The Game of Thrones Theme is the theme that we can hear over the opening credits or the main title credits. Except for the pilot where we have a prologue, every episode of season 01 starts with the main title. In its basic setting it is composed in C minor. Although it is in this key, the beginning riff shifts to its parallel key, C major after a few measures into the piece. In Western music C major is the most basic key signature you can have. There are no flats and no sharps. It is the simplest and purest key and when used, it evokes simplicity and pureness. But things can change quickly and life can turn around in a second, which is what Djawadi was attempting to draw attention to with this abrupt key change. It lasts only for four measures and then goes back to C minor. Things can be gone in the blink of an eye, this story is unpredictable, so be prepared. Because in the Game of Thrones, you win or you die!
The Game of Thrones Theme has two distinct musical phrases, A and B, and both of them are used throughout the season when major things are happening in the narrative.
Whenever you notice the theme it will usually be playing on either the rhythmic motif (♩♩♫ ) of phrase A in either its minor or major parallel or a variation on the melodic line of phrase B.
Later in the season, and especially in the last episode Fire and Blood, we will hear it ingeniously and intricately woven into other themes. For example, it will be modulated to the key of the House Stark Theme when Rob grieves for his father, to the key of the Night’s Watch Theme when the Night’s Watch rides out beyond the Wall, or to the key of Daenerys’ Theme when she emerges from the fire unharmed.
A closer look
The A Phrase of the theme is the one everyone associates as the titular theme for the series. In essence, it is a simple v-ii-iv-i progression (G-D-F-C). The rhythmic motif from measure 5 to 8 and 13 to 16, equally as nominal to the series, has been the most notable and used part of the leitmotif throughout the season though. The focus is on the rhythm (♩♩♫ ) rather than the melodic interval, because it sometimes appears as a perfect fifth interval, see G-D and F-C of the above notation, or as a perfect fourth. We can hear the latter at the very end of the Main Title of the soundtrack. According to Djawadi, the title theme ends with a combination of dulcimer and kantele, producing a shimmery quality in its sound that he thought would give a sense of mystery and anticipation for the episode1.
An example of where we can hear this rhythmic motif in a perfect fourth interval is in Baelor, when Theon shoots down a raven to intercept the message it is carrying and when Robb addresses his bannermen after bringing a captured Jamie to their encampment.
A variation (in Am) of the A Phrase with its rhythmic pattern can also be heard in Baelor, when the Stark bannermen cross The Crossing.
Where does it appear?
- Title Sequence in every episode:
- Episode 2 – The Kingsroad, at:
- 00:02:10 – Cm – The Starks leaves Winterfell for both King’s Landing and Castle Black (Var A and B)
- Episode 3 – Lord Snow, at:
- 00:03:57 – Cm – Ned and his people arrive at King’s Landing (Var A)
- Episode 9 – Baelor, at:
- Episode 10 – Fire and Blood, at:
In the video below, you can hear and see all the recurrences of the Game of Thrones Theme in Season 01
1 Game of Thrones Theme. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 21, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_of_Thrones_Theme