I was searching for different ideas in preparation of an upcoming film I’m working on. I’ve discovered this great video that shows how to compose and imitate or recreate Hollywood film music using easy chords. The videos shows how to use “Hollywood style chords” in easy steps. It’s a very practical guide. I’ve never thought about music in this way. Scott Murphy details how you can play chords and emphasize different emotions in his video.
Murphy breaks down the elements of scoring so simply. By demonstrating the root note of a chord. Then he shows the piano as a game board. Moving 4 notes from the root note, then three note up gives us the Major Chord. Then he shows moving the notes from the root note 3 steps to the right and 4 steps again to produce the Minor chords. He’s good at crafting a simple lesson for beginners as well as serving as refresher for some.
He also explains that by moving the notes from the root note you can change the chord and feeling to use as chord phrasing, moving back and forth between the chords.
There are different associations we can feel with the different chords. It doesn’t mean a chord can not work on it’s own. But the relationship often exists with two chords. Two chords can make the difference. It’s very subtle, simple and easy. I didn’t think about using chords in this manner. Often I would use chords too rigidly. I stayed in the lines of a musical scale for example. Attempting to remain in the same scale. But that can be cumbersome. This associative chord device opens a new world of possibilities. See how it works.
These are the examples Murphy goes through as defined by him. I will expand on the elements.
When I play these chords I hear them and they can easily fit in a film where the hero is required to push forward. There’s an upward motion to step ahead or jump ahead. It’s a Major chord to Major progression moving 2 positions above.
For example: C Major to D Major.
This one sounds peculiar and I feel it could be used for subtle mystery just as some space or science fiction feature. There is a sense of unevenness but not too much. I feel it does because it the root notes would be the first and third notes in a diminished chord.
For example: C minor to F# minor.
This is an otherworldly sound. There are hints of aw and inspiration. It’s an inspiring sound. Films of fantasy would definitely benefit from usage of this chord progression.
For example: C Major to G#Major.
When you want to go a rubbery wet one. If you want to be dramatic then you would use this interesting progression. When the dog dies. When the man or women you love leaves you forever. That’s what this chord inspires.
For example: C Major to E minor.
Romantic, Middle Eastern
I always felt minor 7ths and major sevenths to romantic. However, this also works.
For Example: C to F minor.
Wonder, Transcendence (Also M7m)
When you want apply a transcendent sensation in the film. A feeling of glory and wonder. One can use this in tandem with the “Protagonist” chords and give a greater sense of wonder perhaps by referring back to this chord.
For example: C Major to G minor.
Mystery or dark comedy
I’ve always been partial of using Minor 6th chords for mystery or some kind of alternation. This shows me there is more to mystery than meets the eye. The sound is clever and kind of enigmatic.
For example: C minor to D Major.
Dramatic sound popular in early 21st C
This sound is said to be the Hans Zimmer chord progression. He has used this dramatic sound in The Dark Knight and Inception. It’s an incredible progression. Very dramatic.
For example: C Minor to B Major.
Antagonism, Danger (Less character based)
This was great for apprehensive moments in film. It’s not full throttle antagonism. But it does give a sense of danger on the screen. Whenever you want to leave something fishy and unresolved in the scene you could use this chord. This chord has many applications for film, especially when conflict arises.
For example: C minor to F# minor.
Antagonism, Evil (More character-based)
This is very similar to danger sound above. However, as stated it may be used for characters rather than an event or something happening as a plot. If you are developing a character and he is growing into more sinister ideals, then you can positively use this chord.
For example: C minor to G# minor.
Recreate Hollywood Film Music
If you want to recreate Hollywood film this is an excellent method. I’m sure I’ll use this tip in my future personal and film endeavors. It’s a very useful device. You could probably use these interchangeably and start stacking them. Create new ideas from the root idea.
In the video, Scott Murphy also shows a number of cool examples and has you guessing where they are from. It’s intriguing to here the examples. Moreover, the video is good at showing the details and can help you to recreate Hollywood film music sound. It added depth to my understanding of using chords. I hope it helps you.
For more ideas on chords and shaping emotion check my other chord page.
Thank you, enjoy the video.