The 6 Ingredients You Need to Make Scary Music

For many, Halloween is the season for clowns, scarecrows and zombies. For others like us, Halloween is a time of year to make eerie, sustained drones and dark, otherworldly music.

So instead of settling for a ready-made playlist with all the mainstays (Ever feel exhausted of listening to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” three times at a party? Us too.) Read on to learn how you can cook up your own scary music to ramp up your next Halloween party’s fear factor, using the tools available right here on Soundation.

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1. Church Organ

There’s a reason why people say the sound of an organ sends chills up their spines. Produced by wind being sent through pipes, organ sounds are trembling, thunderous and reverberating. A staple in horror films since Hollywood’s silent film era, organ music, notably Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, is today synonymous with cobwebbed mansions on top of looming hills. And that’s exactly the vibe you want to create at your next Halloween party.

Take a listen to the organ sounds we made for the project down below. To make your own booming organ sounds on Soundation, choose GM-2 for an instrument and select an Organ preset. Now go and make Bach proud.

2. Theremin

Squealing music made by manipulating magnetic fields with your hands? It can’t get more sci-fi than that. While theremin never quite took off when it was invented in the 1930s, this century-old instrument has lended its ethereal sound effects to many flying-saucers landed on earth movie scenes, due to its weird continuously gliding pitches.

On Soundation, you can summon the otherworldly sounds of theremin (minus the odd hand gestures) with VA synth. Just adjust the glide and vibrato, and you’ve got yourself the perfect sounds for when you meet them aliens. Here are the theremin sounds in our project.

3. Strings

Psycho‘s shower scene is the ultimate evidence of how much strings instruments can add to a dark and sinister ambience. In the film, violins are used for percussive effects, creating cold screeches and chilling shrieks that have given moviegoers nightmares since the Hitchcock classic was released in 1960.

Take a listen to our version of screeches made from strings down below. With a string preset on our GM-2, you can make your own version of screeching violins to intensify all the jumpscare moments as much as your heart desires (and as much as your listeners’ hearts can handle.).

4. Analog Synth

As the 1970s arrived, Satan’s new tool of the trade emerged: analog synthesizers. Long gone were the days of a theatrical, in-your-face musical score. Instead, the 70s and 80s were the golden eras for deep, swirling synth pads made for slow but adrenaline-pumping and heart-racing terror.

Get these retro hypnotic grooves with a VA synth just like what we did for the project, and drench them in reverb for a goosebumps guaranteed scare-athon.

5. Dissonance

There’s actually such a thing as “devil’s music”. No, we’re not talking about satanic backmasking. We’re talking about dissonance. While this technique might not sound as entertaining as playing a song backward and decoding satanic messages, take a listen to this.

The key to the unsettling sound of Halloween’s theme song lies in the awkward tonality achieved from a dissonant interval. Interval is a relationship, or tone, between two notes and it can either be pleasant/consonant (think Christmas music) or unnerving/dissonant.

Tritone and Half Step

There are many classifications of dissonance out there, but tritone — the interval made up of 6 notes — is the one with the most squirming effects. Simply put, tritone sounds unresolved, like something is left hanging. As a result, it gives a feeling of floating suspense.

Here’s a melodic tritone laid out for you in the project. Listen again to the strings above how the devil’s tone sounds on Soundation.

Half step dissonance is another commonly used tactic in horror movies. Basically the shortest interval between two notes, half step conveys a sense of lurking danger and rising threats. And when it comes to lurking danger, nothing beats the fear of shark attacks and the thrilling bass line behind Jaws theme.

If this sounds all too theoretical to you, don’t worry. We also got half step for you in the project. Just double click the theremin track to open up the note editor and you’ll see what we mean.

Diminished Chord and Minor Harmony

Dissonance can also be achieved with chords. Similar to a minor chord, a diminished chord makes use of tritone, making it sound “off”, incomplete and just plain weird. (Imagine being in conversation with someone who continues to stop talking mid-sentence.) Because of the feelings of unease and tension they signal, diminished chords are ideal sounds for ghosts and ghouls.

To see what diminished chord looks like, open up a note editor from the organ sounds in the studio and have a look for yourself!

6. Heartbeat Rhythm

You know things are about to go down when you hear beep beep sounds of a heart monitor in films or the heartbeats of a character in video games. Similarly, repeated melodic or rhythmic pattern in music replicating the sounds of a human heartbeat has mysterious, ominous overtones and is often used to keep listeners on the edge of their seat.

Take inspiration from this spooky anthem, and try this beat pattern using Drum Machine on Soundation to add ghostly suspense to your song. Here’s how the beats look like in the project.

Those are the six ingredients of the witches’ cauldron of Halloween sound! Take a listen down below to one-minute horror music made up of all these deadly ingredients.

Download a project file now to get the song. (To open it in the studio, click ‘File’ and ‘Load .sng file’.) Add audio loops from our Halloween Kit and make it even scarier. But don’t forget the kit will be gone from the sound library at midnight October 31! Have some fang-tastic fun cooking up spooky Dracula-type music this Halloween.

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