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What Makes Music “Scary”?

Have you ever wondered what makes you “feel” scared after listening to certain sounds or soundtracks?


What makes music sound “scary”?

Take Danny Elfman’s soundtrack from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, for example. Mr. Elfman certainly paints the picture with music (or sounds) of dark sceneries, unusual characters, and uncomfortable emotions. But, how?


Well, it’s quite simple. The instability of a tonal center. In other words, many modulations (small and large)! In addition and within these “keys” are other colorful elements like exotic scales, modal mixture, and chromatic mediants.


Of course, there are “tasteful” uses of these theoretical things. But, it’s a start for you to compose some spooky sounds.


To start, try these chord progressions:


1) Cm - Abm

2) Dm - Bbm - Gm


Want more? Add tritones and major sevenths!


Record what you come up with and send it to us — we’ll re-share it!