I'm working on a short scary flick and am working on a transition or stinger for one scene and it it brought to my mind this question.
What are common horror genre stingers? What comes to my mind are violins, reversed bells, out of tune instruments, deep whooshes. Right now, I'm looking for an alternate to using a reversed bell (cliche) to signifiy a supernatural transition with a white flash.


5 Answers 5


I have been extremely successful with bowed glass.

The last horror flick I designed there was a scary flashback that occurs. I took a couple beefy shotguns, reversed them and cut the reverse ramping up to the original tail to create a woosh and placed that in sync with the white flash that came before a gruesome picture and put the bowed glass in for the duration of the picture and then wooshed back out with similar shotguns.

It was somewhat similar to the flashback that happens within the first 5 minutes of The Ring when Naomi Watts is speaking to the mother of samara's first victim in her kitchen. It flashes back to the corpse in the closet. I searched for this clip on YouTube but only came up with this, which is an excellent reaction to a horror film stinger (and the exact one I mentioned from The Ring) if you fast forward to 5:12 on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9HXQX7F5PI If you listen hard you can sort of hear the bowed-glass effect I'm referring to. I suggest you check out the movie The Ring - it has brilliant and tasteful stingers. As a side note, if you listen further at about 5:20, I really wish I could rip the recording of that you-tube video for the mother's reaction - it's so authentic! "If you do that one more time I'm going to f%&$^ing kill you!". Can't get that kind of realism with a loop group...

I use the bowed glass samples from the Vienna Symphony Library - they sound wonderful.

Other great (and sometimes cliche) stingers for horror:

  • Guitar amp feedback,
  • Loud chord stabs on an 80s synth - sharp high-mid frequencies
  • Boomers (Liquid Cinema to the rescue)
  • Reversed snake hiss
  • High-pitch bell or triangle with steep volume automation to make it sound like quick feedback
  • Cleverly used distortion - like a saw-tooth or square-wave with a huge volume automation spike in combination with some verb or delays.
  • Electricity sounds

But my all time favorite is the score for Hitchcock's Psycho. It can possibly be argued if it's technically a "stinger" or not, but I like to think of it as one. It's also very well known and cliche by this time; walk up to anyone on the street, make a motion like you have a knife in your hand stabbing down at something in time to "Reee! Reee! Reee! Reee!!" and they'll most likely know exactly what that is.

Hope that helps.

  • Flutters can be fun too especially when using sharp tonal sounds, but those take a little muscle to create. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 23:42

Prophet 5 synthesizer; it's what John Carpenter used on all of his films. There is a soft-synth emulation called Pro-53, and so many of its sounds are great for horror films.

  • Nice! If that's the synth sound I remember from Halloween, then that's exactly what I tried to describe in one of my examples above - the harsh-high-mids stab of a synth from those 80s movies!
    – Utopia
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 3:43
  • I actually heard a Prophet 5 synth last night when I watched Valhalla. I wouldn't have known unless you told me so thanks. A great movie as well, I would thoroughly recommend it.
    – ChrisSound
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 23:23
  • @Utopa: the prophet 5 is a fairly versatile instrument, but also has fantastic low bass sounds, drones and slow sweeps -- and I'm sure you could find someway to modernise the sound by applying effects, or chopping it up a bit. @Chris: Thanks, I'll have a look at Valhalla.
    – IJ Wilson
    Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 0:14

The first thing that comes to mind is a church organ sound playing dissonant chords, or try glissandos up and down


I ended up going with a combination of things starting from a detuned angel voice. Couldn't wrap my head around glissandos and don't have access to a library with bowed glass.

The tortured Piano library I thought would have been very important when I started this project but it turned out not as much as I thought though a very lovely library and I did use some of the freebie sound.


Reversed speech is very effective, especially if you use latin.

  • Great idea. That latin is an interesting way to introduce a different sound.
    – ChrisSound
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 23:25

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