The music of the Middle-earth films was composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced by Howard Shore for Peter Jackson's two trilogies: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

The scores were written in a 19-century operatic idiom, making full use of a large symphony orchestra, world-music instruments, full choir and vocal soloists.

The music itself was created using a technique called leitmotif, which are a series of inter-related but distinct musical phrases (or "themes") that are associated with a character, a place, an event or setting, and tell the listener how to feel about them. These motifs are repeated throughout the music and vary in their expression to create a sense of progression throughout the story. Shore wrote an immense amount of leitmotifs: between well over 160 motifs to over 200.

Release and reception

In release and publication, the musical scores of the series were manifested in the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and the longer Compete Recordings. The original soundtracks became highly successful, commercially and critically. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King's scores won Academy Awards in 2002 and 2004. The Return of the King also won an Academy Award for the Best Song. The Two Towers was banned from a nomination based on a rule of the Academy against nominating sequel scores - a rule that was undone strictly to allow for the nomination of the The Return of the King score.

Composer, musicologist and music score journalist Doug Adams, worked with Howard Shore on documenting the scoring process. He subsequently released expansive liner notes, culminating in the release of a book, The Music of the Lord of the Rings films. The book for "The Music of the Hobbit films" is due to be released in late 2017.

Principal Leitmotifs

Listed below are the leitmotifs that have been definitely identified, by or with the aid of Doug Adams, in all of the various forms of the soundtracks. Where other, more debatable motifs exists, they are listed in the same bullet as the theme from which they branch out.

Themes for the Shire

The themes for the Shire are all stepwise melodies (with most of the them starting with the very same half-step figure) and are orchestrated for celtic instruments such as fiddle and tin whistle.

  • The Shire theme or The Shire pensive variant: One of the main themes of the series, this theme appears in all films. Doug Adams identifies this theme as having several variations which he labels as separate themes. Interestingly, he does not single out the "expanive" variant, which has been noted by several observers as a separate theme as well, although he does not distinguish it as neither the rural or the outright pensive variant.
    • The Hobbiton theme or The Shire rural variant: For the Hobbiton scenes, Howard Shore sets the Shire music to a celtic "band" led by a solo fiddle. The fiddler is allowed to improvise upon the basic melody, turning it into a distinct theme for Hobbiton. This theme has a "second-age" variant - which may be considered a theme in it's own right - which is used over the scene of Smeagol and Deagol.
    • Frodo's theme or the Shire "hymn" variant: This theme differs not in melody, but in harmony. It is, essentially, a series of hymn-like chords that often play underneath the Shire theme, which is usually slowed down during the occurrences of this motif.
      • ​"In Dreams":  In the end of the Fellowship of the Ring, Shore develops the hymn setting into a song for boy choir and soloist "In Dreams". Adams labels this song as a separate theme, informed by the previous appearances of Frodo's theme.
    • The Shire "playful" variant or Merry and Pippin's theme: The playful variant is close to the rural variant. It is used mostly as a theme for Merry and Pippin, although it's used more generally in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, when Bilbo runs out of his door.
    • Samwise the Hero or The Shire "heroic" variant: As Sam roams Minas Morgul, Shore develops the Shire theme into heroic music, interjected with brass fanfares. Adams considers this a new theme.
      • The Argument: Samwise helping Frodo, both in carrying him up Mount Doom and in picking his hand as he dangles above the Crack of Doom, is scored with a choral setting of "The Arguement". It is also used very briefly when The Eye lands on Frodo and Sam calls out for him.
    • The Shire "Lullaby" variant: As Merry and Pippin fall asleep in Fangorn, Shore twists the Shire theme into a lullaby. Adams dubs this as a separate "Lullaby" setting.
  •  A Hobbit's Understanding: When the Hobbits learn about the hardships of the world and their place in it, Shore uses a more emotional variation on the B-section of the Shire theme. This theme appears in An Unexpected Journey when Bilbo spares Gollum, and then in The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf advises Frodo in Moria. It's first grand statement is during the Breaking of the Fellowship, when Frodo chooses to go alone to Mordor, and again when Samwise encourages him at the end of The Two Towers.
  • Meriadoc the Warrior: As Merry turns into an Esquire of Rohan, he earns a new musical theme: a hybrid of the Shire theme, the Rohan theme and the B-phrase of the Fellowship theme.

Themes for ​Bilbo Baggins

  • Bilbo's Adventure: One of the main themes of the The Hobbit series. It is closely related to the main Shire theme, opening in the same manner and being often played on a solo tin whistle. It, too, has a heroic variant, which may or may not be classified as a separate theme.
  • Bilbo Baggins theme: Bilbo had another main theme, which went mostly unused in An Unexpected Journey and in subsequent soundtrack releases, being replaced by the Shire theme or Bilbo's Adventure.
    • Bilbo's "Tookish" side: Bilbo's theme ends in a phrase for recorder or horn which is more akin to the Dwarvish music. Throughout the soundtrack (especially in the film version) this phrase turns into a separate motif for Bilbo's "Tookish", more adventurous side.
  • Fussy Bilbo: When Bilbo is out of his element, particularly around the Dwarves, he is portrayed by a lilting tune that sounds more in the vein of music from the baroque or classical period, making it sound out-of-place within the more antique and romantic music of Middle-earth, just as Bilbo is out of place with the Dwarves.
  • Sneaky BilboIn The Desolation of Smaug, as Bilbo asserts himself, he earns a new more suspenseful theme that quickly replaces his fussy theme. This theme is used when he leads the Dwarves out of the Woodland Realm, and when he sneaks the Arkenstone to Bard.

