Toys in the Attic

I was on the phone, catching up with a friend, and we talked a lot longer than either of us expected. When we finally hung up, it was 10:15 pm. Only 1 hour and 45 minutes for Song-A-Day, because I was determined to go to bed by midnight.

There were no latent song ideas or lyrics floating around, and it had just started snowing. Perfect. Falling snow. A snow song. Impressionist stuff. Always fun.

The snow was fairly sparkly when caught in the light, so I went to a sparkly sound. Bells. The three note ostinato that starts the piece was the first thing I played, and the two repeating motifs appeared pretty much as you hear them.

  1. Toys in the Attic Ray Toler 2:54

And all of a sudden, it didn’t sound exactly like snow. It sounded like… creepy snow. Or something waiting just beyond the snow. Ok, let’s go with creepy stuff, then. That high pitched wail came next, repeated a bit later but much lower. Now, the thing has moved inside. It’s… upstairs. It’s in the attic. It’s not malevolent, not yet anyway, but it’s not necessarily nice either.

Ok, so now we have something in the attic, during a snowfall, late at night. What else makes this creepy? That old mantle-top chime clock your grandmother had, that’s what. I wanted to make it sound farther off than it ended up, but ran out of time on the sound design. I think a little EQ and some tweaks to the reverb ambience would do the trick.

Still not creepy enough, though. What else? What else… A toy piano! Too trite? Nah, just go with it. Ok, getting nice and disturbing now, but it shouldn’t be front and center, so off to the side it goes, just to support the bells.

It’s missing something though. It’s missing that old warped record playing off in the distance that you can’t quite hear. And you keep putting that record away and it’s always back on the turntable the next time you go up there.

Ok, so creepy-sauce is done. Now we need to name it. We need something that’s creepy, bordering on scary… could turn bad at any moment. Toys coming to life. There we go.

This would be an example of a movie soundtrack cue, kind of early in the film, before anything hits the fan, or it could be the music for the credits.

BUT, strip away all the creepy and do a couple of different things behind the bells, and this could easily be music for an RPG, probably an interior or small village, a fairy forest, what have you. It’s amazing how we can change just a few things with sound or melody and go from happy to creepy to flat-out scary.


  • All instruments: Omnisphere

Source photos for featured image: Adrian van Leen

Next up: Cask

2 thoughts on “Toys in the Attic”

  1. I agree on the movie soundtrack. I envision the opening credits though. Like it would start outdoors at an ice covered lake, then there would be a continuous tracking shot. The lake first, then winding through the woods, a road, a path, a yard with a swingset, the house, the interior, and then the attic. The tracking would be slow and steady, but it would occasionally rotate upside down to add a feeling of discombobulation.

    • I frequently get feedback that a lot of my instrumental tracks are “visual” – they seem to inspire imagery for people, sometimes quite specific. I like your opening credits tracking shot! You may also like my track from last year (February 6), “The Orrery.”


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