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Building tension
Old 23rd September 2012
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Building tension

I'm having trouble figuring out how to effectively build tension to the drop in a song. I have the snare rolls, the rising background percussive beep-y sounds, the highpass filters, and of course the sweeps, but the build-ups still sort of seem like they're coming out of nowhere. I really need to know how to use pads to build tension, like in this song around 3:16-4:15: Archie - 20% Cooler (Club Mix) [FREE DOWNLOAD] - YouTube
How do I make chords that build up like that? Also, if anybody could give me some tips on how to make those kinds of pads, that would be nice because I'm **** at making pads and basses. (Also, how do I make the bass sound in that song?)
Old 24th September 2012
  #2
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
bump
Old 24th September 2012
  #3
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start the pad quiet and gradually increase the volume or play with the cutoff/resonance.
Old 24th September 2012
  #4
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I'm not hearing anything extraordinary in terms of synthesis here - supersaw waveform (or jack up the unison) and a lowpass filter.
Old 24th September 2012
  #5
ozy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KickSnare ➑️
I'm having trouble figuring out how to effectively build tension
start a thread comparing a new VA to the juno106,

pretend you have 5 of them,

scold whoever answers either way,

lay back and watch tension build
Old 24th September 2012
  #6
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🎧 10 years
When you're trying to build tension in a song you want to slowly start crowding the sonic spectrum. The more crowded you make the spectrum, the more the listener's ear will want it to resolve back to the uncrowded state.
There are a variety of ways to do this. In the example you linked, it sounded like filter cutoff and resonance were used.

Holding certain chords (7th in particular) is a really good way to create tension with just note selection. If you hold these chords for an extended period of time, the listener's ear will want you to resolve back to the tonic really badly.

To get an amazing buildup and release, you can marry multiple ways of building tension into the section. Use increasing dynamics, increasing sonic spectrum, increasing density of notes, chord selection and chord change time, ect...

You can also drop a bit of silence (1/4 note rest) between the buildup and release for even more dynamic change.
Old 24th September 2012
  #7
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🎧 10 years
I've heard tension built and released a thousand different ways in different tracks. For a while around 2000 it seemed like there was almost a competition to see who could build tension the most imperceptibly - that is, no big rises or anything '90s like that; just, all of a sudden, "Oh, hey, that was just grooving along and now I'm rocking out."

As always, the best way to convey musical emotion is to first feel it. Emulation of feeling is one thing, but there's no formulaic way to *actually* convey it.
Old 24th September 2012 | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brainchild ➑️
I've heard tension built and released a thousand different ways in different tracks. For a while around 2000 it seemed like there was almost a competition to see who could build tension the most imperceptibly - that is, no big rises or anything '90s like that; just, all of a sudden, "Oh, hey, that was just grooving along and now I'm rocking out."

As always, the best way to convey musical emotion is to first feel it. Emulation of feeling is one thing, but there's no formulaic way to *actually* convey it.
Well said. There is no way to convey it and trying to explain it does no justice to the musical phenomenom either. When I've got goosebumps or start feeling tingly, I know I've felt tension. When I'm listening to your Break 101 Part 1: Noise Swoosh, I pretend to think it sounds interesting, but it doesn't.
Old 24th September 2012
  #9
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🎧 5 years
See BoC's track "Happy Cycling" for a superb example of building tension and then releasing the listener into sonic bliss.. Still in my playlist after 14 years.
Old 24th September 2012 | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jessestephens ➑️

Holding certain chords (7th in particular) is a really good way to create tension with just note selection. If you hold these chords for an extended period of time, the listener's ear will want you to resolve back to the tonic really badly.
This. I sometimes pitch bend the chord up to increase the tension even more before it's released.
Old 24th September 2012 | Show parent
  #11
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessestephens ➑️
Holding certain chords (7th in particular) is a really good way to create tension with just note selection. If you hold these chords for an extended period of time, the listener's ear will want you to resolve back to the tonic really badly.
What progressions do this, like in the one I linked? Do I just make a bunch of 7th chords that rise up in a loop?
Old 24th September 2012
  #12
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modularjack's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
There are a billion chord combinations that will increase or decrease tension. No there is not a rule of thumb to how to do it. What you're basically asking is-- how do I write an interesting song? Nobody can teach you that, although you seem to be on the right track. Snare rolls are played out. Filter sweeps have been beaten to death. Pitch risers are so 2002. You just have to experiment and trust your instincts. It's obvious that the obvious ways to do it are majorly played out in this day and age. One of the things they're doing in dubstep now is to start the drop a beat or two early or late. That definitely gives the dancers a bit of tension... and sometimes a confused look on their face as they start going off before or after the drop. It's interesting though, and not a totally tired and expired cliche. Just a few thoughts.
Old 24th September 2012 | Show parent
  #13
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by modularjack ➑️
One of the things they're doing in dubstep now is to start the drop a beat or two early or late.
I think I've heard that before. Bjorad - Violence by Bjorad on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free
I've also heard songs that slow down in tempo during a build up.
I'll play around and see what works. And post results, of course.
Old 25th September 2012
  #14
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🎧 10 years
natural sounding build-ups and the associated release of dopamine is i think essential to a lot of genres. i do a sort of noisy ambient, and have been experimenting for a couple years now with the idea of almost 'post rock' style buildups with electronic instruments - as opposed to the more rigid confines of EDM buildups. i don't use drums often in my music, but i do spend a lot of time opening various filters, extending decay and release on envelopes as the progression builds, looping parts on top of one another to create density, and jacking up the feedback of any spatial effects going on. often i get too dense, and it becomes noise.

