What Makes Up Horror Music in Movies? 4 features

Perfect for Halloween, dig out old horror flicks like The Exorcist and Psycho. But what is the allure of these films? In addition to shocking moments, background music also plays an important role in horror movies. Not only what you see should create fear, but what you hear should also create fear. It depends on the music whether the overall picture of horror emerges. Here are four important features that make up horror film music.

Horror music instrument selection

Horror music mostly comes from instruments that create a contrast between day and night. On the one hand, the music had to appear mysterious and sinister, and on the other hand, it had to explode in the audience. The interplay of bass horns and treble strings creates a frightening atmosphere. In addition, the dull and reverberating drumbeat foretells impending disaster.

Once the monster bursts out of a dark corner, or slowly creeps up to its victim, the strings move into the high-frequency range and sound a warning, almost scream, urging the audience to take their seats. Film composers have to go from the minimal to the intense.

voice in horror films

Besides music, sound effects also play an important role in horror music. From creaking doors to distant screams. In theory, a horror film could have no harmonies and melodies, but instead use sounds and surface effects throughout the plot. Sound can dramatize a potentially innocuous situation by creating a different background noise, even faking it and, in extreme cases, creating an entirely new reality.


Silence usually has a relaxing effect, but artificial silence (like in a horror movie) can have the exact opposite effect. The unthinkable could lurk around every corner. Silence can suggest loneliness, leaving viewers alone and finding every tiny noise threatening. As such, horror music should take advantage of this, in heavy doses, surprisingly, and selectively.

Threatening voice

And what could be worse than whispers from all directions? Their whereabouts could not be determined, but they were there. For this reason, Ghost Elemental is arguably one of the creepiest artificial sounds out there. The opposite is to scream loudly. Just a painful and twisted scream made the viewers shudder. It’s also scary when the children’s voices sing in the background.


Music in horror movies thrives on contrast. It’s not about creating warm melodies and lulling the audience into a sense of security. Deep tones alternate with “sharp” highs. The same goes for mute and volume (high dynamic). Horror music has no middle, only opposites and extremes. Silence and noise shake hands here.