How to Compose Emotional MusicYour Journey in Emotional Music

Do you want to learn how to compose emotional music? Music that touches your heart, and goes deep into your very soul.

Get a Special Discount to my Course: How to Compose Emotional Music

You will learn how to compose anything from sad and tragic music, to tear-jerking lush and beautiful music, to intimate and soft emotional atmospheres. I will take you on a learning journey and adventure, where you will learn the secrets of composing and producing emotional music.

  • Learn the Foundations & Guidelines
  • Explore the Sounds & Colors
  • Discover Practical Tips & Insights
  • Get Live Examples & Demonstrations
  • Master Emotional Music

My name is Mike, and I am a composer.
Just. Like. You. =)

I started making music back in 1998. And I love to educate, motivate, and inspire creative people, like yourself.

So I ask you again. Are you ready to learn and master how to compose emotional music in any style you want. If your answer is yes. Take action, and begin your adventure, right now!

What is Emotional Music?

Let’s first define what emotional music is, because of course all music has emotion. By emotional music, I am referring to music that has that spark of beauty often connected to feelings of sadness, tragedy, longing, hope etc. Emotions that go deep and will make you feel the music in your heart and soul.

Emotional music, like all styles of music, comes in many different shapes and flavors. In truth, you have unlimited choices and flexibility as a composer to create whatever style of emotional music you want. However, in the next videos you will get practical tips, guidelines and examples of some of the most common styles of emotional music.

Emotional Music – Intimate & Soft

This style has a very mellow, thoughtful and deep mood. It is often characterized by a slow tempo, minimalistic arrangement, and instruments such as sordino strings, ambient pads and soft piano. The voice leading for this style should be very smooth, and the focus is more on harmony that melody. Rhythm and percussion should basically be as minimal as it gets.

Tips for Intimate & Soft Emotional Music:

  • Slow Tempo
  • Soft Sounds
  • Low Dynamics
  • Ambient Sound
  • Sparse Arrangement
  • Minimal Rhythm
  • Harmony over Melody
  • Smooth Voice Leading
  • Main Focus is Atmosphere

Emotional Music – Fragile & Delicate

Now with this style of emotional music, the character and mood is more focused on that feeling of loss, tragedy and grief. The instrumentation is often focused on solo instruments because they naturally sound more delicate and fragile, especially solo strings or solo woodwinds. The amount of expression you can add with solo instruments is way stronger than ensembles or sections, and this style of emotional music really takes advantage of this fact. Legato variation, strong and passionate vibrato, expressive articulations like bends and glides, dynamic expression curves etc.

Tips for Fragile & Delicate Emotional Music:

  • Slow Moving Tempo
  • Solo Instruments
  • Strong Vibrato
  • Beautiful Legato
  • Dynamic Curves
  • Expressive Articulations
  • Main Focus is Melody

Emotional Music – Lush & Soaring

This style of emotional music has the biggest sound of them all. A huge lush and soaring leading melody that has the power to induce tears and a strong feeling of beauty. You will hear this style of emotional music used a lot in film soundtracks for those big cinematic scenes, and when it comes the music will almost always ramp up in volume in the overall soundtrack. An example would be in the Lord of the Rings, when those panoramic scenes over the mountains and landscapes come, the music will become huge, lush, emotional and with soaring melody that guides the emotion of the scene. Another example is in the Pirates of the Caribbean, from the track “Up is Down”, where the music shifts from bouncy and energetic, to tear-jerking and amazingly beautiful.

Tips for Lush & Soaring Emotional Music:

  • Big Sound
  • Lush Ensembles
  • Powerful Layering
  • Long Notes
  • Lyrical Legato
  • Strong Expression
  • Focus = Strong Theme

Emotional Music – Romantic & Beautiful

Now this style of emotional music is not as sad and tragic, but more hopeful and inspiring. But it can still bring you to tears with its beautiful tone. The romantic style of music can be anything from nostalgic, to idyllic, to heart-warming. It often features sweeping melodic lines, and a lot of dynamic arcs and curves in the performances. This style can be used for music that expresses love, or simply to add a sense of beauty, like the majesty of nature and mother earth.

