumes used. Pop uses bright colors and trendy clothes, while rock/heavy metal uses dark colors.

Obvious musical styles would be POP, like cartoons, witchdoctor. They have very flashy costumes, bright lights and are aimed at a younger audience.

Enter Sandman – Metallica, on the other hand, is a very somber video with dark clothing and more mature imagery.

Cartoon - Magician

Metallica - Enter the Sandman

Type of filming in concert and "live"

Video clips from the concert show the song's performers performing the song live. Some of them even use videos of a real show instead of a staged one. Viewers generally enjoy these music videos because they want to see the artist perform the song instead of just hearing it. In some cases it can be used to represent the feeling of a real concert.

ac/dc - back in black

ac/dc - Shoot to Thrill

Both types use live footage, however one is more of a live show while the other uses edited footage of live footage mixed with film.Ironman 2.

Animation style

Some music videos use animation, either for the entire video or just a portion of it. This can range from stop motion to digital animation. The animation style is popular with bands looking to tell a story.

Peter Gabriel - Hammer

The video uses stop motion animation for most of the video.

Aha- I oil

This video uses rotoscopy (drawing over the original film).

storytelling style

A narrative music video has a story that the audience can follow while listening to the song. They differ from interpretive music videos in that the narration does not have to follow the lyrics exactly.

Billy Joel - We didn't start the fire

Although there are some images related to his lyrics. Most of the video follows a narrative of family aging in the 1950s and 1960s.

Metallica - The day that never comes

The music video follows an army team that doesn't really follow the lyrical narrative.

surreal Style

(Video) Styles, Conventions and Techniques of Music Videos

Surreal music videos use unconventional imagery that audiences are not expecting and which can often be labeled as absurd by audiences. The idea behind these videos is that the wow factor makes the video more memorable for the audience.

Aphex Twin - Come to Papa

In both videos, it is clear that the audience is meant to see the video in a kind of "dream state", which makes the video surreal.

Animal Collective - Peacebone


A pastiche music video is when an artist imitates another person's style.
This is usually done lightheartedly and with respect for the person being impersonated.

Justin Timberlake often claims his dance moves are credited to his dance hero, Michael Jackson.

Justin Timberlake - Move Your Body

parody style

A parody music video puts the spotlight on the original title trackSong. By using humor in your video, a viewer can get a different kind of fun.

„Weird Al“ Yankovic – Fett

Weird Al is known for his parody songs, he copies Michael Jackson's Bad.

The Lonely Island - I'm on a Boat with T-Pain (Versão Explicita).

There was a time when hip hop artists always seemed to be on a boat, so The Lonely Island decided to make a parody group, music video and song about being on a boat. This video may also be known as a pastiche because it uses someone else's style.

reference style

Some music videos may relate to other subjects, be it cultural/historical events or another person. Soundtrack videos can even reference the movies they are from in the music video. People like "reference" videos because they can enjoy the music and additional entertainment related to the topic at hand.

Michael Jackson - The man in the mirror

Man In The Mirror references riots, wars, protests, racism and world peace with images from the past.

Wheatus - garbage bag for teenagers

References to images from the film "Loser".


Some artists use their music videos to honor another lyric that influenced them, or just one that they like. The audience can heed this hint or encourage them to study the original text as well.

Soul Asylum's Runaway Train was influenced by missing children. References to pictures of missing children can be seen throughout the video.

However, the tribute style is commonly used by charity singles, who often do so with a reference to where the money will be donated when you purchase the single.The X Factor Heroes cover was a charity single from Help for Heroes.

Interpretive Style

As mentioned in the storytelling style section above, an interpretive music video is one in which the director interprets a song's lyrics, using them to play a narrator role, often making the videos quite literal.

Stubborn D – Tribute

The video follows the band meeting the devil in the desert and playing the greatest song in the world they can't remember (if they don't know they mean "Stairway to Heaven"), but "that's just one tribute".

