Sonic 3's Ice Cap: Music Theory

  • 🎬 Video
  • ℹ️ Published 2 months ago

A look inside the music theory of Sonic 3’s Ice Cap Zone.

Guest Illustrator

Guest Voice

Idioteque 8-bit Remix

Ice Cap Act 1 technically lasts longer than is documented in the song length comparison chart, but it's because after that point there aren't any new substantive compositional aspects, it's basically a repeat of what you heard first with some minimal changes.
The word "Andelusian" that appears in this video is more commonly spelled "Andalusian."


Flamenco Performance by YouTube user TheFlamencoguy
Andalusian Cadence Played by Joseph Pratt

Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson / Epic Records

Labyrinth Zone Gameplay by YouTube user Anon7906
Sonic the Hedgehog (PC 4K) Retro Engine

Level (Official Live Video) by the Raconteurs / Third Man / XL / V2

Crystal Egg Gameplay by YouTube user SonicJGB
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Master System): Crystal Egg Zone Act 1 [1080 HD]

Ice Crystals by YouTube user bsomething

Fractal by YouTube user MITK12Videos
What Is A Fractal (and what are they good for)?

Glacier Collapse by YouTube user pattentribe
Perito Moreno

Knuckles Ice Cap Gameplay by YouTube user ulillillia / Ulillillia Archive
Knuckles on Ice Caps Mountain (and BG secrets)


0:01 & 0:53 & 1:40 & 2:21 & 3:35 & 9:02
Ice Cap Act 1, Composer: Brad Buxer

“Idioteque” by Radiohead. Composer: Radiohead, Paul Lansky, Arthur Kreiger.
8-bit Remix (Instrumental): ardklaw

Flamenco / Andalusian Cadence Performance by Joseph Pratt

“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson. Composer: Michael Jackson
8-bit Remix: YouTube user notube4me

“Hard Times” by the Jetzons. Composer: Brad Buxer
16-bit Remix (Instrumental): TCMusic

3:20 & 7:54 & 9:45
Ice Cap Act 2, Composer: Brad Buxer

Labyrinth Zone, Sonic 1. Composer: Masato Nakamura

4:05 & 5:56 & 7:35
Prototype Ice Cap Act 1, Composer: Sega

4:48 & 5:38
Prototype Ice Cap Act 2, Composer: Sega

Applause Sound Effect by YouTube user Sound Effects King
Clapping Sound Effects / Applause / Audience / Crowd Sound Effect

“Level” by the Raconteurs. Composers: Jack White & Brendan Benson
8-bit Remix (Instrumental): YouTube user L337wizard

Crystal Egg Zone, Sonic 2 (Game Gear). Composer: Tomonori Sawada


Sheet Music Transcription Conventions:

💬 Comments

There's always a reason why a certain song makes you feel that certain way (thanks music theory). In this case, Brad Buxer's IceCap makes you think the word ice, while Proto's IceCap feels more like snow.

Author — JΩHN


I love the image of Tails being stuck in the snow sending S.O.S. signals with his stupid yellow tablet he nowadays carries everywhere, in morse code.

Author — In Endless Pain


ice cap zone might be the most fitting music
track for an ice stage ever.

Author — KrushingBro


Probably my favorite song in all of Sonicdom. When I was completely obsessed with it at an early age I would go to this old piano at my church and figure out the chords by ear (I'm like the opposite of tone deaf). When I heard them deconstructed... the memories came rushing back.

Author — Blue Lotus


Love how much there is to analyze in my all time favorite game. Amazing work, man.

Author — Game Apologist


WOO, I've been looking forward to this one! :D Love your work, thank you!

Author — The Geek Critique


That was very entertaining! Music theory is a fascinating art when it's explained to me like this.

Author — Just John 43


I’ve always loved this zone. The opening scene really did it for me. I love the paralax scrolling on the mountains

Author — jaden da finger


I always look forward to seeing how you connect the characteristics of the soundtracks to the theme of the level with such creativity. well done as always!

Author — Saint_paul01


Ice cap zone is such a beautiful track, and this video makes me appreciate it even more :)

Author — JimJam Joe


Wow. I love your commentary, but the brilliant visual imagery really brings the thought home. In this video I particularly liked the chart of each channel being played by different characters. But there are so many other examples of clever comparisons. You are one of my favorite music theory channels. Maybe my number one! I've learned so much from you. You've made it easy to understand for someone who knows next to nothing about theory. I know I love this music, but your videos give me extra appreciation.

Author — GiGitheHedgehog


Finally, a video for one of the best Sonic 3 songs! AND GUMBALL DOILUS! You sir, are truly based.

Author — SGGB


Yes! I love everything about this song. the history, Hard Times, the beta version, very interesting. And I haven’t even seen the video yet!

Author — MBisque


It's kinda crazy to think about that one of my favorite tracks of the Sonic franchise wouldn't have existed had the prototype music not been switched out.

Author — Thunderjay


excellent video, as always; loved how you also started discussing the theory behind crystal egg, despite the video being about ice cap. it was a run on that made perfect sense.

Author — ChilliusVGM


Every time I hear them, I like the prototype tracks more; even this one. Sure, I love the Jackson and team songs as well, but the proto songs just more and more feel like they fit the game. They were there from the beginning after all, while the Jackson tracks had to be shoehorned in.
I'm still waiting for the hack that adds the proto music back to the original Genesis game. The proto has a bug in the sound engine that might be preventing us from hearing them in their full glory.

Author — Basement Brothers


On the part where it talks about the length of the music from Sonic 3, Ice Cap Zone Act 1 is actually twice as long than what the video lists it as. That would make it about 1 minute & 20 seconds (80 seconds) long instead of 40 seconds.

Author — CreepimusGaming


I can't believe I missed this! As usual, i love your analysis of the music with the physical attributes of the actual stage. (The slope downward, the allusion to crystalline fractals in the ice in the higher pitched melodies etc.) You make observations I wouldn't even think about.

I like how you don't leave out the proto-soundtrack, and even bring in the Crystal Egg music from Sonic 2 on Game Gear. I was surprised you didn't mention Angel Island Zone on Sonic Advance, which has a similar repeating chord progression. Speaking of which, most of Sonic Advance music seems to be this way, merely alternating between two chords; rather boring and in memorable if you asked me. This actually serves to highlight the genius of the Ice Cap Zone music; the composer did two chords well.

If I may say so, even though this is a completely unrelated game, the main theme from Metroid 2 is very similar, using 2 chords, but employing a memorable melody line and intricate upper countermelody work.

As always, great work, and I always look forward to your videos.

Author — Joe Cortez


I learned more about music theory in ten minutes than in all my years at school

Author — Collie


Excellent video. Loved the breakdowns. Got a whole new appreciation for the zone and music. Lotta hidden. Gems 💎 thank you!

Author — 530Mentes