Minor Motifs

  • Gandalf's Fireworks: This is one of several motifs which Howard Shore conceived first as "incidental" music during The Lord of the Rings, but than reprised in The Hobbit, turning them into themes after the fact. When Merry and Pippin set off a firework (fashioned after Smaug) in Bilbo's birthday Party, Shore spins the Hobbit accompaniment motifs into an orchestral crescendo. In An Unexpected Journey, he reprises the phrase several times in association with Bilbo's childhood memories of Gandalf's Fireworks. He also creates a dark variation for the dragon firework in the opening credits of The Desolation of Smaug, linking the Firework to the titular Dragon.
  • Smoke Rings: In The Fellowship of the Ring, as Bilbo and Gandalf smoke pipe weed and blow smoke rings, Shore draws out of the opening phrase of the Shire theme on a solo whistle. In the Hobbit, he scores a similar scene with the same gesture, but the dissonance at the end of the phrase is in a higher key - a hint of the opening harmonies of the theme for the History of the One Ring.
  • Birthday Preparations: In The Fellowship of the Ring, Shore ends a statement of the Hobbit theme with a unique staccato finale figure, just as Bilbo's "Happy Birthday" sign is raised. In An Unexpected Journey, the same figure is used when Bilbo receives the replies to the party invitations.
The Hobbit Accompaniment motifs
  • The Heartbeat of the Shire: though arguably too generic to be a motif, this heartbeat-like pattern that plays under the Hobbiton theme, is transported across much of the music of Middle-earth, including the "The Last Goodbye", "Into the West" and "Use Well the Days."
  • The Hobbit Outline Figure: Much of the music of The Hobbit, particularly the Hobbiton theme, is backed up by a 4-note motif that illustrates the excitement of Hobbits and their "anticipation of the next thing." This figure develops as the story progresses and by the end of The Return of the King it is transformed into a "fourth-age" variant.
  • The Hobbit Two-Step Figure: A more "playful" motif, this music also accompanies the more folksy or playful variations of the Hobbit music.
  • The Hobbit Skip-Beat: Like the Two-Step figure (with which it is often paired), the Hobbit Skip-Beat is another motif for Hobbit playfulness, which is used as an accompaniment to the main melody.
    • The Bree theme: The Hobbit Skip-beat evolves into darker variations throughout the story. When the four Hobbits first enter Bree, an imposing variation of it is played. In the Prologue to the Desolation of Smaug, this figure is revisited when Thorin walks down the streets of Bree.
  • The Hobbit End-Cap: The string of Hobbit Accompaniments used under the Hobbiton theme, usually concludes with a playful musical finale, which serves as it's own motif, usually for the bafflement of the Hobbits.
    • Hobbit Antics: Just like the Outline and Skip-Beat figures evolve, so too does the End-Cap figure. By the Two-Towers, it turns into a melody which is played over the most comical scenes with Merry and Pippin. a variation of it is also played when we see Smeagol and Deagol.


  • The Pity of Smeagol theme: Smeagol's theme is strongly connected to the shire music, to the weakness motif and to the History of the One Ring.
  • Gollum's Menace theme: For the Gollum side, Shore plays a tune on a Cimbalom, a relative of the Hammered Dulcimer used in the Hobbiton music.
  • Gollum's Song: The song in the end of the Two Towers is a conclusion of Gollum's themes. It is subtly incorporated into the score before the end credits.

Themes for ​the fourth Age

  • The Shire Reborn: Throughout The Return of the King, Shore develops the Shire theme. This process culminates in the music that closes the film, when he introduces a drastically changed variation on the main Shire theme, played on a concert flute. The theme is accompanied by a "fourth-age" variant of the Hobbit Outline motif.
  • Bilbo's Song: For the Extended Edition, Howard Shore wrote a new piece for boy choir that closes the end-credits, an amalgamation of the different shire themes, called "Bilbo's Song."
    • Frodo's Song: There are two alternate compositions to both Bilbo's Song and "Into the West", both called Frodo's Song. One was intended as a solo piece, and only exists as a mock-up with a solo humming voice.
    • The alternate Frodo's Song is a piece for solo flute played by Sir James Gallaway. It plays under the conversation track of the Rarities Archive, but has since been unearthed by fans in full.

Themes for the Dwarves

The music of the Dwarves is antique and stoic, often orchestrated for brass or low, rough male voices (in times replete with grunting voices). In terms of melody, Shore made his music for the Dwarves consistent with the Art Department's depiction of the Dwarves, where their architecture is portrayed as angular. Accordingly, the Dwarf music rises straight up, rather than rise and fall like the music of the Elves.

Themes for ​Durin's Folk

  • Durin's Folk: The Journey in the Dark through Moria is depicted by a droning all male choir singing in perfect fifths. Howard Shore reprised that music in the Hobbit (namely, in the Prologue as Erebor is covered in darkness), turning it into a recurring motif for the Dwarves in general. There is also a more dire variation for a mixed choir used twice in the prologue during the Sack of Dale.
    • Old Enemies: For the flashback to the Battle of Moria (Azanulbizar), Shore writes a more belligerant variant of the Dwarf choir, labeled as a separate theme. This theme is about the war of Dwarves and Orcs, the animosity of the two races and the personal conflict of Thorin and Azog.
  • The House of Durin: This theme applies to all the descendants of the House of Durin, including Thror, Thrain, Thorin, Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin, Gloin, Oin and Gimli. It is a close relative of Thorin's theme and is usually set for low men voices. It has a variation which some label as a separate motif for "The Dignity of the Dwarves."
    • There and Back Again: In the opening credits of An Unexpected Journey, Shore combines The History of the One Ring theme (which stands for the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and The House of Durin theme (which stands for the The Hobbit trilogy) and renders the resulting them in a major mode, in the fashion of the Shire music. This theme is reprised (on the album) near the end of the film, and again in the Battle of the Five Armies.
  • Dwarves in-Exile: As the Dwarves are forced out of Erebor, their music is bent into a rising and falling arpeggio form and is sung by a mixed choir of men and women voices. This figure denotes the exile and suffering of the Dwarves and their grudges (the arpeggio form being musically linked to weakness) but is also made to sound more "Elvish" in its rising and-falling nature and the use of female voices, indicating that the Dwarves blame the Elves for their misfortune.
  • The Dwarf End-Cap: This is a last nod to the Dwarvish music, used as a motif for Gimli and his antics in Return of the King. It is a "Dwarvish" relative of the Hobbit End-cap.

Themes for ​the Seven Dwarf Kingdoms

  • The Dwarf Lords: In his composition of the soundtracks for The Hobbit, Shore wrote a more heroic and optimistic theme for the Dwarves. This theme, presented as a concert suite called "The Dwarf Lords', was mostly replaced by other dwarf themes in the movie, but in makes subtle appearances: Once in An Unexpected Journey when Gandalf learns that Thorin is held back by a meeting with envoys from all seven dwarf kingdoms, once in the sequel when the hidden door is found, and one in The Battle of the Five Armies as an elegy during the battle's darkest hour.
  • Dain Ironfoot: For Dain and the Iron Hill Dwarves, Shore composed another theme in the more triumphant vein of the Dwarf Lords, complete with a pair of Highland Bagpipes. The theme is only introduced half-way into The Battle of the Five Armies, a musical "breath of fresh air". It is backed up by a march-like figure, which could be considered as a motif for the Dwarf cavalry.

Themes for the Khazad-dum

  • Moria: Moria is represented by an ascending, threatening motif. This is played throughout the action scenes of Moria and again in the opening of The Two Towers.
  • Dwarrowdelf: As the Fellowship enters the 21st hall of Moria, Shore introduces a theme for the Dwarf Kingdom of Moria. It is a grand orchestral gesture, but very melancholic, just as the grandeur of the Dwarf kingdom has decayed. It is used again in the battle of the chamber of the Mazarbul.
    • An Unexpected Party: As the Dwarves enter Bilbo's house, Shore plays the opening notes of the Dwarrowdelf theme in a major mode, adding instruments as more dwarves come in. The motif is also used when Gandalf first talks to Bilbo about "an adventure" and again when the Dwarves are gradually introduced to Beorn in a similar fashion.
  • The Dark Places of the World: Moria has another danger theme for blaring brass. This motif is associated with Moria's dangers and deep chasms.

