Tension (music)

In music, tension is the anticipation music creates in a listener's mind for relaxation or release. For example, tension may be produced through reiteration, increase in dynamic level, gradual motion to a higher or lower pitch, or (partial) syncopations between consonance and dissonance.[1]

Experiments in music perception have explored perceived tension in music [2] and perceived emotional intensity.[3][4]

The balance between tension and repose are explored in musical analysis—determined by contrasts that are, "...of great interest to the style analyst," and can be analyzed in several, even conflicting layers—as different musical elements such as harmony may create different levels of tension than rhythm and melody.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kliewer, Vernon (1975). "Melody: Linear Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music", Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music, p. 290. Wittlich, Gary (ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.
  2. ^ Fredrickson, W. E. (1999). "Effect of Musical Performance on Perception of Tension in Gustav Holst's First Suite in E-flat", Journal of Research in Music Education, 47(1), 44–52.
  3. ^ Brittin, R. V., & Duke, R. A. (1997). "Continuous versus Summative Evaluations of Musical Intensity: A Comparison of Two Methods for Measuring Overall Effect", International Journal of Research in Music Education, 45(2), 245–258.
  4. ^ Sloboda, J. A., & Lehmann, A. C. (2001). "Tracking Performance Correlates of Changes in Perceived Intensity of Emotion During Different Interpretations of a Chopin Piano Prelude", Music Perception, 19(1), 87–120.
  5. ^ White, John D. (1976). The Analysis of Music, p.15. ISBN 0-13-033233-X.