A detailed guide to the music of the gunbarrel sequences

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edited February 20 in Music Posts: 3,340
(Last updated on February 19, 2019 - Added instrumentation details of For Your Eyes Only)

Since I was a kid, I've always been fascinated by the gunbarrel sequences of the James Bond films, and in particular, their varying arrangements of the James Bond Theme. So some time ago, I came up with the idea of writing a breakdown of all the gunbarrel themes, since often, in articles and forum posts on the internet, their instrumentation is described inaccurately and quite incompletely. Also, if one only listens to the gunbarrel music while watching the films, one tends to overlook plenty of the little intricacies unique to each gunbarrel. In fact, there is this common misconception that all the gunbarrel themes from Moonraker to The Living Daylights are essentially identical, when the truth is that, while quite similar, the arrangements do have some interesting differences. Personally, I didn't realize the gunbarrel themes were so different from each other until I listened to them through headphones. It's also worth pointing out that, in studying these arrangements, one can observe some interesting things in regards to the style and orchestration of the respective scores (it's also a good exercise to train one's musical ear). I started writing this months ago, and I must say I didn't expect it to grow so extensive, but there was just so much detail to describe! I probably should've just written sheet music for each gunbarrel (and maybe I will), but then again, this is actually faster and more vividly descriptive, so to speak. Anyway, without further ado, let's analyze the gunbarrel music of the James Bond films. The following breakdown is based on repeated listening of the gunbarrels, as heard in the soundtrack albums, and on occasion, the 5.1 audio stems of the films. One last note: on some occasions, when the whole orchestra is playing, it can be hard to tell the instruments apart and be absolutely sure of what they are; in those cases, the instruments mentioned are educated guesses— the most likely candidates. When the analysis is too ambiguous, however, all possible instruments are mentioned. Anyway, if you discover some mistake or omission along the way, feel free to comment and the text below will be updated accordingly. There is always room for improvement and I can definitely see this post getting little updates from time to time.



RECURRING TERMS

Intro: The section of the gunbarrel theme that features the gunshot chords and gunshot responses.

Gunshot chords: The dramatic brass/string chords that usually play over the moving dots at the beginning of the gunbarrel sequence.

Gunshot responses: The low notes played in response to the gunshot chords, usually by brass.

Main section: The section of the gunbarrel theme that follows the intro, and in which the chromatic vamp and riff are played.

Chromatic vamp or just vamp: In the main section, the repeated figure that moves along the chromatic scale— B, C, C#, C and back to B. Most prominently heard while Bond walks toward the center of the screen in the gunbarrel sequence.

Riff: In the main section, the melody of the Bond theme most famously played on guitar. Usually heard after Bond fires his gun in the gunbarrel sequence.

Ending: A loosely-defined term for describing the closing section of the gunbarrel theme, in which instrumentation and melody usually change.



01 - DR. NO

There is no gunbarrel-specific music here. The James Bond Theme starts playing at the end of the sequence.



02 - FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is Em6. It's played on trumpets and horns, set against snare drum. Behind the gunshot chords, horns and trombones play the following phrase: F#-E, [pause], F#-E, [pause], F#-E-F#-F#-E. The gunshot responses are played by horns and trombones, plus kick drum.

Main section: The chromatic vamp is played on sustained low cello notes, as well as marimba. There's also plucked bass, which performs the vamp but adds the root of the chords (E) in between each note, so it plays the following pattern: B, E, C, E, C#, E, C, E. The low E brass notes set against the vamp, played on the weak beats, are played on trombone and tuba. The amplifier used for the guitar that plays the riff is clearly the same one as in Dr. No's James Bond Theme. This entire section of the theme is accompanied by a ride cymbal sixteenth-note ostinato.

Ending: As the theme comes to a close, the instruments play more quietly, and marimba and bass wrap things up with a three note phrase (G-F#-E).

Notes: This gunbarrel has a rather dark sound to it, mainly because of the vamp, which sounds somber when played by those low strings. The next gunbarrel will change that.



03 - GOLDFINGER - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: Once again, the gunshot chord is Em6, and it's played on trumpets set against snare drum. Behind, horns and trombones play the same phrase as before. The gunshot responses are performed by trombone, contrabassoon and kick drum.

Main section: The vamp is played on high violins, doubled by violas playing an octave below. The strings are accompanied by plucked bass (playing the same pattern as before) and a harp. The harp plays quarter notes that delineate the chords through this repeating pattern (notes in parentheses are played simultaneously): B-(E',G')-C-(E',G')-C#-(E',G')-C. The low E brass notes are played by trombone and tuba. On the percussion side we have ride cymbal again, plus cross stick snare on the weak beats. The amplifier used for the guitar is still the original one.

Ending: The guitar melody leaps upwards and the snare goes away. Two bars later, the ride cymbal also stops playing, and the guitar makes way for a horn and trombone phrase, which ends on the same three notes as the marimba did in the From Russia with Love gunbarrel (G-F#-E). For the end, the theme goes back to an Em6 chord, played on sustained brass and strings.

Notes: The higher strings are used for the Bond theme all throughout the Goldfinger score, giving it that ultra cool sound.



04 - THUNDERBALL - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is Em6. It's played on trumpets and horns. The phrases heard behind the gunshot chords are played by horns. (they are the same as in Goldfinger). Snare is employed for percussion. The gunshot responses are played by trombone, contrabassoon, kick drum and timpani. Set against all this, there are violins playing a sustained high B (the violins will die out when the main section begins).

Main section: After the introduction, the tempo picks up slightly. Muted violins play the chromatic vamp and a sustained G. Like before, there's plucked bass, playing the now-usual notes. The harp is back and plays the same pattern as before, except for the fact it drops the G notes. Once again, low E notes played on trombone and tuba. There's also ride cymbal keeping the beat. The guitar that plays the riff now sounds different (presumably, the original Dr. No amplifier had already been damaged by this point).

Ending: The ride cymbal stops, and the gunbarrel ends on a sustained E minor chord played on muted violins and low celli. The root of the chord is not played, just implied.

