How TV Themes Work

This blog explores how tv themes work. Have you noticed how the best tv themes immediately take you into the world of the programme with no words needed? Ever wondered how they do that?  Here’s a very rough outline:
First – Hawaii 5 0.  The lively mood, off beat rhythms, energy, contemporary pop style, use of drums and minor key instantly evoke action, seriousness and America.

Compare this with Inspector Morse – a very different, definitely non American, detective:

This tune expresses darkness and sadness – ideally suited to the older, cultured and world weary  Inspector Morse!  The minor key, repeated rhythms and repeated descending bass line – in chaconne style – create a sense of inevitability. Vitali’s Chaconne  ( below)  with its famous repeated descending bass line, is in the same world  (but was written  300 years earlier.)

Changing the mood completely, the Pride and Prejudice theme projects lightness and happiness with its major key, scale patterns  and lively speed. The composer effectively captured the late classical /early romantic style of Jane Austen’s era .


Compare this with the Haydn Piano Concerto and John Field Nocturne  below. Both composers were contemporaries of Jane Austen.


Do we sell similar sheet music?

We don’t sell anything exactly like the above themes.  But all music creates its  effects in similar ways. The nearest we have to Hawaii 5 0 is Over the Hills and Far Away or Lilliburlero. Both are lively and energetic, but they don’t have the American feel and are not in a minor key. The closest we have to the Inspector Morse theme is probably Una Furtiva Lagrima or Scarborough Fair.There’s no repeated descending bass, but both are sad, beautiful minor tunes.For the classical style of Pride and Prejudice choose Exsultate Jubilate and Boccherini’s Minuet and Trio.

Finally, the Listen With Mother radio theme – from long, long,long  ago –  was simply Faure’s Berceuse – a  lullaby duet that was perfect for the programme.

Joanna Borrett

Author Joanna Borrett

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