The Legendary Synth Sounds of John Carpenter
In this video, Reverb.com’s Justin DeLay demonstrates how to recreate iconic synth sounds from three of John Carpenter’s classic horror films.
Legendary filmmaker John Carpenter has been a master of horror, suspense, and science fiction for over four decades. He is famously known for writing and directing countless cult classics such as Halloween, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, and many others. What many people may not know is that John Carpenter is also the mastermind who crafted the eerie soundtracks for nearly all of his films using some of the most recognized synthesizers of the era.
John Carpenter has played a major role in defining the classic style of horror and sci-fi film scoring. His iconic soundtracks have become synonymous with horror and suspense. However, he has a reputation for being somewhat elusive about the synth sounds he created, often leaving much to be desired in his interviews on the subject.
To help us explore Carpenter’s sound design approaches, Justin DeLay, Director of Digital at Reverb.com, demonstrates how to recreate three classic Carpenter themes while sharing tips and suggestions on how you can be inspired to experiment with different sounds.
- Ensoniq ESQ-1
- Roland Juno 106
- Sequential Circuits Prophet 5
- MiniMoog Model D
- Ableton Live
- Roland 606
Download a John Carpenter MIDI clip pack that includes Drums, Bass, Synth, and Piano transcriptions for “Halloween” and “The Fog” at Reverb.com here.
About John Carpenter
While attending the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema, John Carpenter began work on DARK STAR, a science fiction comedy short that was later expanded into a feature length film and released theatrically in 1975. His second feature, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) was partially an homage to his idol, Howard Hawks, and basically reimagined that director’s RIO BRAVO in an urban setting. Carpenter’s breakthrough film was HALLOWEEN (1978), the seminal horror film; made for $300,000, it was the most profitable independent movie of its day, and to date has spawned several sequels.
Following HALLOWEEN, he further established his reputation with such genre hits as THE FOG, THEY LIVE, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, the psychological horror film, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, CHRISTINE, and THE WARD. His rank as an action director on a wider scale is also evident in such productions as ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, VAMPIRES, THE THING, GHOSTS OF MARS, ESCAPE FROM L.A. and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA.
His motion picture credits also include the comedy-thriller, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN, the sci-fi love story, STARMAN, which earned Jeff Bridges a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, the terrifying remake of the classic 1950s horror story.
For the small screen, Carpenter directed the thriller SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME, the acclaimed biographical mini-series, ELVIS, and the Showtime horror trilogy JOHN CARPENTER PRESENTS BODY BAGS. He also directed two episodes of Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR series.
He won the Cable Ace Award for writing the HBO movie, EL DIABLO.
In the gaming world, he co-wrote the video game FEAR 3 for Warner Bros. Interactive.
In the world of comics, Carpenter is the co-creator of the award-winning bi-monthly series, “John Carpenter’s Asylum” and the acclaimed annual anthology collection, “John Carpenter’s Tales for a HalloweeNight.”
On Halloween 2014, the director and composer introduced the world to the next phase of his career with “Vortex,” the first single from Lost Themes, his first album of non-soundtrack material. Carpenter’s primacy and lasting influence on genre score work was both rediscovered and reaffirmed. Lost Themes achieved numerous international milestones, including NPR First Listen; features in dozens of press outlets including the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Guardian; three magazine covers; and Top 200 chart success in the U.S. and the U.K.
John Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York. His family later moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where his father was the head of the music department at Western Kentucky University. He attended Western Kentucky University followed by the USC School of Cinema in Los Angeles. WKU awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2007. He lives in Hollywood, California with his wife, Sandy King, his frequent collaborator.
Finding the right sound can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Learn the fundamentals of synthesis and sampling and gain the depth of knowledge to shape sounds the way you want them or make your own sounds from scratch.
About This Program
Become ﬂuent in the language of sound design and synthesis with this comprehensive program. This six-level Sound Design program uses Native Instruments’ Komplete as a platform for learning synthesis and sampling techniques. Starting with an introduction to the properties of sound, this comprehensive series of courses covers the major techniques used for contemporary sound design.
You will learn to create your own sounds with a variety of techniques and add a personal sonic signature to your tracks. We introduce you to the latest synthesis and sampling technologies and show you how to use the world’s largest and most diverse sound library. In the advanced levels, you will acquire total control over all aspects of the Komplete instruments while practicing genre-based sound design.
- Sound Design Level 1: Introduction to Komplete
- Sound Design Level 2: Synthesis with Massive, FM8 and Absynth
- Sound Design Level 3: Sampling with Kontakt and Battery
- Sound Design Level 4: Advanced Sound Design
- Sound Design Level 5: Reaktor Ensembles and Production Techniques
- Sound Design Level 6: Reaktor Programming and Instrument Building
Visit the Music Foundations course page for detailed information on this program here.
If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.