#1
As you know I write electronic music with Musescore and FL Studio. I'm currently trying to write a boss theme for Disney's version of the Headless Horseman. Are there any tips for writing music that's bone chilling yet intense? I can barely find tips for horror movie like/gothic music and I don't feel like resorting to cheap sound effects (those sound cheesy and show laziness). I'm looking for melodic or arrangement tips, ideas for the drum beat, ect.

Sorry if this topic is stupid but I'd like some advice.
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#3
What do YOU think sounds "bone chilling" and "intense"? Asking for other people to interpret their impressions of music into a musical dialog in terms of sound you're looking for is difficult if even possible.

Common underlying themes for horror scoring though are very long soundscapes with a focus on dynamics. If there's a drum beat at all it's going to be very four-to-the-floor-ish, with a consistent driving line. The important thematic movements should either be "inside" the overall sound or accented highly outside of it. Use texture changes in the foreground to emphasize accented points.

It's kind of hard to be more detailed without knowing your background in orchestration also. But evil-boss themes and leitmotifs tend to be march-like, minor, and driving. Depending on how much material you have to develop those ideas and how it has to fit into other stuff makes a difference in how you develop it also.
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#5
This might give you some ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMxflEFtazI

It might not be directly to the point of what you're looking for, but it goes over some music in Alfred Hitchcock movies and I found it inspiring.
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Last edited by JimDawson at Aug 22, 2015,
#6
Learning how to incorporate Minor 2nds, Flat 5ths/Sharped 4ths, Augmented 5ths, and Major 7ths(in minor) intervals will help a lot. It also depends on how melodious or atonal you wish to be. If you're leaning more towards melodic. You can try implementing augmented and diminished chords or modulating to different minor keys.

If you're in C minor for example instead of using G7 to go back to C minor you could use C flat(B) augmented 7/augmented major 7th. You can also use C flat(B) augmented to modulate chromatically to Bb minor. Or you could take a slightly more atonal approach and just go to which ever minor chord you think would fit but retain some sense melody. Or you can go completely atonal and use tone clusters and other dissonant chords. A common trick is to take a minor, diminished, or augmented chord and detune the whole chord or even just individual notes slightly while over a droning low note to create a sense of unease or instability.

There's not much theory to it, you just go by what you want to hear.
Last edited by NothingRocks at Aug 22, 2015,
#7
What does bone-chilling mean? Gloomy? Eerie? Funeralesque? Ominous? Demonic? Somber? Evil? Literally chilly, as in frozen tundra cold? You're saying Disney. I don't think Disney can be bone-chilling unless we are talking literally, a la Frozen. You need to give a better description of what you want exactly and maybe some similar sounds.

Generally though, tension and dissonance is always important. I find low drones in the background are great. Long sustained sounds in general are good. Contrast is very important as well. Having just a low drone and then suddenly a loud high pitched sound (think the famous Psycho stab) can be startling.

Minimalism is also great in general. This is a really creepy little tune.

https://youtu.be/y6nCwHOTrdM
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#8
Quote by theogonia777
What does bone-chilling mean? Gloomy? Eerie? Funeralesque? Ominous? Demonic? Somber? Evil? Literally chilly, as in frozen tundra cold? You're saying Disney. I don't think Disney can be bone-chilling unless we are talking literally, a la Frozen. You need to give a better description of what you want exactly and maybe some similar sounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo9S6fDQGQM


though for a much scarier story involving ichabod crane, i'd recommend the wolf among us
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#9
If you use performance directions, tell the performers to play bashfully (I don't know the correct term for that), that may help. For example, more pressure on the bows for string players, to create a screech effect, blow harder (weey...) for wind instruments (not too sure since I used to play sax) to get the eerie sound, for instruments like trumpets, etc. Sudden dynamic changes can work too, perhaps going from each extreme, to create unease/to shock. Not sure if any of this was helpful. I think the other posts have made good suggestions for the music itself. I'm talking about the performance side.

For eerie, sometimes the best music can be really simple. Just a simple, haunting melody, accompanied by dissonant chords can create the effect you want (if you want that feel). If you do want to make it more interesting, you can, in several places, lead the audience on to think that the music will climax, but in fact, returns to the eerie calm (like most movies do). Unexpected, out of the blue (syncopated perhaps), notes/melodies could work too, something the audience would not expect.
Last edited by MetalRock4ever at Aug 22, 2015,
#11
Quote by Hail
though for a much scarier story involving ichabod crane, i'd recommend the wolf among us


Imagine all the wedgies he must have gotten with that name.
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#12
Great suggestions and nice tips everyone. I'm thinking of adding a slow bell loop that utilizes minor seconds and roots 8 measures in. Do you guys think that would work.

As for the musical responses, Hail's example reminds me of "Why So Serious" (the theme of Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker) by Hans Zimmer only more minimalist and longer (the main similarity is the basis being a harsh droning note). The Resident Evil/Manson example has a continuing note that reminds me of the intro of The Regular Show but is also very cool.

