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Game of Thrones Theme

Game of Thrones Theme Description

Game of Thrones Theme“, also referred to as “Game of Thrones Main Title Theme”, is the theme music of HBO’s fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and plays during the title sequence. It was composed by Ramin Djawadi in 2011, after series creator David Benioff and D. B. Weiss approached him requesting a theme.

Asked to avoid flutes and violins, which the producers felt were overused in fantasy themes, Djawadi used the cello as the lead instrument. The piece begins in a minor key, then switches between corresponding major and minor keys repeatedly. Djawadi was shown a preliminary rendering of the title sequence before composing this music to accompany it. Several artists have covered or parodied the music, sometimes adding lyrics to the originally instrumental work.

Game of Thrones Theme Composition

Ramin Djawadi began composing the music for the show after he had watched the first two episodes of the series that the showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss sent him, and discussed the concepts of the show with them. According to Djawadi, the show creators wanted the main title theme to be about a journey as there are many locations and characters in the show and the narrative involves much traveling.

After Djawadi was shown a preliminary animated Game of Thrones title sequence that the visual effect artists were still working on, he was inspired to write the piece. He said that he started humming what would become the Game of Thrones Theme tune in the car after seeing the visuals for the title sequence, and conceived of the idea for the theme on the drive back to his studio. The finished theme music was presented to the producer three days later.

Djawadi said he intended to capture the overall impression of the show with the Game of Thrones Theme tune. Cello is featured strongly as Benioff and Weiss wanted to avoid the flutes or solo vocals found in many other productions in the fantasy genre so as to give the show a distinctive sound, and Djawadi chose cello as the main instrument for the music as he thought it has a “darker sound” that suited the show.

Djawadi started with a riff and he built the title theme around the riff. The tune begins with the riff played on strings in a minor key, then changed to a major key after 2 bars, and back to minor again. Djawadi said that he wanted to reflect the “backstabbing and conspiracy” and the unpredictability of the show: “… I thought it would be cool to kinda do the same play with the music. So even though the majority of the piece is in minor, there’s that little hint of major in there where it kinda switches and then it changes back again.”

The main melody is then introduced with the cello, joined later by a solo violin that may suggest an interplay between different characters. The melody is then repeated with the entire orchestra. The next section introduces a change in melody, described by Djawadi as giving “a sense of adventure”, and continues with a repeat that involves a choir of twenty female voices – recorded in Prague, like the instrumental parts. The title Game of Thrones Theme ends with a combination of dulcimer and kantele, producing a “shimmery quality” in its sound that Djawadi thought would give a sense of mystery and anticipation for the episode.

The title music is reprised as a global theme in the soundtracks for the series. It may be played occasionally on its own in fragments, sometimes as part of the theme of individual characters or in combination with other pieces of music, and may also be played in large section during particularly important scenes.

Game of Thrones Theme Cover versions and parodies

The main theme of Game of Thrones has inspired many tributes and cover versions, including a rendition by the electropop band Chvrches. Lyrics were added for the first time in 2014, when “Weird Al” Yankovic performed a parody version during the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards. In March 2015, FORTE added lyrics based on High Valyrian text for an operatic performance and music video. Some of the cover and parody versions mentioned by news media include:

  • an electric and acoustic cello version by Grammy nominated cellist Tina Guo
  • a violin version by Jason Yang,
  • a metal version by Roger Lima,
  • an electric harp duet version by the “Harp Twins”, Camille and Kennerly Kitt,
  • a bleeping “8-bit” remix in the style of early video game music,
  • a rendition in the noise of floppy disk drives,
  • a violin and voice duet by Lindsey Stirling and Peter Hollens,
  • a cello version by Break of Reality,
  • a cello version by 2Cellos
  • a violin version by Ben Shapiro
  • a ska interpretation by Pannonia Allstars Ska Orchestra,
  • a chamber music version by Aston,
  • a Ragtime Piano Rendition by Jonny May,
  • a choral parody used in two episodes of South Park, with lyrics solely about “wieners”,
  • an elaborate parody of the opening at the beginning of a 2012 episode of The Simpsons, “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart”,
  • a vocal version performed by French musician and singer Luc Arbogast. The song peaked at number 125 on French Singles Sales Chart in 2014 and stayed one week there.
  • a parody performed by “Weird Al” Yankovic at the 2014 Emmy awards,
  • an orchestra version performed at Illich Steel and Iron Works by Mariupol orchestra “Renaissance”,
  • a remix by Armin van Buuren, KSHMR and The Golden Army.
  • a bluegrass cover version performed by the Tennessee-based band Flat Lonesome for SirusXM radio station.
  • In 2017, Canadian band Barenaked Ladies opened and closed their end-of-show popular music medley/parody with the Game of Thrones Theme with lead singer Ed Robertson adding the lyrics “Horses – tits and horses [repeated] and some dong!“, poking fun at the content of the series.
  • In 2019, American band Our Last Night covered the song with a post-hardcore theme.
  • In 2019, Game Of Thrones creator Dan Weiss, Tom Morello of Audioslave/Rage Against The Machine, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Brad Paisley, and Game Of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi covered the song with Fender guitars. Scott Ian played rhythm and other guitarists each had possibility to improvise their solos in the song.

