Drop a Few Beats to Boost Song Energy

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” E-book Bundle
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Rock SingerThrowing something unexpected into a song will usually increase its momentum. Those little unexpected things often occur at the arranging stage: percussive and other instrumental effects, perhaps tempo fluctuations, etc. In the earlier stages of writing, however, you’ll find that playing with the predictability of the beat pattern can really do exciting things to your song.

There are several ways to do this, but the method I want to show you today is called the “melded cadence”.

A cadence is a resting spot in the music, analogous to a comma or period. To increase momentum, you can remove a bar of music. This works well if your chorus ends with a I-chord. Let’s say you’ve got this as a chorus progression:

C Am Dm G C | C Am Dm G C (2 beats for the C and Am chords, 1 beat for Dm and G)

Perhaps your bridge is:

Am F E Am Bb F G (2 beats each, with 4 beats for G)

The trick is to remove the final C from the chorus. The reason is that the C chord (the I-chord) acts as a resting point. But you’ll likely be looking for ways to increase song energy, not diminish it. So try removing the I-chord at the end of the chorus, and jump right into the bridge. That gives you this:

C Am Dm G C | C Am Dm G | Am F (etc..)

By jumping into the bridge progression in this way, you’re actually shortening the length of the measure, changing the time signature. Shortened time signatures will usually increase forward motion, because they enhance the feeling of “impatience.”

So when do you do this? Anytime you have a closed cadence – a musical phrase that ends with a I-chord – and you want the energy of the moment to keep building, use this “melded cadence” technique.

Because the listener is expecting the I-chord resolution, the “untimely” interruption of the vi-chord that starts the bridge sustains the dominant energy. And since bridges are usually designed to increase energy, they can gain an extra boost from the melded cadence.

Take a look through your songs, and if you’ve got any that feel that they’re lacking energy at crucial moments, try shortening up the measure that connects one section to the next, and you’ll likely enjoy the shot of energy that happens.

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