Themes for the Kingdom under the Mountain

  • Erebor: Like the jagged mountain-side, the Erebor motif is a series of three rising horn-calls, followed by a descending phrase. It is played diegetically in the film at least once on a blowing horn, as a dirge for Thorin. There is also a heroic variant used in the Forest River and in the Dwarves' assault out of Erebor.
    • Moon Runes: As Elrond reveals the Moon Runes on Thror's map, the Erebor theme is played by violins and women voices (the high, "Elvish" sounds) while the Rivendell Arpeggios sound in the male voices and cellos (the low, "Dwarvish" sounds). As the hidden door is revealed, this hybrid theme is reprised.
    • Thrain: For Thrain, Shore composes a slow variant of the Erebor theme with a string arpeggio (a figure denoting weakness in the score), to mourn the fall of the Dwarvish king into madness in the dungeons of the Necromancer.
  • Thorin: This theme rises constantly, much like the Erebor theme, but does so in steps, more like the Hobbit music, linking Thorin to Bilbo. In the process of mixing this theme with the Erebor theme, several variations are created, with at least one of them dubbed sometimes as a motif for Thorin's Triumph. Other variations have been identified more clearly:
    • Thorin's Pride: In the closing tracks of the soundtrack to An Unexpected Journey, Howard Shore sets the harmony of Thorin's theme to a mixed choir, first humming it when he talks about the missing Bilbo, and later in force when he assaults Azog with abandon.
    • The Map of the Lonely Mountain: In The Fellowship of the Ring, Shore composed a little musical figure for Gandalf's glance at the map of the Lonely Mountain, a "portent of an adventure." In The Hobbit, the purpose of this gesture was revealed as it was not only reprised as a motif, but also served as the basis for Thorin's theme and for the theme of Gandalf the Grey.
    • Thorin's Fate: In Thorin's final stand against Azog, a solo soprano laments his ultimate fate. The melody for this solo is foreshadowed as the Dwarves first reach Ravenhill and before that as a maddened Thorin looks at the Elvish garrison of Dale.
  • The Arkenstone: This theme is in Dwarvish fashion, but has musical colors that are more closely associated with the music of nature, such as cooing female voices and violas. This theme is also used to represent the Map and the Key.
  • Dwarvish Warriors: As the Dwarves are besieged in Erebor by Elves, Shore introduces a martial motif for the war preparations. The melody for this motif is a relative for a similar motif for the army of the Woodland Realm.
  • The Company theme: For Thorin and Co. Shore takes the melody of the Old Walking Song (composed by Plan 9 and David Longe) and introduces it orchestrally. This theme was left out of the sequels, where Shore and the filmmakers felt that removing it's heroic tune would reinforce the sequels' darker tone. While based on the melody of "Misty Mountains", Shore's setting utilizes Thorin's theme as a countermelody and is fashioned much like the Fellowship theme. Also sharing the basic melody, but again in a completely different setting, is Stephen Gallaghar and Neil Finn's "Song of the Lonely Mountain."
  • The Quest of Erebor theme: Shore originally wrote an original theme for the Company, but this went mostly unused in favor of the Plan 9 melody. Shore's original composition is nevertheless present in the first film, serving as a secondary theme for the company and their quest, often quoted after a reprise of the main company theme. It is a "Dwarvish" variation on Bilbo's Adventure theme, used in the beginning of the Trollshaws fight and again as the Dwarves defy Azog's band in the finale. It appears as a concert suite in the track "Erebor", complete with Uilleann Pipes, the musical instrument of the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, sharing the Celtic flavor of the music of the nearby Shire.
  • Mithril Vest: The oboe line used when Bilbo gives Frodo the Mithril vest, is the same as when Thorin gives it to Bilbo.

Themes for the Elves

The Elvish music is the opposite of the music of the Dwarves in that it is scored for women voices and high strings. In its more ancient and closed-off form (as with Lorien and the Woodland Realm) it is painted with exotic, Near-Eastern instrumentation to denote both the antiquity of the Elvish culture and their uniqueness.

  • Elvish Pledge: This theme applies to Elves in general. It appears over the reveal of the Doors of Durin, standing for the alliance they had with the kingdom of Eregion, and appears again as the Elves come to the aid of Rohan in Helm's Deep.

'Themes for the Hidden Valley"

  • Rivendell: The theme for Rivendell is more sacrilegious, formal and soothing, and yet touched with sadness. It is a melody for female choir, accompanied by tolling chimes.
    • The Rivendell Arpeggios: The Rivendell theme is mostly accompanied by String Arpeggios (a figure related to weaknesses) that relates to Elrond's internal conflict. The Arpeggios and melody are sometimes set apart.
  • The Valley of Imladris: For An Unexpected Journey, Shore wrote a diegetic piece which the Elves play on lute and lyres. This serene piece is also played in the underscore in a more martial guise when Elrond's Riders approach the Company.
Themes for Arwen
  • Arwen Revealed: Arwen's main theme is used only twice, first when she is revealed to Frodo in Fellowship, and then she is revealed to Aragorn in The Return of the King.
    • Elvish Medicine: When Arwen prays for Frodo to survive his wound, the women choir sing a melody that begins like her theme but than descends into a different coda. This motif was also used in the Desolation of Smaug as Tauriel heals Kili, thereby becoming a motif.
  • The Diminishment of the Elves: The concept of the departure of the Elves to the west is connected to Arwen, who is named "Evenstar".
  • Evenstar: In The Fellowship of the Ring, Arwen and Aragorn's love is represented by Enya's Aniron. In following installments, Shore introduces a theme for solo Soprano, choir and alto flutes for their love. This theme is minor keyed as the notion of mortal life hovers above Arwen.
  • Arwen's Song: In The Return of the King, Arwen's music is summed up in a song for Liv Tyler. There is also a mock-up of an alternate tune intended for that moment, called Gwenwin In-In (Shadows Lie Between Us), which can be considered as another theme. The original song intended for the scene in the Houses of Healing, Asea Aranion, is also linked to Arwen and the music of the Elves.

Themes for Lothlorien

  • Galadriel's theme or Lothlorien theme: This theme is set an adapted Maqam-Hijaz, a Middle-eastern musical mode, and it features droning eastern instruments like Monochord. It is minor keyed and somewhat unsettling, contributing to the ambiguous air of the Lorien Elves when they are first introduced. Closely related to the Lothlorien theme are the Lament for Gandalf and the related Lament for Haldir, as well as the two alternate (but related) pieces of Farewell to Lorien.
  • Galadriel's Powers or Nenya's theme: As Galadriel banishes Sauron, Shore quotes a phrase he used when she appears in a similar fashion before Frodo, creating in the process a theme for Galadriel's power or rather for the power of her Elven Ring.

