In a lot of music I hear phrases that are very hard hitting. Forgive the vague reference but this can be heard in orchestral music where for example a timpani, violin/strings all hit together for a split second and then a brief moment of silence before bringing the rest of the orchestra back in.

It creates a feeling of tension/suspense/anger.

Is there a specific name in terms of theory for these parts in music?

  • If you're referring to the silence, it's often marked "GP" for "grand pause" . Sep 12, 2017 at 11:20
  • 2
    It might be helpful to provide a couple examples of this. It's not entirely clear what you're looking to figure out. Is it what to call the hit that these instruments share, or what to call the silence, or are you expecting to find a name for the combination of both? Sep 12, 2017 at 13:18
  • Sorry I will try to find some examples. And I'm not referring to the silence, but the use of the large orchestral hits. Sep 12, 2017 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


This sounds like the sort of chord that is sampled as an 'orchestral hit'. It might be appropriate to use that crossover term in classical analysis. A more traditional term might be a 'tutti' - meaning 'everyone'. But that could refer to a passage, not just one dramatic chord. So shall we say 'dramatic tutti chord, followed by silence'? And even that doesn't include any element of tension or anger, it could be joyous! There certainly isn't a satisfactory one-word description. Say what you mean fully.

  • You're on the mark. They could be considered "dramatic", and you're right they can also invoke any sort of emotion. They're single "hit" chords that could be played by one instrument, or several but their usage is to define some feeling of tension or release. Although, I'm not talking about audio samples and the orchestral hit sounds much different. I will try to get some audio samples when I'm home. Sep 27, 2017 at 14:18
  • I think we're clear what sort of chord you mean. But there isn't a special name for them.
    – Laurence
    Sep 27, 2017 at 16:54

My music theory teacher refers to them as just "tension notes/chords" and for chords/notes that are especially dissonant, "dissonant notes/chords". For notes/chords that are altered to add tension, "tensioned chords/notes".

I don't really think there is a specific name for them. Hope this helps!

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