Unmasking the Enigma: What is the Evil Chord?

Ever wondered about the mystery behind the ‘evil chord’ in music? Join us as we unravel the secrets of this intriguing concept and its implications in music theory and composition.


So, you’re a music aficionado, or maybe just an inquisitive soul who heard the term ‘evil chord’ and thought, “Well, what on earth is that?”

Whether the phrase tickled your curiosity or had you baffled, you’ve landed at the right place. We’re about to delve into the eerie world of the evil chord and decipher this musical enigma.

What is the Evil Chord?

In the wide universe of music, the ‘evil chord,’ also known as the ‘devil’s interval’ or ‘diabolus in musica,’ refers to the tritone. This unsettling interval, spanning three whole tones, has been associated with feelings of tension and fear for centuries.

Why ‘Evil’? The Historical Background

The term ‘evil chord’ might seem a tad melodramatic for an element of music theory. However, the tritone, responsible for this ominous title, has a rich, somewhat disturbing history that grants it this sinister epithet. Let’s set the wayback machine for medieval times and explore how this chilling chord came to be feared and revered.

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Medieval Madness and Music

During the Middle Ages, the Church held considerable sway over arts and culture, including music. The tritone was deemed discordant, disturbing, and even satanic, hence earning its ‘devil’s interval’ moniker. Church composers avoided it like the plague, adding to its aura of mystery and danger.

Tritone: The Mathematical Mystery

Trite as it may sound, there’s a mathematical angle to the tritone’s unnerving persona. Diving into the mathematics of music helps illuminate why this particular interval sounds so dissonant and foreboding to our ears.

Mathematics and Music: An Unlikely Duet

Believe it or not, mathematics has a substantial role in the harmony we perceive in music. The frequencies of notes that sound ‘good’ together often have simple, whole number ratios. The tritone, however, sits smack dab in the middle of the octave, creating an unsettling, ‘halfway’ effect.

The Tritone in Modern Music

Despite its medieval moniker and unsettling aura, the tritone has found a home in modern music. Be it jazz, blues, or heavy metal, the ‘evil chord’ lends a unique sound that, when used creatively, can add a deliciously dark twist to compositions.

Jazz and Blues: Embracing the Devil’s Interval

Jazz and blues, known for their emotional depth and expressiveness, often employ the tritone. It adds an element of tension and release, crucial to these genres’ dramatic flair.

The Tritone in Pop Culture

The ‘evil chord’ is not confined to the world of music alone. Its dissonant, unsettling sound has been used to great effect in various other forms of media, especially cinema.

Soundtrack of Fear: Tritone in Horror Movies

Horror film composers have long used the tritone to instill a sense of unease and impending doom. This musical tool has become synonymous with suspense and horror, enhancing the chilling effect of many silver screen spectacles.

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Harnessing the Power of the Evil Chord

So, how can one use the ‘evil chord’ in their compositions without evoking feelings of doom? The answer lies in understanding its nature and creatively integrating it into the musical landscape.

Creating Harmony out of Discord

The key to using the tritone effectively is all about context. Properly resolving the tension it creates can lead to surprisingly harmonious outcomes. In music, as in life, the most profound beauty often emerges from chaos.


1. Is the evil chord still considered ‘evil’ today?

Not at all! The label ‘evil chord’ is more historical than descriptive. Modern music often utilizes the tritone for its unique sound and tension-creating capabilities.

2. Can I use the evil chord in my compositions?

Absolutely! It may create dissonance, but when used creatively, it can add depth and interest to your music.

3. Why does the evil chord sound so unsettling?

The tritone divides the octave into two equal parts, creating a ‘halfway’ effect that our brains perceive as dissonant or unsettling.

4. Are there famous songs that use the evil chord?

Yes, numerous songs across various genres use the tritone. Examples include ‘Black Sabbath’ by Black Sabbath and ‘Maria’ from West Side Story.

5. Is the evil chord used only in scary or sad songs?

No, the tritone is used in a variety of musical contexts, not just to evoke fear or sadness.

6. Does the evil chord have any significance outside of music?

Indeed, it does. The tritone is also used in film and TV scores to create suspense and tension.


The ‘evil chord,’ a musical curiosity wrapped in layers of history, math, and auditory psychology, is far from being the malevolent force its name might suggest.

It is a potent tool in the composer’s kit, capable of conjuring a realm of emotions. The next time you hear this intriguing interval, remember, there’s more to it than meets the ear. Embrace the enigma!

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