Classical Jazz '05



2020-10-07 - Why is halloween music scary?

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Bob Tozier Artist: Bob Tozier
School: North Allegheny

What tools can a pop song use to affect us psychologically to make us like the songs more? We'll take a look at everything from music theory, to linguistics, to rhetoric, to applied psychology.


  • Time signatures 
  • The unexpected
    • Shifting time
    • Repetition vs. new
    • Early and late
    • Risers and bass drops
  • Conscience and unconscience
  • The jump scare
  • "There is no terror in the bang. Terror is in the anticipation of the bang."  - Alfred Hitchcock
  • The cycle repeats and we get used to it. 
  • What other songs have this feeling?
  • What other aspects (not time signatures) can help the scary feeling?
  • BOO!!!



Sarah Feick from: North Allegheny - posted: October 7, 2020
I really liked the point he made about how the music is the most important part of a scary movie. You can usually tell when something bad is going to happen based on the music

Luke Hartle from: North Allegheny - posted: October 8, 2020
I am not one to watch horror movies because of the music. The music makes it very suspenceful and when you think a scare is going to come up because of the music sometimes it leaves you with no scare.

Hunter Badamo from: North Allegheny - posted: October 12, 2020
I think Halloween music is scary because of odd time signatures and surprising frequencies. The element of surprise makes a lot of these songs eerie. This could be surpirse by an unexpected fifth beat in the measure, or a high frequency, like a synth. I notice in a lot of songs that it is using generally low frequencies, like a bassline or low synth throughout. Then, the listener will be surprised with a line of shrill strings or something like that.

Kassi Barry from: North Allegheny - posted: October 26, 2020
I really like how they talk about the fact music is like a little hint in our heads of when something is going to pop out and scare us. I have also read somewhere else that specific tones can change heartbeak and spike a persons anxiety.

Grace Elliott from: North Allegheny - posted: October 27, 2020
The dissonance and suspense that fills horror movies truly is an artform. 

Olivia Belcher from: North Allegheny - posted: November 2, 2020
I really liked their point about how anticipation is what's actually scary - not the part that produces the scare and, then, how that ties into music. Waiting for the resolution is the scariest part of a scary song, and the longer a songwriter can hold that out, the scarier it becomes. 

Eric schaefer from: North Allegheny - posted: November 5, 2020
Halloween music is very suspensful. And when paired with a movie and all the slow moving camera shots it draws your attentin and then they throw a jump scare at you. If a horor movie didnt have the music it wouldnt be half as scary.

Rohan Puri from: North Allegheny - posted: November 10, 2020
The use of anticipation and suspense in the music builds fear of the unknown in the listener/moviegoer's mind. The abnormal nature of the music feels unknown to the listner; it truly is intenional and effective. 

Nicholas Palermo from: North Allegheny - posted: November 10, 2020
I thing the key signiture, rhythm, structure, and tamber of the instruments all establish the mood of the music.

Nathan Lam from: North Allegheny - posted: November 10, 2020
Halloween utilizes certain things like unique intervals, unique time signatures and rhythms, and also creates a sense of anticipitation and suspense. It's makes it feel like the scare could come at anytime.

Reka Gotz from: North Allegheny - posted: November 10, 2020
I think the instrument you choose plays a big role in the mood of a song. If you were to play a slow, creepy melody on a music box, it would sound much eerier than a slow melody on a tuba. Keeping things unpredictable is also proven to help make things scary!

Julia Maletta from: North Allegheny - posted: November 10, 2020
I believe that the key signature and dissonance of the chords in the song really help set the mood that the artist is going for.

Vaishnavee Sundararaman from: North Allegheny - posted: November 10, 2020
I feel that the tone qualty play a really important role in making a song scary.  There are many classical pieces that give you this feeling.  Classical music, in my opinion, is the reason why there are such amazing scary halloween songs.  

Bri Cobbey from: North Allegheny - posted: November 10, 2020
Halloween music has always seemed very cool to me because of how weird the rhythms, key signatures, etc. are.

Cassandra Pultorak from: North Allegheny - posted: November 11, 2020
I really enjoyed when the podcast mentions anticipation within horror music. I think it relates to the tension build that occurs in eveyrday music before the big break, but it is so much darker that it is known as a horror anticipation instead.

Ethan Chen from: North Allegheny - posted: November 11, 2020
I found it interesting to learn techniques composers use in horror films to make music scary.

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