How to compose film music. Action style

In this article, I want to start a conversation about creating orchestral film music, music for games, commercials, trailers, etc. That is, about applied music that accompanies some kind of video sequence. Let us agree to call this music cinematic music.

Let's take a look at a small list of styles and directions into which we can divide music for cinema.

- Action (Chase)
- Epic
- Comedy
- Adventure
- Liric
- Dramatic
- Horror
- Suspense

Let's start our conversation with the Action style.
This is a style that illustrates some kind of active action. Usually at this time there is a frequent change of frames on the screen, the video is characterized by high dynamics.

It could be a run, a chase, a shootout, a race, or a blockbuster trailer.

This style is characterized by a fairly fast tempo, approximately 120-160 BPM. Most often, Action music is written in a minor key. The dynamics can be very different - from very quiet to as loud as possible, there can be very quick unexpected transitions between quiet and loud places and vice versa. Naturally, all of the above is not a rule. An Action-style track can be faster, maybe in a major key, etc.

Also, this style has characteristic methods of development. Let's list them.

- Frequent change of texture. For example, an orchestral tutti can be replaced by the play of a small ensemble of instruments
- Frequent change of registers. For example, high violins are played first and low drums and bass suddenly come in.
- Fast crescendos and diminuendos. That is, a sharp increase and decrease in volume.



- Sharp dynamic changes (from pianissimo to fortissimo)
- Tutti chords, i.e. loud chords are played by the whole orchestra
- Organ point, that is, one note in the bass, while the chords and in general the harmony of the voices above can change
- Riff or ostinato, that is, multiple repetitions of one small melodic figure



- Figures, that is, repetitive short melodies, for example, violins in the middle register


- Perpetuum mobile or "endless movement", that is, continuous uniform movement of short durations


Perpetuum mobile and riff

- Fills, inserts, uneven transitions that violate the "squareness" of the music (that is, division by 4, 8, 12, 16 measures)
- Syncopes, change of duoles to triplets and vice versa
- Rich percussion, many different percussion instruments


The harmony of the Action style is usually not very diverse. The progression uses 2-4 chords.
Chords are often found in unusual proportions:

- tritone (for example, Am and D#m)



 - thirds (for example, Am and Fm, Am and Cm)




- chords with a common third (e.g. A and A#m, in both chords the third is a C# note)



Also, in this style, clusters are often used, that is, chords consisting not of thirds, but of seconds.


Melody can be in the form of short phrases, leaps. But the melodies can be quite long and catchy. The melodies can use:
- chromatic moves
- jumps to dissonances (tritones or septims)
- various diatonic modes (Lydian, Dorian, etc.)
- syncopes, triplets can be embedded in the rhythm
- small durations can alternate with large

Action musical instruments are often orchestral - strings and brass instruments. Wooden ones are used less often. Also, as mentioned earlier, a wide variety of percussion instruments are used. Electric guitars, synthesizers, electronic bass, drum loops can be added.

Let's list the play techniques typical for the Action style:
- staccato stringed instruments in low and medium registers


- legato strings in medium and high registers
- staccato and legato copper
- clusters, glissandos and other non-standard sounds


Listen please different elements together



Here's a quick summary of the Action style. I hope this little cheat sheet will help you in making music and also help you understand the intricacies of film music.


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