Notes: The use of timpani and that heavy brass, along with the muted strings, is representative of the rest of the Thunderball score.



05 - YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: F minor. Just one of two gunbarrel themes in this key. As a result, all the notes described before move a semitone upwards.

Intro: The chord used for the gunshot chords is Fm with an added G. It's played on very loud trumpets, plus piccolos playing high C, as well as picked electric bass, trombones and saxophones all playing low F. The gunshot chords are punctuated by snare drum, and the usual phrases heard behind them are played by horns. The gunshot responses are performed by saxophone, electric bass and possibly contrabassoon. Finally, there are high sustained violins playing Ab and C'.

Main section: The vamp is played on violas and doubled an octave below by celli and bass clarinet. The plucked bass plays the usual pattern. The harp ostinato is back to the way it was in Goldfinger. As usual, there are low E notes played on trombone and tuba. The ride cymbal also returns. There are also bowed basses playing the following repeating pattern: C-F-Db-F-D-F-Db-F. The guitar is palm muted.

Ending: The ride cymbal goes away and the gunbarrel theme ends on a sustained F minor chord played on violas, celli and basses. The third of the chord is not actually played, just implied.

Notes: The use of F minor as the key for the Bond theme is representative of the score, since F minor is indeed the base key used for the theme all throughout the film. The guitar's modified timbre makes it sound like some sort of exotic string instrument, which suits the film's Japanese setting.



06 - ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: Back to E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is E minor. It's played on these shrieking trumpets, plus picked electric bass playing low E notes. Behind all that, horns and trombones play the following phrases: E-F#, [pause], E-F#, [pause], E-F#-G-A-B. You'll notice they're a bit of an inversion of the usual phrases, in that they move up rather than down. The gunshot responses are played by trombone, contrabassoon and electric bass. All of that is set to sustained B notes played on two different octaves by violins.

Main section: Many changes here. The vamp is played on high violins with plenty of vibrato, doubled by low celli. The violins also play a sustained high E. An electric bass plays an eighth note repeated pattern that spans two bars, as follows: eighth rest, E', E, eighth rest. The low E of the pattern coincides with the usual low E brass notes, which are played on trombone. Also, guitars play the respective chords of the theme on backbeat eighth notes. There is no harp, tuba or acoustic bass in this section. For percussion, there is ride cymbal and tambourine. The riff is played on a high-pitched Moog synthesizer. The riff goes on for two more bars than usual. Also, for the first time, the four-note countermelody of the A-section of the Bond theme (E-G-D'#-D', played on saxophones in the original Bond theme) is heard in the gunbarrel music. Unlike in the full Bond theme, it begins to play at the same time than the riff, and doesn't join in later. In this gunbarrel, that countermelody is played on flutes. It is heard three times.

Ending: The percussion stops, a single acoustic bass E note is played and the gunbarrel ends on a sustained B, played on clarinet and celli.

Notes: Once again, the sound of the gunbarrel is in sync with that of the rest of score, especially with the use of the Moog synthesizer and picked electric bass.



07 - DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER - John Barry
[Listen! (film version, with reverb)]
[Listen! (soundtrack version, without reverb)]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is Em6. It's performed on trumpets, plus trombone and tuba playing low E, and it's punctuated by snare drum. The phrases heard behind —played by piccolo and xylophone, and doubled by horns two octaves below— are as follows: F'#, E', [pause], F'#, E', [pause], B, E', G', F'#, E'. The gunshot responses are played by trombone and tuba. High sustained violins play G and B.

Main section: The chromatic vamp is played on violas, with violins playing sustained E and G on top (no vibrato in the strings here, unlike in the previous gunbarrel). For the first two bars, the ostinato usually played by plucked acoustic bass is played solely on picked electric bass (the acoustic bass will join the electric bass when the riff starts playing). As usual, trombone and tuba play the low E brass notes. For percussion, we get a combination of tambourine and ride cymbal. The tambourine is much louder than in the previous gunbarrel, which gives the theme a busier percussive sound. Finally, the riff is played on guitar.

Ending: There isn't a ending per se, since after the gunbarrel, the music immediately changes to the brief Asian-sounding theme that scores the first scene of the film. However, underneath said theme, a bit of closure is provided to the gunbarrel by means of a sustained E minor chord played on violins, violas and celli. It's interesting to note the first four notes of the Asian melody played on flute are quite similar to the four-note countermelody of the A-section of the Bond theme (and by extension, the beginning of the melody of the B-section). Bond theme: E-G-D'#-D'. Asian melody: E-G-C-B.

Notes: As can you hear above, the film version of the gunbarrel has some very cool-sounding reverb which gives it a spacey sound. The reverb is sadly missing from the version featured in the soundtrack. I'm not sure it can be recreated working from the album version, since it's possible it wasn't applied equally to all instruments, which would mean we'd need the multitrack masters to successfully reapply it. However, I invite you to try!



08 - LIVE AND LET DIE - George Martin [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is Em7. It's played on trumpets, horns, trombones, xylophone and bass, plus snare and crash cymbal. The gunshot responses are played by trombone, synthesizer, electric guitar and tom-toms. This section of the gunbarrel is set against a sustained high B played on violins, which dies out at the beginning of the second bar.

Main section: The vamp is played on clarinet, english horn, horns and violas, doubled by celli and plucked bass playing an octave below. It's also played by harpsichord in the form of eighth notes, and by electric guitar (solely on the weak beats). The low brass notes are played on trombone and tuba. Snare and hi-hat are used for percussion. Also, since this is the funky seventies, there is the obligatory guitar played with a wah-wah pedal. The riff is played by a variety of instruments: oboe, horns, muted trumpets, vibraphone and an especially dirty-sounding guitar (two octaves below all the other instruments). When the riff starts playing, it's joined by playful bongos.

