Stranger Things soundtrack: what makes the theme tune so scary?

22 July 2019, 10:38 | Updated: 22 July 2019, 10:41

By Elizabeth Davis

The Stranger Things theme tune is a musical distillation of all things ‘80s. Here’s how the composers created their nostalgia-drenched music

Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon make up the electronic band Survive, and they’re also the duo behind the synth-heavy sound of Stranger Things.

The Duffer Brothers approached the pair after hearing their music used in the film The Guest.

Read more: The Stranger Things cast are also a bunch of talented musicians

What are the instruments in the Stranger Things theme song?

It’s a great question. As an experimental electronic duo, Michael and Kyle built the music for Stranger Things using a series of vintage synthesizers.

In particular, they used the Prophet-5 (a synth that was made in the late ‘70s through to the early ‘80s), the Roland SH-2 – this provided the bass line of the theme song – and the ARP 2600 which gave the soundtrack what the duo have described as ‘tuba’ sounding hits.

Read more: The Stranger Things soundtrack played on piano is beautifully haunting

But there’s one instrument used in the soundtrack that will be more familiar to classical music fans – a piano.

They told Vanity Fair in an interview about the music: “The jump scare is actually a combination of a broken piano we recorded on a field recorder the first time we visited the set.”

Read more: the theme for Doctor Who was one of the first pieces of electronic music >

The theme for the ‘Upside Down’

For the theme that’s associated with the ‘Upside Down’ and the monster the pair used an analogue step sequencer meaning that they could use micro-tones in their music.

Micro-tones aren’t widely used in Western classical music, so using them here emphasises the monster’s other-worldly origins.

What does the soundtrack for Season 3 sound like?

Digitally released on 28 June, the new soundtrack for Season 3 is full of that high-adrenaline, nostalgia-soaked synth music we've come to know and love.

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein said: “With the season three soundtrack, we’ve made an album that doesn’t feel like a ‘score’ necessarily, but one that feels more like a stand-alone record than a collection of brief cues.

“We’ve incorporated the main narrative elements of the series and stayed true to the original sound while at the same time expanding on our musical palette – we often pushed it to the limit.

“We’ve really made an effort to curate this album to showcase the moments we think are really special.”