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Showing Music in Comics

Banes at 12:00AM, Dec. 19, 2019

Obviously, comics don't have sound. And that includes most webcomics.

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? Possibly you use 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!




PaulEberhardt at 2:20AM, Dec. 22, 2019

I recommend having a look at the old masters. The thing that just came to my mind is one of the very first comic strips ever (1865!), fittingly called "The New Year's Concert". With things like thiss, Wilhelm Busch has inspired me a great deal. Here he manages to give you a very clear impression of the music just through the charcters' movements and expressions and his (then) highly innovative way of transferring idioms like "the listener became all ears" to the art. You don't actually need to know any German for this comic, but for those who are curious, the single introductory verse translates more or less as: Welcome on this New Year’s day / To hear the virtuoso play, / He kindly has agreed to meet you, / To his delightful skills he’ll treat you. (my translation)

Jason Moon at 9:37AM, Dec. 20, 2019

@Avart - You did an amazing page! Really captured the music,band and dancing. Thanks again for doing that :)

Andreas_Helixfinger at 8:44PM, Dec. 19, 2019

So far what I've done has been musical notes ribbons for instrumental jazz and piano music in my comic. I love how you can make those things soar through the scene in the panel, emphasizing the traveling characteristic of the whole thing.

plymayer at 8:09PM, Dec. 19, 2019

A combination of all below. Here is how I did it in VinoMas' Pageant last year

usedbooks at 2:22PM, Dec. 19, 2019

I have the worst trouble with this, especially portraying ring tones.

IronHorseComics at 11:05AM, Dec. 19, 2019

the problem arises when you have to come up with your own song. It's nearly impossible to insert the melody unless you happen to be able to read sheet music and that's not even considering the fact that I'm betting a lot of comic readers, can't sadly.

Avart at 10:59AM, Dec. 19, 2019

Interesting article Banes :) I actually haven't made any scene like that for my comic. The closest one is the collaboration with @JasonMoon for his comic "Crater's Edge" in a dancing scene. I included de tab with musical random notes ;)

Ironscarf at 10:10AM, Dec. 19, 2019

I've used all of the above, including lyrics twisting through the scene without a staff, as well as random musical notes and symbols that take on personalities of their own. Music in comics is great because if you're featuring an amazing band, their music can be whatever the reader thinks is amazing. Movies about fictional bands or musicians are usually awful, unless it's something like Spinal Tap, where they're supposed to be bad or cliched. If the fictional band are topping the charts, it doesn't work because you can hear their hopeless music.

Jason Moon at 6:23AM, Dec. 19, 2019

It's good to have music in your story. Especially if you have a character that can dance ;)

KAM at 5:01AM, Dec. 19, 2019

Fake musical notes and rhyming dialogue.

ozoneocean at 12:37AM, Dec. 19, 2019

If you tip the server too far it'll fall over and our hard drives will crash T_T

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