Ending: As the riff ends, the drums lead us into the ending of the original Bond theme, making its debut on a gunbarrel sequence and underscoring that long panoramic shot of the New York skyline. The ending section is played on trumpets, horns, trombones and vibraphone, and set against bowed bass playing sustained low C. It's slightly modified from the original version, with the original basic melodic phrase being E-G-D'#-D', and the new one being E-G-C-B. (You will note that coincidentally, the new melody happens to be the Asian melody from the previous gunbarrel.)

Notes: This arrangement of the gunbarrel is very similar (but not identical) to that of the soundtrack album track titled James Bond Theme.



09 - THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The chord used for the gunshot chords is E min-maj 9th. It's played on trumpets, trombones, tuba, flute, violins and xylophone. The phrases behind the chords are as follows: F#, E, [pause], F#, E, [pause], B, A, G, F#, E. You will note each phrase is the same as its correlative phrase in the gunbarrel of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, only with the notes in the reverse order. The gunshot chords are complemented by tom-toms. In bar 2, an oboe plays yet another phrase behind the chords; I can't completely decipher it, but the last three tones that comprise it are D#, F# and E. It's possible and even likely the oboe is also present in bar 1, but it gets lost in the audio mix, so it's very hard to tell for sure. The gunshot responses are performed by trombone, tuba, tom-toms and possibly bassoon.

Main section: The chromatic vamp is performed on violas, celli, flute, acoustic bass and likely bassoon. The low E brass notes are played on trombone and tuba. Guitars play the chords of the theme on backbeat eighth notes. Ride cymbal and tambourine are used for percussion. The riff is performed on violins, clarinet and flute. The last four notes of each bar are accented through trumpet and piccolo, while the first of those four notes is accented also by muted horns. When the riff begins to play, a harp also starts to play the first and third notes of the vamp. The riff goes on for two bars longer than usual (more on this later). Also, some of the notes of the riff are played staccato, to give it a more rhythmic feel (this will hold true for all future Barry gunbarrels).

Ending: The melody makes a big leap upwards, and it is joined by horns and trombones, which perform it an octave below the other instruments. The melody finally stops on the last B note and holds it for a few seconds, while the percussion dies down and a mysterious eight-note harp ostinato begins to play. With that, the gunbarrel theme is over.

Notes: This gunbarrel has a more urgent tempo than the last one. In Live and Let Die, George Martin had slowed down the theme to make it fit into the sequence. John Barry, by comparison, speeds it up, which is why it has to be extended for two more bars. Like it was the case with You Only Live Twice, this gunbarrel has a bit of an exotic, Far East sound to it, thanks partly to the high-pitched sound of the piccolos, which is somehow evocative of some kind of exotic instrument. The Bond theme as heard in Let's Go Get 'Em features a similar arrangement to that of the gunbarrel, with violins, clarinet, flute and trumpet playing the riff. Both the gunbarrel and score of this film reflect the beginning of a transition toward an orchestral sound, in which the big band influences are not as apparent as before.



10 - THE SPY WHO LOVED ME - Marvin Hamlisch [Listen!]

Key: F minor.

Main section: A gunbarrel with a different form, this one skips the intro and goes straight to the main section. The vamp is played on oboe, clarinet, muted trumpets, vibraphone and acoustic bass. It is accompanied by sustained tremoloing strings that play F and C', and which go in crescendo in one bar, then decrescendo in the other. The usual low brass notes (F, in this case) are played on trombone and tuba. All of this is set to a ride cymbal. Right in the middle of the vamp, as the gunshot is heard, the music suddenly switches gears. The vamp is now played on electric guitar, as well as flutes playing eighth notes. The low brass notes vanish, though the tremoloing strings continue. The riff begins to play, also on electric guitar. The rhythm of the ride cymbal now follows more closely that of the notes of the riff.

Ending: As the melody leaps upwards, the low F notes, played by trombone and tuba, return, while the tremoloing strings and the flutes vanish. Horns and trombones are added to the vamp. Halfway through this bar, a vibraphone begins to play notes on the strong beats (F-Ab-C'). And halfway through the next bar, the guitar (which continued to play the vamp) performs a little downward phrase (Db-Bb-Gb-F). The gunbarrel ends on an F min-maj 9th played on synthesizers, plus trombone, tuba and the vamp guitar (these last three instruments only play a low F, and the F played by the guitar is the last note of the aforementioned downward phrase).

Notes: The gunbarrel is once again representative of the score, since the Bond theme is played in that F minor all throughout the film, and frequently on guitar. The use of synths is also echoed through the rest of the soundtrack.



11 - MOONRAKER - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: In bar 1, the chord used for the gunshot chords is E min-maj 9th, whereas in bar 2, it's E minor 9th (the D# moves down to D). The gunshot chords are played on high flute, trumpets and trombones. Bass drum is used for percussion. The phrases heard behind the chords are the same as in The Man with the Golden Gun, and are played by horns. The gunshot responses are played by bassoon, contrabassoon and trombone, also with bass drum.

Main section: The vamp is played on flute, clarinet, bassoon, celli and plucked bass, as well as harp, playing the pattern from Goldfinger. The low E brass notes are played on trombone and tuba. For percussion, we have a muted triangle and tambourine. The riff is played on flute, clarinet and violins, with accents by trumpets and horns ("dead-sounding horns", as accurately described elsewhere) on the second half of each bar.

Ending: In bar 9, when the melody makes a big leap upwards, the trumpets start playing it uninterruptedly. Also, horns are added to the melody, doubling it an octave below. After that, a harp arpeggio is played, leading into a sustained E minor chord played by the string section, which brings the theme to a close.

Notes: The arrangement of this gunbarrel reflects John Barry's further transition toward an orchestral sound, a process that was already taking place by the time of The Man with the Golden Gun. The gunshot chords sound particularly dissonant this time around, and their sound is replicated in other parts of the score— namely, the freefall cue and the ending to the gondola chase music (post Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka).



