Horror Film Music


Disclaimer: Some links in this Horror film music article are for scary films so this post is not recommended for young kids under the age of 16 or anyone that is scared from horror films

Writing Music for Horror Films

horror-videoeditingMusic and sound are the best ways in horror films to built suspense and to in hence the scary parts. That’s why you can see many horror films directors that have the same soundtrack composer again and again.

Many composers like to work with horror films because you can do a lot more in it. Music for horror films are usually more aggressive and there is more room for experiments. In this article, we will discuss the Horror film music.

Here is a few thing you should learn to make scary horror film music

What’s the Horror film music purpose?

The main thing you need to think about when composing the music is what is the purpose of the music in your film. Sometimes it might just be, to let us know that the killer is coming. Usually for this job, the composer will use a very minimalist music like in jaws or Friday the 13th In this case, the simplest the theme is – the better. Sometimes it can be just a repeating note that keeps returning again and again and gives us the creep like in Psycho.

“The horror in music comes from the silence”

John Carpenter

Use the movie’s theme to create the Horror film music theme

Think about what kind of feeling you want the audience to have, when they watch the scene. It will help you a lot to understand the film’s premise first. For example, in the very recommended movie, Suspiria, that deals with witches, Dario Argento, the director, said he wants the audience to feel like the witches are always in the room, even if we don’t see them. That was acclaimed perfectly in the main music theme of the film.

 Use contradiction to play with the audience head

The contradiction can also be a great tool to create scarceness. You can see that kind of style in the main themes of movies like Rosemarie’s baby, Where the movie use a lullaby song to create a very creepy atmosphere. Another good example is Nightmare in Elm Street, Where the composer uses a children’s game song to compose a very scary theme. The emotional contrast between something pure from our childhood and this nightmare we see in the movie is very powerful.

What’s the best way to play for horror films?

Every composer has its own way of making the music. You don’t have to be attached only to an orchestra. In the 80’s it was very popular to use electronic music and we always have the classic Goblin’s music in the movie Suspiria from the end of the 70’s that uses prog rock music and was one of the first horror films to use synthesizer it’s soundtrack. Some movies rather use guitars etc. It’s really up to you and the director.

Always test the horror film music

When working on horror film music, you can’t just let it play in the background.It has to contribute to the image in the scene. You have to test it in front of an audience and see how does it affect them. What emotion does the music invoke in them? Play the music to an audience without showing them the film and ask them later how did the music make them feel.

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I hope this article helped you to understand more the world of music in the horror film. If you like me writing about the genre, let me know, as I enjoy writing it.


Recording Film Sound On Locations

Tips for Recording Film Sound On Locations

Since the work on the sound design can take a lot of time, you should invest in the sound recording area properly. Why to waste the time of your sound designer on eliminating noises from the scene instead of working on more creative stuff for the scene.

Script breakdown in a sound context

The first step on film sound recording is reading the script. While you read the script, simply write down all the sounds that you hear in your head. If you are starting to have any ideas for ambience sounds, write them down too.
Look at your list and decide what are the sounds you’ll need to record on location and what are the sounds you can record later on by yourself.

Checking the location

All production begins with locations scout. This scout is done usually with the cinematographer, director, producer, and sound-Men. Sometimes the screenwriter and lighting technician come along. As a soundman, you must insist on being on this scout. If it does not fit your schedule, you may want to reach locations a day prior to the shooting. On the location pay attention to background noises. Will you be able to overcome them? Is it at certain times? Clapp and shout loudly. Do you notice some echo? It’s very important that if you hear something that might be a problem, you’ll insist on fixing it. Don’t let anyone tell you stuff like “Don’t worry, we will fix it in the post”- That’s never happening.


The best way to record film sound is to use a few microphones, so each one will be on different character. It is important that your microphones will be of the same type and the right ones to any specific location. There are two main types of microphones: condenser and dynamic.
The dynamic microphone is the type which you usually see with singers and TV news people. Its drawback is that it need to be very close to the source of the sound, which means it goes in the picture.

The condenser microphone  is a mic that receives mainly the sound which it directed to and can come in the form of what is known as Gun mike which is a long microphone. The Gun mike connects to a long pole that called a boom. With this boom, the microphone will be closer to the actor more easily and without it getting inside the image. Condenser also comes with a small microphone that attaches directly to the actor who speaks and it is called Neck Mike. Neck Mike is used mostly in interviews. Sometimes it can be hard to hide it because it should be connected to the actor’s shirt and close to the connection of the neck with the chest. You can use a wireless Neck Mike on scenes where the actor is running or doing tasks that are difficult to follow with a regular condenser.

Hiding the microphones

Film sound is also the art of hiding the microphone. Whatever microphone you’ll choose, you should also think in advance where to hide it in the scene while taking into account that the more you remove the microphone from the character the more background noise will be recorded.
What you’ll need to do is simple:
first to put the actors in place and clarify the boundaries of the frame now it’s possible to determine a good place hidden microphones.You should also note that the actor isn’t standing next to a big noise source.

