Video montages set to music are ubiquitous. From people's vacation videos to personal/corporate reels and broadcast highlight packages, music montages dominate a sizable portion of online video content. One of the primary practices in this type of editing has always been to cut with the beat of the underlying music. Unfortunately, cutting a good montage, where the editing flows from shot to shot without distracting the viewer in any way, requires quite a bit more than simply aligning cuts to the beat.
Here's Larry Jordan, a dude who needs no introduction, to explain and demonstrate some tips for building a great music montage.:
Even though a musical montage of sea creatures interacting isn't wildly exciting, there are some extremely valuable tips in Jordan's video. First and foremost, when you create a predictable rhythm with your edits by making each clip the exact same length, viewers will begin to anticipate cuts, which inherently distracts them from the content of the video. Of course, cutting with the rhythm of the song still makes the cuts feel more natural, but it's important to vary shot length to keep the viewers on their toes. Instead of cutting every two seconds exactly (or at the beginning of each bar of the song), play with cutting to the secondary beats of the music.
Another excellent tip from Jordan is to pay attention to the actions and movement within your shots. Oftentimes, a dynamic movement within the frame, when synced with the music, can have a tremendous impact on the feel of the piece, and it can make the edit feel more polished and professional. Lastly, even though your shots might seem disparate and lacking in story (as was the case with Jordan's sea creature footage), there is almost always a way to string them together to create a narrative of some kind. That's not to say that every video needs a definitive narrative -- especially if it's all landscapes or something like that -- but putting thought into the relationship between various shots can help to engage the audience in ways that strung-together shots with no commonalities simply can't.
Source: Larry Jordan