Features and Columns · Movies

A Formal Investigation Into Why Spaghetti Western Music Slaps So Hard

Guitar twangs, piccolos, and bass trombones, oh my!
Spaghetti Western music Once Upon a Time in the West
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on October 1st, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on what makes the music of Spaghetti Westerns so dang cool.


When is the most appropriate time to hoot and holler? At a successful cattle drive? When a rugged goon is sent sailing through the saloon window? When that grizzled newcomer finally shoots the local menace into a shallow grave?

All of these instances would amply satisfy the requirements of a good old-fashioned celebratory foot stomp. But sometimes, all the average moviegoer needs to get riled up is a galloping rhythm, a minimalist twang, and a percussion section subbed out for a good ole’ gunshot.

There’s more than one way to tell you’re watching a Spaghetti Western. You can look for post-synched dubbing, a clear giveaway of a multilingual cast. And you can keep your eyes peeled for a general suspicion of the romanticized individualism that defined its Classical predecessor. But another way to identify Spaghetti Westerns is by their music scores, which left lush (but expensive) big band orchestras in the dust in favor of whistles, whips, and electric guitars.

Focusing on Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, scored by the incomparable Ennio Morricone, the video essay below takes a peek at the guts of Spaghetti Western music to understand what makes it so dang good. From reverb that carries you into the sunset, to minor keys that hint at the latent darkness of the Wild West, here’s a look at how the music of Spaghetti Westerns captures and conveys the psyche of the genre.

Watch “Why is Spaghetti Western Music So Cool?”:


Who made this?

This video essay on Spaghetti Western music scores is by Reverb. Launched in 2013, Reverb’s YouTube channel provides informative videos on music gear and theory. You can follow them on Twitter here and subscribe to them on YouTube here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).