Also Freaky Fred rules ...
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#13
Quote by RonaldPoe at #33562394
Great suggestions and nice tips everyone. I'm thinking of adding a slow bell loop that utilizes minor seconds and roots 8 measures in. Do you guys think that would work.

as with most of the questions you ask, it's absolutely impossible to answer this without hearing an example
#14
I know this is a Brony song, but "Shadows" by Aviators is a good example of a song that's both bone-chilling/spooky and boss-like/intense. The lyrics are about a man (or in this case Discord) going insane and the music sounds like a boss theme from a Silent Hills game. It's also a really good song and extremely well written.

"Shadows" by Aviators
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DQ1Gx9iO3Y

There's an example of what I mean but you guys provided plenty more examples. Also I'll provide a demo in maybe a week or two (gotta get things ready first).
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#15
I think "creepy" music has a lot to do with timbre. Music box can be a pretty creepy instrument.

What makes the song you posted have a creepy feel to it is also the dragging tempo.

It's not all about note choice. Actually, when played in the right context, a "happy" melody can sound creepy too. A child singing alone may be the creepiest thing ever. "Emptiness" can sound creepy - for example a music box playing alone or a child singing alone.
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#16
you guys have a totally different interpretation of horror to me

but my favorite films are blue velvet and 2001 so
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#17
Quote by MaggaraMarine
I think "creepy" music has a lot to do with timbre. Music box can be a pretty creepy instrument.

What makes the song you posted have a creepy feel to it is also the dragging tempo.

It's not all about note choice. Actually, when played in the right context, a "happy" melody can sound creepy too. A child singing alone may be the creepiest thing ever. "Emptiness" can sound creepy - for example a music box playing alone or a child singing alone.


To add to this, when the strings came in in that sing, it ruined the mood.
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#18
You must harness the insanity within you. Embrace the darkness, close your eyes and feel the evil seep through your bones...

If you are dealing with electronic music composition then I typically find the use of samples very effective in creating a chaotic/haunting atmosphere. Whether it's mysterious whispering or layers of jumbled voices, samples seem like a simple way to create a mood.

For more traditional composing it seems more difficult, though I would refer to the music of Gian Carlo Menotti, who composes for his dark and twisted operas, or that of Wyschnegradsky, who wrote piano music for a quarter-tone system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCvSkmIMRMY

Dark, atmospheric music is easily my favorite music, so I consider myself an expert on the subject. Let me know if you wants some more examples.
#19
Quote by Corwinoid
What do YOU think sounds "bone chilling" and "intense"? Asking for other people to interpret their impressions of music into a musical dialog in terms of sound you're looking for is difficult if even possible.

Common underlying themes for horror scoring though are very long soundscapes with a focus on dynamics. If there's a drum beat at all it's going to be very four-to-the-floor-ish, with a consistent driving line. The important thematic movements should either be "inside" the overall sound or accented highly outside of it. Use texture changes in the foreground to emphasize accented points.

It's kind of hard to be more detailed without knowing your background in orchestration also. But evil-boss themes and leitmotifs tend to be march-like, minor, and driving. Depending on how much material you have to develop those ideas and how it has to fit into other stuff makes a difference in how you develop it also.


This.

The method that I'm using in developing my songwriting skills is this: study- and study deeply- the music that you think is "bone-chilling". Deconstruct all of its elements, from pitch, to rhythm, to tempo, as well as broader aspects such as chord progressions. Having this understanding, you'll be able to tell what elements might be causing your compositions to stray from the intended "bone-chilling" atmosphere. I got these ideas from a thread here titled "Figuring out why you like a song"- definitely read what's in there.

Also, I've read a lot of your posts, and it sounds like we have similar tendencies of being overly analytical, so I'll say something that's definitely worth repeating: "Music first, theory second." Again: "Music first, theory second". Something else that I read recently (that you might want to take with a grain of salt) is that you should analyze other musicians' successes, and your own failures- definitely relates back to the previous point about song deconstruction.

+1000 to the flat five suggestion.
#20
it's not really a case of being overly analytical as much as it's a case of analyzing and focusing on the least important elements of everything
#21
To bloodinside, do you got any tips for dark/goth atmospheric music? I think you'd be a good person to learn from. I'm also curious how I should approach this. Should I go crazy or be subtle and effective?

Like I said I'll cook up a demo next week. I still haven't written a melody or appropriate harmonies yet.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#22
Quote by Hail
you guys have a totally different interpretation of horror to me

but my favorite films are blue velvet
Oh yes!
It doesn't get much more chilling - yet beautifully so - than Dennis Hopper miming to In Dreams....
Quote by Hail
and 2001
Uh-huh. More classic chills from the music used to accompany the discovery of the monolith.

