Film scoring/The sound of fear

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Interesting examples by FIREborn: Fear.ogg ---- Sad.ogg ---- Tired.ogg ---- Surprise.ogg ---- Joy.ogg ---- Fast like the wind.ogg.
This school is:
Narrative film production - Wikiversity Film School and School of Music - Wikiversity Film School
This course is:
Film scoring
The pages in the course is:
Introduction to film scoring
Create the sound of fear from a single note You are here!
Create other moods from a single note
Create the sound of joy using a delicate rhythm
Create other moods from delicate rhythms
Quiz: Music which tells a story
Create a mood with a melody
Create a story with a melody
Quiz: The Spy Story - Who is who?
DVD-Video: Scoring your first scene - The Promotion
Create four motifs - Mama, papa, baby, and Goldie
Create continuity with a single motif
Foreground / Background music - soft vs. loud
Quiz: Watch a short movie - George Lucas In Love
DVD-Video: What is a "Spotting Session"? - Only A Dream
DVD-Video: Write two musical cues for Home Wrecker
More musical theory
Butchering Midi - The starwars theme
DVD-Video: How would you score Green Tea Smoothie ?
DVD-Video: Write a film score for Blindman's Bluff
Write a film score for Seduced by the Dark Side!

The assignment for the first lesson

Your first assignment (Just one note!)

1. Create the sound of fear.
If your computer has the sound of a violin trill, create a 6-second long violin trill which sounds "scary". Keep it nice and simple. (If your computer does not have a violin trill, try something else. Some chords also sound scary.)
  • Once you are finished, attach the file to an email and send it to me at r_elliott at
  • Then click here to send me a message telling me what software you used.


That is too easy!!!!
Most music packages (such as Apple's Jam Pack:Symphony Orchestra) have terrific violin trills. Just by pressing one key, you get the wonderful sound of a violin trill or tremolo.

There is a problem
The problem is the volume has no shape. The sound is either on or off. Not good!
If you use a program like GarageBand, you must create an envelope for the volume to give the sound emotion. Or you can create an envelope for expression which is an advanced feature of GarageBand which is hidden inside the track editor.

Keep it simple

That is all you have to do for this exercise. Easy! Just adjust the volume of the sound of fear made with a violin trill. That is all you have to do.

Sounds dull, doesn't it?

Many people think this will be boring. Not at all. A single note can be shaped in many different ways and can be pitch shifted over time. Yet it is still just a single keystroke on a MIDI keyboard.

Listen to the sound of fear created by Tiego Louis Zontag in Brazil using Protools and Miroslav plugin. Since with Miroslav, the trills violins not exceed 3 or 4 seconds, Zon used trem violins.

Ten minute rule

If this assignment takes you more than five or ten minutes, something is wrong!
Ten points for one note

Ten points for just one note

If you use a single note, you get ten points. (Chords count as a single note.)
If you use two consecutive notes, you get nine points. (Chords count as a single note.)
But if you use three consecutive notes, you get only four points. (Chords count as a single note.)

The goal of this lesson

Extremely important
It is very important to understand the goal of this lesson.
I do NOT want you to create music. This lesson is not about making music.
Instead, I want you to find the natural sounds of musical instruments that create moods. A single violin trill creates the entire mood of fear. You just need to shape the volume of this sound.
Limited time and space
When you are scoring a motion picture, most of the time, you don't have the room to create music. Instead, you will have only enough room to create a single sound. That one sound must be enough to create the mood that you need.
That is why you are looking for moods which can be created just by the natural sound of the musical instrument with one or two notes or chords.

No music, please!!!

Don't create music. Just create moods with musical sound effects.
Create the mood with the natural sound of a musical instrument.
Use no melody and preferably no rhythm. Just simple notes!

Your Demo Reel

Creating a demo reel

When you finish creating all the musical cues for these lessons, you will put all the musical cues on your demo reel.
Therefore, try to make your assignments good enough to show to film producers who will hire you for their next motion picture.
Why only one note?

There is limited space and time in a motion picture. You need to be economical with your music, not just for the normal reasons.

Half the time when you have a film cue, something else is happening in the movie. Either there is action on the screen or someone is talking, etc.

The human brain has a limit to what it can process. The more notes you have, the less processing time for watching the movie.

When you write a song, you want to keep the audience completely engaged in your music. You want lots of notes and lots of instruments.

But this is NOT true in a motion picture. Most of the time, you want to create a mood without the audience having to think about it.

When you win an Oscar for best film score, you don't want the audience to say, "Hey, that was great music!!!". Instead, you want the audience to say, "Music? I didn't know there was any music in that movie."

If your music requires that the audience spend all its time concentrating on your music, the director and the producer of the motion picture are going to get mad. Their solution is to TURN DOWN THE VOLUME of your music.

So, to make everyone happy, PLEASE use as few a notes a possible.

Thick or thin

You can create a mood with one note on one instrument or one note with octaves (say two octaves) or even multiple octaves with multiple instruments. Or you can go wild and try a chord.

Just remember that the more you make your music thicker and richer, the more it might distract from the motion pictures. So be careful.


If you are wondering what style to use, here is the rule.

If you have talent, limit yourself to a symphonic style. If you have extreme talent, do anything you want.

Simple musical sounds which create the mood of fear

  • Tiego Louis Zontag (Zon) has created the sound of fear using Protools and Miroslav plugin. Zon says, "In Miroslav, the trills violins not exceed 3 or 4 seconds. So, I use trem violins." - 13 December 2007 - 10 points - - - Most interesting sound of fear yet!!!!
I used Logic Pro, and Miroslav strings. The strings did not last six seconds, so I layered them. I allowed a bit of space at the end for the reverb to die away.
I used track automation to provide a gentle volume slide into the sound, and panned the violins into their correct orchestral position. I used a long tunnel reverb to make the violins sound so scary. - 23 February 2008 - 10 points
May 15, 2008
Tonto Silver has created the sound of fear.
Tonto Silver says, "I have created fear with Protools using structure sampler. One note sudden then fade then swell then fade out. The strings tremelo 1 from garageband orchestra loaded into structure. I added medium hall reverb with TL space plug in. using GarageBand with Jam Pack Symphony Orchestra."

To your next exercise

The next page

That was so much fun, let's do it again. Exercise: Other moods from a single note

Contact your instructor

Your instructor for this course is Robert Elliott. You can send me a quick email by clicking here.

NOTE: To submit assignments
To submit assignments, attach your completed assignments to an email and send it to me at "r_elliott".