Tips for Romantic & Beautiful Emotional Music:

  • Mainly Strings and Woodwinds
  • Sweeping Melodies
  • Lots of Dynamic Expression
  • Gentle & Soft Mood
  • Main Focus is on Curves

Emotional Music – Ambient & Atmospheric

To create an emotional and beautiful atmospheric vibe you can focus on ambient sounds and textures that have that organic, intimate and magical vibe. And then compliment it with minor harmonies in a very minimal, light and soft way. You can use a lot of depth effects like reverb and delay to make the entire composition more ambient and atmospheric. With atmospheric music you should focus mainly on adding movement and motion to your sounds, instead of adding too many changes. You can think of emotional atmospheric music like a gentle touch of comfort and sympathy.

Tips for Ambient & Atmospheric Emotional Music:

  • Atmospheric Soundscapes
  • Ambient Sounds
  • Low Dynamics
  • Long Sustaining Sounds
  • Lots of Depth Effects (Reverb & Delay)
  • Focus on Movement instead of Changes

Guidelines for Emotional Music

Music is an art form, with unlimited creative expression. And with emotional music, like all other styles, there will never be a set of guidelines that cover all sub styles and colors perfectly. However, I have prepared a set of guidelines and practical tips for you, that you can use for writing and composing emotional music. Let’s go through these tips and guidelines, one by one, right now.

Slow & Smooth

In most cases emotional music has a slow tempo, meaning actual BPM. However, the most important aspect is that the leading melodies and harmonies flow smoothly and have that nice and slow lyrical motion. Meaning the slow and smooth is mainly focused on the playing style and performance, not only the BPM. You can have a high BPM in your composition, but still play slow and smooth emotional melodies and chord progressions.

Minor Harmonies

It goes without saying that minor harmonies are most often preferred when writing emotional music, simply because minor is more sad and emotional compared to major. This goes for the key and scale you use, the chord progressions, and even the intervals you use for your melodies. However, as I always teach, how you play has a deeper impact than what notes you play. Meaning that you can in fact play in major keys and use mostly major chords, and still get a very emotional feel in your music.

Suspended Harmonies

Apart from minor chords and harmonies, suspended chords and voice leading can add incredible beauty to your chord progressions. Meaning sus4 and sus2 harmonies. Make sure to use these suspended chords to your advantage, even if you use bigger chords such as 7ths. That suspended 3rd will always carry so much emotional tension. And remember that add 9th chords are essentially another color of sus2, which makes them very beautiful and emotional.

7th Chords

7th Chords always have a way of adding an extra dimension of beauty and complexity. There are many colors of 7th chords, and of course those that focus more on the minor 3rd harmonies will sound the most emotional. For example, let’s take a minor 7th chord. It’s a minor chord, with an added minor 3rd. This creates a very lush sounding minor emotional chord. But even a major 7th chord, which is a major chord + a major 3rd, feels more emotional than a simple major triad. You can use this to your advantage as a composer, in a chord progression that uses one or more major chords. Add a 7th to them to make them more lush and beautiful, and you will avoid the too uplifting vibe. Or of course you can add any other scale degree to get rid of that major triad sound. For example, the add9 is one of my personal favorites.

Simple & Sparse

In most cases, emotional music will have a minimalistic approach to the arrangement as well as the parts you write. Long notes, long chords, few instruments. And if you layer your parts it will mostly be in unison and octaves to keep that minimal vibe. You can use something as simple as an ambient piano with some soft sordino strings playing chords and harmonies, and that will pretty much do the job for this style of music. Add an expressive lead melody playing a beautiful and emotional part, and you got it all covered.

Minimal Rhythm

Rhythm is the core of music, as it is present everywhere, even a melody will have rhythm built into the very pattern of notes. However, for emotional music a rule of thumb can be to use minimal focus on rhythmic parts and percussion, and way more focus on harmonies and melodies. You should even consider reducing the rhythmic attention in your melodies as well, by using longer notes, air and silence in between phrases, instead of short rhythmic melodic phrases.

Lyrical Voice Leading

Emotional music is almost always lyrical in nature, meaning smooth flowing voice leading and beautiful legato transitions. By lyrical I mean a smooth flow both the voice leading of your harmonies, as well as graceful movement in the intervals you use for your melodies. And a smooth legato connection between most of your voices. From short legato speed to full on portamentos on some chosen transitions for an elevated emotional accent.

Expressive Vibrato

Vibrato is probably the single most important expressive technique for adding emotion to any note in your performance. And of course you can have many shapes and colors of a vibrato technique. From light, all the way to passionate vibrato. You can also shape your vibratos with curves, to change how strong the vibrato is over the time of the note. As well as the vibrato speed. A good rule of thumb for vibratos, is that they will always be more clear and expressive on a solo instrument compared to an ensemble or section. In my opinion, strings and woodwinds have the most expressive and emotional vibrato. For leading melodies with solo instruments that would mean for example, flute or oboe, or violin or cello.