to me wall-of-noise is the ultimate end goal of a dynamic buildup, my brain doesn't want to return to the original rhythm/progression of the track - it just wants bigger and louder until levels are maxed and the listener is in 'bliss - out' mode (that point in the track where all components are at maximum crescendo and the progressions are maximized) . i guess some people want the original sequence again. my brain rejects this for some reason.

i think to a point standard EBM genres benefit from that concept, m83 are certainly masters of this sort of non rhythm-oriented buildup and have influenced what i try to do heavily. i classify it as a more 'opening up' of the sound rather than a 'building up'.

i only post this crap about myself because these buildups are something i've been struggling to improve since i got into music. the release of dopamine is the central goal of all these instruments we buy, all of this time we spend learning how to make noises. dynamic release is so important! good luck on your quest
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #15
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jessestephens's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by KickSnare ➑️
What progressions do this, like in the one I linked? Do I just make a bunch of 7th chords that rise up in a loop?
There are tons of progressions that can use the 7th to create tension. It is a standard tool to use in writing chord progressions that goes all the way back to classical music.

Here is one off the top of my head.

minor key

I - ii - V -
I - ii - V -
I - ii - V -
I - ii - vii

The major 5th creates a small amount of tension towards the tonic, but that is usually what is used in the regular circle progression during the song. In my tiny example above, the major 5th is resolving back to the I for the regular circle progression. The 7th is being used for transition tension.
The minor 7th chord being held at the end of that will create a tension that the listener's ear will want to resolve back to the I. The longer this chord is held, the more tension is built for the eventual return to the Tonic chord. This change of the chord progression also signals to the listener that a major change is coming in the song. For example going from verse to chorus.


Many people seem to think that you should just fumble around until you "feel it". This implys that music just seems to fall out of some magical place and "happen". I totally disagree with that. Every artist has a process they use to create their art. I'm not saying there isn't room for experimentation and bending or outright breaking your process. However, learning a process is the first step to getting results without all of the frustration involved in just blindly fumbling around.

You are doing the right thing by asking for the methods used in a certain part of music production. Learn methods that are known to work and then modify and experiment with them.

Try to learn as much music theory as you can, it will teach you some "rules" that you can use to get good results without as much frustration. Once you know the rules, you can experiment with them and bend or break them.
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #16
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessestephens ➑️
There are tons of progressions that can use the 7th to create tension. It is a standard tool to use in writing chord progressions that goes all the way back to classical music.

Here is one off the top of my head.

minor key

I - ii - V -
I - ii - V -
I - ii - V -
I - ii - vii

The major 5th creates a small amount of tension towards the tonic, but that is usually what is used in the regular circle progression during the song. In my tiny example above, the major 5th is resolving back to the I for the regular circle progression. The 7th is being used for transition tension.
The minor 7th chord being held at the end of that will create a tension that the listener's ear will want to resolve back to the I. The longer this chord is held, the more tension is built for the eventual return to the Tonic chord. This change of the chord progression also signals to the listener that a major change is coming in the song. For example going from verse to chorus.


Many people seem to think that you should just fumble around until you "feel it". This implys that music just seems to fall out of some magical place and "happen". I totally disagree with that. Every artist has a process they use to create their art. I'm not saying there isn't room for experimentation and bending or outright breaking your process. However, learning a process is the first step to getting results without all of the frustration involved in just blindly fumbling around.

You are doing the right thing by asking for the methods used in a certain part of music production. Learn methods that are known to work and then modify and experiment with them.

Try to learn as much music theory as you can, it will teach you some "rules" that you can use to get good results without as much frustration. Once you know the rules, you can experiment with them and bend or break them.
thanks for this!
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessestephens ➑️
There are tons of progressions that can use the 7th to create tension. It is a standard tool to use in writing chord progressions that goes all the way back to classical music.

