July 8, 2020
Create Your Own Theme Song
Have you ever noticed that some of your favorite movie characters have their own theme songs? There’s a fancy word for that: leitmotif. A leitmotif is a recurring musical theme representing a character, place or idea. Composers often use leitmotifs to enhance the storytelling in a film. Read on to explore two famous leitmotifs and try creating your own! Feel free to tailor the activity to fit your children’s ages and interests.
Listen and respond
John Williams is especially fond of the leitmotif technique, using it in almost all his film scores. For example, in the Harry Potter films we have this music:
Williams uses this music to represent Hedwig the owl, or the idea of magic. What about this music sounds mysterious or magical to you? Some things to consider might be the instruments Williams uses, the tempo (speed), and the dynamics (volume).
Here is a leitmotif example you might know from the Star Wars franchise:
Williams uses this music to represent the villain Darth Vader and the evil Empire. What about this music sounds menacing? Think about the same musical elements listed earlier.
Now it’s your turn. What would music representing you sound like? Use this worksheet to help you plan, and visit our Guide to the Orchestra to become more familiar with different instruments. Then perform your leitmotif for family and friends!
If you’re looking for instruments to use during your performance, you can create your own – here are some examples.
- Articulation – the “quality” in which notes are played. Does a note start strongly and taper away, stay the same, or swell? Are the notes connected or detached?
- Dynamics – the volume at which you play music. In written music we use Italian words for these, ranging from piano (soft) to forte (loud).
- Leitmotif – a recurring musical theme representing a character, place or idea.
- Rhythm – the pattern you use to play the notes. Are all the notes the same length? Are some notes longer than others?
- Tempo – the speed at which you play music. A lot of times in written music we use Italian words for these, ranging from adagio (slowly) to presto (quickly).