Motion and Curves

Dynamic motion like crescendos and diminuendos, arcs of various lengths, and swells..are all used extensively in emotional music. Because graceful movement is so expressive and emotional, however you implement it into your performances. So as a general guidelines you should think in terms of flowing smooth curves and movement in every aspect of your performances, and you will have a good starting point to write parts for your emotional music compositions.

Tempo Automation

Gradually changing tempo over time is a super powerful way of adding emotion and expression to your music compositions, and often it is slightly neglected by composers. In emotional music styles you can do this even more extensively than many other styles of music. So much so, that your entire tempo track can be full of tempo automation curves to shape the movement of time over your complete composition.

The Power of Silence

Silence is one of the greatest and most powerful tools in music. It can add a sense of drama, it can give more weight to a musical phrase, and it can add a sense of reflection which is amazing for emotional music. Simply by adding more silence and air into your music performances in your composition will often add that sense of depth and atmosphere that often goes hand in hand with emotional and beautiful music.

The Sounds of Emotional Music

Now let’s explore what kinds of instruments and sounds are common to use in emotional music. Of course this depends on what style and character your emotional music composition should have, but it is still important to have a good palette of colors to use in your composer toolkit. So let’s go through some of the most common sounds of emotional music, right now!

Soft Piano

Piano, the most grand of all instruments, the king of dynamics and range. And in my opinion, a soft sounding piano is one of the most fundamental instruments for emotional music of all styles.

  • Soft Tone
  • Low Dynamics
  • Mellow Performance
  • Ambient Depth

Lush Strings

Lush strings is another amazing instrument for emotional music, especially for the chords, harmonies and backing atmospheres. But also for high range melodies to carry your main theme.

  • Lush Sound
  • Low Dynamics
  • Low Range (Harmonies)
  • High Range (Melodies)
  • Smooth Voice Leading
  • Dynamic Movement
  • Soft Articulations

Expressive Melodies

Expressive Melodies. In general, for your leading melodies you really want to go all in with expression to create a rich and powerful impact in emotional music.

  • Solo Instruments
  • Intimate Sound
  • Lyrical Legato
  • Strong Vibrato

Deep Ambience

Atmosphere, ambience, and depth. Those are very important aspects of emotional music, and there are several types of instruments, articulations and sound design techniques you can use to create those deep ambient sounds for emotional music.

  • Ambient Pads
  • Soundscapes
  • Dreamy Pulses
  • Deep Swells
  • Huge Reverb

Shimmering Magic

Shimmering and organic sounds that has that magical sustain in the notes, are very good to add atmosphere to your emotional music.

  • Sweet Harp
  • Magical Plucks
  • Mellow Keys
  • Divine Harmonics
  • Light Bells

Beautiful Vocals

The human voice has the most incredible expression and emotional range of any instrument. Whether you use choirs or solo voices, if you add those beautiful vocals you will make your music more emotional.

  • Glorious Choir
  • Melodic Vocal
  • Lyrical Vocal

Assignment – Sound Instinct

Congratulations! You have now learned the core fundamentals, sounds and colors of emotional music. Now it’s time for your final assignment of this module, which I call sound instinct. Because in order to level up and evolve as a music composer, you will have to develop a good ear for music and sound by listening and analyzing professional productions.

Your Assignment – Sound Instinct
Your assignment is therefore what I call “Sound Instinct”. Meaning listening to music with your full attention, and analyzing everything that is going on. In this case your focus will of course be emotional music. Make sure to listen to as many details you can hear in the music: Tempo, Key, Harmonies, Instruments and Sounds, Playing Styles, Expression, Production Techniques, and so on.

I will now give you a list of great examples of specific compositions focusing on an emotional vibe in the music, which you can use as a starting point for this exercise:

Emotional Music in Action

  • The Lion King – This Land
  • The Godfather – Love Theme
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – Drink Up Me Hearties (ending)
  • The Da Vinci Code – Chevaliers De Sangreal
  • Braveheart – For the Love of a Princess
  • Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump Suite
  • The Lord of the Rings – The Breaking of the Fellowship

Now go ahead and do this ear training exercise to develop your ear and instinct for emotional music in action.