Here at 344 Audio, we know a thing or two about how to create sounds for horror movies. Whether its a classic jump scare or the creepy ambience of a haunted house, the Horror genre is filled with moments where sound design takes a leading role in making the audience jump out of their seats.
Here are our 5 top sound sources that make for some truly terrifying sound design.
The Human voice is capable of producing an incredible range of sounds, making it an extremely versatile and accessible tool for creating Horror effects. It also involves no proprietary equipment other than a microphone, meaning that you can dive in and start being creative with minimal setup or fuss.
One of the real strengths of working with vocal sounds is that you can heavily distort and mangle them whilst still retaining a recognisable Human quality. This leads to something that feels grounded in reality, yet "not quite human" and closer to some demonic entity. If executed correctly this can produce some extremely sickening effects.
Acoustic instruments are naturally resonant and will contain a lot of harmonics in the sounds they produce. This leads to cool and interesting results when manipulating sounds, especially when pitching things down or applying effects like distortion and saturation. Instruments can be modifying into strange tunings, or make use of atonality which will give a very dissonant and unsettling sound. You can also use uncommon playing techniques to enhance the fear factor, such as playing string instruments with a razor blade or knife.
We recommend that all sound designers should keep a box of broken instruments and random bits in their studio.
Much like the human voice, animals make for excellent sound sources for creating horror effects. Animal vocalisations can be used to similar effect as Human ones, only with a much more guttural and primal quality to them. The pig squeal used in the movie Saw is a classic example of an animal sound being used out of context with terrifying results.
We are naturally wired to be sensitive to predators, so any sounds which have their origins from an animal will have a more dramatic effect on us than synthetic ones. Animal vocalisations and breathing are also great for designing creature sounds, which has long been a staple of the Horror genre.
Metal and glass
Metals and glass lend themselves very nicely to creating harsh and sharp sounds such as nails on a chalkboard, or the piercing scrape of a knife across a plate. These are sounds that are impossible to ignore and will make you wince and send a shiver down your spine.
Metal is also highly resonant and responds well to a number of different modes of excitation such as bowing, striking and scrapes. These kinds of sounds are excellent for creating horror stingers and creepy impacts.
Be extra careful when working with glass as you can easily give yourself the kind of cut that needs stitches if you make a wrong move!
Contact microphones work by picking up the physical vibrations as they move through a solid object. This method of recording is particularly effective on surfaces that can bend and warp such as wood, sheet metal or chicken wire. Expected to find lots of strange gurgles, creaks and groans that can be used raw, or processed further into horrifying variations.
We hope you enjoyed this article!
This post was partially inspired by our recent work in creating Jump Scares, our new horror-themed sound effects library. Jump Scares contains many of the sound sources and techniques that we have discussed in this article. You can check out Jump Scares via the link below: https://www.344audio.com/jump-scares
If you enjoyed this post please check out our ultimate guide to audio post-production: https://www.344audio.com/post/the-ultimate-guide-to-audio-post-production-sound-design
344 Audio is an Audio Post Production studio in Manchester.
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