Ghost Particle - How to Write an Ambient Cinematic Track

Hey everyone, hope you are all doing great. I have received several requests asking if I would do a track walkthrough of one of my compositions. So here goes. I picked a track I recently composed for the patch library Retropolis by Stingray Instruments. The track has an ambient/cinematic vibe and sounds like this:




Now you have a feel for what this track sounds like, let us take a little walkthrough of how I put it together. This little walkthrough is how I generally go about creating an ambient cinematic track. Although it sounds like there is a lot going on, this track only uses 7 patches from the library. It is down to the excellent patch design that makes the track sound as though there is more going on. First up, we have the main foundation of the track. This is a simple drone using the note E in the lower octaves of the keyboard spread exactly one octave apart. To add a little variation and to keep this line interesting, I cycle between the notes E, G and B higher up the keyboard. Mainly I use the notes in the octave above middle C. An octave is a range of 12 notes and in this example, from middle C to the note C above.

Now we have the root of the track set up, it is time to add a little melody. The idea behind ambient cinematic tracks is not to make the lead too busy. You want the listener to be able to not be distracted from what they are doing, be it watching the film with the music supporting the scene, reading a book, or just out for a walk. It is also there to transport the listener to another world, a bit of escapism for a brief moment in time. The melody in this case is a short repeating motif that has some variation each time it is repeated during the track. 

Having just this melody is okay, but to add variation it is generally advisable to use a call and response. This occurs when a complimenting sound finishes a sentence. This time around I have chosen a light bell sound from the Retropolis patch library to provide an answer to the motif provided by the lead. The bell patch gives a sense of completion as well as adding further interest.

To add drive to the track, we next add a little bass sequence. This is just a simple repeating 4 to the floor bass-sequence on just one note, you've guessed it E. We can therefore safely say that this track is in the key of E. There's no particular scale attached to this piece and so you can play most notes from any scale of E. Using E, G and B in the drone will give it a strong urge to be in E minor, however.

For more interest I added a simple arpeggiated sequence in the upper part of the keyboard range. Using the notes an octave higher than what the melody used gives this patch space to breathe. By spreading out instruments over the keyboard range it allows each instrument, or in this case patch, to have its own space. If you played it in the same octave, it can easily muddy the mix as you would be clogging up that frequency range.

To round things off, we add a little percussion as this patch library provides some nice drum patches. For setting atmosphere I used a delightful beefy kick drum type sound. You could have this playing throughout the track, but that wouldn't suite the ambient cinematic style and in this case, less is more. We use this patch to announce the start and end points only. However, part way through we add a little high-end sizzle by bringing in hi-hats just to add even more variety.

And there we have it, a breakdown of how I put together Ghost Particle, an ambient cinematic track to demonstrate the patch library Retropolis from Stingray Instruments. 

If you have any questions about my composition process, leave a comment below, and we can start a conversation. While you are here, sign up for the newsletter, so you will be the first to know when I post a new blog entry, release new music or upload a new video.


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