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Isn’t it nice to be scared? To watch horror movies in the dark? To be creeped out, without being in danger. Since as long as we know, people loved being told scary stories. Even now, horror movies, horror games, creepypasta narrations and other frightening storytelling is more popular than ever. Music can help you make your audience feel even more on edge!
Experimentation in horror music
Thanks to modern technology, we can make music scarier than ever. Using computers, we can record sounds and twist them around. Reversing sounds, cutting them to pieces, distorting them or change their pitch. This kind of experimentation can give music today a whole new direction. It is the kind of thinking that made Hans Zimmer’s theme for Batman so intense, and Charlie Clouser’s theme for Saw so surreal and uncomfortable. It is exactly this kind of experimenting I love using in my horror and dark orchestral music as well.
The most important element in creating that eerie music score that makes your heart beat faster is a love for experimentation with sounds. Remember the sound of scraping against a blackboard? Or your arm hairs standing up when you hear teeth grinding? What is more creepy than childrens voices singing slightly out of tune, with distortion on the recording? Nothing brings tension to a movie as music that incorporates experimental sound design. When you lower sounds in pitch, turn them around, cut them up or play them slowed down, it instantly gives a surreal feel. A lot of horror movies like Saw use this to make you feel uncomfortable throughout the entire movie. This kind of sound design isn’t necessary a lot outside of Horror and Thriller movies. It does however take quite a bit of time to learn to make these sounds and use them effectively.
Besides this, solo instruments work really well in horror scores. Solo strings can sound really creepy when played alone. Hitting the strings a solo string instrument like a violin with short bursts – also known as staccato – creates a harsh tone perfect for thrillers and horror movies. A piano flageolet sounds extremely dark, but only advanced pianists will know this technique exists – I only know because I was shown by a piano player. This applies to every instrument. The viola has such techniques, as does the guitar. Flageolets on a viola sound terrifying, and playing with a guitar slide sounds amazing for horror films.