Themes for the Woodland Elves

  • The Woodland Realm theme: This theme is also exotic and something unsettling like the Lorien theme.
    • The White Gems of Lasgalen: The White Gems are associated with Legolas' mother (who is deceased in the films), and are scored with a truncated form of the Woodland Realm theme, set for very ethereal voices.
    • Legolas' theme: In The Hobbit, Legolas is represented by a variation of the Woodland Realm theme, where the A-phrrase is played uptempo and over major harmonies, stressing his swashbuckling character.Atn the end of the series, he is attached to the Fellowship theme instead.
      • Legolas' Heroic Feats: As Legolas topples the Mumak, he is scored with a piece of swirling string melody, interjected with the Fellowship theme. As he fights the Orcs in Bard's house in the Hobbit, that music is reprised, this time interjected with the Woodland Realm theme.
  • Thranduil's theme: For the Elvenking, the Woodland Realm theme is reshaped into an Arpeggio, telling the listener of this Sindar's weaknesses.
  • Silvan Warriors:  The army of the Woodland Realm is represented by a martial melody, first when they put the Dwarves into cells and again when they besiege the Lonely Mountain. This theme is a relative of the theme for the Dwarves' war preparations.
  • Tauriel's theme: Tauriel is scored with a variant of the B-section of the Woodland Realm theme. Her theme is often played in a very brash and heroic form, but it also has a more pensive setting for choir or woodwinds, perhaps a motif in it's own right.
    • Tauriel and Kili's theme: As Tauriel and Kili bond, a theme develops out of Tauriel's music. First starting with a duet for flute and oboe and continuing in a solo soprano voice singing in alternating Sindarin and Khuzdul phrases. Their theme, much like Evenstar, is touched with sadness - here in the embryonic form of the Evil Times or loss motif. Often, this theme is preceded by a short, more "Dwarvish" phrase, linked perhaps to the Runestone.

Themes for The World of Men

The Music for the world of men is more diverse than the other cultures, but it is generally brassy and heraldic and yet decayed and saddened.

  • Battlfield Heroism theme: This theme was originally aligned strictly with Gondor and used for the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but in The Battle of the Five Armies it is applied to the people of Laketown at least twice.

Themes for Esgaroth

  • The Laketown theme: Laketown is represented by a piece of Baroque-esque sea-shanty music for brass, recorders and tambourines.
  • The Politicians of Laketown: For the Master of Laketown, Shore composed a piece for Clavichord and cellos, stressing the vein nobility of the character. Parts of the melody are also applied as a theme for Alfrid Lickspittle, the master's councilor.
Themes for Bard
  • Girion's theme or the Black Arrow theme: Girion's theme is played on brass but is often painted in Dwarvish hues with a male choir. It, like Bard's other themes, shares an opening interval with the Erebor theme. His theme is later applied to the Black Arrow and also attached to the heroism of his descendants, Bard and Bain.
  • Bard's main theme: Bard's theme starts off very moody and suspicious, as par his depiction in the film, but slowly gathers its nobility and becoming heroic, much like the theme of Girion.
  • Bard's family theme: Bard's family is scored with a theme that combines the A-section of the Shire theme and the B-section of the Politicians' theme: It shares the warm, homely feeling of the Shire theme, as opposed to the greedy, exploitative sentiment behind the politicians' theme.
  • King Bard's theme: As Bard leads the people of Laketown into the ruins of Dale, he earns a new theme that speaks to his leadership. Whereas his main theme is bold and heroic, this theme is burdened with suffering of his people.
  • Bard and the People of Laketown theme or Dale Reborn: As Bard becomes the leader of the lake people, his theme starts mingling with the Laketown theme. The end of Bard's theme attaches itself to the Laketown theme and his harmonies affect the theme, turning into either a heroic march (in "Mithril") or an elegy (in "The Darkest Hour").

Themes for Rohan

  • The Rohan Fanfare: The theme of Rohan is played on brass, violas, and a Norse hardanger fiddle. It is meant to be heroic, but brittle. As with the Laketown theme, it is very folksy and northern-sounding with the inclusion of the Hardanger.
  • The Riders of Rohan: This is a small motif for Éomer and his riders heard in the early parts of The Two Towers.
Themes for Eowyn
  • Eowyn's main theme: Eowyn's theme is heard as we first see her running up the stairs to see the wounded Theodred. It is used again in very moody settings before an outright heroic setting when she goes off to battle with Merry.
  • Eowyn and Theoden: This theme shares the opening gestures and harmony as Eowyn's main theme, but is more developed. Its first use is when Theoden, revived, recognises her, but it is also heard triumphantly when she defeat the Witch-king.
  • Eowyn and Aragorn: This theme is similar to the Eowyn and Theoden theme, but ends in a more emotional coda. It is only introduced when she asks to fight besides Aragorn in Helm's Deep, and returns several times in Return of the King, before appearing brittle on a double fiddle as Aragorn departs to the Paths of the Dead. Eventually, Eowyn's themes are resolved into a tune for Eowyn and Faramir.

Themes for the Men of the West

Themes for the second age
  • The Realm of Numenore: Heard only in an alternate version of the Prologue, this theme starts off like the other Gondor themes, but ends in a different coda to both the Decline and Ascension variations.
  • Isildur's theme: As Isildur stands up to Sauron, a variation of Aragorn's theme is heard mixed with the Barad-dûr theme. This motif returns again as we see Isildur's company in train.
Themes for the third age
  • The Realm of Gondor in Decline: This is the main Gondor theme. Whereas the Rohan and Laketown music is very folksy, this theme is very stately and noble. Even it its most heroic, it ends with a descending phrase, signaling the decline of Gondor.
  • The Realm of Gondor In Ascension: When Aragorn's theme attaches itself to Gondor, it replaces the decline figure with it's own ascending ending, creating the theme for Gondor in Ascension.
  • Minas Tirith or The White Tree theme: This theme is the most noble in the Gondor collection. It, again, shares an opening with the main Gondor theme, but goes into a more emotional coda. It has only a couple of triumphant statements, where it is underlined by the Rivendell Arpeggios, perhaps an Anduril motif.
  • The Stewards of Gondor: Faramir and Denethor have a theme that is related to the Threat of Mordor. It is often played on Pan Flute.
Themes for the fourth age
  • Gondor Reborn: The Minas Tirith theme develops into a more celebratory music used in Aragorn's coronation. It is also used in the fall of Barad-dûr, partially in a more general, "romantic" sense of "good triumphs over evil." The same can be said for it's application in the end of An Unexpected Journey.

Themes for the Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring has its own distinct pool of themes. It is stately like the themes for the world of men (of which two of its members are a part), but also made to wed well with the Shire theme, which often plays before or after it. Its opening, a down and-up figure, is the exact opposite of the opening to the theme of the Ring, which is in its title.

