Without some further thought or even a bit of googling, movie buffs may be the only ones who can distinguish a soundtrack from a score. However, it is a distinction that many in the movie and music industry are asking about and have been trying to find clarity on for some time. This article will give you the low-down on the differences between the movie soundtrack and the score; and consider some key features of each.

The Distinction

The soundtrack is generally the series of songs that are recorded either for or before the movie and are then used in the movie. The soundtrack can be recorded specifically for the movie or may even include some interesting bits from the movie; whereas the score is the original music that is written to accompany the movie. It is used to heighten tension, create suspense, or lighten the mood and is created by a composer—often with the help of a full orchestra.

Hip hop in the movies

The score gets to win Grammys, and yet the music on its own in popular terms is also worthy of recognition. Kendrick Lamar’s soundtrack for the Chadwick Boseman movie Black Panther, for example, was some of the most specific hip hop related to a super hero movie ever, and yet it was the score that won the Grammy. For many it was Lamar’s harmonies, tone, and timing that kept the movie in tune and it also debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 when it was released.

Some of the top scores

Whether you are a fan or not, there are some unmistakable scores that you will recognize almost immediately from just a few bars of music. The Star Wars franchise has an iconic musical score that has graced the many films and spin-offs, including series and games; and the Raiders of the Lost Ark score is easily recognizable and immediately makes us remember Indie’s fedora and whip. Interestingly, they are both composed by the same man, John Williams, and considered epic and iconic in their own right.

Which soundtrack do you remember?

It is a tricky distinction, and most people out there will remember the soundtrack to the movie Dead Presidents as a classic, but not many will remember the score, except to say that if the movie had you in its grasp it was probably a good combination of the two. As it stands, The Bodyguard is the movie with the highest selling soundtrack, rooted no doubt by the epic Whitney Houston ballad “I will always love you.” Other notable and more recent additions to the list of biggest selling soundtracks include Frozen, because no one with a child will ever forget “Let it go.” The slightly older generation might still have a copy of the Grease soundtrack or even Saturday Night Fever. And even younger generations will recognize iconic songs from those movies which have contributed to the popularity of their soundtracks.

Now that you know the difference, you will recognize that both the score and the soundtrack are essential. They are used in different ways yet come together to create the perfect musical sound that will enliven any movie.

Written by Stop The Breaks
Stop The Breaks is an independent music marketing company focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists. Our goal is to help motivate, inspire and educate independent artists grinding around the world. We provide branding, content marketing, social media, SEO and music promotion services.