This Halloween, students of EN Music Studio will be taking on the challenge of improvising creepy and spooky music. What musical tools are used? Let’s use an example to discuss.
Immediately, in the first 10 seconds, we hear an instrument playing in a minor mode, which lets the audience know that this is not a happy song. The constant background sets the atmosphere, while more complex rhythms layered on top add excitement and action. Notice too how the instruments switch between a higher octave to a lower octave. How does that make you feel? Not only does this effect add contrast, it also adds an element of wonder and surprise.
At the 1:40 mark, the music slows down and our ears automatically pick up this change of tempo. Slower tempos add more of an emotional edge, and may convey sadness, and loneliness. Here, a single haunting melody plays over a repeated minor accompaniment. The effect is undeniable; while it is not scary, our ears understand that something is brooding.
At 3:36, the music changes again. This particular tune uses tempo drastically to change the mood. The first half uses a quick adventurous tempo, and the second half slows down dramatically for a final statement. What does this make you think of? Does it tell you a story?
The notes I’ve mentioned are simply small parts of what makes music sound haunting or scary. As always, music is about the larger picture, and every little detail adds to the overall feeling.