  • The Fellowship of the Ring: This theme is colloquially known as the main theme of the series, even though the Shire and History of the One Ring theme are more eligible for that title. It does however, have over ninty appearances in various guises. It is hinted at subtly in The Hobbit before an outright but brief quote at the end when Legolas goes to find Aragorn. It is the signature theme of the first Lord of the Rings film, which carries the name of the Fellowship. Isildur's theme, a close relative of the Fellowship theme, appears twice in the prologue, prefiguring the fellowship theme. Its first full statement is with the corresponding title. It is used again when Frodo and Sam leave the Shire, with just one Horn for the pair. As Merry and Pippin and Aragorn join, the brass triples as well, leading up to three full statements as the Fellowship is formed and as it departs Rivendell. It reaches it's most heroic in the Mines of Moria, but than deconstructs after the fall of Gandalf, turning into a dirge at the death of Boromir. It spends the following two films recovering, before being unleashed in full chorus as Aragorn charges the black gate.
  • The Drive of the Fellowship: The Fellowship also has a little action ostinato used twice in the Moria action scenes.
  • The White Rider and the Fellowship: The most prominent theme for Gandalf the White is the theme for the White Rider. This theme usually appears in a lush, waltz-time variation.
  • Strider's theme: Aragorn's theme starts off moody and suspicious when he is first encountered in Bree. It develops into more heroic as he saves the Hobbits and attemps to save Boromir, but maintains a perfect fourth interval that hampers it's true heroic glory.
    • ​Aragorn's theme: Only in The Return of the King does Aragorn's theme lose its hesitant interval, turning into the outright Heroics of Aragorn theme.
    • The Grace of the Valar: Based on Aragorn's theme but also related to Arwen's song and to one of the settings of "The Missing", this song appears when Aragorn and revived and reunites with Brego. It is reprised in Shore's composition to the Return of the King Trailer.
  • ​The Fellowship in Rohan: Even as the members of the Fellowship bicker with Eomer, Shore starts to mingle the Fellowship theme and Rohan's theme. As the story progresses, this combination turns into a new theme, reaching it's definitive form when Gimli leaps into the lines of Uruk-hai to save Aragorn.

Themes for the Forces of Evil

The music for all of the forces of Evil is linked. Generally, this music is highly chromatic, full of half-steps and descending figures. In it's most antique forms, it can be very "ethnic" in intervals or instrumentation or very sacrilegious. In other times it is more clumsy (as with the Trolls) or very psychedelic (as with the Spiders) or moody (as with the One Ring).

Themes for the One Ring

  • The History of the One Ring: This theme is the closest that the Lord of the Rings trilogy has to a "main theme". It forms the basis not only for the rest of the evil music, but also to The Hobbit's theme and the weakness arpeggio. It is used in frequently in The Hobbit, the music hinting at this theme as early as the opening credits and leading up to it's first revelation where the music starts in a major key. There is a related, more aggressive theme for The Evil of the Ring, which is ostensibly Sauron's theme.
    • The Ring of Power: Throughout The Lord of the Rings, the different ring themes mingle: first, the History of the Ring mingles with the Evil of the Ring theme (Sauron's theme), The History and Seduction theme and finally the Evil and Seduction theme. In Mount Doom, all three themes are mixed as Frodo is tempted by the Ring for the last time.
  • The Seduction of the Ring: The seduction theme is first suggested when Gandalf is reading the account of Isildur: the lyrics of the Seduction theme are sung by a mixed choir in rising pitch. The proper melody is first hummed by the boy choir when Gandalf warns Frodo not to put the ring on, and than sung when it calls out to Boromir.
  • The Prophecy: This melody is attached to a choral text used in the original take on the prologue (and one of it's alternate forms). A part of it survived it to the finished prologue and is also reprised when Galadriel talks to Elrond in the Two Towers. It is associated with the corrupting power of the ring.
  • The Fate of the Ring: This theme is introduced only once, in the Two Towers when Gandalf explains that Sauron fails to understand their plan to destroy the Ring.
Themes for the fourth Age
  • The Destruction of the Ring: As the Ring is destroyed, the Fate of the Ring transitions into a major key and the Destruction of the Ring theme is sung.

Themes for the Hill of Sorcery

  • The Necromancer's theme: This is a version of Sauron's theme with a changed ending creating a sense of absence.
  • The Dol Guldur theme: This theme is a pair of Descending Thirds in the low reach of the orchestra. As the might of Dol Guldur is fully revealed, the theme becomes more menacing.
  • The Threat of Dol Guldur: This theme is more active and forms the basis to the Mordor Skip-Beat and the Threat of Mordor motives.
  • The Nine: As Gandalf reveals the Resurrection of the nine Ringwraiths, a solo soprano sings a variation on the theme for the Istari, hinting at the theme of the Servants of Sauron.
Themes for the Orc Chieftains
  • Azog's Theme: Hinting at Azog's connection with the Necromancer, his theme is also a pair of descending thirds, only more aggressive and ending in a "musical barb." In the third film, the barb evolves into an elongated trumpet call, serving as Azog's Army motif.
    • Bolg's theme: Doug Adams identifies a variation of the Descending Thirds associated with Bolg as a separate theme.
  • Gundabad: Gundabad and its forces (including the bats) are represented by a march tune based on the descending thirds, set to the off-beat Gundabad rhythm on percussion and Didgeridoos.

Themes for the Land of Shadows

  • Sauron's theme: Sauron's theme is the developed form of the Necromancer theme. often played by a morrocan Rhaita.
    • Sauron Revealed: a far more aggressive variation, played when the Witch-king appears over Minas Morgul, is also used once in the Desolation of Smaug, and is repeated in the film, The Battle of the Five Armies.
  • Minas Morgul theme: Another figure turned into a theme after the fact, this building music used before the gates of Minas Morgul was reused when Gandalf is scaling the High Fells.
  • Mount Doom: The Mountain of Fire is sounded by two alternating chords, derived from the harmony to Gollum's theme.
  • The Threat of Mordor: This motif is used as a danger motif on it's own, or as an accompaniment ostinato for the other mordor themes.
    • The Way to Mordor: a truncated variant of the Threat of Mordor.
  • The Servants of Sauron: This theme is mostly associated with the Ringwraiths, but is also applied several times to Sauron, his orc armies and - once - to Azog. Its secondary harmonies also underline the Goblin and Warg themes in The Hobbit. This theme is a combination of the different accompaniment motifs of Mordor and the Threat of Mordor ostinato, played under a chorus based on the notes of the ring theme stacked together. In the Lord of the Rings Symphony, Shore slaps the composition "The Black Rider" with the choral piece from "The Treason of Isengard", accentuating the connection of the piece for Saruman's Betrayal with the Servants' of Sauron theme.
  • The Footsteps of Doom: This motif is the first two beats of the Servants of Sauron theme played repeatedly. It often serves as an end-cap to that theme.
Mordor Accompaniment motifs
  • The Mordor Skip Beat: This is the mature form of the Threat of Dol Guldur. It is the main danger or chase motif of Mordor and the basis for the Threat of Mordor theme. This theme has several guises, the most unique variation becoming almost a pulsating chase motif. This distinction is especially important given the use of the devolved Skip-Beat in The Hobbit, charting a progression from the Threat of Dol Guldur through to the Chase motif.
  • The Mordor Outline or Sauron's Forces: This is a drum-beat that applies to Sauron's armies and to forces allied with him such as the Haradrim or Saruman.
  • Barad Dur: The final form of the Descending Thirds.

