Creating a zany science fiction retro feel in your music involves more than hiring a handful of cyborgs to man your Nord Modulator. Using the right synthesizers, Halloween sound effects, and melodic material can make your music sound straight out of the next millennium and spook even the Borg.
Use the new Unravelling Music ear training track Halloween Horror 3000 and the samples below to set you on your next space music voyage.
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“Halloween Horror 3000”
Unravelling Music pack
(or right-click and “Save as…”)
- 13-page liner notes PDF with track-by-track info
- 1 full-length MP3 file, “Halloween Horror 3000”
- 5 supporting MP3 files revealing details of the track
Spacey Halloween Sounds
Halloween sound effects can enhance any sci-fi track. For the ear training track HH3K I used a combo of freaky sounds, including creepy female whispers created through EW Symphonic Choirs, alien murmurs from Logic, and a royalty-free scream sample.
Make your own horrific Halloween effects easily with a good set of vocal chords and a mic, or explore your synth banks for some hidden sound gems. Instead of placing them randomly through the track, use the most distinctive sounds for the intro, ending, and transitions in the track. For Halloween Horror 3000, I used UFO takeoff sound effects for the music introduction but saved the freaky whispers for ambience.
Ambient effects with a sci-fi flair make way for freaky whispers using EW Symphonic Choirs.
Choosing the right synthesizer instruments can help your track sound straight out of Forbidden Planet, Tron, or The Matrix. It depends on what you want in a track.
- Are you writing music for a club, an indie film, a futuristic commercial, or an electronica album?
- If you are writing for a science fiction film, take into account the sounds that you would logically find in the film’s fictional environment. Is the main character an robot from Nibiru? Then you can incorporate robot sounds or some granular synthesis into your track.
- Composing to market a product, or for a business project should include a little bit of insight into the company’s vision and should be trendy and fresh.
- Are you experimenting live or for a personal project? There are no hard rules, but you want to logically choose your instruments. They can make or break your track. Avoid overuse of loops, instead opting to tweak the software instruments and live synthesizers at your disposal.
Going with the bit distortion at the beginning of the track, I opted for a messier sounding synth.
For a more retro 80s track, this Moog Pulse would have worked.
Pop Culture References
Use familiar sounds and melodies if you want to reference a specific film. For example, at the end of Halloween Horror 3000, the melodic line inspired by the X-Files theme uses a similar “whistling” patch. Do you want to imitate sounds straight out of the 1950s? Use theremin like sounds and the most basic techniques used in traditional analog synthesis. Use resonance filters, for example.
For more of an 80s feel, use very basic MIDI sounds to mimic the limited 127 patches available during the advent of MIDI. Love Atari? Then use a bit crusher to smash your 24 bit sounds into 8 bit distortion. Use a very limited palette of basic pulse waves, single melodic lines with limited harmonies, and the most basic MIDI sounds.
Inspired by a popular sci-fi series, this flute synth sounds eerily familiar.
This short section borrows the style of 80s/90s video game tracks.
Futuristic Ear Training
Inspired by anime, evil robots, or futuristic technology? Invent new sounds using your composition program’s options to create original timbres that represent what you hear in your musical mind. Using your ear training skills you can make artistic choices in your music, from changing the pitch of an instrument to adding a flanger effect or to adding a sine wave to the equation.
What if you are used to using presets and loops? Simply train your ears by starting with a dry track, no effects. Open up the instrument interface and listen to the instrument several times.
What is this sound missing? Does it need to be higher in pitch, could use a different envelope, or maybe need a little bit of shape or filtering? Alter the pitch to make the sound higher or lower, change the attack or decay of your envelope to change the overall shape, or add a resonant filter. Every time you make a change, listen with your ears carefully. Do you hear the effect that you wanted? When you are happy with it, save the instrument settings with a descriptive heading, then continue to tweak the track.
The first few times that you use your trained aural skills to mix your audio track may take a while. Once you have mastered what effects you enjoy most and have developed your signature sounds, you will be able to mix great music quickly with originality.
You don’t need to be a musical maestro to benefit from the kind of ear training HH3K provides. You’ll already be hearing the outcome of all the choices discussed here, and it’s simply a matter of learning to be conscious of them, and recognise them in music.
By studying the choices made by a track’s composer, you open up your musical awareness and will be able to enjoy and understand music more.
You needn’t stop there! Nowadays music technology means that even somebody with no musical training or composition experience can start experimenting with music creation.
Try downloading the audio editor Audacity and applying some audio effect filters to your favourite songs. If you have a copy of Apple’s GarageBand, you’ve already got everything you need to start experimenting with loops, synthesizers, and audio effects.
Use the articles and tutorials here on EasyEarTraining.com to continue exploring the world of music and sound:
Share some of your favorite Halloween tracks or mixing tips in the comments below!