Then there's stuff like this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Z1wCyLKKus
- chilling? or gorgeous? or both? (and how the f*** do you write that?)
#23
good man, ronald write music like that ^
modes are a social construct
#24
I like the first 22 seconds of that piece (the backing vocals have exquisite harmonies that are chilling yet magical). Kind of makes me think of a powerful evil sorcerer like Voldemort. Too bad the lead vocals remind me of a droning goat (no offense to talented Bulgarian singers like this one) and change said mood. How would one harmonize in a way similar to those backing vocals.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#26
Quote by RonaldPoe
I like the first 22 seconds of that piece (the backing vocals have exquisite harmonies that are chilling yet magical). Kind of makes me think of a powerful evil sorcerer like Voldemort. Too bad the lead vocals remind me of a droning goat
Funny thing, taste...
I love both the harmonies and the lead vocal timbre - whereas I can't stand the way western trained opera singers sing.
(But then I'm one of those weirdos who regards Bob Dylan - in his heyday at least - as the greatest white singer in popular music... beat Sinatra hands down....)

Just trying to steer this thread way off course, y'understand...
#27
Quote by theogonia777
That was more unpleasant sounding than eerie.
Interesting, ain't it: how we need something familiar in music in order to experience proper "eerieness"?
When music abandons conventional language (even familiar tuning), it tends to baffle - or irritate - rather than communicate. At best, it evokes intellectual interest. (Of course, the above is still using the piano, so that's something familiar to hold on to.)

For music to evoke emotion - of any kind, be it joy, sadness, anger, excitement, spookiness, etc - it needs to use familiar, conventional tropes. 12-tone tuning, recognised consonance/dissonance contrasts, rhythm (not necessarily a beat, but logical organisation in time), etc.

Of course, "music communicates nothing but itself", so the emotions have to come from familiar associations we attach to it. To sound "eerie", music has to sound like music we have previously experienced in eerie contexts - such as horror or sci-fi films. As always, it has to follow rules, not break them.
#28
i don't like how much i'm feelin' jon in this thread

the important thing about making "scary" music is that it needs to have a context. that clip jon posted would work great in something like 2001, whereas something shadow the hedgehog-worthy wouldn't, and vice versa

to me, atonality, and strong, swelling tones are the essence of horror tracking, but it all lies down to the cinematographer and the vision being consistent. as somebody who has a heavy interest in film, you should just be able to "hear" what needs to happen, and communicate it. if you can't do that, trying to evoke certain emotions out of your music is stretching your abilities in a way that isn't necessarily going to help you if soundtracking is your actual goal
modes are a social construct
#29
Quote by jongtr
Interesting, ain't it: how we need something familiar in music in order to experience proper "eerieness"?
When music abandons conventional language (even familiar tuning), it tends to baffle - or irritate - rather than communicate. At best, it evokes intellectual interest. (Of course, the above is still using the piano, so that's something familiar to hold on to.)

For music to evoke emotion - of any kind, be it joy, sadness, anger, excitement, spookiness, etc - it needs to use familiar, conventional tropes. 12-tone tuning, recognised consonance/dissonance contrasts, rhythm (not necessarily a beat, but logical organisation in time), etc.

Of course, "music communicates nothing but itself", so the emotions have to come from familiar associations we attach to it. To sound "eerie", music has to sound like music we have previously experienced in eerie contexts - such as horror or sci-fi films. As always, it has to follow rules, not break them.


No, that's not it. I've listened to plenty of non-Western 24 tone music and lots of other non 12 tone stuff, as well as 12 tone non ET music and I have enjoyed plenty of it and have been able to connect on an emotional level. That just didn't sound good. And it certainly didn't sound eerie.
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#30
Quote by theogonia777
No, that's not it. I've listened to plenty of non-Western 24 tone music and lots of other non 12 tone stuff, as well as 12 tone non ET music and I have enjoyed plenty of it and have been able to connect on an emotional level. That just didn't sound good. And it certainly didn't sound eerie.


i liked it. it made me think of alzheimer's, in a good way
modes are a social construct
#31
Quote by theogonia777
No, that's not it. I've listened to plenty of non-Western 24 tone music and lots of other non 12 tone stuff, as well as 12 tone non ET music and I have enjoyed plenty of it and have been able to connect on an emotional level. That just didn't sound good. And it certainly didn't sound eerie.
OK, my bad.
#32
I know a few things about quarter-tone music but that's not really going to affect my electronic music. I'm still curious about writing dark/Goth atmospheric music. I'm thinking of doing a remix first to test out spooky atmospheres, dark harmonies, and stuff before writing this theme. I've already got some good ideas (like creating samples and converting them with FL Studio to help with the beat).

Also I'm going for soundtracking but remixing and writing fan-music.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
Last edited by RonaldPoe at Aug 30, 2015,
#33
Quote by jongtr
OK, my bad.


I don't like bumping semi-dead threads, but it's 4am and I've been listening to bağlama music for the past hour or so and it made me think of this thread, or at least that part about familiar and unfamiliar intervals. Bağlama has weird frets so you can play all kinds of weird flat notes. They are very noticeable but sound pleasant.

https://youtu.be/ocQ3rzjl4IM
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.