Music Production Tutorials

Menacing Note CombosSeptember 20, 2013

In this tutorial, I’ll introduce a few intervals that are intense and unsettling, and we’ll start some sound design for a scary-themed beat.


This two-note combination has quite a bit of lore surrounding it, with some authors calling it “the Devil's chord.” The Tritone is spooky and sounds a bit out-of-tune. To create this sound, simply play any note and add a second note which is six semitones higher, counting the black and white keys. F and a B will work great.


Minor Third

The Minor Third is my go-to note combination for expressing sadness, and in-context it can also mean overcoming challenges, or just concern, and in some contexts it doesn’t sound very sad at all. It all depends on what chords came before. To create this sound, play any note and then add a second note which is four semitones higher. In this example I have an F and G sharp.


One Semitone

Playing two notes just one semitone apart is probably the most intense of these three. If you hear it in a film or video game score, prepare to be freaked out because you know something’s about to go down. Here’s F and F sharp.



Now I want to start some sound design by layering. Remember the Viola Tritone? This gives us a good foundation because the volume trembles. I’m going to add a Harpsichord and Sitar-like sound to it, playing the same interval. The harpsichord provides a nice, cheesy, high texture and a quick attack. The sitar adds some movement and intriguing overtones.

To make this sound more unsettling, I’ll add a bell synth playing one semitone. This just doesn’t sound right—and that’s the goal.


Deep Bass Drone

Another essential horror sound is the deep bass drone. This can be achieved a number of ways, one of which is to use a sustained string bass or bass cello and filter out all the highs, leaving a low, moving sound. What I’m going to do is use the Reese sound we made in this tutorial linked here, render it and loop it as demonstrated in this other tutorial, and then filter it using the Sampler’s LPx2 filter. If it sounds like a lot, don’t worry, practically any moving bass sound will work. As for the notes, I matched the tritone of the other sounds, but the higher note is moved up an octave—this way the lower note gets its own territory and the mix won’t be muddy.

Up Next

In the next tutorial, we’ll add some rugged drums and develop some change-ups. Here’s a short preview:


Author Bio: Sean Duncan is an electronic music producer and freelance writer from Seattle, WA. 

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