American Horror Story "1984" Melody (Music Theory) 

Halloween is coming! And with horror movies and TV shows flooding Netflix, it’s the perfect time to learn how to write spooky and scary soundtrack music like the creepy new American Horror Story 1984 theme song.

Hello revolutionary music makers, we are Kate Harmony and Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to Hack Music Theory. We help you make great music that stands out, so you can move and grow your audience! If that sounds useful to you, then subscribe to our YouTube channel (or Podcast) and hit that bell to get notified every Friday, when we publish our new lesson. Also, if you’re new to our channel, be sure to download our free book “12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords” below. Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.




Halloween is coming! So in this lesson, you’ll learn the music theory secret behind American Horror Story’s theme tune, and how you can use it to make your own spooky melody. But first… tea!

If you’re watching the new season of American Horror Story, then you’ll have noticed that their creepy theme song has had an update, or rather a backdate. Just like Stranger Things, American Horror Story has taken us back to 1984, and their theme song perfectly reflects that with its lush synthesizers and big drums, all swimming in an ocean of reverb. Now, if you haven’t been watching, then you’re probably wondering: How can ‘80s music sound scary? Well, it’s all in the music theory! So, here are the 2 theory secrets that make the American Horror Story melody spooky:

The ♭6 injects mystery into a melody, especially when it’s played over the top of your root note (which can be played in the bass). To hear this in action, simply play a high G over a low B root note. On that note, the American Horror Story theme song is in the key of B minor (B C♯ D E F♯ G A), so we’ll use it too. Now, unsurprisingly, the mysterious ♭6 also turns up in the X-Files theme song. So, the ♭6 is one semitone above the 5, and both X-Files and American Horror Story set up the ♭6 by playing the 5 before it, because the 5 sounds so normal that it makes the ♭6 even more mysterious.

The ♭5 injects the horror into a melody, especially when it’s played over the top of your root note (which can be played in the bass). To hear this in action, simply play a high F over a low B root note. Now, if you’re thinking: “Whoa, that sounds out-of-key!”, then you’re right. The ♭5 is a non-diatonic note in the key of B minor, which means it’s not in the B minor scale. And unsurprisingly, the scary ♭5 turns up in every other horror movie soundtrack as well. Now, just like the American Horror Story melody emphasises that one semitone ascend from 5 to ♭6, it does exactly the opposite at the end of the melody, where 5 descends one semitone to the creepy ♭5.

If you want the ultimate list of dos and don’ts for writing great melodies, then use the Melody Checklist, which is in our Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down). It also contains hacks on how to write chord progressions, bass lines, and all the other essential songwriting and producing hacks, as well as MIDI file examples.

Thanks for reading/watching/listening, and we’ll see you next week, when you’ll learn how to add a chord progression and bass line to your horror melody!

Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada


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This is our best-selling PDF, which includes MIDI file examples. Learn the essential hacks for songwriting & producing, like our Melody Checklist (the ultimate list of do's and don'ts for writing great melodies). You'll also learn how to write chord progressions, bass lines, riffs, counterpoint harmonies, and more!

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Hack Music Theory is a pioneering DAW method for making great music that stands out, so you can move and grow your audience! Taught by multi-award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé wife Kate Harmony, from their studio in Vancouver BC, Canada. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory", and has made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), Madchild (Swollen Members), and many more! Kate has the highest grade distinction in Popular Music Theory from the London College of Music, and is the only person on the planet who's been trained by Ray to teach his method. On that note, the "Hack Music Theory" YouTube channel teaches relevant and instantly-usable music theory for producers, DAW users, and all other music makers (songwriters, singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers, etc.) in all genres, from EDM to R&B, pop to hip-hop, reggae to rock, electronic to metal (and yes, we djefinitely djent!).

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Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
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