Stumped for frenetic chord progression

MarcHedenberg

Active Member
Right, so I'm composing for a fan video game project at the minute, which for the most part has been going well so far, but I've been asked to score a level that previously had no music. It has to be a minute-long loop of combat music that evokes massive frenetic tension and danger. The characters have landed on this planet and the odds are totally against them. Think American soldiers trying to storm Hacksaw Ridge only to be completely taken off-guard by Japanese charging at them - that sort of intensity.

Here's my issue: my brain defaults to wanting to make use of either F# minor or A minor, but while melody writing is usually my strong suit, I have absolutely no idea what to do with the progression after the initial root chord. Any progression I try out makes it either sound too 'heroic', 'trailer-like', etc. My first thought after that was to just opt for more atonal sounds with nothing more than a two-chord progression at most, but that also seems generic and repetitive. I tried octotonic scale briefly, but I just keep making it 'jazzy' by accident.

...I'm overthinking this, aren't I? Any thoughts on this?
 

AlexanderSchiborr

Senior Member
Right, so I'm composing for a fan video game project at the minute, which for the most part has been going well so far, but I've been asked to score a level that previously had no music. It has to be a minute-long loop of combat music that evokes massive frenetic tension and danger. The characters have landed on this planet and the odds are totally against them. Think American soldiers trying to storm Hacksaw Ridge only to be completely taken off-guard by Japanese charging at them - that sort of intensity.

Here's my issue: my brain defaults to wanting to make use of either F# minor or A minor, but while melody writing is usually my strong suit, I have absolutely no idea what to do with the progression after the initial root chord. Any progression I try out makes it either sound too 'heroic', 'trailer-like', etc. My first thought after that was to just opt for more atonal sounds with nothing more than a two-chord progression at most, but that also seems generic and repetitive. I tried octotonic scale briefly, but I just keep making it 'jazzy' by accident.

...I'm overthinking this, aren't I? Any thoughts on this?
Use other chords and progressions besides minor chords..yeah short answer. The End..

okay, not quite right, well octatonic scale..btw, also whole tone, diminsihed, half diminished, try also augmented chords with possible various resolutions to minor chords and so on where you can build new augmented clones of. Try to experiment and go study good action music you like and I mean not any epic or trailer music. Is there any you like? I mean..I don´t know how you work but also talk to your team or creative director and ask him if he has something specific in mind (that is my gold tip) because it safes you time otherwise you have to guess the right direction and that can be a tedious attempt and there is high chance for many shots in the dark.

A side note: Also Atonal doesn´t mean 2 chords..if you limit yourself to that then its up to your own lack of exploring the fields and creativity.
 
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MarcHedenberg

Active Member
Use other chords and progressions besides minor chords..yeah short answer. The End..

okay, not quite right, well octatonic scale..btw, also whole tone, diminsihed, half diminished, try also augmented chords with possible various resolutions to minor chords and so on where you can build new augmented clones of. Try to experiment and go study good action music you like and I mean not any epic or trailer music. Is there any you like? I mean..I don´t know how you work but also talk to your team or creative director and ask him if he has something specific in mind (that is my gold tip) because it safes you time otherwise you have to guess the right direction and that can be a tedious attempt and there is high chance for many shots in the dark.

A side note: Also Atonal doesn´t mean 2 chords..if you limit yourself to that then its up to your own lack of exploring the fields and creativity.
Can I technically insert diminished, half-diminished and augmented chords anywhere in the diatonic progressions for minor and major, or is that breaking the rules too much?
 

AlexanderSchiborr

Senior Member
Can I technically insert diminished, half-diminished and augmented chords anywhere in the diatonic progressions for minor and major, or is that breaking the rules too much?
Yes, you can. Anywhere, everywhere as long you have control and make it reasonable. There are no such rules. What rules are reading? Don´t read that crap. Transcribe good music, mate. There lays the answer to enrich your vocabulary! Good luck.
 
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MarcHedenberg

Active Member
Yes, you can. Anywhere, everywhere as long you have control and make it reasonable. There are no such rules. What rules are reading? Don´t read that crap. Transcribe good music, mate. There lays the answer to enrich your vocabulary! Good luck.
Oh man, I've been doing it so wrong lol. Thanks for that!
 

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
Check out Jerry Goldsmith's Total Recall..no, first scope out Planet of the Apes!

You just might both thank me and revere Jerry after (if you don't already).
 
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MarcHedenberg

Active Member
Check out Jerry Goldsmith's Total Recall..no, first scope out Planet of the Apes!

