Writing Music for Horror Films

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

A fritghen kid


Music and sound are the best ways in horror films to built suspense and in hence the scary parts. That’s why you can see many horror film 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 Horror film music. Here is a few things 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 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 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

How to design the music forhorror film?

  1. Use the Film’s 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.
  2. 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 uses 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 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 ’70s that uses prog rock music and was one of the first horror films to use synthesizer its soundtrack. Some movies rather use guitars etc. It’s really up to you and the director.

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.

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.


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