How to Compose Sci-Fi Music for Film

May 14, 2024Film Composing, Filmmaking

How to Compose Science Fiction Music for Film

Scoring dramatic science fiction films requires a combination of grandeur, emotional depth, and futuristic elements. Film composers usually find themselves scoring many genres and film styles, and sci-fi is one of the coolest and most potential to use their creativity than any other genre.

Below is a video going over my score for the dramatic sci-fi short film “Gill”:

Here are 10 practical tips for scoring film sci-fi dramatic music:

1. Embrace Grand Orchestral Sound

Science fiction often calls for epic and grandiose music. Utilize a full orchestra to create powerful and sweeping melodies, rich harmonies, and dynamic orchestrations that capture the scale and scope of the futuristic world. Many times in science fiction scores, the orchestral instruments are used in ways to enhance the alien sounds of a film, such as playing a violin with a razor blade (be careful with this one!)

2. Incorporate Electronic and Hybrid Elements

Infuse electronic elements and synthesizers into a sci-fi score to create a futuristic and otherworldly sound. Experiment with futuristic sound design, pulsating rhythms, and atmospheric textures to enhance the sci-fi atmosphere. Most sci-fi films need synth-based music to emphasize the futuristic or alien characteristics of the world.

3. Establish Thematic Motifs

Develop strong thematic motifs that represent the main characters, key ideas, or important story elements. These motifs can provide emotional anchors and help connect the audience with the narrative arc of the film. Think “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or even something subtle and less melodic such as “Arrival”.

4. Balance Drama and Awe

Sci-fi films often explore profound ideas and existential questions. Balance the dramatic and emotional moments with moments of awe and wonder. Use soaring melodies or ethereal textures to capture the sense of discovery and the vastness of the sci-fi universe. Some films that implement the duality of both styles really well would be Hans Zimmer’s “Interstellar” or John Williams’ “E.T.”

5. Experiment with Unique Instrumentation

Incorporate unconventional or futuristic instruments to create a distinct sonic palette. Evoke the futuristic setting of the film by using instruments in different ways than the conventional approach. Going back to an earlier point, play a guitar with chopsticks or play the tuba with a vacuum cleaner! Get creative and that will create the most alien sounds you’d never be able to create any other way, which will help give your sci-fi composing a very unique style.

6. Employ Dynamic Contrasts

Create dramatic impact by utilizing dynamic contrasts between quiet and loud passages. This can heighten the emotional impact of key moments and create a sense of tension and release. This can apply to most films, not just sci-fi. In terms of science fiction, imagine something like “Alien”, where Jerry Goldsmith is great at using dynamic contrasts between the quiet parts where they’re creeping around the ship, to bigger moments when the Xenomorph is in attack mode.

7. Pay Attention To Pacing and Rhythm

Sync your music with the tempo and pacing of the film’s scenes or mood. Sometimes the tempo can flucuate based on the moment itself. Use rhythmic patterns, syncopation, and pulsating beats to enhance the energy and drive of sequences and intense moments. For example, a tense scene could use a faster tempo (almost like a fast heart rate to simulate the main characters nerves), while the same scene could just as easily use a super slow tempo to evoke more of a foreboding soundscape. The choice is always based on the story, characters, or what’s on screen. You might also need to try out a couple different tempos and the one that should be used for the scene will stand out.

8. Collaboration with The Filmmaker

Work closely with the director or editor to understand their vision and the specific emotions they want to evoke. Collaborate to ensure the music aligns with the sci-fi world and enhances the dramatic impact of the film. Sometimes like with Interstellar, the director wants non-sci-fi music to convey a specific relationship or dramatic element.

9. Be Open to Experimentation

Science fiction films often push boundaries and challenge traditional storytelling. Be open to experimentation and unique approaches to scoring. Explore new techniques, sounds, and musical ideas to create a fresh and immersive sci-fi score.


Every sci-fi film is unique, so adapt these tips to suit the specific needs and style of the film you’re working on, and what your specific director is really going for. Some of the best film scores of all time have been in the sci-fi genre, but it’s also one of the most difficult for filmmakers to make, creating a bit of a rarity if a composer is able to score a science fiction film.


About the Author

Adam Robert Galloway

Adam Robert Galloway

Film Composer

Adam is CMO for Compozly, co-founder, and a fellow music composer. He has been scoring films since 2012 and releasing original & cover songs as Muzikm4n since 2017. Despite no formal training in composition, Adam has spent many years learning how to produce and compose music that provides filmmakers with effective and unique scores.

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