12 - FOR YOUR EYES ONLY - Bill Conti [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is Em6 with an added F#. It's played most prominently on trumpets, accompanied by piccolo and horns. The length of the gunshot chord notes is slightly modified, with the dotted eighth notes which usually open each gunshot chord "phrase" being replaced by normal eighth notes (thus becoming shorter). No phrase is played behind the chords. Timpani, hi-hat and cowbell are used for percussion. The gunshot responses are played by trumpets, timpani and kick drum.

Main section: Conti brings back the electric guitar, but uses it for the vamp, not the riff. The vamp is also played on tremoloing violins that go in crescendo and then decrescendo, as well as horns and trombones. The violins also play a sustained G. This time, the low E brass notes are gone. In their place, we get a two-tone ostinato, comprised of four sixteenth notes played by low synths (E, E, D, E). This ostinato is played on the strong beats of each bar. The percussion instruments employed are snare drum, hi-hat, and of course, cowbell. The riff is played on loud trumpets, and it moves up an octave after two bars.

Ending: On the big upwards leap of the melody, the trumpets are joined by flutes playing an octave below. On the last note of the melody, the trumpets play the usual B, but also G. Punctuated by a timpani hit, the gunbarrel music ends, and an eighth note earlier than usual, just as the onscreen circle suddenly disappears. The cue then continues for a few bars, with the Bond theme mixed with the two-note falling fifth motif of the For Your Eyes Only title song.

Notes: The low synth ostinato of the main section are also used for the Bond theme heard when Bond reaches the top of the mountain in Greece, albeit with a slightly different rhythm.



13 - OCTOPUSSY - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The chord is E min-maj 9th, and it is performed on trumpets, trombone, tuba and flute. The phrases behind the chords are the same ones heard in Moonraker, and are played by horns. Snare and crash cymbal are employed for percussion. The gunshot responses are played on trombone, tuba, bassoon and bowed contrabass.

Main section: Violas, celli, flute, bassoon and acoustic bass play the vamp. The harp plays the pattern from Goldfinger. The low brass notes are performed by trombone and tuba. Triangle and tambourine are in charge of keeping the beat. The riff is played by violins, flute and clarinet. The clarinet, however, does not play the very first note of the riff in each bar, while the other two instruments play the riff in full. The last four notes of the riff in each bar are accented by trumpets which grow gradually louder. When the riff starts playing, more strings appear to join in (whether violins, violas, or both).

Ending: On the upwards leap of the melody, the trumpets start playing it uninterruptedly. Also, horns start doubling the melody an octave below the other instruments. The gunbarrel theme suddenly comes to an end as the music switches to some martial-sounding suspense music.

Notes: By this point, Barry has settled into a comfortable orchestral sound for his James Bond scores (and in fact, for his film scores in general). His next two gunbarrels are quite similar to this one, though not identical.



14 - A VIEW TO A KILL - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is E min-maj 9th. The gunshot chords are played on flute, trumpets, trombone and tuba, plus horns playing the usual phrases underneath. They're punctuated by snare drum and cymbal. The gunshot responses are played on bassoon, contrabassoon, trombone and bowed bass.

Main section: Flute, bassoon, violas, celli and plucked bass play the vamp. The low E brass notes are played by trombone. The harp is absent until the riff starts playing, and then it can only be heard very faintly, playing the usual. The only percussion instrument employed is the triangle, which plays a sixteenth-note triangle ostinato, with both muted and straight notes. The riff is played on flute and clarinet, with accents played on trumpet in the second half of each bar. Strings are absent this time.

Ending: In bar 9, the melody leaps upwards, the woodwinds stop playing and trumpets take over, with horns doubling them an octave below. Afterwards, an E minor chord is played by the string section, bassoon and clarinet.

Notes: A more sparsely orchestrated gunbarrel than Barry's last few, and with a faster tempo than usual, probably to avoid having the sound of the helicopter drown too much of the music.



15 - THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS - John Barry [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The chord used for the gunshot chords is E min-maj 9th. The chords are played by trumpets, flute, trombone and tuba, plus snare drum and likely splash cymbals. The phrases behind the chords are the now usual ones, and they're played by horns. The gunshot responses are performed by contrabassoon, trombone and bowed contrabass.

Main section: The vamp is performed by violas, celli, flute, clarinet, bassoon, bass clarinet (an octave below the previous instruments) and plucked bass. The harp is back to the Goldfinger pattern. Trombone and tuba play the low E brass notes. The percussion instruments employed are tambourine and triangle. The riff is performed on violins, violas, flute and clarinet, with accents on the last four notes of each bar, played by trumpets and muted horns that grow gradually louder.

Ending: The melody makes its upwards jump, and the trumpets start playing it without interruption. The melody is doubled an octave below by very loud horns and trombones (louder than the trumpets, in fact). The gunbarrel theme ends and makes way for a E min-maj 9th chord played on strings, as the cue moves on to different material.



16 - LICENCE TO KILL - Michael Kamen [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The usual structure of gunshot chords and responses is still present, but the rhythm and harmony has been altered. The chords are much more distanced from each other than usual. Also, the gunshot chord used in the first bar is in fact no chord, just a simple B tone. In the second bar, it's a B-C' dyad. The gunshot "chords" are played on trumpets, trombones, horns, tuba, violins and xylophone, and set against cymbal rolls. In the last burst of gunshot chord notes, the phrase played behind them is B-A-G-F#-E, and it's performed by horns (the last E will keep on playing for the first bar of the main section). The first gunshot response is performed by muted horns, trombones, bassoon, bass clarinet, bowed bass and timpani, while the second one adds violin trills.

Main section: The vamp is played by violas and celli, as well as high pizzicato strings which are in the form of eighth notes, and which are doubled an octave below by more pizzicato strings. The low brass notes are gone. Electric guitar plays the riff by itself for two bars. Then, after two bass drum hits, the guitar is joined by oboe and violins. Once this happens, plucked basses begin to play the vamp in a quarter note pattern, an octave below the lower pizzicato eighth notes.

