Meaning Of Epic Music Or Epic Orchestral Music
What Does "Epic Music" Mean?
Table Of Contents
Definition Of Epic Music
The Word Epic As A Standalone
In literature: An Epic is "a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the past history of a nation.", definition provided by Oxford Languages.
This is the origin of Epic music. It is strongly associated with terms like fantasy, heroism and adventure which describe what the Epic genre aims to evoke in listeners.
Epic or "epos" in ancient Greece could also mean "song", this is because a song can tell you a story just as effectively as a narrative. It transformed into the Greek "epikos" and then the Latin "eipein", ultimately losing its song meaning and retaining its narrative meaning.
Epic Music aka Epic Orchestral Music
Epic music refers to a modern type of classical orchestral music, with or without hybrid elements added to it.
Example: adding an electric guitar into the orchestra.
And the word orchestral means that it has been written for an orchestra to play. Epic music sounds really full because it uses the full range of an orchestra.
The goal of Epic music is to bring you along on an adventure and tell you a story rich in emotions, either happy or sad.
Is Epic Music A Genre?
"Epic Music" is not an official genre, if you would be releasing this type of music:
The main genre would be Classical
The subgenre would be Orchestral
A second subgenre would be Contemporary
If you use choirs, another subgenre can be Choral
If you use hybrid elements, subgenre can be Cross-Over
If none of these terms are available: use Instrumental
When searching for classical music, people do not typically consider this type of music. This is the reason it is commonly referred to as Epic music or Epic orchestral instead of classical orchestral.
"Epic orchestral" really means "contemporary classical orchestral", but as you can see, it's way easier to say and remember.
Contemporary means close to present time, sometimes you can find the term modern instead.
Where Is It On The Billboard Charts?
When is comes to the charts, the epic orchestral genre is on the Billboard Classical Crossover Charts.
According to Apple Music's guidelines (that everyone uses as a bible at that point), anything classical done today (i.e. not in the classical era) should be tagged as crossover.
The issue with this is that "Classical Crossover" is way too board and doesn't define that genre very well.
Is Epic A Mood?
The word "Epic" also conveys a particular mood, which can be described as intense. Thus, the term "Epic" can be substituted with "intense" to convey a similar feeling.
Although some people might use "Epic" as a synonym for "motivational" or "uplifting", this is incorrect. In reality, Epic music can be as dark and dramatic as possible.
The Pioneers Of Epic Orchestral Music
It Wasn't A Thing
"Epic" as a term in music was popularized by someone who wanted to tell a complete story through their musical works. The highs and lows of battles and love.
Their intention was to create music for trailers. However, the fact that many people enjoyed their music and used it in tons of YouTube videos, which led to their significant growth, was beyond their control.
"They" is referring to...
Two Steps From Hell
The pioneers of the Epic genre are Two Steps From Hell aka TSFH, founded in 2006.
They described what Epic music is, in a very interesting way:
"Composers Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix write epic orchestral music with energy that makes you feel like you can conquer the world!", this quote is from their Twitter profile @twostepsfromhe1.
Their signature, in most of their Epic soundtracks, is the use of over-the-top choirs, giving their music a very intense feeling.
When I talk about TSFH, I'm always referring to the first album: "Invincible". Because this was the place where their storytelling was absolutely breathtaking.
This album released in 2010 and includes some of their absolute best 2006-2010 industry trailer music.
If you want to dig deeper, you can take a look at their official website.
Common Places Where Epic Music Can Be Found
Epic Music In Trailer Scores
The most common place to find Epic music is in trailers. Many companies, called Trailer Houses, have specialized into composing trailer music and selling it to music supervisors in need of this type of music for their projects. When a track lands (meaning: is chosen for the trailer) it's called a trailer score.
Hybrid elements are usually heavily present in trailer music (big electronic sounds to catch your attention), to the point it's over-done and every trailer starts to sound the same.
Epic Music In Film Soundtracks
Because movies tell stories through various visual emotional cues, the music must match and complement the emotions on screen.
Every scene that is intense or dramatic will usually have some form of orchestral music attached to it. Depending on the budget available, you can't always get a live orchestra to play everything.
Hans Zimmer (Twitter profile @HansZimmer) for example, will always provide incredible atmospheres for everything he composes for.
You can listen to the full soundtracks of his motion picture scores on Spotify to get an idea of what this means, or directly watch any film that he scored.
If you happen to listen to the "Interstellar" score (my favorite one), you know how intense his music can get.
Epic Music In Video Game Music
Just like movies, video games will tell you, or more like will have you play through a story. Depending on the game genre, the music can greatly vary.
The type of games you will most likely find classical orchestral or hybrid orchestral music in, are role-playing games aka RPGs.
Example: Elden Ring, God of War, Elder Scrolls, Assassin's Creed & many more.