Creating a 'house' for your musical ideas
Do you want to know how to organise your musical ideas?
In this blog, we will think of a musical composition as being like a ‘house’, and see how to fit musical ideas together to form a well-designed ‘house’.
Imagine a house with no design or structure. It might have lots of interesting things inside but they are all mixed up and strewn about in no particular order. Or the house could be just one big room or a rambling mix of unrelated rooms, with doors and hallways that lead nowhere or to unexpected places. Not many people would want to live in this type of house, or if they did, they wouldn’t pay much for it!
Similarly, a musical composition without design and structure will confuse the listener; it will likely be unpopular and not very memorable. It would struggle to hold the listener’s interest because it has no musical shape, no recognizable highs and lows, and won’t lead anywhere musically. Simply put, it wouldn’t make any sort of statement!
This applies to songwriting as much as other music. It’s very important to take the time to work out a good musical structure or form. As a songwriter, you need to build a good ‘house’ to contain all your musical ideas that make up your song.
Sometimes inspiration will strike you quickly, and you’ll get a real buzz out of it. But then what do you do with your great idea?
A really great musical idea can often be the catalyst to write a song, but that’s just the beginning. We need to add other parts of the song, and for the song to be a success, it needs to be well structured. It’s time to ‘build the house’!
Also another benefit to developing your ‘musical house’, is that along the way you might get more great ideas that work well with the first great idea.
Let’s look at an example of a song structure. A very common one is – intro, verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, ending. This is often written as ‘Intro, V, V, CH, V, CH, Ending’.
Let’s say you have a really great idea for a chorus. You need to add different musical content apart from the chorus, e.g. some verses. But don’t make them too different to the chorus, as they need to lead smoothly into, or out of, the chorus and complement it.
To make the song complete, you’ll probably need an introduction (think of an entrance path to the house) and an ending (hmmm not sure about how that relates to a house haha). The introduction will usually be instrumental only and introduce a little of the song’s music in it - often a couple of lines of the verse. Its purpose it to get people used to the style of the song before the vocal starts. It may not be a good idea to introduce chorus material in the introduction, as that would give away some of the highlights of the song too early. But don’t take this as gospel, as it can work sometimes.
Working out an ending to a song doesn’t necessarily come easily. How do you want the song to end? Do you want a ‘big finish’ or a ‘high note’, or maybe a quiet reflective passage? If you are going to perform the song, a proper ending is needed, but of course if you are making a recording, a fade out might be an easy and good option.
There are other types of sections that could form part of your song, such as a ‘bridge’ or ‘solo’. But don’t add a section or complexity unless it really adds something worthwhile to the song. Sometimes ideas sound cool when you first compose them, but don’t sound so good when you listen to the overall piece later on.
In songwriting and composing generally, usually that old saying is true - ‘success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration’. If we don’t take enough time to write the remaining musical sections that support and compliment the original inspiration, those wonderful ideas will be lost and never used, no matter how good they were!
Some final advice – If the song is taking too long to finish properly, despite your efforts, take some short breaks in the writing process, but make sure you come back to it and be committed to finishing it. Often I have found that by coming back fresh the next day, you’ll find a different way to complete the song. Hard work pays off!
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