Retardation music theory is a common concept in music composition and arrangement that is used to create tension and release. It involves the use of dissonant harmonies, where one or more notes clash with the expected harmony, followed by a resolution of the dissonance.

What is Retardation Music Theory?

Retardation music theory refers to a technique of creating tension in music through the use of dissonance. Dissonance occurs when two or more notes clash or create an unstable feeling in the listener’s ear. In contrast, consonance refers to a pleasing sound created when two or more notes are played simultaneously.

Retardation occurs when a note that is part of a dissonant harmony resolves upward, creating an even greater sense of tension before it resolves into consonance. This technique is often used in classical music as well as modern pop and rock songs.

Examples of Retardation Music Theory

One classic example of retardation music theory can be found in Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” In this piece, there are many instances where dissonant harmonies are used to create tension. One particularly notable example occurs towards the end of the first movement, where a series of rapidly descending notes creates an intense feeling of instability before resolving into a stable chord.

Another example can be found in Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.” The song begins with a series of dissonant chords that gradually resolve into a more stable melody. This creates a sense of tension and unease at the start of the song before transitioning into something more pleasant to listen to.

How to Use Retardation Music Theory

If you’re interested in using retardation music theory in your own compositions, there are several things you can do. First, experiment with different types of chords and harmonies to find ones that create the desired effect. Try playing a dissonant chord and then resolving it upwards to see how it affects the overall mood of the music.

You can also try using retardation in different parts of your song to create tension and release. For example, you might use it at the end of a chorus or bridge to make the transition back into the verse more impactful.


Retardation music theory is a powerful tool that can be used to create tension and release in music. By experimenting with different harmonies and chords, you can create unique sounds that will stand out to listeners. Whether you’re composing classical music or modern pop songs, retardation is a technique worth exploring.