Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to Make Your Own Soundtrack for Horror Games


Playing music in the background while gaming is a tricky proposition: if the music is too engaging on its own merits, it can distract you from the game; if the music doesn't fit the game, it works against the atmosphere you're trying to create; if the music is too obvious, it cheapens the effect you're going for, etc.  

In horror games, music can be especially problematic: you don't want the music to be more scary than your game, you don't want to play something too light that spoils the mood, and you don't want to rely on "Tubular Bells" again.

The solution that avoids all those pitfalls is to DIY your own horrorific ambient soundtrack.  It sounds like a lot to ask, doesn't it?  "I have to make my own adventures, draw my own maps, learn the rules of the game, and now I have to make music too?"  

You're going to be surprised by how easy this is.



1) Download Audacity, a free audio editing program here.  Install the program.

2) Start Audacity.  File-->Open--> and load any music mp3 you've already got on your computer.  Seriously, it doesn't matter if your source file is Carly Rae Jepsen or Rammstein, this process will make it into a long, creepy ambient track.

3) Effect-->Change Speed--> and reduce speed by about 90% or so.  It will take a while to apply the change, as this makes the track significantly longer.

4) File-->Export the file as a mp3 at the bitrate of your choice.  You're done.

The end result will be a slow, eerie track full of ominous rumblings, unexpected noisome growls, and Cthulhoid mutterings.  If there was a pronounced beat in the original file, it will now likely be at a dragging, funereal tempo that sounds like footsteps through an abandoned slaughterhouse.  



Play your new soundtrack at a low volume in the background for your next Call of Cthulhu or Don't Rest Your Head game and marvel at your ingenuity. 

As an example of what the end product might sound like, here's one I made from a Combichrist song.

As another example, here's another one made from a Smiths song.

22 comments:

  1. awesome hack! i'm deff. going to be doing this for my next horror game

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    1. Awesome. The results can be pretty surprising.

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  2. Huh. I've never thought of using Audacity like this (I think I've really ever only used it for cutting and splicing), but I definitely see how it could make Britney Spears even more frightening.

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    1. Yep, works a treat! As for Brit-Brit, well, she is *toxic* after all.

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  3. Holy crap, this is genius. I've used movie soundtracks in the past--I put together a mix of 3-4 soundtracks (enough to fill a session) and set the playlist to shuffle. Put at an appropriately ambient volume, players will tend to tune in on the music if it fits the scene, and otherwise tune it out. But I love this idea. Definitely gonna give it a whirl at my next Cthulhu game (which is this Sunday, in fact!).

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    1. Well, I'll let the public debate my genius, but let me know how it works for you!

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    2. I ran the one-shot scenario "No Man's Land", which is set during the Great War. Accordingly, I downloaded a bunch of songs that were hits in 1918-ish--Tiger Rag, Over There, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows--and slowed them down. Worked a treat. At one point one of the players was convinced she could hear subliminal voices in the music saying "Eat them." As this was during an encounter with ghouls, I couldn't have been more pleased. Definitely gonna use this with all my future horror games.

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  4. Is the Smiths song Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me? Or am I way off?

    Anyway, that's an awesome idea, I'm looking forward to trying it with some Big Black songs. Maybe this will stop my players from wanting to play cheesy fantasy soundtracks.

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    1. It's "A Rush and a Push and This Land is Ours." And thanks!

      Big Black is plenty creepy already...imagine how it will sound at a sonic crawl.

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  5. Thank you for this suggestion, and for the links. It really does work wonders, excellently creepy ones! :) Just what i need to spice up my next upcoming horror themed rpg sessions

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  6. I just use Hecq for starters, follow with Lustmord when the fan starts deploying the feces, and, when the democratization of feces becomes absolute and total and everything is NOT going to be OK I use some Atrium Carcieri. I even have certain tracks to evoke certain situations to specific characters (an abducted Son of Ether has a very... fleshy-mechanic song).

    But I'm going to inflict this on my players. Now that you mention it, with Audacity an a mic you can do very nice things. Oh yeah.

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  7. i think people should share some of their creations :-)

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  8. The "ghost of troubled joe" should've been a tip which song you used, but.....holy shit, that's

    FUCKED

    UP

    ...in a good way! Thanks for the idea!

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  9. I just tried it with Kansas "Wayward Son". Really creepy. I love it.

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