Music in Theatre – Improving Dramatic Effect Through Music

Music in theatre refers to a broad spectrum of music specifically composed or adapted especially for performance in theatres, as part of a production. Most popular styles of music from the past decades have been preserved in the form of contemporary music that is often used in television, film and video games. There are many genres of music from this century that is still in popular use today. Genres of contemporary theatre music include ballet, opera and many forms of contemporary modern theatre, from late night revues to stage musicals and ballets. Some popular examples of music from this century include songs from the Star Wars, operas from Mozart to TV shows like Doctor Who.

Musical Productions

An increasing number of modern productions are incorporating musical elements not only to enhance the experience of the audience but also to aid the plotlines, increase the emotional impact of the story and create an overall more memorable overall effect. Music in theatre is often used on both the main stage as well as in background during scenes where it is not suitable for amplification, for example when discussing difficult or quiet moments in between words. The most common music to be used in dramatic presentation is that which is used in orchestras – mainly wind musical instruments (windchimes, tubas and saxophones). There are also examples of incidental music in the theatrical industry, for example’Toll’ from Guys and “Odyssey” from Doctor Who.


Hip hop is a popular style of music developed in the 1980s that generally uses complex percussion and instrumentation, and sometimes vocals. Hip hop is similar to jazz in that it employs a similar rhythmic framework, but uses a different vocabulary. The difference lies in the fact that rap is much quicker, with a high pitched “growl” used frequently, whereas jazz is a slower paced tune with repeated notes and smooth vocals. Rap songs are mostly performed by non-artists, though some prominent ones (such as Jay Z’s” Roc La Familia” and Biggie Smalls “Paparazzi” featuring everyone from Michael Jackson to Jazzy Reasons) have been performed by jazz musicians. As with many styles of modern dance, there are examples of interpolated music in modern-day theatre. In Angels in America a number of shots are interspersed with spoken word, which makes for an interesting contrast with the straight-forward nature of most theatre.

History Of Musical Theatre

The term “astern theatre” generally refers to theatre that is predominantly based in England and has an English majority. Examples of this include classic such as Macbeth, Shakespeare’s King Lear and Henry Irving’s National Theater. Originating in the 18th century, it was popularized by the London Company, which produced such shows as An Ideal Husband, Egypt and Love. Some of these shows had only a few people in the cast, whilst others required a large number of actors and actresses to make up a full cast, making it a cheaper option than a traditional theatre.

While some may argue against using background music during a dramatic theatrical scene, those who favour its use point out that audiences expect it. They expect to hear music when a character walks across the street or a character cries out on a bridge. This expectation is usually what causes audience members to shed their inhibitions and engage with the show on an emotional level. The use of incidental music in theatre is therefore not only seamless but expected, creating a smoother experience for the audience, which may include those with hearing impairments or otherwise difficult experiences in life. As is the case with any other form of creative media, whether it be music sung by a character or played on a piano, the main factor in successful theatre is the talent of the performers.


If you are considering producing a play, a musical background during your drama is not only natural and therefore not hard to find, but will enhance the overall impact of the play. A musical accompaniment can help move the plot forward, heighten drama, add impact to characterisation and general atmosphere of a play. It can make or break a performance, so if you are looking to invest in theatre-related equipment, then considering the inclusion of some incidental music may be well worth your time and money. There are many types of musical instruments that can be used in theatre and these can include windchimes, harps, kites, sitar, keyboards, drums, and of course, guitars and acoustic guitars. Whether they are used in the production of a play, or just for the enjoyment of the audience, music in theatre is an integral part of the overall success of a production and is a vital part of the success of many artistic endeavours.