In film music, a distinction is made between three composition techniques. In the following three techniques and forms are described in more detail.

Leitmotif Technique (Meaningful)

This procedure is known from opera, especially Richard Wagner's musical dramas. Its task is to musically represent persons, objects of the plot or narrative strands that play a central role. These characters, objects of action or narrative strands are assigned their own motifs, the leitmotifs. The leitmotifs are incorporated into the overall composition according to the requirements of the story. They can be repeated or varied. In this way, forebodings, situation changes or backlinks can be conveyed.

Example Leitmotif:

Underscoring (mood mediating)

With the composition technique Underscoring, the events and feelings depicted on the canvas are reproduced in an almost synchronous manner. The music serves as background music to support and even amplify the optical impressions. An extreme form of underscoring is Mickey Mousing. In Mickey Mousing, the film composer accentuates individual movements of the actors in the film, e.g. individual steps, by doubling them musically. Mickey Mousing got its name from the intensive use of technology in cartoons. Apart from cartoons and comedies, underscoring is rarely used today.

Example underscoring:

Example Mickey Mousing:

Mood Technique (mood mediating)

The inferiority of film sequences with musical mood images is called mood technique. In the process, an expressive mood content specific to the music is added to the sequences. This technique is often called the underscoring opposite composition strategy, so that scenes are not only musically "doubled", but also "colored".

Example Mood technique:


    In 1976 the musicologist Hansjörg Pauli published a model for the investigation of film music. In 1994, however, he rejected it as insufficient with the publication of a new model. Despite the publication of the new model, the 1976 model is one of the most widely used. It distinguishes three forms.

  • Paraphrasing: We call paraphrasing music, the character of which is derived directly from the character of the images, from their content. By doubling and reproducing it, the music paraphrases what is happening on the canvas. An extreme paraphrasing can be achieved through Mickey Mousing.
  • Polarization: A music that pushes neutral or ambivalent images into a clear direction of expression is called polarizing. The events on the screen are polarized by the music, which shifts its meaning and mood through its own meaning or mood. By "putting a film sequence in a certain light", the polarization achieves more than mere paraphrasing.
  • Counterpointing: Counterpointing is a music whose unambiguous character clearly contradicts the equally unambiguous character of the pictures, the contents of the pictures. This means that the music conveys the opposite meaning and mood of the screen action. An alienation effect is created by the irony of the event.

Interesting articles on the techniques and forms in film music can be found on GoogleScholar.