It has been quiet here lately so I will rely on my current 'work' to get fellow composers 'thinking'. I have found / judge that many composers before they scored film were in the world of 'diatonics'. Perhaps coming from non-contemporary classical, pop/country, or even perhaps church/gospel. While it is never a good idea to assume and generalize, I bet that more often than not in those 'worlds' that music often stays in a single key signature with 'diatonic' chords and no accidentals (except perhaps the leading tone in a minor key) - the well known 1, 4, 5 and dominant chords as they teach in school. Now there is nothing 'wrong' with that - in fact there is no 'right' or 'wrong' in music just rules which you can follow or choose to 'break'. I know like many others I started off in purely dominant mode with 'stacked chords' which always stayed in a single key signature and ended with a resolved plain 1 chord at the end. I still stack my chords though I don't do it as often any more - my teacher/instructor/mentor is constantly 'hassling' me to think 'horizontally' and not 'vertically'. So as we are in a New Year, if you have written a lot of single key signature diatonic cues and pieces, now could be the time to 'experiment' and ask yourself 'why'. I will use personal experience as an 'example'. I started working on a 20 minute short last week and wrote the score for the opening scene and then I decided for the time being to start working backwards from the end so I scored the approximate 1 minute 5 second end title music next. So for those of you who can read an orchestral music score, I can send you the three pages representing the current draft of the score (stage32 supports only attaching pictures and video files). I can't post or share the actual music (WAV/MP3) until the film is finished and released. Here are a few of the things to get you thinking: 1. I do not use key signatures. There are various reasons for this but the first is I don't want to think about writing in a single key so no signature is 'freeing'. It encourages me to think 'chromatically' as appropriate/when it makes sense. 2. While I do use diatonic/stacked chords as appropriate, I try to (a) 'spread the notes' so they don't appear as 1,3,5. For example the 3 and 5 could be an octave a part. (b) I try to reassign the notes so that I don't always end up as for example, cello = 1, viola = 3, violin 2 = 5 and violin 1 = 1. For example, I may give viola = 5. (c) I concentrate on having 'smooth' movement horizontally for each instrument staff - this one of the key lessons I took away from 2 years of music theory. Not only does it sound better, but if played by a real musician, 'jumps' are more difficult to play, and (d) I try to use 'passing tones' or notes that are not in the 'diatonic chord'. 3. One of the beauties of writing in a film score 'paradigm' (or even 'contemporary classical' or jazz) is that you don't have to stay in a single key. For example my end title starts in B minor and changes key many times and finally ends up in G minor. Changing keys, which we sometimes refer to as 'modulation' has many purposes such as increasing/decreasing tension and adding 'interest' for the listener. 4. You can chose to end in the 1 chord of the key you are in. Nothing wrong with that. It 'resolves' everything including the melodic/thematic movement. It is done more often than not. Sometimes, if you are in a minor key, you end in a major 1 chord for that key. So if you are in G minor, you end in G major. That still sort of resolves things though it is different and is used often to change the 'mood' at the end. But films don't always have happy endings or even endings, so similarly, who says music has to end resolving to something. Why not experiment by leaving the music end by 'hanging'. As mentioned earlier, while a major at the end of a minor piece is unexpected and it does resolve but to something 'different'/unexpected. Adding notes at the end which are not in the key signature that may 'clash' can leave the listeners wondering why it ended. Or you may simply use some notes which are in the key signature that are often thought of as 'passing tones'. I often like to end by adding what jazz people refer to as '9ths', '11ths' or '13ths'. So instead of ending in a plain G chord for example (G, B, and D), I will include the 9, 11, and 13 (the 2nd, 4th, and 6th notes in the scale) which for G that means A, C, and E. Ending with a 9th, 11th, and 13th, was popular back in the 1960s as a way to end a TV program theme/jingle. So to get a better example, let's quickly look at how I ended the music in the end title theme. The 'melody' as played by the trumpet in bars 45 - 47 is E, F#, G, Bb, Eb, F, Bb, A, G. The F# and G help form an Eb chord (don't worry about the first E). In fact all the notes (except the E and A) are in the Eb chord. In fact all the notes are part of the G minor 'scale'. So we could have just gone from an Eb chord to a G minor chord. In actuality, I ended the cue with three notes/chords. What was the final note/chord? Let's see how I ended it with the final notes: The strings (bass, cello, viola, violin 2, violin 1; bottom to top) were: G, G, A/Bb, Bb, C (9th and 11th included) Piano (left/right): G/D/A, Bb/C/E (9th, 11th, and 13th) So the final note in the melody is G but the final top notes in the orchestration (for the instruments that played) are a G minor with an 11th (C) and a 13th (E). Many consider a 13th as closure and resolution, but regardless how you feel about that (agree or disagree), the final heard note is not from the three note stacked diatonic chord - it's not a G, B, or D. So think about how you would experiment writing music where the notes that support the melody are outside the three note diatonic chords.