Skip Beat

A Mordor Accompaniment


The Skip Beat Ostinato, an accompaniment for Mordor, is a three note pattern that is "used for more kinetic moments". It has multiple variations:

  • each note pitched differently - ABC

  • each note pitched the same - AAA - used "during a number of chase scenes" (Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 30)

  • first note low, next two the same and higher - ABB

  • two pitches used - ABA - used in the "most intense and nerve-wracking moments" (Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 30)

It is usually a rapid, repetitive, ascending phrase of 3 notes but variants can be slower. It also mutates easily to 4 beats or 2 beats. From the CR-FOTR liner notes, "The Skip Beat also has a variation used in the film's most intense and nerve-wracking moments. This heartbeat-like figure captures the shape of the Skip Beat, but limits it to two pulsing pitches." (Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 30) Whether these can be considered variants (as DA sometimes labels them) or just the Skip Beat moving into and out of other material is subjective. Like the Descending Third Motif and the Threat of Mordor motif, it is sometimes used as an ostinato and sometimes alone. When it is used as an ostinato, it is (to my ears) difficult to hear. Like the other two danger motifs, it seems to have been used more in FOTR than the other two movies.

The rhythm structure is very similar to the Threat of Mordor'. In fact, one iteration is identified in the AS-ROTK as being 'somewhere between an inverted Threat of Mordor and the Mordor Skip Beat.' (Doug Adams, AS-ROTK)


Places this theme is heard in FOTR

  • In the Prologue as Sauron forges the One Ring in secret. A slow, AAA figure which each AAA phrase ascending plays first under sustained notes and then under a simple melodic figure.

  • In the Prologue as Isildur takes up 'his father's sword'. A slow, AAA figure--with each AAA phrase ascending and increasing in tempo--plays under a melody.

  • As Gandalf catches site of Minas Tirith. This version is quite fast creating the effect of pulses of music. ABA phrases moving, each set moving up and down in pitch, play alone for a few seconds, then under a brass fanfare as Minas Tirith comes into sight.

  • As Gandalf walks through the streets of Minas Tirith on his way to the library. The motif, an ABC version, can be heard clearly here as it plays alone under sparse percussive beats.

  • As Gandalf rides to madly to Isengard the Skip-beat Ostinato plays under a loud and brassy Fellowship Theme.

  • After the 4 Hobbits initial encounter with a Black Rider as Frodo tells them he must leave the Shire and Merry suggest Buckleberry Ferry. This ABA version plays rather quietly under sustained strings and is easier to hear on the CR-FOTR than it is in the movie.

  • The FOTR OST has some music heard at 1:28 Track 5: The Black Rider that is not in the movie. It's position amongst the other cues indicates it may be an alternate cue for the scene described above. The version here is ABC and is more aggressive and easier to hear than in the movie or on the CR.

  • There is a cue at 2:22 in FOTR Track 6: At The Sign Of The Prancing Pony that is not in the movie but was probably written for the scene when the Ringwraiths approach the beds in the Prancing Pony. The. A frantic ABA version of the Skip Beat plays under a brassy (non-sung) version of the Ringwraith Theme.

  • As the Hobbits run to the top of Amon Sūl. The 'Skip beat Ostinato' starts with an ABC variation, pauses and then resumes with an ABB variation.

  • As the Ringwraiths chase Arwen and Frodo on Asfoloth a quiet ABA version plays under a non-brassy (for once) variant of Sauron's Theme. That moves into some brassier music that uses a two beat variant of the Skip. The pounding heart-beat like motif continues for a bit and then moves an increasingly faster 3-beat version under the Ringwraiths' Theme. This is easier to hear on the CR-FOTR than on the OST.

Places this theme is heard in TTT:

  • When Sauron says, "Who now has the strength to stand against the armies of Isengard and Mordor." We see (for the first time in this movie) Barad-dur and the Skip Beat pounds away under Sauron's Theme.

  • As Grishnįkh emerges from the undergrowth of Fangorn Forest and Merry and Pippin realize they have not 'lost him'. The Skip Beat is combined with the 5 Beat Pattern and varies every few repetitions until it finally doesn't skip a beat anymore.

Places this motif is heard in ROTK:

  • A phrase 'somewhere between an inverted Threat of Mordor and the Mordor Skip Beat' is heard as Gandalf and Pippin discuss Mordor on the balcony of their rooms in Minas Tirith. (EE version) This version is an ABC version with the notes descending. I would say it bears more similarity to the Threat of Mordor than to the Mordor Skip Beat.

  • An interesting variation is heard as Sam accuses Gollum of stealing the lembas, and then Gollum returns the favor. This is an AAA version in that all the notes are the same. But the timing is in bars of six counts: 3 notes -- 3 silent counts then 5 notes -- 1 silent count.