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  Act II - Buildup

Act II - Buildup

Our next stop is the buildup section. As examined earlier, the buildup of a trailer gives the viewer a deeper understanding of what the movie actually is about. The viewer gets to know more about the main story and its characters. It also prepares the viewer of the trailer for the big and explosive part that comes after this section, the first climax.

The length of the buildup should be around 20-40 seconds.

There is quite a number of possibilities to arrange a great buildup.vHere is a step-by-step guide looking at the most important points:

1. Introduce your chord progression

Here you introduce more of the harmony and chords that you want the track to have. You start adding on some more musicality to the track to start building up and maturing the track. In the case of sound design trailer cues, the buildup doesn't have to have any certain prominent harmony or melody to it, so you can focus more on the sound design, building up more with synths and more new sound design elements.

2. Bring in the first rhythmic elements

You can be really creative at this point. However, here are some of the most typical elements that can introduce some decent amount of action to your track:

A pulsing bass synth:

1. Captain America: Civil War (0:35 - 1:00)

2. Assassin's Creed (0:29 - 0:50)

Ostinato string patterns:

1. Batman Vs. Superman (0:30 - 1:10)

2. The Huntsman: Winter's War (0:29 - 1:10)

Piano Arpeggios:

1. Star Trek Beyond (0:09 - 0:28)

2. Theory Of Everything (0:05 - 0:10)

3. Increase the intensity towards the end of your buildup

Here you have many possibilities as well. You can take your ostinato pattern and add on one full octave in the second half of the buildup.

You can also add a few more sounds to fill some frequencies in the harmonies. Using volume or filter automation to make a bass synth come in step-by-step can work really nicely as well.

No limits are placed on your creativity. Just make sure to save some energy for the third act that comes right after. The contrast in terms of power and intensity between your buildup and the climax should be clearly noticeable. If you make the buildup too intense early on, the climax won't be as impactful.

4. Add a longer riser starting at the second half of your buildup

Adding a longer riser that slowly intensifies will help tremendously to build tension.

Voilà! If you followed these four main principles accurately your buildup should be good to go now. Be sure to keep checking the examples I have inserted here as they will help you understand much better how to build up your music.


A lot of time I get asked how to make the climax part of a trailer track "bigger". Often enough the track is big enough but it doesn't build correctly.

Usually, the buildup already has way too much power so that the contrast in intensity between buildup and climax is not that noticeable anymore.

An easy fix that might solve that issue is removing instruments from your buildup. Save your big sounding instruments such as the brass section or the choir section for your climax and don't incorporate them into the buildup.