“Tension and release” is a phrase you must have heard before. This principle is essential since it underpins almost all music. One of the key reasons why listeners believe music tells a story is because of the use of tension and release. Tension and release refers to the build-up of musical tension that gradually fades and relaxes in a musical sense. A moment of restlessness in the music creates anticipation and the resolution of the drama resolves this tension for the listener. There are many ways how tension and release can be introduced to electronic music tracks. In this article, we will show you how to increase the energy of your buildups with rhythmic tension in your harmony.

Let’s start with the short sequence we created in our SoundBridge: DAW, which contains the full mix without the chord progression.

This picture was taken before I started working on the chord progression.
~Full Mix – Without Chord Progression

To begin, let’s create a chord progression that we will work on.

This is a picture of the original chord progression and its MIDI channel.
~Chord Progression (Solo)

Once we’re finished with that, we’ll move on to the track’s buildup section. As we said, there are numerous ways to create tension in the buildup section. However, when it comes to chord progressions, one of the best methods is looping and the use of rhythmic tension. It’s all about deviating from the established chord progression and building tension with rhythm. You can loop the first portion and speed up the progression as it gets closer to the release (drop). Let’s write our progression in this manner and listen to it.

This is a picture of the MIDI editor's chord progression and the tension created by looping.
~Chord Progression (Tension)


To make it more energetic, we’ll add a snare drum fill with a few uplifters and automate the synth’s high-pass filter towards the drop.

This is a picture of the entire arrangement that includes the build-up and drop.

Finally, let’s hear how our build-up and drop sounds now.

~Build-up and full mix ( Processed Chord Tension)

So, this is how we can increase the energy of our buildups using rhythmic tension in our harmony.

If you liked this article on buildups, here are some more on the same subject: