November 4, 2017

Watch: How to Create Suspense Using Music

Want to ramp up the suspense in your film? Here are some ways to do it with music.

When it comes to horror flicks and thrillers, it's all about building suspense. Creating a tense cinematic experience that puts your audience at the edge of their seat can be done in many ways, but one element that seems to really speak to the fear center of a movie-goer's brain is music. So, what are some techniques professional filmmakers and music composers use when writing film scores to build tension and suspense? Well, StudioBinder shares a few of them in the video below.

There are many ways to build suspense with music, but the following three techniques from StudioBinder are definitely some of the most popular. In fact, chances are you've heard at least one (if not all) of them in pretty much every horror film or thriller you've ever seen. 

Choose your instruments

String instruments are some of the most widely used instruments in horror films. Hitchcock used them in Psycho, Kubrick used them in The Shining, and  Spielberg used them in Jaws. Other traditional instruments, like the synthesizer, are also very common in horror. However, as the genre changes, so do the popular instruments used to create those spooky sounds, so you may want to experiment with the ones you use on your own film. Some interesting instruments to look into are the Waterphone, the Theramin (for some sweet 1950s sounds), the Ondes Martenot, and my personal favorite, the Apprehension Engine.

Raise the tempo

The more scared you are, the faster your heart beats. If you reflect this in the tempo, or speed, of your music, your film score will produce plenty of heart-racing moments as you put your helpless victims in harm's way.

Use crescendo

What happens when your scene begins to reach its apex? Represent it musically, of course. One way of doing this by adding a crescendo, gradually increasing the intensity and loudness of the music until the denouement, or climax, occurs and your audience gets their well-deserved payoff and breath of fresh air from all of the tension and suspense.

What are some other ways you can use music to build tension and suspense? Let us know down in the comments!      

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