BRAAAMS – How To Use The Sound That Everyone Knows

By Richard Pryn •  Updated: 09/19/22 •  5 min read

We have all heard these distinctive sounds so many times and probably in every single trailer over the last decade. But what are Braaams?

Braaams explained?

Braaams are those long low brassy sounds used within trailer music that are used to accent certain parts of the track. They usually consist of low brass instruments layered with synths and the odd piano here or there.

They are really great tools to bring more power and impact to your track without having to add new musical material or to add more drums.

Who invented the Braaam?

According to most sources the braaam originates back to the Christopher Nolan film, Inception. It is however a contentious issue as there are a couple of composers claiming that they were the ones to “invent” the braaam.

Hans Zimmer says that he is the Godfather of braaams. In 2013, Zimmer told Vulture he made the sound by putting “a piano in the middle of a church and I put a book on the pedal, and these brass players would basically play into the resonance of the piano. And then I added a bit of electronic nonsense.”

Whereas trailer composer Mike Zarin claims in 2009 when he wrote the music for the original Inception teaser he had unintentionally started a trend that would overtake the industry when he created his braaams. Zarin told Indiewire that he “hopped on the subway [and] did a whole bunch of foley recordings, capturing this idea of being on a train.” These recordings formed when they became the braaam sound you hear in the teaser trailer.

Further to this, when the second feature trailer was released using the music of Zack Hemsey you can clearly hear that the braaam was now here in all its full brassy glory. 

I’d believe that it was a wonderful moment of synchronicity where all three composers working on the same film were brought to the same musical direction. Whether that was through independent research and play, or through the musical direction of the music department on the film the result was the same. 

How to make a Braaam

Let’s just get one thing straight about braaams. They are a much more subtle sound than they would first seem to be. Much like drones. They can be deceptively beautiful and layered.

If you want to make a braaam straight out of the box then you need a tool like Trailer Brass or Keep Forest’s Devastator Warzone where you can actually grab a ‘braaam’ preset.

If you would like to make one yourself then you need to ask yourself one or two questions first;

What type of trailer music am I creating? And, what function is my Braaam going to serve?

The reason that you need to ask yourself this is that they are actually used in different ways.

Braaam as distant horn

As you can hear at the very start of this Captain America trailer using my music. The braaam they have opted for is that kind of distant war horn sound.

The way to go about making this sound is to take a low sound that has a nice quick attack like a cello or horn sound and chuck it in a nice big reverb.

The trick is to try and think of it in real life.

If there were a battle horn sounding in the distance then the sound would have high end rolled off (because high frequencies don’t travel as far) and you would be drenched in reflections (reverb). 

So that is what you do with your sound; roll off the top end of the reverb and give it a nice long tail.

Braaam as signature sound

This one is more used in sound design cues but is still a really useful tool to get top work on your braaaming skills.

As you can hear in this wicked track by Brent Daniels that was used in the Black Panther trailer campaign, the braaam has a life of its own.

The trick to this approach is to imagine yourself as a producer who is “remixing” the braaam.

You wouldn’t just take the brass sound as is. You would chop it, reverse it, smash it, kiss it, break it. Then you would let automation breathe more life into it.

Then all of a sudden your braaam becomes a unique sound all by itself. This type of braaam is used like a signature sound, to give your track it’s own identity, and to grow and bring another level of change and progression to what you are offering.

Braaam as in-your-face brass

This is my favourite braaam. The type of braaam you hear in Zack Hemsey’s score the the second Inception trailer. 

Brass blowing your socks off with low, brassy, raspy braaams.

This type of braaam is most often used to emphasise certain parts of the trailer cue to give it more power and impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the inception sound effect called?

The inception sound effect is called a “braaam” and is used extensively in film and trailer music. I go into more detail about what the “braaam” is in this article I contributed to.

Who made the inception sound?

We are going to put this down to the three composers who used braaams in their music for the Inception movie; Mike Zarin, Hans Zimmer, and Zack Hemsey.

What music is used in the Inception trailer?

The piece of music that everyone is looking for when they ask this question is ‘Mind Heist’ by Zack Hemsey.

Richard Pryn

Hey there. I am an award winning composer for movie trailers, including Bladerunner 2049, Diablo II, WandaVision, and loads more. I am the founder of The Trailer Music School where my aim is to teach everything I know about music composition, production, and generally being a functional human being. I podcast, blog, vlog and jog (sometimes). I also love coffee, nachos and self-improvement. I live with my wife, three kids and numerous pets. I am also known by my pseudonym, Richard Schrieber (it’s a long story).