Ending: At the upwards leap of the melody, the oboes stop playing, and horns begin doubling the violins an octave below (with the exception of the high D note, during which the horns instead play low E). Also, a cymbal roll is heard. The theme then segues straight into the underscore for the action that follows, with the DEA tracking down Sanchez.



17 - GOLDENEYE - Éric Serra [Listen!]

Key: G minor.

Intro: The gunshot chords sample the Goldfinger gunbarrel! You can verify this by yourself by lowering the pitch of the gunbarrel by three semitones with a sound editor (or save yourself the effort and listen here). The harmony is therefore essentially the same as the one from Goldfinger, just tranposed, so the chord used is Gm6. Obviously, the phrases behind the chords are also the same. In terms of instrumentation, gunshot chords aside, Serra uses a bass drum (which fulfills the role of the gunshot responses) and some percussive synths (among these is the now-iconic metallic sound). A cymbal roll helps transition into the main section.

Main section: In G minor, the vamp is as follows: D-Eb-E-D. It's played on violas, clarinet and bowed bass (doubling the other instruments an octave below). Violas also play a sustained Bb right below the vamp. The riff starts playing at the same time than the vamp, and it's performed on timpani. When Bond fires his gun (beat 3 of bar 4), we get another gunshot chord sound, also sampled from Goldfinger, of course. This is the only time a gunbarrel especifically underlines Bond's gunshot. In beat 4 of every odd bar, the signature metallic sound is played again. In bars 5 and 6, another percussive synth is added, playing sixteenth notes. All of this is set against a ride cymbal playing eighth notes.

Ending: The part where the melody leaps upwards is omitted. Instead, the percussion ends and the strings play a sustained G min-maj 7th chord. A cymbal roll is added for effect.

Notes: It goes without saying that, in terms of instrumentation, this gunbarrel is perfectly in line with the rest of the score, particularly in the use of timpani to play the Bond theme riff (something which will reoccur in The Goldeneye Overture).



18 - TOMORROW NEVER DIES - David Arnold [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Main section: For the first time since The Spy Who Loved Me, we don't get the gunshot chords at all. Instead we go straight into the vamp. It's played by violins and by flutes (the flutes play it on two different octaves). The violins also play a sustained high G. The plucked acoustic bass plays its usual pattern. Trombone and tuba play the ever-present low E brass notes. A harp performs a repeated pattern one bar long, and which mostly consists of backbeat eighth notes (the tones are E-E, E-F#-E). Snare and ride cymbal are employed for percussion. There is no riff. The vamp is played twice, and at the end of each time (on the second beat of each even bar), a low note is sounded on horns— first E, then D.

Ending: It's the ending of the original Bond theme, with the rising phrases played on wah-wah brass. The instruments employed for those phrases are trumpets (with and without mute), horns and trombones. Timpani, col legno strings and plucked bass punctuate the first beat of each bar of this section. At the very end, tam-tam and a harp glissando ease the transition into the rest of the cue, which continues with a sustained high B played on synthesizer.

Notes: The main point of interest here is that David Arnold doesn't stick to the usual form of the gunbarrel theme. Instead, he uses the last part of the original James Bond Theme, but removes the riff.



19 - THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH - David Arnold [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Main section: Arnold sticks to the form of the previous gunbarrel. The vamp is played on violins, with violas, harp and vibraphone doubling them an octave below. Low E brass notes are performed by trombone and tuba. A very cool synth bass plays E eighth notes. Synth effects are heard throughout this section in a call and response pattern of sorts, with calls in odd bars and responses in even bars. Ride cymbal, triangle, tambourine and kick drum are used for percussion. There's also a percussive synth that is heard on the second beat of each bar. In bar 4, violins, flute and clarinet play a phrase (G-A-A#-A-G) that leads right into the ending section. This phrase, by the way, is rather reminiscent of the hook in Surrender.

Ending: The same ending as in Tomorrow Never Dies. The rising phrases are played on trombones, horns (with and without mute) and muted trumpets. Ride cymbal and plucked acoustic bass (playing B) emphasize the first beat of each bar. The B played by bass is also doubled an octave above (either by bass or cello). Electronic sounds are heard in the background. At the very end, four sixteenth notes are played on horns (B-A-B-A), leading into a sustained B and the next section of the music (Bond walking through the street), and thus bringing the gunbarrel theme to an end.

Notes: The previous gunbarrel used acoustic instruments exclusively. This one is still primarily acoustic, but it does add a number of electronic sounds. In that sense, it faithfully reflects the sound of the rest of the score, and its evolution in relation to Arnold's previous score.



20 - DIE ANOTHER DAY - David Arnold [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: David Arnold goes back to the original form of the gunbarrel. The gunshot chord is Em6. It's performed on trumpets, horns, trombones and piccolo. There is also some synth effect that creates something of a "whooshing" kind of sound. The phrase behind the chords is the one from The Man with the Golden Gun, and it is performed on high horns. Bass drum and crash cymbal are the percussion instruments used. The gunshot responses are played by trombone, contrabassoon, bass drum, crash cymbal and possibly tuba.

Main section: The vamp is played on violins, plus celli doubling them an octave below. Violas play sustained G. A synth bass which plays the usual acoustic bass pattern. For percussion, there is a very cool drum loop, as well as a synth that resembles a tambourine. Also, what are presumably some percussive-sounding synths are heard on the third beat of each bar. Right before the riff, a little phrase (G-A#-A-G-A, with the first G being sustained) is performed on violas. The riff section is played on guitar, and it's two bars shorter than usual. Right before the ending section, muted horns play another phrase (A#-A, with that last A being sustained).

Ending: A sustained B is played in the high range by a synth, and in the low range on synth bass, as the percussion slowly comes to an end. With the low B remaining in place, the high sustained B leads into F'# and finally into B', before all the instruments die out.

Notes: The shorter length of the main section most certainly to do with the fact the gunbarrel itself is shorter than the older ones.



21 - CASINO ROYALE

The gunbarrel itself is just scored with a sustained high G played on tremoloing violins. After it, You Know My Name begins to play.



