Themes & Motifs II
Here is the second part to the first. These tools are more advanced but, applied carefully, can give your music a powerful edge and make it worth remembering.
[Advanced]1. Notes Change
Playing the exact same melody every time to signal a motif may get old after a while. Besides, themes may darken, brighten, become more elaborate, or change in other ways depending on the mood of the movie. Thus, it is useful to sometimes change the notes of the motif while still making it recognizable to your audience. This may be more challenging than it sounds.
2. Mode Change
Classical music uses this a lot. The most common one being transitioning from minor mode to major mode or vice versa. Other changes could be from major mode to lydian mode, lydian mode to mixolydian mode, or minor mode to phrygian mode. Of course there are many other mode changes which sound good. Finding the right one is the trick. Also, making the motif still recognizable is very important.
3. Rhythm Change
Depending on the mood of the theme you're showing, you might want to change the rhythm of the motif so that it better conveys the new mood or atmosphere of the movie. This change in rhythm is not the same thing as changing the time signature, although it may incorporate it if you are going for a dramatic rhythm change. The easiest way to do this though, is just to change the timing of individual notes while still sticking with the same time signature. For example, you could turn half notes into quarter notes, while turning eighth notes into quarter notes to keep the balance.
Another technique to use for motifs is to split your melody into pieces and fill it with new musical material. For example, you could play 1/3 of your motif melody, then break off into a new part before finishing the other 2/3 of your motif. Alternatively, you could split off into new material every 1/4 of your motif. Depending on the length of your motif, this process could take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. This is not a very common technique, but if used masterfully could give your music an interesting edge.
5. Reverse Notes
Reverse the main melody of your motif or reverse sections of it. By reversing I mean to make your notes go in the opposite direction. For instance, if you motif uses E D C G F E D, you would reverse it to D E F G C D E. This might be too extreme for you. If this is the case, you can only reverse a few notes while still keeping most of the main theme. In this case, E D C G F E D becomes C D E G F E D. If used right, this technique is very powerful and will definitely keep your motif from becoming stale or overused.
6. Instrument Choice
If you've already established an instrument which is mostly used whenever a character or theme is shown, then you can use this one. For example, a flute may often be playing in the background during a scene featuring a certain character. This instrument becomes part of the motif for your character. Whenever a flute is played, your audience would connect it with the character. This technique is useful but dangerous. After all, if you did this for every one of your character motifs, you wouldn't have many instruments left to use for regular themes. Some characters may be stuck with their motif being a snare drum or a wind chime. One way to get around this problem is to use instruments in only certain cases to represent a character. For instance, a solo flute may represent a character, but when a flute is played with other instruments it may not. Alternatively, a piano played along with just a violin may represent a location or theme while a piano played by itself or with other instruments would not. Knowing how to make the best use of this technique is critical and will wondrously improve your music.
That's all for now. Have fun composing!