Themes for the fourth age

  • The Power of Mordor: This theme is both the second-age version of the Servants of Sauron theme (as used in the original take on the prologue) and the theme that represents the possibility of Sauron's victory coming into the fourth age.
  • The Witch-king of Angmar: This theme is a hybrid of the threat of Saruman's theme and the inverted Threat of Mordor. It was originally going to be used in the High Fells sequence in The Hobbit but was replaced by "The Nine."
    • The Orcs of Mordor: After the demise of the Witch-king, the Orc armies that assemble at the Morannon are scored with a devolved version of this motif, backed up by the Orcs' theme.

Themes for the Orcs

  • The Goblin theme: In Goblin-town, Shore introduces a theme for shrill brass and metal percussion that changes meters constantly, but always revolves around the 5/4 time-signature. The theme has a more melodic form used when the Great Goblin is introduced, and later becomes more frenetic and backed up by a Dwarvish choir as they escape.
  • Gundabad Wargs: The Gundabad Wargs have a 14-note theme which is related to the later Cruelty of the Orcs theme.
  • The Orcs' theme: The Orcs' theme is most apparent with the Isengard Orcs. It is a 5/4 time figure for metal percussion such as anvils.
  • The Cruelty of the Orcs: This theme applies to the Orcs' steeds and war machines.

Themes for Isengard

  • Saruman's theme or the Isengard theme: This theme is usually played on ominous brass. When Saruman is revealed in An Unexpected Journey, it appears with him for a brief quote.
  • Grima Wormtongue: Grima's theme is scored for low woodwinds and brass, alienating him from the themes of Rohan.
  • The Orc Crawl: This melody is sung by the choir as Lurtz shows up and shoots Boromir. It is used in The Two Towers as the Uruk-hai company is chased by the Fellowship.
  • The Uruk-hai in Battle: This motif is used for the Uruk-hai army that sets siege to Helm's Deep.

Themes for the Monsters of Middle-earth

  • The Watcher in the Water: The Watcher's music is first hinted before the gates of Moria open. It makes room for some percussive music for the Moria orcs, and than returns in force. It is related to the other monster music but is more in the vein of music used in film to score alien monsters.
  • The Mumakil: The Mumakil theme is repeated in both The Two Towers and The Return of the King. It features a bowed Dilruba (without using the fingernails to stop the strings as per custom), and is the only thematic music made for the East of Middle-earth.
  • Durin's Bane: The Balrog's theme underlines a lot of the Bridge of Khazad-dum music in the percussion and choir. It returns to Gandalf's battle with the Balrog in the prologue to The Two Towers.

Themes for the Spawn of Ungoliant

  • Mirkwood Spiders' theme: the spider music was conceived as an intentional departure from the sound of Middle-earth and into music more reminiscent of horror and monster films. The spiders' theme is an 8-note "stinger". They are also associated with other motifs in The Desolation of Smaug, like a 2-note figure on piccolos, perhaps a motif for the Spider's lair.
  • Shelob's theme. Shelob's theme is the most horror-like music, feeling almost like a film within-a-film. There is also a bit of music for Shelob's cave.

Themes for the Trolls

  • Hill Trolls: the three hill trolls, tom, bill and bert are associated with a Waltz-humoresque motif that represent their clumsiness and dull wits, but also their weight and strength. It mingles with the weakness arpeggio, becoming almost a motif for the troll-hoard.
  • Cave Troll: The Moria Cave Troll is also scored with a motif that accents his weight, but one that makes him slightly sympathetic, since his depiction in the film is one of a chained beast rather than an outright villain.
  • Ogres: The Battle of the Five Armies introduces Ogres, which are only peripherally mentioned in Tolkien's writings, as an offshoot of trolls. Shore applied an aggressive motif to them, in line with his weighty motifs for trolls in general, but also aligned with the descending thirds.

Themes for Smaug

  • Dragon Breath: A series of alternating chords that simulate Smaug's breath play underneath his music. After his demise, this motif is applied to Thorin's dragon sickness.
  • Smaug's main theme.
  • Smaug's Malice: an inversion of Smaug's theme, used for his more malicious demeanor. After his demise, a variation of that theme becomes Thorin's Dragon Sickness theme.
  • Smaug's Fate: Smaug's themes are culminated when he is toppled by the gold statue and again when he is struck with the black arrow.

Themes for Middle-earth

  • Weakness motif: this arpeggio is applied to various characters and forms the basis of various similar arpeggiated figures in various themes.

Themes for the Quest of Erebor

  • Pine Glades of the Misty Mountains: This motif is used in the finale of An Unexpected Journey for the glade where the Dwarves take shelter on trees. The motif mimics the toppling of the trees by the wargs.
  • Chasms of Goblin-Town: This motif is used when the Dwarves fall into Goblin town, when they fall off of the ledge with the Goblin King and when they are about to fall off of the side of the Misty Mountains.
  • Elvish Blades: this oboe line is used when Gandalf first draws out Glamdring. It is reprised when Bilbo picks up Sting in Gollum's cave and when Orcrist is revealed to the Goblins.
  • The Forest River: there is distinct writing for strings that swirling underneath the Forest River sequence.
  • Death Motif: this motif is a devolved form of the Evil Times motif from The Lord of the Rings, here applied to loss. It is played in full after Fili's death, and again after Thorin has defeated Azog, but suffered a mortal wound in doing so.

Themes for the Quest of the Ring

  • The Journey There: this theme appears when Frodo and Sam roam the Shire, and again when they are seen resuming their travels with Gollum in the beginning of The Return of the King. It is based heavily on the History of the Ring theme, giving a somber feeling to the journey.
  • Evil Times: This theme relates to the suffering inflicted through the quest to destroy the ring and - eventually - through the War of the Ring in general.
  • Dangeorus Passes: Whenever the Ringbearer passes treacherous paths, like the pass of Caradhras, the way to Moria or the stairs of Cirith Ungol, this motif is used.
  • The Argonath: Technically, this motif appears both in the film as the company pass the Argonath, but also in the Fan Credits where another take on it is presented.
Theme for the fourth age
  • The Journey Back: Whereas the Journey there is based on the melancholy ring theme, the Journey Back is based on the comforting Shire theme. It is used in the start of An Unexpected Journey as a "book-end" to the serie, seeing as how Bilbo's Adventure is related to it anyway.

