5 Tips For A Great Horror Track

Halloween season is upon us and with that you will surely find yourself facing a brief from a publisher to create a nice horror track for some ad or some campaign. If not that, you may want to create a nice horror track for your promotion or portfolio.

To help you with that, here are 5 essential tips for creating a great horror track!

Tip number 1: Tension
Keep your tension tight! Don’t let the tension drop, not even for a second. Keeping and building the tension is the key feature in a proper horror track. Even if you are scoring directly to picture and you are actually using sarcastic approach to scary scene, meaning you are maybe scoring a merry child theme (typically with some major scale on xylophone or similar) you will want to build tension to the highest point possible. In most cases, people will use minor keys, repetitive motif pattern that builds over time and leads to a certain climax aka scariest scene in the picture or sensation in the track.

Tip number 2: Dissonance
Dissonance is bread and butter of horror. Light string or piano dissonance will help build unease and will keep the listener on the edge of the seat. People are kinda set on connecting different emotions to different music intervals so while something like a third, unison, forth or octave may lead the listener to all kinds of paths – seconds or sevenths are pretty much guaranteed to cause unease and make them feel edgy. Give it a try.

Tip number 3: Intermittent sound design
While now we have our tension growing, or dissonances coming and going, we may want to spice it up with intermittent sound design to keep things interesting. Composers are known to use all kinds of things from cracking sounds to metallic slings or scratches. Anything that would make your skin crawl when you hear it. Think about it like this: you want them to feel jumpy and tense.

Tip number 4: Sudden scare
A sudden scare is where we get to culmination of tension, dissonance and sound design weirdness building around us! It can be a sudden stop – yes complete silence can be scary or sudden loud hit. Anything that will bring the climax to that tension that you’ve been building throughout the track!
Think of it like this: you know that cliche scene when someone is opening their medicine cabinet in the bathroom and you see the reflection in the mirror, but when they close the cabinet there is someone behind them. That type of tension breaker.

Tip number 5: Intriguing aftermath
Now, ideally this is the part where the scary thing had already happened but we still kinda want to keep the horror on. Maybe we will want to use that dissonance from the beginning, just hint it here and there, just so we can make the listener feel that horror is not over yet. It never is. Evil never goes away. Think of it like this: ending of every horror movie where director will always hint that even though it seems that evil has been defeated, one small act will let you know that evil will come back again!

Hope you find these tips helpful!

Here’s also a library recommendation to suit your need – IScream. That’s one of my horror libraries based on male and female voice. Super handy for horror tracks.

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