Let's be honest. In pretty much every single genre of Trailer Music the third Act needs to sound HUGE, expansive, and generally epic in every way. Even in neoclassical piano tracks the third act needs to step up and bring scale and impact to your track.
My aim, with this post, is to help you understand exactly how to make your third act sound massive in every genre.
This is not about telling the world about your feelings, although that's not a bad thing. It's about making the track feel like it has become an expansive landscape in its own right.
The visual metaphor here is that you have just opened two massive wooden doors that have opened up to a whole new and exciting world. Kind of like in Jurassic Park.
There are a few ways to do this but one of the easiest ways is to make your arpeggios cover more pitch. Let's say you have an arpeggio that is playing three notes that cover a perfect fifth (C Eb G for example). To open this arpeggio up you would double its range (C Eb G then C Eb G an octave higher).
This has a twofold effect, it opens up the arpeggio and also gives the sense of slowing down because you are now taking six notes to return to the root rather than three.
This slowing down, or perceived slowing down, through change of emphasis then gives a feeling of expanding. Just by opening up the arpeggio you have made the track feel like it is growing outwards and upwards.
Philip Glass is an absolute master at playing with emphasis to affect perceived change in music. He changes how many notes that are played in an arpeggio to make the track feel like it is slowing down, speeding up, expanding and shrinking. You can hear it very simply in his excellent Dance Pieces which I have studied extensively.
Let the Top Lines Soar and the Low-End Roar
This is the easiest win of all. It basically means to let your Violins play long slow phrases at the top of their range that are then mirrored by a meaty Bass line.
This is all about utilising the very top and bottom of your instruments' registers; the highest and lowest notes being used to show this track opening up. Literally.
The bass acts as an anchor to the track and the soaring top lines give the impression of height and distance.
These feelings and perceptions all come down to how we experience sound. We hear a low and slow moving bass-line and we perceive it as something that is massive, like a giant walking past us.
This oldy-but-a-goodie track from Hi-Finesse really showcases how to use your soaring top-line well.
FYI Your top-line does not have to be strings and your bass-line does not have to play long notes.
Bring in the Big Guns
When I say "guns", I don't mean muscles, or guns for that matter. I mean trailer hits and drums.
Up until this point in your track you may have had some big sounding hits and drums but this is when they really should be sounding biggest and baddest.
They are the metaphorical explosions - they bring the impact that is so essential in trailer music.
This track in Marvel's Secret Invasion Trailer is a perfect example of the type of impact that your hits need to bring to your cue.
Act 3 is the part of your track that needs to have the most power and impact so it is only right that your biggest sounding hits are saved until this point.
For this point in my track I like to use the drag and drop hits from Keepforest's Evolution Series.
Silence is Your Friend
Don't overlook the power of silence or as close to silence as you can get.
That is one of the reasons we add stopdowns in your trailer music; the silence placed just before a musical explosion into the next act makes the loudness seem even louder by contrast.
What this translates to is that you can utilise removal of sounds in your third act at the end of a four bar phrase for example. It doesn't have to be long or even complete silence but just a huge reduction in volume or layers will serve to lift up the section immediately after.
If you then use your choirs straight after this mini-drop then it will be even more impactful!
Let the Choirs Sing
Most third Acts would not be the wonderfully rousing epic music that they are without choirs.
The human voice is one of the easiest and quickest ways to bring emotion to your music and that is exactly why they do it in trailer music.
Choirs are the answer to the question, "How could I possibly make this track sound any bigger?"
If you save them for the second half of the third act then you have a super-easy-win that will lift your track to the next emotional level and make us all feel like we are approaching the heavens.
Build into a Frenzy
Ok. Ignore the fact that this is Michael Keaton returning as Batman (Goosebumps!!!) and listen to the music. Particularly from 2.08 - this track just does not stop. It keeps on pushing until it feels like you can't get anymore.
I said in act 2 that you have to keep building until it hurts. In Act 3 that build needs to push the audience into an absolute frenzy.
The most common way to do this, which is what they do in The Flash trailer, is to use orchestral hits playing a rhythm that spans the full extent of the orchestra's pitch range, at the loudest they can possibly play.
This can't be any old rhythm. It needs to feel like it is speeding up...and then slowing down...and then speeding up. Playing with the audience's expectation of when the track is going to end.
The easiest way to do this is by mixing quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes with triplets and tuplets. Something like this:
It's Not About Layers!
No One Will Say "This sounds too big!" In all my years writing trailer music, no one has ever said my third act was too big. But don't make the mistake I always used to make.
Don't throw loads of layers thinking it will make it sound bigger, it won't, not much anyway. Think about what each layer is doing and where in the mix it is doing it. Sometimes you don't need a whole brass section to do what the Horns could do on their own.
If in doubt you can always use a reference track to help guide how to mix your trailer track to sound even bigger.
Remember it's not always about loads of layers, just the right layers used in the right way.