Are you looking for easy ways to create suspense in your music without knowing much about traditional harmony?

Here's how you can do it in 5 simple ways ⤵️

1️⃣ Single Long Notes

A single long note, aka a drone, creates tension in the form of anticipation.

It gets the listener thinking things like "Where is this going?" "When will this end?" and "What is about to happen?"

These questions all create a sense of anticipation, waiting, for some kind of resolve.

Traditionally in film scores these tend to be either in the lower (below C2 on the keyboard) or higher (above C4 on the keyboard) pitcher registers.

This again creates tension because we have learned that a high/low drone means something is about to happen in film scores.

But, this isn't a hard and fast rule.

Read More: 9 Ways to Create A Drone To Make Your Music More Awesome

2️⃣ String Harmonics

String harmonics are when a string player brings out one of the harmonics within the pitch of the note.

String players often do this by gently resting their fingers on the string at certain points.

It creates an eerie sound that feels like the musical equivalent of a whisper.

Harmonics are great because although they create tension it is a more subtle tension that can feel quite pleasant - not your usual "you are about to poo your pants in fright" type of tension.

3️⃣ Tremolos

Tremolo, or "trembling effect" is when you play a single note very fast - think the guitar intro to Misirlou but without the melody.

Tremolos are incredibly effective at creating tension because they feel like the note is shaking.

Whether that is shaking with fear or shaking with excitement, that is up to you.

A lot of sample libraries come with tremolo or trem. articulations that you can play easily.

Otherwise, you can grab an instrument and play a single note as fast as you can for as long as you can (well, at least 10 seconds otherwise you might get a tired arm)

4️⃣ Repeated Rhythmic Idea

This title sounds a bit vague.

To give you a better idea of what I mean - think of a heartbeat or pulse.

I'm not saying it always needs to be a heartbeat or just percussive. It can include pitch so it becomes an ostinato/riff.

This works especially well with an odd time signature like 5/4 or 7/8.

The theme song to the Halloween movie is a great example of a repeated rhythmic idea creating tension.

Another approach to this is the ticking clock; an incessant ticking or dripping tap that will not stop and makes you feel like Mugatu ⤵️

5️⃣ Risers (My favourite)

I have saved the best till last - Risers: The Easiest Way To Create Tension In Your Music!

A "Riser" or Glissando, is a pitch that rises from one note to another - usually an octave or more.

Risers are especially popular in Trailer Music. We use them to add a layer of tension to a section of our tracks.

The easiest way for you to create a riser is to record yourself playing a glissando on a stringed instrument like a violin.

If you don't have access to a Violin then you can play a long note on a synth and use the pitch bend function.

There you have it - the 5 ways to create suspense in your music without relying on chords and harmony.