GDC is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

Creating a Horror Score on a Shoestring Budget

Spencer Bambrick  (Composer & Sound Designer, Serial Lab Studios)

Gina Zdanowicz  (Sound Designer & Composer , Serial Lab Studios)

Date: Thursday, July 22

Time: 10:50am - 11:20am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass, Audio Pass

Topic: Audio

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

"Creating a Horror Score on a Shoestring Budget" will cover creative composition, orchestration, and decision-making within the confines of an extremely tight budget. These scenarios are commonplace, but through a lot of experimentation and planning these projects can yield new and distinctive soundtracks. Through audio examples and score excerpts, this talk will offer numerous examples of aleatoric notation and extended techniques that can be used to highlight the strengths of smaller ensembles and maximize their use in the horror genre. This talk will also cover logistics, planning, and communication with developers under budgetary constraints.


Attendees will walk away from this talk with practical knowledge that will allow them to use minimal forces to create a terrifying, professional-sounding horror soundtrack. They will learn notation and part preparation for creating horrifying textures without hiring an orchestra. Aleatory, extended techniques and compositional approaches will all be covered. Many of these principles (if not the techniques themselves) can be applied to other genres as well.

Intended Audience

Our target audience is made up of composers, audio directors, and game developers. We assume no prior knowledge, and the examples are self-explanatory. Developers and audio directors will likely walk away with a few tricks to getting more mileage out of a smaller budget, and composers will walk away with numerous notation techniques and inspiration for creating distinctive minimalist sounds for their scores.