Game of Thrones Theme Credits and personnel

Personnel adapted from the album liner notes.

  • Ramin Djawadi – composer, primary artist, producer
  • David Benioff – liner notes
  • D.B. Weiss – liner notes

Game of Thrones Theme Chart positions

Weekly charts

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop Back Catalogue Singles Wallonia) 22
Chart (2015) Peak
position
French Singles Sales Chart (Pure Charts) 131
Chart (2019) Peak
position
French Singles Sales Chart (Pure Charts) 65
French Downloads (SNEP) 65

The music for the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones is composed by Ramin Djawadi. The music is primarily non-diegetic and instrumental with the occasional vocal performances, and is created to support musically the characters and plots of the show. It features various themes, the most prominent being the “main title theme” that accompanies the series’ title sequence. In every season, a soundtrack album was released. The music for the show has won a number of awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series in 2018 and 2019.

A series of concerts which featured Game of Thrones music, Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience with composer Ramin Djawadi, took place in 20172018. First to be performed in Saint Paul, Minnesota, it then went on to tour across the United States, Canada and Europe. This is followed by a world tour starting May 2018 in Madrid.

The music of Game of Thrones has inspired many cover versions; the main Game of Thrones Theme is particularly popular. There are also decidedly non-medieval renditions of songs from the series’s source novels by indie bands. These adaptations, according to Wired, create attention for the series in media that wouldn’t normally cover it, but are also notable for their musical merits independent of the series.

Game of Thrones Theme Background

Initially a different composer, Stephen Warbeck, was hired for the pilot episode of Game of Thrones but he left the project. The music consultant for HBO and music supervisor of Game of Thrones Evyen Klean then suggested Ramin Djawadi to David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Djawadi, although initially interested, declined the offer three days later as the schedule conflicted with a film project he was working on. However, after a few meetings, Djawadi was persuaded to take on the project.

The showrunners Benioff and Weiss sent Djawadi the first two episodes of the series, which impressed Djawadi. He arranged a meeting with Benioff and Weiss to discuss the concept of the series, after which he began to compose the music for the series.

According to Djawadi, Benioff and Weiss were interested in using music to support the different characters and plots. They wanted the music to express the emotion and mood of each scene in the series, and that distinct themes should be created for the main characters. Benioff and Weiss also wanted a soundscape that is distinct from other productions in the fantasy genre, therefore flutes and solo vocals were initially avoided. Cello became a prominent feature of the music of Game of Thrones, notably in its title theme.

Composition and recording

The process of composition is essentially the same throughout the series. Once the filming is nearly completed, episodes are sent to Djawadi either singly or in batches of multiple episodes as they were being edited together but often before any special effects added to the footage. Benioff and Weiss would also inform Djawadi in advance of the need to expand a theme or create new themes for characters.

Djawadi wrote all the music in Santa Monica, California. Asked in an interview about the overall process of composing the music and how it is used in the series, Djawadi said: “I sit with David and Dan and we do what’s called a spotting session where we watch the entire episode and then discuss when music should start and stop. Everybody’s very involved with that. And it constantly gets played with. What I love about Game of Thrones is that the positioning of the music is so well done, because it’s not overdone. When the music cuts in, it really has something to say.”

The recordings of most of the soundtracks were conducted in Prague with The Czech Film Orchestra and Choir. Djawadi interacted with the orchestra over the internet and was present during the entire recording session, giving comments on the recordings via the internet.

Game of Thrones Themes

Main Title

Main article: Game of Thrones Theme

According to Djawadi, the series creators wanted the main title theme that accompanies the Game of Thrones title sequence to be about a journey as there are many locations, characters in the series and involves much traveling. After Djawadi had seen the preliminary animated title sequence the visual effect artists were still working on, he was inspired to write the piece; which is inspired from a traditional Afghan Rubab melody.