You just might both thank me and revere Jerry after (if you don't already).
Goldsmith is actually my favourite composer of all time (I was a massive Star Trek geek as a little kid and kinda still am). So yeah, that's pretty solid advice.
 

VinRice

... i am a robot ... viruses have no effect ...
If its was me, and I actually have a small section like that to do shortly, I wouldn't be worrying about chord progressions at all. I would be thinking about some appropriately exciting big orchestral riffs I could team with some big percussion. Get a strong enough themes and you can hang whatever chords you like off it and it will work. Most film/TV/game music has no overarching 'progression', it's of the moment. As long as there is a little harmonic movement tied to the action, often in major or minor thirds, it'll be effective. John Williams' action cues are nuts, for instance, with no key centre and no obvious progression, just constant movement.
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
a kind of typical battle music type sound is stacked 4ths

try stacking 4ths, 5ths, with a tritone along the way

especially with an octonicesque melody, or even phyrgian/locrian

maybe start with like 2 bars of 2/4 or 6/8 as a stinger or something and then into an odd time ostinato with chord changes on bars that after 4 repeats plays another 2/4 rapid chord type transiton(development of the opening stinger) into a b section of a different meter, before looping back around
 

chibear

Active Member
How about taking the most serene theme you've written in the project that precedes that section and speed it up, put strong percussion underneath, and then twist and trash the tonality with substitute dominants, etc. , making it almost unrecognizable? The listener will subconsciously remember the serenity you have destroyed.
 

ed buller

Senior Member
Limit your pitches. The easier way to create tension is to have a limited number of notes and lot's of dissonance. Octatonic always works for action music but there are many others.



You can also make up scales or use modes of others. The Triadic material will give you lots of nasty tones

ROMANIAN MAJOR.png

Jerry Does it masterfully here. Basic pitch materials are a maj 7th . Lots of pitch sets from that...but no pleasent intervals reaaly . He exploits the semitone in the seventh by playing the lower note an octave higher a lot. You can also try polytonality. Simple trick...write an ostinato in one key and play chords from another key a 6 semitones higher.....nasty !



good luck


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shawnsingh

Senior Member
combat music that evokes massive frenetic tension and danger
Great suggestions so far. Here's some ideas that are a bit more concrete and specific if it's helpful. Of course, keeping in mind that I'm imposing my own asthetic and not aware of the musical styles or context that you are working with.

(a) For a more traditional adventure context for frenetic and against-all-odds - make use of diminished chords and scales. You can actually "stay" on the diminished chord for the entire loop, even if you jump the actual root or feeling of the chord by minor thirds, it still stays on the same diminished scale. doing this helps in two ways - the chord itself has interesting unresolved feelings, but also it will help you be able to focus on orchestration and textural ideas - rhythms, flourishes, diminished scale runs, low brass + bass drum + timpani stabs, tense sustained notes in octaves or in spread-out inversions of diminished, etc.

(b) If you're going for a more "modern" sounding form of frenetic and despair, I'd say the same strategy can work by choosing a bass root drone/pulse/tonic and then having a few basic chord changes on top. For example, some kind of D-minor pulsing rhythm or drone line, with chords like d-minor, B-flat major, D-G-C 4ths constructed chord, or D-A-E 5ths constructed chord - and just finding a progression that can repeat between these. And after that, it again enables you to shift your focus to the texture/orchestration/sound design elements that can make it interesting on top.

really, just watch a video on quartal harmony and you'll instantly think of snes rpg boss themes
I always enjoyed SNES rpg music. So you've piqued my curiosity about quartal harmony theory. Will look it up.
 

DerGeist

Active Member
a kind of typical battle music type sound is stacked 4ths

try stacking 4ths, 5ths, with a tritone along the way

especially with an octonicesque melody, or even phyrgian/locrian

maybe start with like 2 bars of 2/4 or 6/8 as a stinger or something and then into an odd time ostinato with chord changes on bars that after 4 repeats plays another 2/4 rapid chord type transiton(development of the opening stinger) into a b section of a different meter, before looping back around
I agree completely. If you want music for action scenes, news broadcast intros, sports highlight clips, intense video games, or Roman period movies 4ths are the way to go .


…" News team 10 with Doppler RADAR"... Duh Duh Dug (4ths)
…" All sports all the time with the FAN CRUE"... Dug Duh Duh (4ths)
…"in the year 10 AD Juda Ben Hur"…..Duh Duh Duh Duh.... (4ths)
… Deadly boss fight/melee encounter Duh Duh Duh (repeat for a minute).

4ths are great.