The 10 most beautiful film scores to play on the saxophone
Re-discover ten cinematic masterpieces, as well as the scores which have contributed to their success and immerse yourself in the story of their composition.
• The Pink Panther
It all started in 1936, when the director Blake Edwards released a film featuring an absent-minded detective, Jacques Clouseau, whose mission was to arrest the famous thief “The Phantom” before he stole a huge pink-coloured diamond called the “Pink Panther”!
To create its opening signature tune, Edwards called in an advertising agency which incorporated a nonchalant pink panther into Henry Mancini’s audacious musical composition.
Although humble in ambition, this signature tune has forever linked the name of the “Pink Panther” to this mysterious creature, which became the hero of a television series, immortalised by Mancini’s score: chic and suave, the saxophone line is precisely composed and perfectly overlaps the bass, which adds a touch of playfulness!
For the writing of the saxophone part, the composer took inspiration from one of his saxophonist friends whom he heard performing one of his compositions on the tenor saxophone, with a rather original phrasing.
The Pink Panther theme has crossed eras, is known to both old and young and is often played by Jazz-loving musicians.
• Money Heist – Bella Ciao
The Spanish series La Casa de Papel appeared on our screens at the end of 2017. It plunges us into a scenario in which we witness a heist organised by the mysterious “Professor” in the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid. To execute his plan, the latter recruits eight gangsters who have nothing left to lose.
First shown in Spain, Netflix bought the rights to the series to distribute it on its platform. This was an effective decision, as La Casa de Papel has been internationally successful.
An internationally-known piece of music is now closely linked with this series, which now has a cult following. “Bella Ciao”, a famous Italian partisan song born in the 20th century in anti-fascist communities during the Second World War, has over time become the resistance hymn of militants and protesters all over the world.
The story goes that, in Italy during the 1930s, a grandmother taught her granddaughter this song. She often sang it with the other “mondina” in the rice fields where the work was difficult and long. Later on, the young girl became a member of the resistance during the Second World War and, in 1944, the lyrics of the song became those that we know today: revolutionary words, symbolic of the struggle against oppression.
Still covered today by modern artists, you can often hear the melody of “Bella Ciao” being hummed by younger generations.
• The Godfather
The Godfather, a cult film of its time, recounts the adventures of a large Italian mafia family, whose main members are brought to life by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino and led by the director Francis Ford Coppola, who saw his film win three Oscars.
The music of The Godfather, composed by Nino Rota, is as famous as the film itself. Although in contention for the award, it was disqualified from the competition. It was felt that it had reprised the theme of another film, Fortunella, by Eduardo de Filippo. However, the composer of this original film score was none other than... Nino Rota!
It is true that the two pieces of music share the same melody, but with a slower rhythm and a comic temperament in the case of Fortunella. However, this practice was already quite widespread among composers of yesteryear. For example, Bach re-worked a large number of his existing compositions in order to refine them or create new ones.
Although the film was released almost 50 years ago, the original film score of The Godfather is one of the most-played film scores by amateur musicians.
• Titanic - My heart will Go On
The film score composer James Horner (who has several successful Hollywood films to his name) needs no further introduction and was particularly well known for regularly using instruments of Celtic origin in his compositions.
His career took off with the music for the James Cameron film Aliens, but his score for Titanic (by the same director) remains the most widely-sold film score in the world. It won him many awards, just like the music for Braveheart.
Originally, Cameron didn’t want a song to accompany the credits at the end of his film, but he hadn’t reckoned on Horner, who secretly composed the melody and gave it to Will Jenning to write the lyrics. And so “My heart will go on” was born.
Céline Dion, who was felt to be the candidate capable of changing the director’s mind, wasn’t sure about it when she first heard the song and her husband, René Angelil, had to convince her to record a demo.
The singer admits that she was unwell on the day of the recording: she drank some black coffee, which had the effect of accelerating her vibrato (not her original aim!). After having got to know the story of the film, she went into the recording booth. Just one take was enough and the director was won over.
Another legendary film score in the History of cinema. More than 15 million copies of “My Heart Will Go On” have been sold. It was the highest-selling record in 1998 and propelled Céline Dion into the pantheon of the most widely-heard voices in the world.
• Coco - La Llorona
Released in 2017, the Disney-Pixar animated film Coco tells us about the adventures of Miguel, a young 12-year-old Mexican who wants to become a musician, an ambition with which his shoemaking family do not agree.
The action takes place during the traditional Day of the Dead, during which Mexicans celebrate their dead in song and dance. We hear “La Llorona”, a song whose theme is the most popular legend in Mexico, whose story would have it that a ghostly woman wanders the streets when night falls, waking the inhabitants with the sound of her crying.
In Coco, it is performed by the character Imelda Rivera, young Miguel’s grandmother, during the dawn concert while she tries to escape from the ghost Ernesto, who sings it as a duet with her.
Discover our scores with accompaniment and play “La Llorona”, one of the most famous songs in Latino culture, on the saxophone with Tomplay.