Djawadi said he intended to capture the overall impression of the series with the theme tune. The title theme is unusually long for a television series at nearly two minutes long, and cello was chosen as the main instrument for the music as he thought it has a “darker sound” that suited the series. The main title theme may also be incorporated into other music segments within the show, particularly at climactic moments.

Houses and characters

Djawadi composed an individual leitmotif or theme for each of the major houses, as well as for some locations and some characters. These themes are often played in scenes involving them and they can be used to tell a story. Not all characters would have their own themes due to the large number of characters in the series. The theme for House Stark is the first theme to be composed and is played on a cello.

Most of the Stark characters only have variations on the same theme on cello. Arya Stark is the first of the house to have her own theme, first heard when she started her lesson on swordplay in episode three of season one, with the music featuring a hammered dulcimer. A new theme for Jon Snow, previously using only the House Stark theme, was created in the sixth season and prominently featured in the episode “Battle of the Bastards”. It was first heard at the end of episode three when he said “My watch is ended”, signifying a shift in the character after he had been resurrected.

Due to the large number of themes, the introductions of different Game of Thrones Themes are also deliberately spaced over a longer period so as not to confuse the audience, for example, the theme for Theon Greyjoy or House Greyjoy was not introduced until the second season even though he first appeared in the first season. House Lannister has an associated song, “The Rains of Castamere”, which became their theme.

The song was played at the Red Wedding, but first heard when Tyrion Lannister whistled a small part in the first episode of the second season. When a theme has become established, different versions that are darker or lighter are then introduced, and concepts such as honor and conspiracy are also represented in themes.

Djawadi chose distinctive sounds and instruments for different leitmotifs and themes, for example, didgeridoos are used for the wildlings, while the Armenian duduk flute is used for the Dothrakis. The duduk flute has a different sound from other flutes, which were deliberately avoided as they are frequently used in other fantasy films. The themes for the White Walkers and the Night King are more of sound designs rather than regular themes; the White Walker theme initially employed a glass harmonica for a “really high, eerie, icy sound”, but became fully orchestral when the army of the dead was revealed in the season two finale.

The theme for the White Walkers extended over time into the music of the Army of the Dead, representing the gathering strength of Army of the Dead, which was only introduced in full in the finale of the seventh season when the Wall fell.

The themes may evolve over time in the series. The theme for Daenerys Targaryen started small, but became grander as she became more powerful. Her theme was initially played with a single instrument such as a processed cello, but later began incorporating more instruments, including Japanese taiko-inspired drums, Indonesian bedug drums, and an Armenian duduk flute. Syllables and words in Valyrian, a fictional language of Game of Thrones, are also used in her theme music, although not as whole sentences.

The instrumentation for her theme are also used for dragon attacks. For the dragons, the theme was first heard when they hatched at the end of season one as a quiet high-pitched melody, but developed into something more powerful by the time they became fully grown, for example it was played with French horns in the loot train attack scene in the seventh season.

Different themes may also be combined in some themes and scenes. For example, in Season 5, the music for House of Black and White is an extension from the themes for Arya and Jaqen H’ghar. During the first scene of the fourth season, as Ice, the Stark sword, is reforged by Tywin Lannister, the Starks’ and Lannisters’ themes are clearly played simultaneously, to finally end with the Lannister theme only. In the finale of Season 6 with the shot of the armada at the end, at least five themes were combined – themes for Daenerys, Theon, the Unsullied, the dragons, and the main title.

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Game of Thrones Theme Lyrics

Shekh ma shieraki anni,

Jalan atthirari anni,

Anha zhilak yera norethaan.

Shieraki gori ha yeraan.

Torga sani jalan qoyi,

Sorfosor nakho vosecchi.

Me nem nesa.

Translation:

My sun and stars,

Moon of my life,

I love you completely.

The stars are charging for you.

Under many blood moons,

The earth never ends.

It is known.

Game of Thrones Theme Music Video

Game of Thrones Theme Image

About Game of Thrones Theme

Album Game of Thrones: Season 1
Release Date June 14, 2011
Length 1:46
Genre Television soundtrack
Label Varèse Sarabande
Songwriter(s) Ramin Djawadi
Producer(s) Ramin Djawadi
Format Digital download, Streaming
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