22 - QUANTUM OF SOLACE - David Arnold [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Intro: The gunshot chord is Em6. It's played on trumpets and horns and punctuated by snare. The phrase behind the gunshot chords (the same one as in From Russia with Love) is played on trumpets doubled by horns an octave below. The gunshot responses are performed by muted horns, trombone, bassoon, electric bass and kick drum.

Main section: The vamp is played on violins, acoustic bass and electric bass (playing an octave below the acoustic bass). The violins also play a sustained G underneath the vamp, while violas in turn play a sustained E. The low E notes are played on trombone and tuba. Triangle and tambourine are employed for percussion. The riff is performed on guitar. There is no ending, since the theme keeps playing over the end credits.



23 - SKYFALL

This gunbarrel, which appears right before the end credits, uses the The Name's Bond...James Bond version of the Bond theme, from Casino Royale. So there was no music specifically written for it.



24 - SPECTRE - Thomas Newman [Listen!]

Key: E minor.

Company logos intro: The intro that plays over the company logos is a reprise of the cue heard at the end of Skyfall, when Bond is in M's office. Both cues employ the typical chord progression of the A-section of the Bond theme (Em-C-C#dim-C), but replace the last C#dim chord played before the gunshot chords with an A chord. They also add some violin phrases on top of the progression, and play with the length of the chords. In Spectre, the intro employs a string section, vibraphone, a sound reminiscent of a tambourine with plenty of reverb added, and a synth that announces the end of the intro and the beginning of the gunshot chords.

Intro: The gunshot chord is Em6 with an added F#. It is performed on trumpets, horns and high violins. The phrase played behind it is the one from From Russia with Love, and it's performed by trumpets doubled by horns an octave below. Snare drum and crash cymbal are used for percussion. The gunshot response s are played by trombone, bassoon, bass drum and crash cymbal.

Main section: The chromatic vamp is played on violins and and acoustic bass. Violins also play sustained G, while celli play sustained E. The low E brass notes are performed on trombone and tuba. Tambourine and muted triangles are used for percussion. There is no riff. After two bars, the violins and celli go up an octave, while horns double the violins an octave below. Violas might also double the celli. As well as playing the low E notes, the trombones now begin to play the vamp on the weak beats. Finally, bongos are added.

Ending: The ending of the original Bond theme, performed by horns, trombones, and muted wah-wah trumpets. Set against plucked bass playing B at the beginning of each bar, plus some other plucked string instrument that doubles the bass an octave above (whether bass or cello).



GENERAL NOTES

1. Practically all the gunbarrels reflect the style and instrumentation of their respective scores.

2. The one-off composers tend to play more with the gunbarrel. They introduce more significant variations in form, rhythm and/or the addition of new melodic lines. John Barry, on the other hand, always sticks to the general template of the gunbarrel, and his variations are mainly based on the musical instruments employed, the chord chosen for the gunshot chords, and the voicing of the harmonies.

3. Some of the gunshot chords sound more tense than others. This has to do with the chosen chord (for instance, E min-maj 9th is dissonant, while E minor isn't). It also has to do with how the chord is voiced (the voicings often feature notes separated by semitones, which sound dissonant, unstable).

4. At first sight, there appears to be a correlation between the actor playing Bond and the choice of instrument(s) to play the riff. Sean Connery gets the guitar, George Lazenby gets the synthesizer, Roger Moore gets the strings, woodwinds and brass. However, the fact is Timothy Dalton also gets those last three instruments, which makes one consider the possibility that there was no particular correlation between actor and instrument(s), or that maybe it vanished over time. It's also worth considering that, by the eighties, John Barry had settled on a specific orchestral sound which he applied to quite a few of his scores, so maybe his choices were not guided by the then-current Bond actor.

5. My recommendation to any Bond music fan —and in fact, to any music fan in general— is to, whenever possible, listen to multitrack versions of the music you like. In the case of Bond, there isn't such a thing, but we do have the next best thing— the 5.1 audio stems from the home video releases, in which each channel provides a degree of instrument separation, which allows one to better understand and appreciate the arrangement of each cue. Sure, there are SFX getting in the way of a pure musical experience, but there is still a world of musical depth to be discovered.

Comments

  • I haven't read through this yet, @mattjoes, but at a glance, great work and bravo! As a big fan of the music of the series, I find this thread idea immensely interesting.
  • mattjoesmattjoes "It's a house made entirely of glass, and you're inside, and you can't get out."
    Posts: 3,340
    Thank you, @Some_Kind_Of_Hero, I thought you might enjoy it! Gunbarrel music has always been a source of fascination for me. I remember I was in my teens and on my first watch of FYEO, I immediately noticed Bill Conti had shortened the first note of the gunbarrel. And watching Moonraker for the first time, I was so surprised by the quirky gunshot chords. I found such details fascinating.
  • RemingtonRemington I'll do anything for a woman with a knife.
    Posts: 1,408
    Interesting @mattjoes. Enjoyed it.
  • mattjoesmattjoes "It's a house made entirely of glass, and you're inside, and you can't get out."
    Posts: 3,340
    Thanks for reading, @Remington.
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady Colders Federation CEO
    edited September 2018 Posts: 3,312
    This looks like something I would write. I'm obsessive that way. Do you have perfect pitch? How do you know all the notes?
  • mattjoesmattjoes "It's a house made entirely of glass, and you're inside, and you can't get out."
    edited September 2018 Posts: 3,340
    This looks like something I would write. I'm obsessive that way.
    I know, right? Must be a Colders thing! ;)
    Do you have perfect pitch? How do you know all the notes?
    I don't know if I have perfect pitch. I suppose if you give me a note I can decently, but not perfectly estimate what it is, but I'll have to search through the notes in my head first. I'll be working from memory.

    To know the notes, I listen to the audio and try to play it on a little piano software until it's correct. That's just a good ear, I guess.