The Boom Man

During the shooting, the boom man is holding the microphone with a long pole called a boom. The sound man sits behind the mixer that is connected to the microphone and make sure the sound volume stay the same and at the right level all the time. In a low-budget productions the sound man has to be also the boom man, and while he holds the pole (boom), he works on the sound mixer. That is not recommended.

Some tips about holding the boom

  • The Boom man is holding the microphone with legs apart and arms outstretched. It is recommended to keep the boom over the head.
  • You Should pay attention that the cable is firmly held against the microphone boom, or else there will be a cable noise in the shot.
  • The boom should strive to move as little as possible, In order not to make strange noises.
  • While shooting microphone should be directed at the actor who speaks.

Room Tone

Do not leave the location without recording 30 seconds of room atmosphere sound. That means that the whole team is completely silent and only the natural noise of the place is recorded.

Sound tables

The sound man should hold the table containing the following information: scene, shot, Take, Timecode and description. In the description box, he writes his comments on the sound.

single system or double system

When shooting on film, the sound can be recorded separately (double system)to a machine. It used to be only when filming with film, but nowadays we use it even for digital shooting. The main advance of the double system recording is that there are many good cameras that don’t have the XLR connection you need to connect the mike.The single recording means recording directly into the camera.
You’ll need to decide which one will suit you best


Sound Design Stages

 Sound Design Stages

The Sound design process in a film is a very complex one and requires great sensitivity. The sound in a film is an important part in creating atmosphere and to transferring the film’s message.

When to start working on the sound design?

Do not work on the film’s music and sound design before you finish editing the image. Some video editors say they need music to edit the scene. This is not the right way to work. The image should stand by itself and if you feel you really need music to help you edit the film then put any music as reference only. Unless you are buying music from music library (Which I’m going to talk about soon), do not let the music to dictate your editing.

Starting the sound design process

The process begins with a meeting of the sound designer with the video editor and the director. The sound designer will watch the film and write down notes as movie style, dramatic moments, repeated themes and preferences of the film director and editor. It is necessary to find out whether there are dialogues that need dubbing or other special matters that the sound designer need to know about them. It’s also important to clarify deadlines and Questions like are there more shooting ahead? What are the film director expectations? and so on.

Recording sounds (Foley)

The sounds in your film, that weren’t recorded in the set will be recorded by the sound designer and they are called Foley (after James foley who invented the technique). They are added later on to the film. These sounds need to sound realistic and interesting. Today the foley artist has a big part in making the cinematic experience a big one. The sound designer will show the film to the Foley guy (or girl) and explain it’s concept to him. The Foley guy should take his notes and translate them into sound recordings.

Here is a shrt clip, that will let you get the hang of how it’s done

The Secret World of Foley from Short of the Week on Vimeo.


The film’s music

Mostly in low-budget- movies the sound designer is also responsible for the music (the truth is that when we talk about low-budget films, there is a good chance that he will be even the same person who wrote the screenplay)
There are several ways to produce music:
First of all, you can go and ask the orchestra to record it for you. This, of course, will cost a lot of money and is not recommended. In today’s age people can record a full orchestra in their own room through a computer software. There are a lot of musicians who have their own bank of music.They sell you packages of pre-recorded melodies and all you have to do is come and choose what you like. 

Today, there are many sites that offer you music for sale. Here are 3 examples:

.de wolfe music

opus1 music library

film and tv music library

When image editing is complete, you can send it to the musician and he will suit the music to what is happening in the scene. If you are using music from a music bank you may need to make some repairs in it.If it’s a problem to do that then you need to make sure that the film is edited by the music bits.

Don’t let the video editor do the sound design

There can also be in a situation where video editor become also the sound effects designer. That is the one who finds sounds libraries. Anyway, never agree to let your video editor become the sound designer, no matter how low is the budget. Actually, the more low-budget the film is, the more your crew won’t be the most professional crew and you’ll need a professional sound designer to fix a lot of problems.

Introduction to Sound Design for Films

Sound design – first lesson

When we watch a film, we kind of “lose” the sense of touch and sent
and work only with the sense of sight and hearing. Without a serious investment in sound design in your film, your chances of creating a professional movie production are lost.

The importance of sound design for films

Sound design is a very important part of the post-production stage. Besides the important contribution of sound for creating realism, the sound designer can also make various manipulations on the perception of the audience.
Here is the deal:
A good sound design can help the continuity between shots. Let’s say you have shot a scene and each one of its shots has been shot at a different time and even a different place. With a sound that will flow between all the shots, you can hide it better.
Of course, there are many artistic ways to use sound in movies and we will discuss them later on in this blog.

The 3 components of sound

Sound films consist of three main components:
film dialogue, music and sound effects. A dialogue is mainly affected by the recordings made in the location. Cleaning of noise during this dialogue is one of the most difficult challenges sound designers have to deal with them.
Music is usually written by the composer, although sometimes the sound designer can do it. When the music is made by a different composer, usually the composer will sit down with the sound designer for a few guiding meetings

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There are no limits to what you can do with sound in a film, but you should watch out not to put a greater emphasis on the sound and then on the visuals. Sound should support or emphasize what we see in the image. So these are pretty much the things I’m going to go through with my articles. If you have more ideas or questions,
you are more than welcome to contact me.