Wondering how music can enhance your masterpiece?

As a filmmaker, understanding the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic music is an invaluable skill that can push your project to the next level. Learn how to think like a seasoned music supervisor and use these simple tools to tell your story with music. Here’s what you need to know!

Diegetic Music

Diegetic music, also known as source music, is any music that comes from the world of your narrative. In most cases, this is the music that the characters are listening to in a scene. With diegetic music, the audience is aware that the music playing is what the characters are hearing as well. Common examples of diegetic music include music playing on the radio, overhead music playing in a cafe, as well as any music played by musicians that are performing in a scene. Often, a music editor will add filters to diegetic music to give the effect of how a character would be hearing the music in their environment.

Most importantly,  diegetic music is a tool that allows the audience to experience the world of the characters. In some cases, specific songs may be mentioned as part of the storyline. As a storyteller, think about scenarios in which your characters would be experiencing music and how that music can add emotion to your story.

Here are some scenarios and scenes where you might add diegetic music to your project:

  • Coffee shops
  • Grocery stores
  • Restaurants
  • Scenes in a car where a character is listening to music on the radio,  music out of a speaker, record player, etc
  • Concert scenes
  • Scenes where a character is dancing to music
  • Live musicians performing  

Check out this example of diegetic music where John Cusack plays Peter Gabriel’s song “In Your Eyes” from a boombox in the 1989 film Say Anything.

Non-Diegetic Music

Non-Diegetic music is what only we, as the audience can hear. While this music is not part of the character’s world, filmmakers can use non-diegetic music to enhance the emotions of the viewers watching. This can include scored music from a composer, licensed music, and sound effects. Using non-diegetic music can amplify the emotions of a scene, create suspense and give viewers a better understanding of how a character is feeling within a scene. Use non-diegetic music to establish the tone, atmosphere and sonic world of your story.  

In this example, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” is used non-diegetically to add emotion to the final scene in The Graduate, 1967.


Start using diegetic and non-diegetic music in your next project. Experiment, have fun with it, and explore the ways music can enhance your storytelling!

Find the perfect song now!




Songtradr · November 29, 2017 at 11:58 am

Reblogged this on The Music Solution and commented:

She just broke it down…easy read…good explanation Satya!

Christine Cochran (@XtineCochran) · November 29, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Allegedly, Hitchcock was first to use it…(great movie either way!)

spidervis · November 29, 2017 at 12:41 pm

As another example, in the Titanic’s last scenes, when violinists decide to die while playing, we can hear a transition from diegetic music to non-diegetic music.

D · November 29, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Awesome idea, extremely helpful, thoughtful, and articulate!

Aspak khan · November 29, 2017 at 9:37 pm

Sir mujhe acting tha toh Soch nahi lekin mere paas aapke liye aap ki film ke liye ek se ek Story Hai Jo Ki Aane wali iskandar itni acchi acchi story IC hai aap Dekh Kar Aisa Laga Ke aapne kabhi sad IC story nahi padi hai mere paas IC Itni achi stories hai jo aap ki film Ko Itna Mujhe tak le ja sakti hai jahan tak ki Hamari Bahubali 2 bhi nahi puchni thi Main Apni website is main main storage likhi hai aapko Main Bata Raha Hoon Main niche website Mitra please ek baar check kar Ye Kaisa Lagta Hai diye aur aap mujhse personal contact kar sakte hai mere paas mere booked stories Tere Naam To Hai Bahubali 3 film main likh kar rakhi hai Dekh Kar Humko Aisa Laga Shayad Aaj Tak IC stories nahi dekhi ok sir please meri baat Jarur Jarur karna ok

Mark · January 10, 2018 at 5:51 am

My name is Mark Jacobs, and I have to say that I really enjoyed this article. As an avid fan of both movies and music, I think it’s especially special when the two can be linked in such creative ways. Another example that comes to mind is in my new short film Oscar goes to prison, where the inmates are singing a chain gang song, but the song slowly fades into a viewers only setting. It is quite clever, and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on it. I have a few friends in very important places in Universal and Warner Bros, etc. and they think it has a lot of potential.

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