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General Music Theory and Tutorials => Basic Composition => Topic started by: Ron on August 09, 2011, 09:04:22 AM

Title: The General Shape of Traditional Songs
Post by: Ron on August 09, 2011, 09:04:22 AM
Further to a discussion in another topic, I've put together a picture of what I mean by songs being made up of a series of "hills." In this case, three "hills" plus a "valley."

Now, look at the over-all shape of the first 8 measures: it also makes a "hill-like" picture when you connect the highest and lowest notes.

The actual ballad is only the first 8 measures. I've added another 8 measures  in the style that might fit an extension of the original, such as a "chorus." What I wanted to point out was the key-change in this section. The shift from C major to G major is vital. (It doesn't have to be to G major; F would have worked, as would have A minor--the point is that there has to be a key change, else the entire thing would be one long boring repeat.) Further, the key must resolve back into the tonic of the entire work; in this case, C major.

Millions of songs have been based on this most fundamental pattern. At the same time, millions have modified this pattern. But to be a good composer, whether of traditional or extremely far-out styles, you need to be aware of these kinds of patterns in music so that when you change them, you do so deliberately and with purpose.

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Title: Re: The General Shape of Traditional Songs
Post by: Michel.R.E on August 09, 2011, 10:25:42 AM
Great stuff Ron!

Particularly interesting to see where the "climax" of the 2nd phrase arrives in relation both to the 2nd phrase alone, and to the entire melody when considered as a whole.
Title: Re: The General Shape of Traditional Songs
Post by: Ron on August 09, 2011, 12:26:06 PM
Identifying the various elements that go into making a musical phrase is like parsing grammar. Students generally hate it, but without it they will never grasp the subtleness of language.  Students usually hated it when I asked for outlines before they started to write, but, without a guideline text (and music, computer programs, whatever) can become meandering randomness.

What I presented here is elementary (as you well know), but I think some younger composers aren't "getting it" when we tell them to explore and stretch their harmonic vision. And, just because something is "modern" does not mean that one can ignore the guidelines that have been worked out over centuries. Shifts in tonal centers are vital if one intends to write music for adults (as opposed to children's works which usually stick with one key throughout).