What scale do you use to create a creepy and evil sound?

You can create your own scale. Here is how I would go about it.

  • The tritone is the most evil sounding interval. It must be in the scale. It could either the fourth or fifth of the scale.
  • The minor sixth (b6) is a mainstay of doom and gloom music and it wants to resolve to the fifth (a perfect fifth above the root).
  • So we can have a perfect fifth, the tritone will be the fourth degree of the scale, an augmented fourth (#4).
  • A minor second is doom and gloom in a similar way to the minor sixth. It resolves to the tonic.
  • A minor seventh would soften the sound too much. I would suggest a major seventh. This is the leading tone and wants to resolve to the tonic.
  • These half steps that want to resolve are great, because the longer you hold them without resolving them the more tension you create.
  • This leaves the third. You could try minor or major. Wide leaps create tension, so I would suggest a major third.

This gives 1 m2 M3 A4 P5 m6 M7 P8 = C Db E F# G Ab B C


C E G = C major

Db F# Ab = Db sus4

E G B = E minor

F# Ab C = Ab C Gb = Ab7th (fifth missing)

G B Db = GMajb5 (creepy chord)

Ab C E = Ab aug (creepy chord)

B Db F# = Bsus2

Although many of these chords are not creepy by themselves, try moving between them. The progressions are unexpected and probably very creepy.

Play with it. If you find ways to make it creepier, go for it. Make it your own.

If you want to go further:

This is a double harmonic scale with an augmented fourth. It is probably called the lydian double harmonic or it could have the name of the ethnic group it is associated with. For example, Hungarian, Freygish, Ukrainian are all names of scales due the people who it is most associated with.

Other ideas:

You could compose dodecaphonically (12-tone serialism). See Twelve-tone technique

Create a creepy chord progression by leaping around the circle-of-fifths. One of mine involves moving a minor chord either up or down by minor thirds. For example, C min, Eb minor, Gb minor, Bbb minor (A minor) etc.

Circle of fifths: If you start at 12:00 which is C and go counter-clockwise skipping every other one, you get my chord progression above: C min, Eb min, Gb min, A min

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Painting: John Henry Fuseli – The Nightmare

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