Great songs evolve through stages of development from the initial idea of the composition, to rehearsals, to finally to the recording. Across this timeline the song will mature with the creation of unique song sections that unfold into a more refined sound.
Q: The music I like seems to only use a group of 4 to 6 chords for an entire song. But, the overall harmony of the music I try composing isn’t my main problem. What I’m getting stuck on is how songwriters change up the feel. I thought it might be the speed of the song, or maybe how loud parts get played, but I think there’s something more to it than that. Can you talk through what makes song sections sound unique?
Trevor — Louisville, KY
A: Harmony is often fairly straightforward when it comes to; Pop music, R and B, Country and Western, Rock, (as well as, many other styles), in that much of these common genres of music generally only use a handful of chords within a piece. To uniquely separate the song sections, what we’ll often find, is there will be changes in the way the overall dynamics of the sections are performed and recorded. This can turn a verse section into an interlude, or perhaps change a chorus into an outro. We’ll begin by doing a quick analysis of a song I’ve composed for this lesson. Then, we’ll run through it on the guitar to find out how parts can be performed differently to either build up or subtract from the overall dynamic feel of exactly how a song’s sections will have their final effect upon the listener.
LESSON EXAMPLE PIECE:
Start by watching the song-chart analysis in the video at [01:43]. The example piece is in the key of “D” (style is Rock). Look over the chart shown below.
STRUCTURE and DYNAMICS:
Guitar parts throughout a piece of music can be performed differently to either, “build up,” or, “subtract from,” the overall dynamic feel of how a song’s sections will come across sounding to the listener.
Composers will consider the structure of each song section during the initial song-writing process and then again during the recording process. This part of the composing process will tend to be focused on the flow and transition between each section, (verse, bridge, guitar solo, chorus, outro. etc.).
RECORDING and MIXING:
During the recording and mixing stage the music artist, (working with the sound engineer and more often than not a producer), will explore how to; layer parts, add effects, or mix /blend instruments together to produce a range of unique articulations across the different sections of a piece.
The skill of a studio sound engineer, (combined with the vision of the producer and the song’s composer) will make all the difference in the world to a songs eventual recording and its studio mix.
During the final, “recording” stage of a songs evolution, (from initial idea, to the notated chart, to recorded piece), it is possible for a song to go through several different re-writes. In the end, the song may end up sounding quite different from its earliest conceived form.
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