Themes for the Gloom of Middle-earth

  • Shadow over Greenwood: When Radagast discovers the sickness of Greenwood, the boy choir sings an ominous line. The same line is used when Gandalf brings the Morgul blade, a further sign of growing shadow, to the White Council.
  • The High Fells: Technically, this music appears twice, first in the track "Into the Wild" which is an early take on the High-Fells sequence when it was slated to appear in the first film, and again in the second film where it ended up being.
  • Mirkwood: Mirkwood has a six-note tune for the Elven road, that is strangely reminiscent to Smaug's theme. The composer makes a strong connection between the deception of Smaug and the deception brought on by the air of the forest of Mirkwood: as the Dwarves are lost in the forest, the motif is swallowed up by the musical texture of Mirkwood, which again like Smaug's theme is full of bowed cymbals, tibetan bowls and waterphones. The musical texture of Mirkood recalls and informs the music of the Dead Marshes.
  • The Fall of Men: this short motif is used when Elendil falls, and again when Boromir succumbs to the temptation of the Ring, book-ending The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • A Noble End: This applies more to noble sacrifice, and is used predominantly at the death of Boromir and when various characters recall it. It is also used for Theoden's impending demise.
  • Nameless Fear: Another close relative of the Ring theme, this motif is used in the Prologue as hear of a "nameless fear" and again when Frodo panics and offers the Ring to Gandalf. It is also used when Galadriel talks to Elrond in The Two Towers.
  • Emyn Muil: This melancholy choir appears only once in the finished album, but three times in the original take, which appears in the Rarities.
  • The Army of the Dead: The Dead Men of Dunharrow have a theme for a choir or deep or russian bass singers.

Themes for "Another Path"

  • Gandalf's Farewells: This motif is best known for it's appearance after Gandalf falls, but its used subtly in various scenes, including Gandalf's final farewell when he sails to the west, but also in places that don't have to do with Gandalf's demise. When Sam and Frodo are seemingly about to meet their demise outside of Mount Doom, this theme sounds continuously. The music either foretells Gandalf's impending rescue, scoring Frodo's memories of Gandalf's fireworks or rather tells us that the Hobbits are thinking they are about to rejoin Gandalf in death. It is also used in the very beginning of The Hobbit when Bilbo is walking around Bag End, more as a "book-end" to the series than a reference to anything in the scene, but also as Bilbo is about to meet Gandalf again.
  • The Grey Havens: This theme is also the tune of "Into the West". It is a close relative of Gandalf's Farewells and relates to Valinor just as much as to Lindon and the Grey Havens themselves. This theme doesn't appear in and of it's own before the second half of The Return of the King, offering a musical "breath of fresh air." It is used when Gandalf tells Pippin about Valinor, when Sam carries Frodo up Mount Doom, and in the final scens in the Grey Havens.
    • "Use Well the Days": An Alternate composition for the Grey Havens exists in the bonus track "Use Well the Days", also by Annie Lennox.

Themes for Nature

  • Nature's Reclamation: One of the main themes of the series, this theme is the main theme of nature, a series of ever-rising chords, usually set to pure tones of boy soprano voice or violins. It is used for the Moth that Gandalf uses consistently to call on the Eagles, as well as for the Last March of the Ents. It is used to the sunrise behind the assault of the Rohirrim in Helm's Deep and in the Pelennor Fields, and in one statement leading up to the latter, as the Rohirrim leave Edoras to war.
  • Shadowfax' theme: This theme is not listed by Doug Adams because it only appears in the Original Soundtrack Release and not in the Complete Recordings. It is used instead of the incidental choral piece that the finished film uses for the reveal of Shadowfax, and again when Gandalf leads the Rohirrim to Helm's Deep.
  • Stone Giants: The Stone Giants have a motif that makes up most of the music in "A thunder Battle" in the Hobbit: a series of brass clusters that resemble the rocks they through around.
  • Eagle Rescue: In the film version of An Unexpected Journey, Howard Shore wrote a new solo piece for the Eagles' rescue. The same piece is quoted briefly when the Eagles arrive at the Battle of the Five Armies.
  • The Eagles: Also present in An Unexpected Journey (album version) is a subtle allusion to the melody of "The Eagles" from The Return of the King, turning it into a new theme for nature.
  • Beorn: Beorn's theme is a slow, pondering theme that illustrates his size and strength, layered over a harmony derived from Nature's Reclamation. Doug Adams mentions that the harmony often appears on it's own, perhaps a motif for the Wilderland.

Themes for the Ents

  • Fangorn theme: This theme is a series of chords for wooden instruments in the percussion section, low strings and woodwind sections. It tells of the slow, careful nature of the Ents, and of their underlying strength.
  • Treebeard's Stride
  • "Small Stones" motif: This motif links the Ents to the Hobbit music and illustrates the effect of Merry and Pippin on the Ents.

Themes for the Wizards

  • Gandalf the Grey: this theme appears in the Hobbit trilogy, where Gandalf the Grey is more fleshed out as a character. It disappears in The Lord of the Rings (although the music of the Map contains an allusion to it) as Gandalf becomes more of a mediator and is about to die.
    • Gandalf Revealed: There is a short choral outburst ("Mettana!") used in conjunction with Gandalf twice in the opening of the Two Towers, and again when he is revealed before the possessed Theoden. It is possible that the choral outburst when he exposes the hill trolls to the sunlight is an allusion to that, as well.
    • Duel of the Maiar: There is also a tune for Gandalf's fight with the Balrog that is played over the fan credits, which is similar to the melody of Gandalf's fight with Saruman over Theoden's mind.
  • The Order of the Istari theme: The Five Wizards as a whole recieve a theme, that ends up most of the time as another theme for Gandalf, as he is the only wizard we spend any real time with.
  • Radagast the Brown: On the album, Radagast's music is full of table percussion and a lively solo fiddle. It's nervous and perpetually moving, like the slightly scatterbrained wizard. His music is also closely related to Nature and also to the Weakness arpeggios.
  • Radagast's secondary theme: In concocting a secondary theme for the Wizard, perhaps one that has to do with his home of Rhosgobel, Howard Shore seemingly took a hint from the east-European design of the Wizard's costume (prevalent in all the designs of the Wilderland to create a parallel to the east of our own world) in fashioning a very eastern-European, almost "gypsy" fiddle solo for him.
  • Gandalf the White: a minor theme for Gandalf the White, besides the White Rider theme, is a series of rising triplets used when he is revealed in Fangorn forest and again in the album version of "fourth Eorlingas".

