The hit Netflix show Stranger Things is full of ‘80s nostalgia, and a huge part of that comes from the music. Inspired by the soundtracks of classic horror and sci-fi movies, the Stranger Things theme was produced by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein from the band S U R V I V E. The main theme song perfectly portrays the show’s mysterious, retro feel, and we can learn a lot by recreating it! You can also get the project file for free here. So let’s turn it up to eleven and expose the upside down!
The only drum part in the theme is a thumping kick in an 84 bpm heartbeat rhythm. In the original, it’s made with a synthesizer, but we managed to get pretty close with the bass drum from Kit 8 on the DrumMachine. Cut away the high frequencies and boost around 400-500 Hz to make it stand out more in the mix.
The warm, retro sound comes from vintage analog synthesizers. Some synths used in the theme are the Oberheim Two Voice, Prophet-5, Roland SH-2, and ARP 2600. In this re-creation, we used VA Synth and GM-2 to get a similar effect. The VA Synth is a virtual analog synthesizer, the perfect tool for the job when we want a vintage sound. The GM-2 is a sampler, which has some cool processed synth sounds.
The focal point of the theme song is arguably the synth arpeggio. An arpeggio is a chord played note for note, like a melody. In this case, it’s a Cmaj7 chord (C, E, G, B, C) played up and down again with 16th notes. We layered two VA Synths to get more dimension to the sound and automated the filter cutoff to make the sound evolve over time. The intro is playing the same arpeggio, but sped up.
For the bass, we used layered sounds, a distorted ”Chiffer Lead” from the GM-2, which gives a warm and wide sound, and ”Analog Bass” from the VA Synth, which has a dope filter sweep. The original bass doesn’t really have a filter sweep but other synths do, and it gives the same overall vibe.
There are two instruments playing the same melody at different times. We used the GM-2 with the ”Synth Voice” preset for the first melody, and then for the second one, the VA Synth with a slightly changed ”Synth Strings 2.” Both synths have a bit of reverb for more atmosphere.
An easy way to make your music more cinematic is by adding sound effects. We added some samples from our sound library for metallic, noisy, sweeping, spacey or impactful tones. Change these sounds by pitch stretching, reversing or adding audio effects. We also used the GM-2 for sampled applause as an impact sound.