How to Make Your Audience Feel Nostalgic


Nostalgia can be a powerful tool for artists to take advantage of, especially when it comes to adult marketing.

In this article we will see ways to use elements of the past to evoke musical nostalgia. .

Creating musical nostalgia is not only thinking tonally, the choice of timbre and the instrument can be so useful. Ask yourself, what instruments would my audience have heard in music, television shows and movies when they were children?

Whether it's about using 'children's instruments' such as toy pianos, ukuleles, tambourines, etc., or instruments that look and sound retro, like the Jangly Rickenbacker guitars, these elements help paint a delicate image of the sound world what are you trying to create

Have you ever returned to the grounds of your childhood and felt goosebumps because of a deep feeling of immediate nostalgia? Have you ever had the same feeling of watching TV or a movie?

There is something magical about a director or composer's ability to create that moving sense of looking back or the joy of feeling like a child again, and the cascade of emotions that accompany it, with image and sound. Depending on the project, it could be as simple as a well organized downward chord progression, or add a sound design to paint an expressive image of a particular moment in the time shared by many of us in our youth, such as a swing or a bell of wind, for example. But there really is not a magic trick that works all the time for all audiences

If you have the task of writing "nostalgic music"For a visual sequence, the key is in the subtle details of the context.

And while this is solid advice for any type of composer, it is especially important here. If you can adequately identify the audience for which you are writing, you can make them feel nostalgic by using the scale degrees and instruments they would have heard when they were younger. We will come back to this in a moment.

Think of your audience.

To play your listener musically, you need to know your listener. And the better you know your interlocutor, the better you can remember that interlocutor from your childhood. At this time you might ask yourself: But how well can you really know your audience?

Hans Zimmer has an answer: invest them! He said in an interview with Rolling Stone:

"I have a fictional person for whom I write. And her name is Doris, she's from Bradford and she's wearing a raincoat and she has two horrible children who do not give her more than grief. And you know, the man left her a while ago. And she alone, in the rain, every day, walks to work hard. "

He knows how many children his listener has. He knows where his listener lives. He knows what climate he does in his city. He goes on to say: "Sometimes my music editor tells me: 'What do you think? Do you think Doris is going to like this one? "

Of course, you do not need to know if your partner is wearing a raincoat or windbreaker. You only need to know the musical experiences of your listeners, and that is not so difficult to understand.

You can base yourself on many of these misinformed assumptions if you know both the audience to which you are writing and the basic context of the fictional world or the movie.

Are you writing for the millennials?

Many millennials went through their rebellious phases when emo music was at its height. With their shifting brains and furious hormones, the simple chord progressions and the key tones of emo and pop punk have probably been stamped on their subconscious as instant markers of this phase of their lives. Reorganizing a progression like vi-IV-I-V for non-guitar instruments will surely bring this audience back in subtle and emotional ways.

The same goes for the children of the 80s, 70s, 60s and so on. If you're writing in a context aimed at baby boomers, why do not you borrow the triads and chord progression I-VI-IV-V of the 1954 doo-wop song "Earth Angel"?

If you think about the music your listener was exposed to as a child, you can easily discover how to write to respond to his nostalgia at work. But it is important to remember that "nostalgia" can also be associated with feelings of sadness and loneliness, such as joy and comfort. As a composer, this is where it is important to play with instrumentation, timbre and tempo to get the right balance.

It uses degrees of scale from early childhood.

The previous section deals with the music that we, as young people, choose to listen to. But you can achieve similar results with melodic and intermediate relationships selected from children's music. Children's music is often written so simply that it is memorable for life, so when referring to those simple melodies it is sure that the audience will return to those first formative moments.

Let's imagine a childhood in which lullabies are heard, such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Merrily We Roll Along". Songs that focus on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades, small interval jumps, feel more familiar, more comfortable, and more nostalgic.

Look back to the television programs that were directed to young children over the decades and listen to their themes. For someone who was a child of the 90s in, say, the US, he probably watched many shows on PBS Kids, especially Arthur, and many Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Hercules.

When the songs and the musical pieces mimic the scale degrees of these programs and films and focus on the notes 1, 2, 3 and 5 on a scale, they give me a little back to my childhood.

It turns out that many of those Disney movies were rated by the same person, Alan Menken. Perhaps he was anticipating that this music would eventually remain within the subconscious of his audience when he wrote it.

Whether it is used by accident or on purpose, it tends to work. If you look closely at the melody of "Sugar, We 'Go' 'Down" from Fall Out Boy, you will notice that it puts the same concentration in those small-scale intervals. The first vocal line even sounds like a lullaby, with a mountain-style melody: D-E-F # -E-D-E-F # -E-D.

By thinking of your target listener, Fall Out Boy was able to successfully balance an aesthetic of youthful rebellion with a sound that was immediately comforting. That is one of the reasons why The Phoenix New Times said that this song "could be the most heard emo song of all time".

Do not forget to use instruments from childhood

Create musical nostalgia It's not just thinking tonally, the choice of timbre and the instrument can be just as useful. Ask yourself: What instruments would my audience have heard in music, television programs and movies when they were children?

This principle has been used by composers such as Adam Schlesinger, who wrote the title song of That Thing You Do !.

When the studio requested a song that sounds like The Beatles, Schlesinger decided to use instruments, style and production techniques similar to that period of time. If someone in their 40s or 50s entered the theater to watch the movie, they were immediately moved. Back to your youth. For those of us who are too young to have lived in the early 1960s, it is likely that our parents have presented us with The Beatles music at some point so that we also have our own development benchmark.

This attention to detail only serves to dress the context much closer, so that we get into the drama with little or no restriction. We are invited to participate in the world of the fictional band of the movie, The Wonders.


Anne-Marie's recent single "2002" paints a picture of the days when we were young, referring to the pre-adolescent pop songs of those children of the 90s. And if you're around 27, you can hear "2002" and To feel that the song takes you back to the days when you also sang with your childhood friends.

If you want your music to touch the feeling of nostalgia of your audience, you must know who your audience is, what they grew up in and what kind of sounds provide comfort and joy.

I guess it's not that far from what Hans Zimmer was talking about after all …

So, who is your Doris?

Did you like the article?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *