5 HOT Film Composer Tips: How to Play Halloween Horror Music like the UNDEAD


Learning how to play scary Halloween horror music can be a fun and easy music experience. You don't have to be Danny Elfman or Bernard Hermann to create a convincing horror soundtrack. Follow these easy professional tips to writing some seriously spooky music for your next Halloween party, album, or project.

1. Keep it in minor.

For some reason, in Western music, minor keys just seem spooky and scary, like you just walked through a cemetery on Halloween night. What is a basic minor chord? The C minor chord is C-Eb-G. Go ahead and play this chord on your keyboard. Break it up or play it block chord style. Be sure to tousle your hair like a mad scientist and give out a horrifying laugh as you jam.

2. Freaky instruments equal freaky horror music.

Sure, a flute might sound pretty, but a pipe organ sounds simply insane. Try some bent strings or even an eerie synthesizer in your music mix. Remember the shower scene from Psycho? Film composer Bernard Hermann used the strings to create that unforgettable horror movie sound.

3. Make your music emotional.

Don't just randomly play scary chords over and over again, loud and arbitrary. Instead, impart some emotion into your freaky Halloween horror music. John Carpenter's theme from Halloween took a few simple notes and created emotion and tension that helped mark Halloween on the map. For example, have a solemn surreal slow section, ghostly and spirited, then bring down the roof with lustrous chords on the pipe organ. Guaranteed your music will wake up the dead.
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4. Dissonance can be beautiful.

Music dissonance helps jar the human psyche from its comfort zone. One easy way to add dissonance and tension to your horror music is to incorporate cluster chords. Cluster chords are basically chords that incorporate a lot of minor seconds. Don't know how to create a cluster chord? It's easy. Play four or five adjacent black and white notes on the keyboard. The resulting screeching sound is a cluster chord. An easy example can be C-Db-D-Eb-E. Play these notes together, and soon your neighbors will be screaming from the noise.

Horrific Halloween Animation "Virelaan"

5. Never forget the power of percussion.

How about throwing in a loud and imposing gong splash or add in the click-clack of bones. (Yes, bones are a real percussion instrument, and yes, they are made out of bones). Percussion is full of all kinds of interesting sounds, from whip cracks to chains to sirens. Timpani and bass drums can give your music a strong bottom while hand drums can add rhythmic momentum. Composer Danny Elfman is a master at playing with odd sounds and bizarre rhythms.

BONUS COMPOSER TIP: Nothing is scarier than the human voice.
What to add in some extra Halloween horror music eeriness? Then record a child's voice laughing, a horror filled scream, or a convincing death rattle. Ask a singer to echo the melody, and add some audio effects for surrealism. Write a disturbing poem and have it panning from ear to ear, or take your voice and drop it down two octaves in the mix. Insert barely audible whispers or stalker quality breathing. All of these crazy vocal effects will add that special touch to your freaky Halloween horror music mix.

Learning how to play horror music can be as easy as do-re-mi. Just follow these simple tips, and soon you will be on your way to making some seriously Psycho music.


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