Learn to Convey Emotion in Film & Game Music - For Beginners
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Learn to Convey Emotion in Film & Game Music - For Beginners

Learn to use rhythm, harmony, melody and timbre to effectively and quickly convey different moods in music compositions.
4.0 (8 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
74 students enrolled
Created by Will Edwards
Last updated 6/2018
English [Auto-generated]
Current price: $9.99 Original price: $49.99 Discount: 80% off
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • 10 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Use rhythm, harmony and melody to craft emotionally focused music for games, film and TV
  • Comprehend the elements of music composition that convey emotion effectively

  • Tell a compelling story in music

  • Learn from detailed analysis of "urgent", "calm" and "spooky" music examples
  • No specific DAW or audio editor is required - you'll need a DAW, but any one will work. Examples are provided in MIDI and audio as well as Ableton projects/sets.
  • An interest in composing music for video games, film or TV is recommended.
  • No prior music theory knowledge is necessary, but the course includes a valuable introduction to scales, numerals, chord tones, color tones and the chromatic scale.

Whether you are a songwriter who wants to get started with writing commercial music or a chronic learner who has always wanted to understand how and why music conveys emotion more effectively than anything else, this course offers insights that you'll find very rewarding.

Learn by watching 3 walkthroughs on emotional music cues conveying "urgent", "calm" and "spooky".  Watch and listen as the music speaks for itself AND you get step-by-step explanations about how the music examples work.  These lessons are learned from my award-winning songwriting, studio production work and academic study in music and compositional theory.

I've always believed that music is one of the most powerful ways to convey emotion and help a group of people "get on the same page."  Rhythm, harmony and melody all play a part, but a good composer can elicit specific emotions quickly - in order to do that, you'll need a strong vocabulary in basic music theory and you'll want to know what your ideas "sound" like before you even play a note.  This course combines the art and science of this process.  Plus, you'll get a full primer on music theory essentials like:

  • Building major and minor scales by hand
  • How major, minor and half-diminished chords are built from major and minor scales
  • Learn to compose with chords as numbers, using numerals (how the pros do it)
  • Write elegant, expressive and concise music that gets to the point and delivers the goods

Contents and Overview

After a brief introduction to there course details and your instructor, students will start by listening to 3 examples of music.  Next, that music will be analyzed in terms of

  • Rhythm
  • Harmony
  • Cadences
  • Melody
  • Color and Timbre

Next, you'll get oriented with a compositional approach to framing your musical ideas as "characters" and "situations".  This approach is loosely introduced in the context of theme and variation - a common compositional approach.

Section 3 thoroughly explains how chord numerals work in the context of major and minor scales.  This section explains concepts which music students may (or may not) be familiar with such as building scales, triads and 7 chords.  This section also explains the appropriate nomenclature (for example a "five chord" or "root, 3rd and 5th").  This section will be a critical value to anyone without music theory training.  However, students may skip this section if they already fully understand the rest of the course.

As we continue the course (in section 4) students learn about color and timbre - a crucial pair of elements for any composer to understand when writing emotionally focused music.  Students will learn about register, range and timbral character.

After completing your training and background, this course will direct students through a 5 step melody/theme creation process and some clarification on how to create a musical "situation" to match a video game, film or TV scenario.  Then, students will walkthrough 3 distinct and complete musical cues - each focused on either an "urgent", "calm" or "spooky" mood.

Each section of the course wraps up with a brief quiz that is designed to help students identify any areas of knowledge that they need to review.  This course doesn't bog students down with a comprehensive compositional program.  Instead, this course is designed in a workshop style - where students learn the most important take-aways and then are encouraged to try their hand and begin writing music that conveys emotion.

Who this course is for:
  • Anyone who wants an introduction to writing music for video games, film or TV
  • Anyone who is curious about how and why music conveys emotion
  • Beginners who want to learn basic music theory with examples focused on film/game music composition
  • This course is for beginners, rather than intermediate or advanced compositional students.
Course content
Expand all 29 lectures 02:00:28
+ Introduction
8 lectures 29:52

To get the most out of this course, you'll want to complete a course project. Learn about me, your instructor, and some of the details for completing a course project.

Preview 03:06

We look at the 3 main emotions that are demos in this course.  Download the master Ableton project, load it up and get set to learn how emotion works in music!

3 Live Examples and Explanations

It can be difficult to keep track of all the specifics we need to know to write emotionally focused music.  This lesson will give you a birds eye view of the most important steps and topics that you'll want to track as you continue through the course.

Process Overview

Rhythm is the most critical element of all music (not just emotional cues).  As a result, you need to understand rhythm and tempo very clearly.  Sit back and let me demo some clear examples that will set you up for success.

Examining Rhythm and Tempo

What is harmony?  This lesson demonstrates how harmony creates context - with examples you can hear.