Here is one off the top of my head.

minor key

I - ii - V -
I - ii - V -
I - ii - V -
I - ii - vii

The major 5th creates a small amount of tension towards the tonic, but that is usually what is used in the regular circle progression during the song. In my tiny example above, the major 5th is resolving back to the I for the regular circle progression. The 7th is being used for transition tension.
The minor 7th chord being held at the end of that will create a tension that the listener's ear will want to resolve back to the I. The longer this chord is held, the more tension is built for the eventual return to the Tonic chord. This change of the chord progression also signals to the listener that a major change is coming in the song. For example going from verse to chorus.


Many people seem to think that you should just fumble around until you "feel it". This implys that music just seems to fall out of some magical place and "happen". I totally disagree with that. Every artist has a process they use to create their art. I'm not saying there isn't room for experimentation and bending or outright breaking your process. However, learning a process is the first step to getting results without all of the frustration involved in just blindly fumbling around.

You are doing the right thing by asking for the methods used in a certain part of music production. Learn methods that are known to work and then modify and experiment with them.

Try to learn as much music theory as you can, it will teach you some "rules" that you can use to get good results without as much frustration. Once you know the rules, you can experiment with them and bend or break them.
Thanks for this. Chord progression stuff is one of the parts of music theory I don't really understand. The only instruments Ive played are viola and bass guitar, so I never learned about chords. I'll try out these tips you gave me tomorrow.
This forum is definitely going. To become one of my favourite websites.
Old 25th September 2012
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
In order to understand tension, you need to understand resolution. They are inseparable. Without resolution, you have no tension. Without tension, you have no resolution.

The "ice cream" changes are iii - vi - ii - V - I. They are a series of resolutions. Play that backwards and you have tension. Same with I - vi - IV - V.

Otherwise, any major chord, in and of itself is resolved. Take the major 3rd and 5th and move them, alone or together, a half step or a half step down and you have tension. Move them back and you have resolution. For example... take the major 3rd of a major C chord (E) and move it up a half step and you have a suspended 4th... tension. Bring it back down and it "resolves" to a major chord again (no tension). Move that same major 3rd (E) down and you have a minor 3rd... tension. Move it back up a half step and it resolves again.

The "devils chord" is a diminished 5th... which is taking the G of a major C chord and moving it down a half step. Move it back up and it resolves. Take the 5th and move it down a half step AND move the major 3rd down a half step and you have a diminished C chord. Move them back up a half step and they resolve.

Lastly, if you have the inclination, take a movie score that you like and analyze the chordal structure the composer uses. The tension and resolution will always match the mood of the scene. As a matter of fact, great movie scorers will develop a theme/melody line for each character. Then, depending on the mood of the scene, they will play these same lines in various modalities... achieving tension, sadness, melancholy, joy, exhuberance... you name it.

Obviously, dynamics and the choice of instruments have a part in creating mood. But chord progressions and uses of modalities are far more "instrumental" (pun intended) in achieving emotion.
Old 25th September 2012
  #19
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jroode ➑️
In order to understand tension, you need to understand resolution. They are inseparable. Without resolution, you have no tension. Without tension, you have no resolution.

The "ice cream" changes are iii - vi - ii - V - I. They are a series of resolutions. Play that backwards and you have tension. Same with I - vi - IV - V.

Otherwise, any major chord, in and of itself is resolved. Take the major 3rd and 5th and move them, alone or together, a half step or a half step down and you have tension. Move them back and you have resolution. For example... take the major 3rd of a major C chord (E) and move it up a half step and you have a suspended 4th... tension. Bring it back down and it "resolves" to a major chord again (no tension). Move that same major 3rd (E) down and you have a minor 3rd... tension. Move it back up a half step and it resolves again.

The "devils chord" is a diminished 5th... which is taking the G of a major C chord and moving it down a half step. Move it back up and it resolves. Take the 5th and move it down a half step AND move the major 3rd down a half step and you have a diminished C chord. Move them back up a half step and they resolve.

Lastly, if you have the inclination, take a movie score that you like and analyze the chordal structure the composer uses. The tension and resolution will always match the mood of the scene. As a matter of fact, great movie scorers will develop a theme/melody line for each character. Then, depending on the mood of the scene, they will play these same lines in various modalities... achieving tension, sadness, melancholy, joy, exhuberance... you name it.

Obviously, dynamics and the choice of instruments have a part in creating mood. But chord progressions and uses of modalities are far more "instrumental" (pun intended) in achieving emotion.
very interesting, im not very piano intelligent but i understand chord structure/theory, i may have to give this a try as i always use to raise volumes, open filters and hang onto that 7th and fill the spectrum as metioned.. But you just got albert einstien on my arse
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #20
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by KickSnare ➑️
Thanks for this. Chord progression stuff is one of the parts of music theory I don't really understand.
Here's some help - Music Theory for Songwriters - Home
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #21
ozy
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ozy's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by KickSnare ➑️
a bunch of 7th chords that rise up in a loop?
Listen, man:

if you talk of music like that, you will never make decent music.

