When composing horror music for musical drama in general, what does one need to consider as in harmony, melody and rhythm, etc.?
For harmony, I am especially interested in what chords are normally used as the root, what chord progressions are common and what special chords(all types of diminished, etc.) are typically used.
For melody, I am particularly interested in what scales are normally used to compose the melody (including non-traditional scales such as various pentatonic scales, etc.).
Lastly, for rhythm, I am curious about whether any particular form of rhythm is common and what meter is common.


1 Answer 1


I'm sure someone more experienced will come to help, but for now, here are some suggestions:

  • Make use of dissonant chords. In particular, augumented fifths, and diminished major sevenths. In particular I'd just look into the various scale modes (e.g. Lydian) and pick out chords from there.
  • If it's a slow horror song I'd suggest using a Dorian mode for parts of it - it'll evoke the same kind of felling as those medieval Latin sacred hymns.
  • Maybe a whole tone scale for parts of it? Whole tone scales usually sound quite alien, with a blurred, indistinct effect.
  • Sound design with esotoric instruments. Maybe the sound of breaking glass, or a guitar distorted in a certain way, or a children's xylophone, or a disonnant music box can help build a effect.
  • Another thing you could try is a 20th century style atonal tone row. Here is an example.
  • Odd time signatures or changing time signatures are not usually used since they sound disjointed - which is perfect for horror music!
  • +1 Great list! Esoteric is a great word to keep in mind for this style. A few additional ideas: Tremolos, glissadi (esp. slow ones), tone clusters, and very low melodies (contrabass, contrabassoon, trombones, organ pedals). Also, the minor-major-seventh chord (e.g. C-Eb-G-B), aka the "Hitchcock chord". Sep 10, 2014 at 18:29

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