Ever wondered just what it is that makes creepy music so…well, creepy? Us, too. As it turns out, there are several key elements that need to be present to create a soundtrack that’s suitably spooky for a horror movie or chiller TV show. Knowing what these factors are means that you can use them to create the same vibe in your own videos, whether you want to make a horrifying Halloween special or are planning a series of supremely scary videos.
A key factor of creepy music is the instruments used in the composition. Instruments, including the pipe organ, harpsichord, solo violin, and funeral bells, have all been used for decades in horror films. As an audience, we’re already gearing up for a fright simply when we hear them. Loud, tense, full choruses can also be used to amp up the fear still further, making us shunt even further forward on the edge of our seat and give added shock to a jump scare.
The use of pauses in horror movie scores is just as important as the music itself, serving to build tension and get our hearts racing in anticipation of something frightful occurring on screen. A tritone is an interval of three whole tones and was considered so disconcerting by medieval theorists that it was avoided at costs. It was known as diabolus in musica – the devil in music.
The tritone still has a powerful effect today: heavy metal bands, including Black Sabbath and Slayer, have used it to terrifying effect in their music, and it is also included in scary video games.
Macabre Minor Chords
The minor key is creepy, full stop. Whereas major keys can inspire feelings of joy and excitement, you can use the minor to conjure up the nagging fear that something is about to go very, very wrong. And it’s possible that science has come up with the answer for why this is the case. One respected theory suggests that our brain is hard-wired to connect the minor key with sadness or fear, as negative human vocal expressions tend to be in, comparatively, a minor key.
The study links our interpretation of the minor key with how we’re programmed to respond to a baby or child crying – we biologically react with increased anxiety to dissonant chords that suggest these sounds.
Horrifying Human Voices
The human voice itself has the power to create a haunting effect in a soundtrack. Horror films regularly deploy the sounds of monkish chanting or low-key human humming to send shivers up our spines. Screeching, high-pitched violin sounds are reminiscent of human screams and can also be masterfully used to add to the creep factor – as in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. If you’re looking for some similar ambiance for your own video, download scary music to channel these effects and more, and create a terrifyingly immersive experience for your audience.
Petrifying Pulsating Rhythms
Adding a pulsing rhythm below or on top of the main score creates the sense of a heartbeat and makes us feel even more tense. It’s an easy effect to add to your creepy video to play on the nerves of your audience. Creating an irregular heartbeat can also be effective at generating heightened anxiety.
Look out for these constant pulsating rhythms next time you’re watching a horror flick or a thriller – you may be surprised at just how often they’re used to aurally boost the power of what’s happening on screen.
Add suspense and eerie chills to your video by making use of another well-known tool loved by the composers of horror movie scores: jarring dissociations, like when a jaunty sixties pop song plays during the final scenes of a cinematic scream-a-thon or when a young child’s voice is used to sing a nursery rhyme or melody over all those overlaying violins and chanting voices.
Using sweet chiming music, a suddenly slowed-down score, or vintage-sounding dance hall music are all other examples of how you can instill fear in your audience: the viewers know they’re being set up for a shock, and the anticipation of it boosts the tension still further.
Using Music to Create the Creepiest Content Possible for Halloween
If you want to boost the creepiness factor and ratchet up suspense in your videos, there are plenty of ways to do this using the right music. Deploy minor chords, classic ‘horror’ instruments, and even the silences between sounds to create mini macabre masterpieces for Halloween and beyond.