(Video) Styles, Conventions and Techniques of music videos

Eminem ft dido – Stan

The song tells the story of a person who believes he is Eminem's biggest fan. He writes several letters to Eminem, becomes increasingly obsessed and gets no response, becomes more angry and eventually commits suicide, blaming Eminem.

impressionist style

Impressionist music videos tend to be more "artsy" and take their name from the Impressionist art movement. Another definition is a music video that doesn't focus on small details in the image but focuses on the atmosphere and transports the moods and emotions evoked by the subject. These video clips are likely to include features like soft lighting, soft edges, and smooth color transitions. This creates an aesthetically pleasing video and increases the attention paid to it.

Coldplay: Up and down

The video can be interpreted however the audience wants, but it is ARTISTIC and has pushed the boundaries of the music video.

The Cure - Friday I'm in love

This can also be categorized as a surreal video, but the video is more artistic than music related.

Influenced by brand sponsorship or style

The style or storytelling of some music videos is influenced by the world of advertising and commerce. Product placement is nothing new in films or music videos and can often be a way of producing the video in the first place. Most pop artists are sponsored by specific products they need to promote, or they may even have their own product to exhibit.

Ariana Grande – Fokus

Avicii – Acorde-me

In Ariana Grande's video, they "focus" on the Galaxy Note 5, which is filmed and also used for selfies throughout the video.

no avicii video,Ralph Lauren's line of denim clothing was used throughout the video. There's also a stunning shot of a Sony Xperia at the show at the end.

The convention

When it comes to music video conventions, they usually refer to "the rules" that people follow when making a music video. The conventions often depend on the chosen video style and are not always followed. The "surreal style", for example, aims to break the rules of normality and therefore does not have to conform to any conventions.

lyric interpretation

Following the narrative or interpretive style, it is a lyrical interpretation. When a director hears a song, he creates a video based on his interpretation of the lyrics. The audience's interpretation can be based on the images produced as well as their opinion of the lyrics. It's not exactly the same as finding a story that fits the lyrics. It can be a simple background to make the point. Back to Billy Joel, we didn't start the fire, the projection behind him shows the names he's saying and he's also surrounded by fire.

Expand the meaning of a song.

Madonna - like a prayer

The meaning of a song can be expanded, meaning the plot and images
that appear in the music video are used to expand the meaning of the song. This leaves the song open to other interpretations.

"Like a Prayer" by MadonnaIt features images of burning crosses and a depiction of Jesus as a black man whom she is kissing. So one interpretation could be a statement against racism, as intended, but the images prompted the Vatican to condemn him, unsurprisingly boosting his popularity.

Solidify the meaning of a song

Cyndi Lauper - Girls just wanna have fun

Instead of expanding a song's meaning, you can consolidate it by using images, along with sound and music, that have a emphatic effect on the message conveyed by the music video, rather than inferring the meaning of a song. . Solidifying the meaning of the song means following a literal narrative or direct interpretation of the lyrics so as not to confuse the audience.

A direct interpretation of the lyrics means that the audience follows the story of the lyrics directly. No fuss, no hidden meaning. Cyndi Lauper's Girls Who Just Want to Have Fun video is a good example of this. She didn't push the boundaries of feminism, she literally told people to women have fun.

(Video) Styles, Conventions and Techniques of Music Videos


Allusion is when a person, existing text, place, or event is referred to in a video clip. It can be pretty obvious or totally understated, but either way, a lot of music videos incorporate conventions like this.

Allusions are often made in homage, pastiche, parody, and reference (see previous sections).

Links to other artists


As opposed to allusion, music videos can also reference other artists. This means the video could pay homage to that artist's style or parody their style (or previous videos). For example youThe list of Rockstar appearances and references is huge (click onhere).


Video clip techniques are the parts of filmmaking and the post-production elements of film production that allow the audience to interact with the video.

cut no punch

Dark Tide - Warriors of Time

One of the techniques used to create a visually pleasing music video is to cut the footage you take and match it to the beat of the music. This in turn also determines the tempo for your edits. A song's tempo can appear accelerated if too many pauses are used to increase the tempo of the video. Most music videos require you to slow down the tempo when changing scenes.