• Game of Thrones
It is already eight years since the first episode of Game of Thrones was released, an American series adapted from the novels by George R. R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire).
This fantasy medieval saga is famous for its realism and for its many sources of inspiration taken from real events, locations and historical characters. It has been immensely successful worldwide.
Throughout the eight seasons, several million viewers have followed the adventures of the Starks, the Lannisters and other enchanted creatures. Many derivative products have seen the light of day, including video games, board games and role games based on the world of the hit series.
The music was composed by Ramin Djawadi who, given the success of the series and its signature tune, organised the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a worldwide concert tour based on the music from the series.
But all good things come to an end: the last season was shown this year. To make the pleasure last a little longer, we’re inviting you to play the epic theme from Game of Thrones, using the many Tomplay functions.
• 007 - Skyfall
The song Skyfall was composed by Adele and Paul Epworth for the film of the same name, the twenty-third opus and masterpiece marking the fiftieth anniversary of the James Bond saga, released in 2012.
The very first James Bond was directed by Terrence Young, who chose Sean Connery to bring the hero to life. Many great actors have since played the main role, including Roger Moore (who should have taken up the role in 1962 instead of Sean Connery had he not been committed to another film shoot), Pierce Brosnan, a seductive and arrogant spy, and then Daniel Craig, our contemporary agent 007.
The song “Skyfall” was released on Global James Bond Day, to mark the 50 years since the release of the first James Bond. Having sold 7 million copies, it won the Oscar for the best original song in 2013.
Its title refers to Dalness House in the Scottish Highlands, famous as the family manor house of Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond novels) and the inspiration for the home of James Bond, which was given the fictional name of Skyfall in the last instalment.
On its release, “Skyfall” was difficult to avoid! It could be heard everywhere, on the radio and in the media, and amateur musicians, notably pianists, stampeded to be able to play the score!
• La la land - City of Stars
La La Land is an American musical film from 2016, written and directed by Damien Chazelle. In American English, “La La Land” is the name given to the Hollywood district of Los Angeles and is an expression which characterises a situation disconnected from reality.
The film was hailed by the critics on its release. It won many awards, including a double accolade for the composer Justin Hurwitz: best music and best original song for “City of Stars”.
This song, the hit song of the film, is performed by Ryan Gosling (who plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist) and Emma Stone (an actress named Mila) and the lyrics are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. It should be noted that Ryan Gosling worked intensively for four months in order to be able to pass for a real jazzman on the screen, as it really is him we see playing the piano!
Hurwitz explains that the composition of the song was above all based on the authenticity of the emotions transmitted and the tonality. He thinks that this song was chosen by the audience because it swings from a major key to a minor key, illustrating the highs and lows in the film’s story and also those of life in general.
Particularly well adapted to the saxophone owing to its jazzy nature, and accessible through both its text and its emotion, “City of Stars” is a joy to play.
• The Lion King - Can You Feel the Love Tonight
A legendary song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” was written for the film The Lion King in 1994.
This classic from the Disney studios portrays themes such as honour, courage, loyalty and, of course, love, perfectly illustrated by this hit composed and performed by Elton John and set to lyrics by Tim Rice.
We hear it when Simba finds his childhood friend Nala again and falls in love with her. Elton John composed a piece faithful to the tradition of the great love songs of Disney films, translating the feelings of the lions better than any dialogue. More than 11 million copies of this highly-successful song have been sold.
It was therefore obvious that we would re-discover Elton John and his hit in the new Lion King film by John Favreau, released this year! As with the first instalment, Hans Zimmer undertook the re-working of the film score. You can find more information about this in our article below, Elton John returns to the score of the new Lion King film.
What a joy to be able to go back into childhood again to play “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”! Thanks to the new version of the animated film The Lion King, the film and its music have been updated for today’s audiences and remain timeless, shared by all generations!
The Ghostbusters phenomenon was everywhere in 1984! Directed by Ivan Reitman, this American fantasy comedy portrays a trio of eccentric para-psychologists who set up a ghost-hunting company!
Owing to their own fascination for fantasy and spiritual themes, the authors of the film came up with Ghostbusters as a very personal project: the main characters would travel in time and space to combat a multitude of demonic and supernatural threats.
It was the first comedy film to have used costly special effects and it was widely accepted for its skilful mix of comedy, action and horror. On its release, it was the most profitable comedy of all time and became a cultural phenomenon.
Its theme song “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. was also a hit. Nominated at the 57th Oscars in the best original song category, it was overtaken by “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder.
The author of the music says that he was approached by the film’s producers to composer the film’s theme song and only had a couple of days to do it. It was a challenge which, at first sight, seemed impossible, even more so as he didn’t see how he could incorporate the title of the film into the lyrics.
One night, while watching television, Parker saw an advertisement and something clicked: he composed the song as if it were for an advert!
Dive back into the 80s playing “Ghostbusters”!