Harmony and Context

Cadences conclude your musical ideas and they MUST align with the emotion you're looking for (for example "resolved" or not).  In this lesson, I'll walk you through all the common cadences you need to know (authentic, half, plagal and deceptive).

Options for Cadences

Let's talk about what a great melody does and how its built.  Learn how a great melody represents an imagined character - exactly what we want to do in film and game music!

Defining and Exploring Melody

Keeping rhythm, harmony and melody the same while changing the timbre of your music will transform the emotional impact.  Watch as a regal French horn cue transforms into some kind of modern digital dance music from the year 2050!

Color/Timbre Explained

Review and test your comprehension of the material and topics covered in the first section of this course.

Getting Started
5 questions
+ Characters and Situations
5 lectures 18:37

Theme and variation is a creative exercise that will help you create a variety of musical "characters" and "situations".  By exploring a variety of melodies and harmonic/timbral contexts, you can play around and find the best way to express the emotion you need to convey.

Introduction to Themes and Variations

Let's look at creating a variation on my "urgent" theme.  Use this walkthrough to see an example of theme and variation can help us create a variety of emotional contexts quickly.

Example of a Character and Situation

Rhythm provides cohesion to your music.  It is also a regular repeating pattern.  Cohesion and patterns can convey any emotion - let's look at a few examples of how this works.

Using Rhythm Effectively

Learn about the common rules of using major and minor keys to convey emotion in your music.

Using Harmony in Your Theme.

Polyrhythms are very powerful.  In order to use them in your compositions, you'll need to understand and learn to count multiple time signatures.  This lesson explains these concepts using hands on demonstration.

Polyrhythm and Time Signatures

Review the tools and concepts from section 2 of this course.

Creating Characters and Situations
4 questions
+ Music Theory Background
4 lectures 17:26

Learn to build major scales using a formula of half steps and whole steps.

Building Major Scales

Now that we've nailed down the major scale in all 12 keys, let's look at why some chords sound "right" together. 

Preview 06:02

Learn to build major scales using a formula of half steps and whole steps.

Building Minor Scales

Now that we've nailed down the minor scale in all 12 keys, let's look at why some chords sound "right" together. 

Preview 04:54

Test your knowledge of how scales are built and how triads and chords are built from major and minor scales.

Scale and Chord Building
5 questions
+ Compositional Considerations
6 lectures 24:20

Let's look at the cadences (or lack of cadences) used in my 3 upcoming demo cues and analyze why and how the cadences support specific emotional reactions in a listener...

Detailed Cadence Analysis

Learn how I'm using the emotional impact of 3 kinds of tones - chord tones, color tones and chromatic tones.

Detailed Melodic Analysis

Meet 3 new characters that you'll want to get to know in the world of tone color.  I'll introduce register, range and timbral character.  By recognizing and using register, range and timbre you can create more effective (and emotional) music.

Color and Timbre in Your Theme

Learn about instrument register - sometimes it means that you can't use a specific instrument in a particular melody...

Register Explained

Learn why it is important to consider range when conveying emotion.  For example, instruments with a narrow pitch range will convey a narrow emotional range as well.

Range Explained

Discover the perceived quality of sounds and how they will influence a listener's emotional reaction to your music.

Timbral Character Explained

See if you've learned what you need to know about characterizing instrumentation in terms of register, range and timbre.

Compositional Considerations
5 questions
+ Hands On Exercises
5 lectures 28:01

I'll simplify all of the music theory and considerations that we've talked about in this course and distilled them down into a 5 step process to follow when you start your project and attempt to write an emotional cue.

Step-By-Step: Creating a Theme

Learn how to optimize your compositional workflow.  Also, get reminders on what to focus on as you compose - specifically I'll offer you tips for triggering creative ideas.  That way you'll make the most of the material you've learned when you start composing.

Step-By-Step: Creating a Variation

Watch how I use accelerating rhythm, a tonal harmonic progression, an authentic cadence and an ascending chord tone melody to convey triumph and urgency simultaneously.

Demo: Conveying an "Urgent" Mood

Watch how I use a non-percussive rhythm, circular tonal harmony, a half cadence and a droning melody that transforms chord tones into color tones naturally over time.  All of these combine to create a calm and slightly melancholy mood.

Demo: Conveying a "Calm" Mood

Watch how I use polyrhythms, an atonal harmonic progression without any clear cadence in addition to a chromatic melody to disorient listeners.  The irregular pattern (polyrhythms) combined with diminutive timbres (bells and glockenspiel) convey a aimless and spooky mood.

Demo: Conveying a "Spooky" Mood

Evaluate how much you're taking away from this section's demonstrations.

Hands On Review
4 questions
+ Conclusion
1 lecture 02:12

Wrap up, go over the recommended project assignment for the course and learn about a free online student portal designed specifically for students of this course.

Bonus Lecture: Wrap Up and Resources