tl;dr

AGGRESSION CUES:

when an artist features one or more of five auditory cues that indicate hostility, resulting in listeners when combined effectively with a Structural Pattern

“That growling sound on the bass guitar makes the hair on my neck stand up.”

Technique 1:

Acoustic “roughness”

Listen to examples

Technique 2:

Spectral non-linearities

Listen to examples

Technique 3:

Sub-bass resonance

Listen to examples

Technique 4:

Descending contours

Listen to examples

Technique 5:

Concentrated “bursts”

Listen to examples

How It Works

When artists use Aggression cues, they take advantage of schemas in our memory that link certain signals with danger. Roars, growls, yells, shouts, and snarls all share a set of rare, distinct acoustic features. Dangerous natural events like earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, avalanches, and thunder also produce these features (and some researchers believe human aggression vocalizations evolved by mimicking these natural events). When we hear a cue that matches a stored schema (e.g. growling -> threat), our brain “fast tracks” this information and puts us on alert. When musicians feature danger cues, they can trigger a fear response which, when effectively integrated into the musical flow, can move listeners to the point of chills.

Aggression and Size cues share many technical features and tend to appear together.

Top Acoustic Pattern pairing:

Top Structural Pattern pairing:

Genre that most uses pattern:

Epic
Surprise
Rock/Metal

Cue #1: Acoustic “roughness” at low pitch

Rapid, irregular fluctuations in loudness that we perceive as beating or rattling (e.g. 30-150 Hz vs. 4 Hz for normal speech). Some of the ways artists implement this technique are: 

— Vocal growling techniques, especially on held vowels where the open mouth boost modulation rates 

— Distortion on certain instruments with large resonators (e.g., bass trombone, double basses, baritone sax)

— Samples of high-roughness sounds (e.g. car engine revs, animal growls, thunder claps)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

This Is America
Blood on the Leaves
One Number Away
Everbody Talks
Chop Suey
Magnets (Hopkins Remix)
Bathroom Dance (Joker)
String Quartet No. 8 Mvt. 2

Artist

Childish Gambino
Kanye West
Luke Combs
Neon Trees
System of a Down
Disclosure
Hildur Guðnadóttir
Shostakovich

Frisson Reported by Listeners

0:48
1:07
2:58
0:59
2:35
4:20
1:24
0:55

Cue #2: Spectral non-linearities at low pitch

“Noisy” distortions between and outside the natural harmonics of a sound source (e.g, sidebands, warbles, broadband noise). Some of the ways artists implement this technique are: 

— Vocal distortions (e.g., fry screams, rasp, squeals) and aggression cries (e.g. shouting, yelling)

— Notes sounded below the natural range of a resonator (especially reed, brass, or string instruments)

— Production techniques (e.g. using modulation index to create sidebands) and samples (e.g. panther shriek)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Mah’s Joint (feat. Quincy Jones)
Mo Bamba
Colorshow
Cochise
Flying Whales
Spoiler
Sovngarde (Skyrim)
Creation of Earth

Artist

Jon Bellion
Sheck Wes
The Avett Brothers
Audioslave
Gojira
Hyper
Jeremy Soule
Thomas Bergersen

Frisson Reported by Listeners

5:52
1:41
0:59
3:01
7:03
0:42
1:39
0:59

Cue #3: Sub-bass resonsance

Notes that resonate in the upper infrasonic (15-20Hz) or sub-bass (20-60 Hz) parts of the spectrum, which we experience as a subtle rumbling sensation. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are: 

— Vocal techniques that produce subharmonics (karygyraa, cantu e tenore, basso profundo)

— Certain instruments with a very low natural range (e.g. tuba, double bass with extension, bass clarinet)

— Electronic sub-bass effects, which often irregularly “wobble” to make them more noticeable

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Mi Gente
OKRA
Whipporwills and Freight Trains
XXX
Popular Monster
Never Be Like You (feat. Kai)
Coffee on the Mile (Green Mile)
We Bow Down To Your Cross

Artist

J Balvin
Tyler, the Creator
Trace Adkins
XXX
Falling in Reverse
Flume
Thomas Newman
The Orthodox Singers

Frisson Reported by Listeners

0:37
1:42
3:22
X:XX
2:44
1:09
0:40
3:41

Cue #4: Descending contours

Downward, non-linear glissandos from a low to very low-pitched note (mimicking how we lower our voice when we shift from speaking to growling). Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Long, slow glides (3-4 sec) at exposed moments

— Fast glides (1-2 sec) that reinforce transitions

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Blank Space
amari
She’s Country
Sins of the Father
Mr. Crowley
Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
We Need Our Army Back
The Beast

Artist

Taylor Swift
J. Cole
Jason Aldean
Donna Burke
Ozzy Osborne
Skrillex
Hans Zimmer
Jóhann Jóhannsson

Frisson Reported by Listeners

0:44-0:45
0:45-0:47
1:45-1:46
1:12-1:13
2:41-2:44
0:41-0:42
3:10-3:13
0:00-0:04

Cue #5: Concentrated “bursts”:

Fast-attack, staccato notes that concentrate energy in the 2.8-3.5 kHz range (the precise range that mirrors the resonant cavity of the human ear drum). Some of the ways artists implement this technique are: 

— Vocal bursts involved smacking lips 

— Fast-attack timbres well-suited to concentrated acoustic energy (e.g. impulse sources like percussion)

— Production tools to increase cohesion of burst (e.g. switching tracks from separate to same reverb channel)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

The Hills
The Search
Old Town Road – Remix
La Camisa Negra
Enter Sandman
Animals
With Love Great Waterfall
Also Sprach Zarathusra – Mvt. 7

Artist

The Weeknd
NF
Lil Nas X
Juanes
Metallica
Martin Garrix
John Powell
Richard Strauss

Frisson Reported by Listeners

0:44
1:24
1:57
0:54
4:27
1:52
1:17
1:20

Listen to more examples in the Qbrio Library