Black Tide's "Time Warriors" is aAnother example of an animation style, this music video changes with the beat and adds drama to the story with quick cuts as the tempo picks up.

special effects

The darkness - I believe in something called love

As with any video, visual effects can be a great way to engage an audience. Aesthetically pleasing effects will delight one audience, and technically stunning effects can also attract another audience who may be interested in the complexity of your work. The effects used must be appropriate for the genre of the song.

"I Believe in a Thing Called Love" by The Darkness is aExample of parody or homage, in this case to the Star Trek/Old Space TV series. This video uses a green screen, special effects, colors befitting its band, and finally poor set design (deliberately to parody/honor the old space tv series).

Pantomime and lip-synching

If the music video contains elements of a live performance, the artist must imitate the track's lyrics and music so that they are in sync when the audio is overlaid. Nickelback's Rockstar is a prime example of this (see previous sections).

In Paul Simon's "...Call Me Al" video, Chevy Chase steals time from Paul Simon's lyrics.

Paul Simon - You can call me Al

Playback and Sync

Slightly different than imitation and lipsync, playback and lipsync work together to create the video. This can be the option to record a video in slow motion, but with the lips moving at the same time. This would require doubling the music speed when recording the video and then halving the video. Coldplay gives two good examples of playback and syncing. The first is "Yellow" where he walks along the beach in slow motion but still in sync with the vocals. The other is "The Scientist" where he would have to do the right backwards lip movements to fit the song.

Coldplay – Gelb


Coldplay – Gelb

At a rate that would have been recorded (approx.)

Coldplay - O Scientists


Coldplay - O Scientists

Edited upside down.

(Video) Music Videos: Conventions, Styles and Techniques - A Visual Essay


The multi-image technique means that several images are displayed on the screen at the same time. While the old practice was to project multiple repeatedly varying images onto a screen, innovations in non-linear editing are making this process more efficient, meaning split screen is the contemporary equivalent. This technique allows multiple ideas to be displayed simultaneously on the screen, allowing different images to be juxtaposed to create an overall semantic interpretation.

Blur - I broadcast

"I Broadcast" has blurVideo uses multiple frames from YouTube video uploaders on the same screen for the video.

camera movement

The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony

Fat Les – Vindaloo

As with other media text, the way the camera moves has a huge impact on the aesthetics and impact of a music video. They can be used to create emotion and add sound to the video.

A "sour symphony" by The VerveThe video follows Richard Ashcroft walking down the street. We got the train like we were all the way ahead of it."Vindaloo" von Fat LesThe football anthem parodied the video for The Verve.


Moses - hysteria

Just like movement, camera positioning has a huge impact on the meaning and tone of a music video. A variety of different shooting lengths and angles allows you to create a music video that is more visually interesting and focuses on different elements of the plot to convey different messages to the audience.

Muse's "Hysteria"The video uses a lot of close-ups, which makes you feel intimidated.

Chroma Key

Tenacious D - The Rise of the Phoenix

Chroma key is when the footage you are using is shot in front of a green screen (or blue screen). This means the background block color can be removed and replaced with a second image behind the subject. This can be used to create an effect that is otherwise impossible, such as B. Flying in the sky. It could also be due to budget constraints making it too expensive to go to some places; instead, the chroma key can be used in the situation.

"The Greatness of the Phoenix" by Tenacious Dthe video is a parody/homage to the excessive use of green screen and effects that also go wrong.

There are many styles, conventions, and techniques that overlap in a music video. Each genre tends to maintain its own use of video, but this shouldn't limit you as an artist to experimenting and seeing what styles, conventions, and techniques work with your music. Recall! Your video is about music branding and you as an artist, so take the time to choose what works and feels right for you. These different types of music videos and their examples should help you decide which video is a good fit for your band.

About the author

David Mitchell holds a Creative Media Production Level 3 Diploma with Triple Distinction. In 2018 David was also the winner of the Best Student Award at the Golden Apple Awards in Cumbria. Read more aboutmoo man means

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  1. Music videos - styles, conventions and techniques (4)

    remove missouri warton September 18, 2021 at 1:17 p.m

    Excellent post. I never knew thank you for letting me



  1. The History of Music Videos - Moo Man Media- […] The Beatles also took music videos to another level with film production. They started using the codes and conventions...

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