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How to Create Tension with Climbing Scales

[Photo by Linus Bohman]

Among the many primary functions of film music, tension is near the top of the list. Wether it’s to generate feelings of suspense, anticipation, or even a false sense of danger, creating tension is a major part of our work as film composers.

In this article I’ll discuss one of the tools you can add to your bag of tricks for creating tension, the technique of stretching out a scale.


Tension is aroused when there is a conflict between what we expect to happen and what actually happens. In music one of the easiest ways to do this is to set up an expectation, but then delay it’s resolution.

I’m reminded of the scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit in which the villain is trying to get Roger Rabbit to come out of his hiding place. He knocks out the rhythm to the first part
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