Recurring music not by Howard Shore

  • Hobbit Birthday Party: Written by Plan 9 and David Longe, this music shares the vaguely-celtic style with Shore's music. It was tracked into the Extended Edition of An Unexpected Journey.
  • The Road Goes Ever On: Melody by Fran Walsh, underscored by Shore's music, this tune recurs twice in the Fellowship of the Ring. There is also an instrumental version of the song in one of the production diaries.
  • "Rock and Pool"
  • The Horn Call of the Noldor: Since Shore used the diegetic horn calls at least once to announce Thorin's theme, it is possible to consider the horn sound-effects as thematic, especially considering that the horns were chosen according to the pitch of the score. Heard in two separate scenes of The Hobbit is the horn-call of the Noldor, which had also been used at Helm's Deep.
  • The Horns of Hell: Azog's Horn call, on a Tibetan dungchen, is heard in several scenes in The Battle of the Five Armies.
  • The Horn of Mordor: The Horn call of Mordor is heard twice over the Black Gate in The Two Towers, and again as the Orcs march towards the Black Gate in The Return of the King.
  • The Horn Call of the Rohirrim: Used in at least three scenes in The Return of the King.
  • Bilbo's Doorbell.
  • Drums in the Deep: A diegetic drumbeat used both in Moria and when Azog captures Fili.
  • Orc Drums: There is another diegetic orc beat, based directly on the Five-beat pattern, which appears in several scenes: First, in a devolved form when the army of Gundabad marches out, than in the Pelennor fields and ultimately when the Armies of Mordor march to the Morannon.
  • Orc Chant: Timed to Shore's five beat pattern, this diegetic chant, along with drumbeats, was used in the Battle of Pelennor fields and at the Battle of the Five Armies. It was recorded by a full stadium of Rugbee fans.
  • The Voice of the Ring: Plan 9 created a series of musical sound effects, from siren calls and crooning to sounds of bowed instruments (potentially the Dan Bau and Hasapi that Plan 9 own). These are used repeatedly in the films, much in the way that Shore uses his Ring themes.
  • Wagner Tribute: All of Shore's music is original, except for one passage over the closing credits of Return of the King which is a tribute to Wagner, who was an inspiration for Shore. The tribute is not an outright quote of any specific passage in Wagner's Ring cycle, but does allude to several of his themes, including the Secret Fire and Rhein motifs.
  • Requiem for a Tower: Shore wrote original trailer music for the Return of the King and an Unexpected Journey, and other trailers mostly reused his existing music. However, the main trailer for the Two Towers, as well as the TV Spots, also used a melody from Clint Mansell's Lux Aeternae from Requiem for a Dream, but rearranged to sound in the vein of Shore's music.
  • Age of Dragons: Another piece of music used over most of the trailer for the Desolation of Smaug and various TV Spots, by Audiomachine. This theme in particular calls for twice the brass as Shore's usual complement.
  • Return of the King: The trailer for The Return of the King is an original Howard Shore composition, based heavily around the Gondor in Ascension theme. However, it includes a unique melody leading up the climax, which again is reused in TV Spots and the Supertrailer.
  • "The Edge of Night": This song was composed by Billy Boyd (Pippin) but is accompanied by Shore's underscore. It accidentally but fittingly opens on the same interval as the theme of Gondor, where it is sung. The song was reprised for the trailer to The Battle of the Five Armies, and Boyd wrote a new song for the End-Credits of that film, "The Last Goodbye", which informs "The Edge of Night".


Shore Orchestrated four of the films himself. For the last two The Hobbit films, Orchestrations were done by Conrad Pope and James Sizemore. Victoria Kelly orchestrated and arranged the end-credit songs. All orchestrations were done under Shore's supervision and in accordance to his sketches.

The music was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Parts of The Fellowship of the Ring and the last two Hobbit scores were performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The Lord of the Rings Sympony was performed (on album) by the 21st Century Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. The ensemble required for the performance requires a core of 96 to 110 musicians (although reductions can be made for live performances), fifty more in the different "bands" (about twenty of which may play simultaneously to the full orchestra), and over 200 vocalists.

  • Strings: 2 harps, 1 fiddle (doubling on Hardanger, Double Fiddle, bowed Banjolele), 16 first violins, 14 second violins, 12 violas, 10 cellos, 8 contrabasses;
    • 1 Celtic harp (doubling on lyre), 1 monochord (doubling on Celempung or Guzheng), 1 sarangi (doubling on Dilruba), 3 guitars (doubling on acoustic guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, lute and liuqin) , 1 rebab or erhu, 1 hammered Dulcimer (doubling on Cimbalom and possibly on Yangqin) and one tamboura.
  • Woodwinds: 1 Tin Whistle (doubling on low whistle, recorder and wood flute), 4 flutes (doubling on alto flute, piccolo), 3 oboes (two doubling on Cor Anglais), 4 clarinets (one doubling on bass and contrabass clarients), 3 bassoons (two doubling on contrabassoons).
    • 1 drone (doubling one Uilleann Pipes and Highland bagpipes), 1 highland bagpipe, 2 nay flute (one doubling on rhaita), 1 dizi (doubling on suling), 1 shakuhachi, 1 pan flute.
  • Brass: 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 tuba (doubling on Euphonium).
    • at least four Didgeridoos (for "Bred for War"), cowhorns ("Courage and Wisdom").
    • 1 added horn (for "Mithril"), 4 trumpets (for "Charge of the Rohirrim")
    • 6 horns, 6 trombones, 1 tuba - Desolation of Smaug trailer.
  • Keyboard: 1 Grand Piano, 1 Grand Pipe Organ (for "Guardians of the Three"), 1 musette, 1 concertina, doubling on accordion (for Hobbiton).
  • Percussion: 2 sets (5-7) of Timpani - one only for "A Conspiracy Unmasked"). One percussionist on bass drum, one on 3 taiko drums, one on two tamtams, one on two snares and a side (or field) drum.
    • doubling on tubular bells, wind chimes (or mark tree), suspended cymbals (large and antique), piatti, clash cymbals, crash/ride cymbals, hi-hat cymbals, sizzle cymbals, china cymbals, spiral trash cymbals, dunun drums, anvil (or tuned brake drum), two log drums, bass marimba, xylophone, Transceleste, glockenspiel, tabla, 2 bodhrans, framedrum, tambourines, sistrums, eggshaker, gourds, caxixi, shaker (or shekere), cabassa, claves, clappers, clapsticks, tomtoms, 5 tibetan hanging drums, thai gongs, thunder sheet, tuned artillery shells, five Tibetan singing bowls, two waterphones, body percussion.
    • extra three players: one on distressed piano, one on bell plates (only for the Orcs' theme) one on second taiko (only for Helm's Deep) and bass drum (only for Return of the King).
    • 14 added Gamelan players (only for Smaug's theme): one on Kendhang, one on Kempli and Gong, five on Saron, three on Slenthem, one on Kenong, Kethuk and Kempyang, two on Bonang, one on Gambang, one on Finger Cymbals. Doubling on Angklung, Gangsa, Ceng-Ceng cymbals, Genders, bowed saw, thai gong circle, Tibetan Bells.
  • choir: 85-piece SATB choir, 55-piece boy choir, 60-piece all-male choir. Added Tibetan throat-singers (only for "A Liar and a Thief"), deep or Russian Bass singers (only for "Paths of the Dead"), alto singers (only for "Diminishment of the Elves") and sopranos (only for "Denethor's Pyre") for select passages.
  • Soloists: treble, boy soprano, altos, mezzo-sopranos, lyrical sopranos, soprano coloratura, bass-baritone.
  • Additional Instruments for diegetic music: dungcheng, shofars, birch trumpets, alphorns, serpent horn; Hurdy-Gurdy, rommelpot, goblet drum, jaw-harp, castanets, harmonium, zither, Dan Bau, Hasapi.


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