    At any rate, the purpose of mentioning the notes in these descriptions is to help the reader play them back, compare them with the audio and then go "aha! So that's what he's talking about. I hadn't noticed that before" (or "I knew that part"). And the "feel" of the gunbarrel music can definitely vary depending on the chord, the sustained string notes in the main section, etc.
  • WalecsWalecs On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    Posts: 2,299
    Just finished reading this, that was very interesting.

    I've only got one question, though. You say Tomorrow Never Dies is the first Bond movie not to use the "gunshot chord" (you know, the DA DA daaa DA DA daaa intro), but The Spy Who Loved Me didn't use it either, did it?
  • Posts: 3,462
    My tin ear never revealed to me that DAF has no reverb on the CD version. Thanks for pointing it out (and giving me another cue to put onto my DAF digital album).
  • mattjoesmattjoes "It's a house made entirely of glass, and you're inside, and you can't get out."
    Posts: 3,340
    Walecs wrote: »
    Just finished reading this, that was very interesting.

    I've only got one question, though. You say Tomorrow Never Dies is the first Bond movie not to use the "gunshot chord" (you know, the DA DA daaa DA DA daaa intro), but The Spy Who Loved Me didn't use it either, did it?
    Thanks for reading. You're right, of course, TSWLM was the first one not to use the gunshot chords. I just fixed it!

    vzok wrote: »
    My tin ear never revealed to me that DAF has no reverb on the CD version. Thanks for pointing it out (and giving me another cue to put onto my DAF digital album).
    Cool! It's a shame that the reverb is missing from the album. I've always found that soundtrack version kind of flat to listen to-- I just miss the reverb.
  • mattjoesmattjoes "It's a house made entirely of glass, and you're inside, and you can't get out."
    Posts: 3,340
    A nice little article on the gunbarrel music was posted on the Roger Ebert website. It contains an especially interesting (and accurate) comment by David Arnold on the TND gunbarrel.

    https://www.rogerebert.com/balder-and-dash/the-musical-history-behind-the-james-bond-gun-barrel-sequences

    The article is reproduced below:

    THE MUSICAL HISTORY BEHIND THE JAMES BOND GUN BARREL SEQUENCES
    by Charlie Brigden

    July 3, 2019

    As exciting brass fills your ears, a man strolls purposefully onto the screen from stage left, his striding body framed by a circle. He turns to face the audience, aims his weapon at you, and unleashes all his fury, the deep crimson blood engulfing the screen. You, the viewer, are now dead, killed by the ultimate assassin, who has spent decades building a franchise so successful he is known to even the smallest children.

    You are undoubtedly picturing the famous entrance of the silver screen's number one super spy, but the above paragraph is actually describing the opening title sequence of the 1986 slasher "Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives." Granted, Tom McLoughlin's beloved bloodbath is an exception in the ongoing series, using its running time to take somewhat of a meta look at the franchise and the slasher genre a whole decade before "Scream," but it's a sign of just how widely recognized James Bond is; not only the character, but one of the visual and aural hallmarks of the then 16-strong motion picture series: the gun barrel introduction.

    Now numbering at 24 films, with the 25th due in 2020, the Bond saga has used the gun barrel as a crucial part of the 007 formula, only recently playing with audience expectations during the recent Daniel Craig soft reboots. But while the gun barrel has not changed a great deal visually, one element that has evolved constantly is the music, often used by the composer to put an immediate stylistic stamp on the score and to let the audience know exactly what they're in for.

    Interestingly, the first gun barrel—in 1962's "Dr. No"—begins not with music but with a curious clockwork or music box effect, almost winding Bond up as he walks into view before letting him rip. As the blood flows down the screen and the "eye" shakes, the familiar midsection of the James Bond theme—written by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry—explodes, instantly identifying to the audience that they are in for one hell of a ride, especially as in this case the theme continues over the majority of the subsequent title sequence.

    By the time "From Russia With Love" came around in 1963, Barry had a firm solo grasp on Bond. The resulting gun barrel opened not with sound effects but with the mighty crash fans are used to, those two three-note clusters sounding like screaming bullets. As Bond strides in he's accompanied by the vamp section of the theme, the main riff of the theme kicking in just before 007 "kills" the viewer. Barry refined this for "Goldfinger" in 1964 and "Thunderball" in 1965, giving the brass more prominence for the intro section, and with the latter film timing the death transition perfectly—this time the riff hits right as Sean Connery shoots at the screen, perhaps appropriately given that this was the actor's first performance in the sequence (the previous three featured stuntman Bob Simmons).

    Barry's cues were wholly representative of the music he was writing for the series at the time: dangerous and seductive, the pure essence of cool. Connery's Bond was the same, a man who you would happily let romance you knowing you were unlikely to survive even the most fleeting of relationships, and Barry's gun barrels personified that to a tee. By the time "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" came around in 1969, Bob Moog's Moog synthesizer had hit the music world with a bang, and as such Barry chose to utilize it to introduce George Lazenby. While the cue begins in the traditional way, the vamp is introduced over a credit for Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, meaning that when Bond appears he's scored by the main riff on Moog, which gives the cue a different mood that certainly represented Barry's groundbreaking score, considered by many to be the franchise's best.

    Even after The Beatles, George Martin had his work cut out for him with 1973's "Live and Let Die": Not only did he need to bring a fresh new sound to Bond that wasn't just a John Barry copy, he was also tasked with musically introducing a brand new 007 in the guise of Roger Moore. Martin's gun barrel cue was both rough and smooth; the edgy vamp was as seductive as Jane Seymour's Solitaire, but the real gem was doubling up the guitar riff with brass, bringing a jazzy element to what was essentially Bond doing Blaxploitation. It’s an exceptional preview of what is one of the strongest scores in the 007 canon, no matter what you think of the film.

