Hello Composers, Mike here. Do you want to Compose Epic Music? =)
Are you a fan of that huge, powerful and bold sound that simply fills you with energy?
You might ask: How do you compose great sounding epic music?
How do you find the right sounds, playing styles, vibe and emotional character?
Let me share some simple guidelines and tips that can help you either get started, or improve your epic music compositions.
1But first, let’s listen to some live examples of epic music compositions in various styles and character:
Mikael Baggström – Castle of Glory
I envisioned a noble castle with a heroic king ruling the lands with his majestic and legendary powers. I went for a very uplifting and majestic tone, with that epic heroic vibe. A full brass section drives the main theme, and it supported by a very focused rhythm on several short articulation strings tracks as well as brass stabs. The chord progressions includes many twists, and made the production quite intensive in time.
Main libraries used: Forzo Modern Brass, Cinematic Strings 2, Afflatus Strings, SWAM woodwinds, Action Strikes, Damage.
Brian Freeland – Berserker
This composition by Brian is so intense. It starts so creepy and full of tension. Then builds up with plucked strings in that remind me of The Gladiator Soundtrack. As well as a solo female vocal. Then after a huge tension riser it goes into the main theme, which is a kind of oriental melody that is supported heavy hits.
Brian also spiced up the rhythm and groove with syncopation and triplets without sounding too cliché, like most trailer tracks with the standard triplet transitions.
Brian’s description: I wrote this track in a few hours overnight after finishing client work and needing to focus on being creative. That’s one of the reasons I love these challenges. This track was inspired by quite a few different concepts, and was named after the recent album by metal band Amon Amarth.
For the intro wanted to create something unique and organic, inspired by the Netflix show The Last Kingdom. I used Sonuscore Origins, Sonuscore Vocal Phrases, and my usual round of Spitfire Symphonic orchestra, 8dio Century and Legion Series, and Strezov Afflatus.
The risers and pads are from Heavyocity Gravity and Rise and Hit, as well as string textures from Auddict Angel Strings, and war horns and brass from Keepforest Vikings.
The intense hybrid section was made with Novo and Forzo, Keepforest Aizerx, and the softsynth Spire, and the ethnic flavor comes from Red Room Audio Celtic fiddle, as well as Spitfire solo strings layered with Joshua Bell violin.
David Olofson – Galactic Empire
A composition with high mood contrast between the sections. I especially love when the track opens up just after 30s, and the runs in the transition. The interplay between the fanfare-brass and choir in the chorus sections is so intense. The intro and the sweet breakdown section, truly adds a lot of tonal and mood contrast compared to the chorus sections.
David’s description: A gigantic vista of planets, space stations, space ships… Too much cello research lately (have found a really nice one, though!), and I had a hard time even coming up with a vision and scenery for this track, let alone a story.
That makes writing a lot harder, as it basically boils down to improvising until something interesting comes up, and then build on that.
Mathieu Duguay – Gladius Victoris
This composition has avery nice build-up and by using intentionally sparse beats the track gets a very high contrast and focused rhythm. The final climax is so intense too!
Mathieu’s description: The story of a high valued warrior who fought thousands of battles. Victorious he stand among his fallen friends and enemies on the ground. He’s aiming his sword toward the burning sky to receive Odin’s blessing.
Production: Percs are layered from Apocalypse Drums and Audio Imperia hits & whooshes. Brass and Strings are NI Symphony Collection and Choirs are Oceania.
David Michael Tardy – Limitless
The simplicity of this composition adds so much focus. This track also use modern vocal effects, which helped so much with the transition to the climax, and the final chorus gets a very unique character from them too.
David’s description: My composition is titled “LIMITLESS”, which I composed this afternoon. I was going for an Epic Electro Cinematic feel, something different than “traditional” epic these days, with the addition of the vocals. I thought of a bad-ass La Femme Nikita type character who is both efficient in fighting with her hands as well as with weaponry.
The libraries I used for this piece: Afflatus Chapter One Strings, Metropolis Ark 1, Cinematic Studio Strings, Cinematic Studio Brass, PulseSetter Sounds Detonator, Keep Forest Atlantica, Spitfire Audio Albion One, Zero G Ether Evi 2.0, Output’s Exhale and Heavyocity Gravity. Hope you enjoy!
Siegfried Schüßler – Warmaster
This composition features very dark moody strings with mean low brass. This is epic in the sense of proud and powerful warriors.
Siegfried’s description: I had the image of a king who is riding into final battle. It is starting slow, like having thoughts the night before, then going with full plate into battle after speaking to the soldiers. A little bit like Theoden’s speech or so. The Music was mainly created with Metropolis Ark and sounds out of the box with a little reverb.
I love the monumental sound of this library. There are just one Omnisphere-percussion and EW Choirs for the shouts in addition. This piece was created by starting with the percussion part, which drew me very fast forward in the composition-process.
Epic Music Composition Guidelines
1. Big & Bold Sounds
Epic music is about power and authority. A good way to start your epic music template is to add sounds and instruments that are massive and powerful on their own.
Like big bold brass, massive string sections, over the top percussion, and a low-end boosted by sub-bass.
Epic music is not about intimate, dynamic and authentic sounds. It is simply about BIG Sounds that stand out with their raw power.
2. Heavy Accents
Rhythm and drive is always important for energy and action in music. But for epic music compositions you should focus less on busy and complex rhythms, and more on heavy accents.
Augment your accents by layering them with lots of instruments and sounds in your composition. For example, let’s say you have a big taiko drum to play the main accents.
Then augment those accents on the chords, the driving instruments and even the main melodic instruments. Heavy accents is a big part of epic music.
3. Hybrid Workflow
Epic music often relies on a hybrid workflow. Combining the depth and power of orchestral instruments with the clarity, sharpness and focus of synthesizers. As well as heavily processed sound design.
For example, layering orchestral drums with processed sound design hits and impacts. Adding extra low-end with synthesizers, and so on.
4. Build the Energy
Most epic music compositions build the energy throughout the track. Taking the listener on a ride that goes higher and higher and higher.
You can do this by adding more parts and layers. But you can also build energy from composition techniques like increasing the dynamics, and going in an upwards direction with your chords.
Even the classic key change that goes upwards can be used to great affect on the last big section.
5. Huge Contrasts
This is an interesting point, but very important. And that is that contrast creates a sense of power.
For example: By using a soft delicate piano part at the same time as big massive sound design percussion and bold brass.
Big and massive sounds, will appear even more powerful, when played at the same time or directly after a softer and lighter sound. Huge contrast like this is a characteristic of epic music compositions.
Epic Music in Action
I strongly recommend that you go to Spotify or your favorite music streaming service and start listening to composers that make epic music, whether it is orchestral, hybrid or mainly focused on sound design.
Here are a couple of my favorite composers that have created lots of epic music compositions:
- Two Steps from Hell
- Thomas Bergersen
- Nick Phoenix
When you listen to these composer’s music, or any other epic music composer, make sure you listen with the purpose of learning at the same time as you enjoy the music.
The main point is to become as familiar as you can with the instrumentations, arrangements, sound design, layering, mixing etc.
Good luck with your epic music! =)
My name is Mikael “Mike” Baggström, and I am a composer, sound designer, artist, video creator, coffee lover, and true nerd…
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