composing · instrumental music

How to write horror music

This post is really a pointer to an article of mine that’s a few years old. I was surprised to find that there was not much on the web on the topic of writing music suitable for horror movie and game scores. It’s a fun genre to write in and I include several of my efforts at the link. Check it out.

How to write horror music

A sample from the article:

Horror music is an interesting genre. Though it’s quite prominently used in film, television and video games, you don’t see a lot of discussion or analysis of its composition. In many quarters, horror music is even maligned, lambasted as a genre of unsubtle dynamics, dissonant melodies and tired clichés. And — when one is talking about the mediocrities of the genre — these charges are doubtless true. But during horror music’s best moments (say, the work of Bernard Herrmann or Goblin), it can reach the heights of any other style of music.

From a composer’s viewpoint, there’s an undeniable challenge to writing horror music. Since so many of the instruments, harmonies, melodies and structures used in horror stand apart from those used in “conventional” music, writing in the style gives one a chance to try new things and break out of the box. Horror music, almost by definition, should not sound normal; it should defy many of the rules followed in standard musicmaking.

I considered a number of ideas and concepts while writing my horror theme. I’ve grouped these into two sections: 1) Instrumental Ideas and 2) Musical Ideas.


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