Danny Elfman – Beetlejuice Sequence

This sequence is based on the descending horn melody from the main title theme of Tim Burton‘s 1988 film, Beetlejuice.


Tim Burton got his start in the movie business animating and designing for Disney in the early 1980s. As he gained experience and skills he began making his own short films, which actually got him fired by Disney for spending the company’s resources on a work that would be too dark and scary for children to see. Frankenweenie, the movie that got Burton fired, tells the story of a young boy who tries to revive his dog after it is run over by a car. Although his work may not have been fitting for Disney audiences, Burton’s dark creative side was noticed by others.

Paul Reubens, better known for his character Pee-wee Herman, saw Frankenweenie, asked Burton to direct Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Burton asked Danny Elfman to do the music, launching a partnership that created lasted for over 35 years.

With Pee-wee’s Adventure completed, Burton’s next big project was Beetlejuice: a supernatural comedy horror about a young couple forced to cope with life after death and the family of pretentious yuppies who invade their treasured New England home. A perfect place for Burton to get creative and Elfman to create a funky sound world.

Danny Elfman

After finishing High School, Danny Elfman moved to France with his brother where he performed violin with Jérôme Savary‘s Le Grand Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group. He then went on an adventure through Africa before returning home to Los Angeles in the early 1970’s, pluggin in with his brother Richard’s  street theatre performance art troupe The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.

Elfman’s songwriting and leadership helped Oingo Boingo build a great career. They recorded eight studio albums with numerous music videos. The music sounds like the 80s, with a sort of ska-influenced rocking sound, and their music videos are odd and memorable.

Their sound attracted Tim Burton, and the rest is history. They have collaborated on Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Big Fish (2003) and Alice in Wonderland (2010), and many others movies.


Elfman’s music for Beetlejuice is snarky, angular, twisted and fragmented. He uses fluttering mallets to make the air shimmer, rhythmic piano chords to turn up the energy, bending vocals to conjure images of ghosts, and edgy brass riffs to highlight the grotesque.

All in all, it’s the perfect blend of musical techniques to represent this funky horror-comedy about summoning specters from the netherworld.

Play this sequence with a strong sound and maintain the energy as you progress through the melody. Use the 8th notes to propel the line forward and separation to provide clarity from start to finish.

This sequence will help you improve your articulation, sound, and intonation.

Have any questions? Comment below, or leave a comment on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Happy Practicing!

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