    Marvin Hamlisch decided to forego the opening "bullet" hits when he scored 1977's "The Spy Who Loved Me," giving a fairly hard edge sound to the gun barrel that continues throughout the sparse score. The cue ends with a heavy synth that also precludes its use in some of the more colorful cues, such as 'Ride to Atlantis,' but it doesn't really come across as anything but middling. Barry alternated Martin and Hamlisch with 1975's "The Man With The Golden Gun" and 1979's "Moonraker," and his efforts were fairly uneventful, something you couldn't say for Bill Conti and 1981's "For Your Eyes Only." Conti's score has been oft-criticized as being "disco-fied" and his gun barrel does nothing to dispel this, the funk beat under Bond's walk making it feel like he should be strutting like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever."

    Given Barry's stature, it comes across, intentional or not, that Barry is there for what is now considered the classic Bond sound, as an alternative to the more modern approaches. Remaining with the series until 1987, even his swan song—"The Living Daylights," which introduced Timothy Dalton in the role— retains that famous Barry sound, a trademark in its own right. The first composer in the post-Barry era was Michael Kamen, who had previously stunned the industry with his innovative and exhilarating scores to the blockbuster action films "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard."

    1989's "License To Kill" was absolutely influenced by those films, going for a more realistic (in relative terms) story. His gun barrel cue opens the film and score in spectacular fashion, discarding the vamp in favor of an extended percussion cluster that builds up to the turn-and-shoot, upon which Vic Flick's guitar is quickly doubled by strings. Explosive.

    Explosive is one thing, but divisive is the best world to describe the score to 1995's "GoldenEye." Composed by regular Luc Besson collaborator Eric Serra and introducing the new Bond in the shame of Irishman Pierce Brosnan, the score embraced European sensibilities and the embryonic EDM movement instead of John Barry, and, well, some people hated Serra for it, and there is still bitterness. His gun barrel cue is unlikely to change anyone's view, opening with a shrill synth playing the gunfire percussion before a slinky rendition of the vamp acts as the rhythm section. As Brosnan fires, you can hear the Bond theme under there, this time played by percussion, a brave move by Serra. It's an acquired taste for sure. Film score expert Lukas Kendall understands how fans feel, stating in an email interview that "the opening has been updated and tweaked to try to modernize the formula, but I think the filmmakers run the risk of alienating the audience if they alter it too drastically."

    Perhaps it was a response to that which drove Eon's choice for the next composer to take on Bond, with MGM admitting that Serra was an experiment that didn't quite work. David Arnold was a young British composer who had not only tackled big action-orientated projects with "Stargate" and "Independence Day" but was also working on Shaken and Stirred, an album of James Bond covers using contemporary artists such as Aimee Mann and Iggy Pop. Arnold would receive plaudits from none other than John Barry about the reworking of his music, and was told by the composer that he was the "rightful heir."

    So, when Eon and Barry failed to agree on terms for the latter to score 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies," Arnold signed on. His score mixed the classic and the contemporary; retaining the melodic lines of Barry while adding loops and synths, and its reputation has exceeded that of the actual film. Appropriately, Arnold's gun barrel is a literal return to the dangerous cool of Barry, with Brosnan walking on to a satisfyingly smooth rendition of the Bond vamp. However, as he turns and shoots, instead of using the riff or the bridge he instead uses the final section of the original "Dr. No" title sequence cue. This was faded out in the 1962 film's opening but scored the final part of the film's end credits, and features a sequence of four ascending brass clusters, and it gives the gun barrel a more open ending. "No one had done it before," Arnold said on Twitter about his cue, "and it felt like a question mark ... what's next, rather than 'TaDaaaaaa."

    With the successful integration of overt electronics into Arnold's score, he leaned on that for the next two films, 1999's "The World Is Not Enough" and 2002's "Die Another Day." The "Enough" gun barrel is certainly reflective of that, with the opening vamp backed by a futuristic synth beat that gives it a fresh feel without being obvious. For "Die Another Day," however, the electronics took over the henhouse. Arnold opens the cue with Barry's bullets, but when the vamp introduces Bond the theme is somewhat obscured by a frantic electronic beat that continues when the gunshot is made and the riff comes in. So, you have the vamp, the beat, and the riff all weaved together, and it has quite a disorienting feel. Despite what you may think about the gun barrel, though—or the film for that matter—the score is excellent. When it came to the next picture, however ... well, things were a bit different.

    Arnold was back to score "Casino Royale" (2006) but the gun barrel wasn't, not really. Being that the film was a prequel, the producers opted to open the film with Bond on a mission to obtain his license to kill, with the gun barrel visual used slyly as a transition between that sequence and the opening titles. Appropriately, the Bond theme only appeared occasionally throughout Arnold's score, finally being played in full at the end of the film when he "became" James Bond, and shot someone in the legs with a machine gun. 2008's "Quantum of Solace" was similar with regards to the score, as the gun barrel only returned at the end of the film. Nevertheless, it was a typical arrangement.

    Interestingly, Arnold's music would continue to accompany the gun barrels even when he wasn't scoring the films. For 2012's "Skyfall" and 2015's "Spectre," Thomas Newman was brought it to work with director Sam Mendes, his collaborator on films such as "American Beauty" and "Revolutionary Road," however his approach to the James Bond theme was to base it on arrangements by Arnold, mainly the finale cue for "Casino Royale," entitled 'The Name's Bond ... James Bond.' Like "Quantum," "Skyfall" ended with the gun barrel, while "Spectre" opened with it, but both were based on Arnold's cue. It's a credit to David Arnold that his interpretation of the classic John Barry arrangement of Monty Norman's theme is valued so highly.

    The attention now turns to the future, specifically Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Bond 25." As production continues, the speculation over who might be engaged to score the film has been silenced with the announcement of Dan Romer, who had previously collaborated with Fukunaga on “Beasts of No Nation” and the Netflix series “Maniac.” Romer’s appointment offers an exciting prospect, certainly one that’s unpredictable, but we can be almost certain that the first note of Romer’s music we hear will be over the gun barrel. From there, we can try and deduce what his approach to James Bond will be. With the middling reception to Thomas Newman’s scores and “Spectre” in general, perhaps what James Bond really needs is a fresh voice, and someone who isn’t afraid to shock the living daylights out of people— starting with that gun barrel.
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