Hello Composers, Mike here! =)
Do you want to learn how to compose action music? Great, because I have made a list of practical tips which I consider to be some of the most important aspects of action music.
Now, of course “action music” come in many different styles. Think of action sequences from different movies. You might have an intense battle scene in the latest Batman movie, or an old school car chase in a 70s action/thriller, and even a lighter form of action in cartoons and animations. Alright, here we go! =)
Action Music – Example 1
This is one of my own compositions, written in 7/8 time and a tempo around 170BPM (changing). Heavy focus on cinematic percussion, stabs, orchestral effects, and driving ostinatos.
All in all I went for a very powerful action vibe, with a bombastic feel. Great for a modern action movie with slight futuristic touch.
Action Music – Example 2
This piece was written by Andy Kotz. It has a dark thriller type vibe, with a flowing pulse throughout the track. It has a very “snappy” quality to the rhythms and pulses.
If you listen carefully you will also hear a very very dialed back siren howling in the far background which adds to the tension atmosphere.
Action Music – Example 3
This track was written by Tuomo Sagulin, and is extremely focused on hard epic percussion. It also features some gritty elements such as heavy guitars and distorted stingers.
All in all this track is on the more minimalistic side, with a heavy emphasis on the percussion, and then letting the other elements be more like added “spice”.
How to write Action Music
I want to give you my personal practical tips for writing action music, regardless of style. These are, what I consider, fundamental guidelines for action music.
- Rhythm means Action
The more you focus on rhythm in your overall composition, the more “action feel” you will get. In fact, you might even consider reducing the melodic elements and harmonic storyline in favor of more rhythmic focus.
- Percussion is King
When it comes to rhythm, percussion instruments and sounds is king. It can be anything from a classic drum kit, to electronic drums, to cinematic percussion or world percussion. Make sure percussion plays a major role in your composition when you write “action music”.
- Contrast is Power
Action also needs power, in the form of high contrasts. Use dynamic range to your advantage. Use the contrast between sounds, such as light shimmer percussion to big bold drums.
- Augment your Accents
Hard accents is very powerful when it comes to action music. You can augment (boost) these accents by layering sounds, and also layering between different parts. Such as your big bass drum layered with brass stabs and hard hits on snares. And even using crash cymbals and power notes (bold heavy sounds with sustain) etc. to really hit the major accents even more.
- Use the Power of Silence
The final guideline, that many composers don’t take advantage of to its full potential, is “the power of silence”. Which can mean anything from soft breakdown sections, to actual “stops” in the music before a new section hits. This adds even more power when the music comes back at full force. Perfect for action music! =)
ACTION: Write your own Action Music
Now it is time for you to take action to create action! Meaning to compose and produce a new “Action Music” track, to add to your composer portfolio.
Use these reference tracks for motivation and inspiration if you like, and take my guidelines for writing action music with you. But remember, guidelines are not rules. You always have ultimate creative freedom as a composer when creating your music.
Have fun writing Action Music, my friends! =)
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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