Chords don't gather in "bunches"

you don't "throw in" chords like they were manure.

Rise (linear) and loop (cyclical) are two completely different metaphors. Hoe can you mistake one for the other? What does "rising in loops" mean? Anything at all?

Talk of music with some respect and propriety!

You first of all have to respect music, and love it.

Do you? Really? Do you feel emotions when you listen to music? (Study WHEN that happens: that's "tension". Start copying).

NEXT, you will be able to master emotions through music (this is what "tension" is about)

"Tension" happens when music conveys two different emotions/meanings, and you switch, or make transitions, from one to another, contrast one against the other, cover one with the other and let some of the latter filter through. etc.

Fear to relief, love to hate, rage to calm and viceversa.

First, try making music conveying ONE emotion: what are the sounds, chords, figures, rhythms that help you do it?

Then try another, different.

Then compare the two.

Then start thinking of tension.

The best advice you received from others forumers has been "use silence".

A lot of it.

For months, better.
Old 25th September 2012
  #22
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🎧 10 years
Hopefully we can gather all the puzzle pieces for creating good music here in this thread. That way people won't have to guess any more because they'll be able to plug the pieces of Good Music into place in the correct order.

For people who've never been exposed to rudimentary music theory, it probably seems like the answer to all their questions, but then you start making music in a paint-by-number fashion and realize that, not only has everyone ever already tried that, but it doesn't make your music one bit more interesting or good.



Check out how theoretically complex that song is, then look how good it is, scratch your head, and try to figure out how it's possible. It may have something to do with sensibility.
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
orpheus_'s Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessestephens ➑️
Holding certain chords (7th in particular) is a really good way to create tension with just note selection. If you hold these chords for an extended period of time, the listener's ear will want you to resolve back to the tonic really badly.
This is really the accepted answer in music theory, and applies to all music genres...

When you end a musical phrase on the tonic it's all over. The longer you can avoid the tonic, the more tension builds. You can use notes from the 7th chord in the melody (without actually playing the chord), but don't end on the tonic.

For different chords it can be difficult to work out what the tonic note actually is (it's not a simple answer as it's relative) - but you will know it by feeling. If you end on the tonic you'll feel the tension go away. It's probably not as much the snare rushes and filter sweeps you're using it's the notes you're using..
Old 25th September 2012
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
this thread should be a sticky, really good info in here.
Old 25th September 2012
  #25
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kacperson's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
cosign,great infos here but




we



need



moaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrr !!! so cmon more experienced buddies,share some wisdom,this thread is100 % gold
Old 25th September 2012
  #26
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Headz51230's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Save the best for last.

Effective and original usage of verse, chorus, bridge, etc.

Introduce certain sounds during different times in a track and then engage all of them at once (or as many as sonically allowed.) It's like a teaser of things to come but the listener will not realize this until the song is over if done right. I'll take a full "riff" and chop it up and place it randomly, only to come back to said riff at the peak of the track.

Use accidentals and don't be afraid to get outside of a key
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Headz51230 ➑️
Use accidentals and don't be afraid to get outside of a key
One of the best melodies I've ever made used a key signature that didn't even exist. I didn't know what to mark the key as when I uploaded it on SoundCloud.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer ➑️
Thanks. Chapter One, Concept 3 was pretty much exactly what I needed to understand this.
Old 26th September 2012
  #28
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
reverb
Old 26th September 2012 | Show parent
  #29
Gear Maniac
 
orpheus_'s Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by teknatronik ➑️
reverb
+1
Old 26th September 2012 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessestephens ➑️
Many people seem to think that you should just fumble around until you "feel it". This implys that music just seems to fall out of some magical place and "happen". I totally disagree with that. Every artist has a process they use to create their art. I'm not saying there isn't room for experimentation and bending or outright breaking your process. However, learning a process is the first step to getting results without all of the frustration involved in just blindly fumbling around.

You are doing the right thing by asking for the methods used in a certain part of music production. Learn methods that are known to work and then modify and experiment with them.

Try to learn as much music theory as you can, it will teach you some "rules" that you can use to get good results without as much frustration. Once you know the rules, you can experiment with them and bend or break them.
following that advice house and techno never would have happened... thats a fact and tells something about your statements..

music does fell out of a magical place and people that dont know that are no musicans.

what do you mean by blindly fumbeling around? not following a plan? a standard layout following music theorie? wouldnt it be better than to leave that part to the computer than and you just select the sounds?

thats what this about and explains the opΒ΄s problem.. where should excitment come from by following a generic formular? without an own musical idea? and how do you get that idea without "fumbeling around? from some magical place or stealing it from an real artist?

music without soul is enviromental noise
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