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Songwriting - Studying Film Music

Updated: Feb 3

Cameraman filming violinist
Studying Film Music

Here is How it went.

The term before Christmas was probably my most creative yet. One of the subjects I have been looking forward to the most was “Screen Sound and Music”. The lessons were very informative and the practical exercises were very helpful. So, studying film music – here is how I went.

I have included a short film that I created music for as part of my final assessment. It comes from a game called “The Last of Us” and I was given the video with a dialogue and foley (all the natural sounds created by the scenes). The brief was to create appropriate music for the scenes.

Planning the Big Picture.

I watched the scenes a number of times and each time I marked key events in the visuals and also the dialogue. The dialogue was fairly powerful in its content and I decided that the best option was to give the dialogue plenty of space. I also made the decision to use real instruments for scenes to add a sense of humanness to the scenes.

Songwriting - Choosing the Tonality.

The scenes should desperation, sadness and finally acceptance of the fate. Because of these emotions I chose a very Minor Scale tonality, including diminished chords. As this was the basis of the mood’s I didn’t need a lot of instrumentation to create the moods.

The Beginning.

Because I knew what was coming, I chose to build tension using an unnatural sound that swelled in volume and culminated in a diminished chord that was held until the dialogue started. The viewer only sees the door opening but the music anticipates that something is not right. Then the dead body comes into view and their suspicion is confirmed.

Expanding the Basic Idea.

A single note melody was the basis of my idea. This was played by the right hand of the piano. The left hand adds the chordal structure underneath and then the strings add dynamic movement using volume and swells. The scene reaches a peak with the realisation that “she is infected”. At this point I wanted silence to heighten the tension and then a simple build in the piano to the word “oop’s”. Silence ending the scene lets the viewer time to take in the consequences of the scene.

Watch it for Yourself.

This is "The Last Of Us" with my music added. If you enjoyed this maybe check out the game itself -

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