Solving the Problem of Too Much Repetition

If you’re repeating the same idea over and over, you risk boring your audience. Here are some solutions

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synthesizer songwriterSongs will suffer from a lack of repetition before they’ll suffer from too much of it. Nonetheless, there are times when it’s just too much the same thing over and over again, and you risk boring your audience.

So let’s look at a possible situation of song that overuses repetition, and then consider some possible solutions. Let’s say you’ve composed a song in a verse-only design (AAA…). That melody is composed of a phrase that keeps repeating, with the final phrase changing to bring it to a proper close:

EXAMPLE 1 LISTEN (Opens in a new tab or browser window)

The chords for the excerpt are: Am – G/B – Am/C – G/B. The chords for the 4th phrase are: Dm – Em – F – Em.

As it is, this isn’t a big problem, and in fact, as long as the song doesn’t go on too long, you could take that excerpt as is, play it through a few times with some interesting lyrics and dynamic changes, and it would be OK. But here are some other ideas that might help:

  1. Change the 3rd phrase. This means coming up with a new chord progression and melody for the 3rd phrase, something that will take the song away from that constant return to the Am chord. Here’s one possibility: LISTEN
  2. Change the octave (and do other instrumental changes). For this example, I’ve gone back to the first version, but simply changed the second run-through to be an octave higher. This also suggests other instrumental possibilities that will alleviate the effect of constant repeating. So try adding/subtracting instruments, changing performance style, etc. LISTEN
  3. Add a contrasting song section. Try running the melody twice, and then add a bridge section that allows the melody and chords to go in a new direction. The sound file that follows gives you the final two bars of the verse melody and then starts a new section. LISTEN

Some other ideas: You may not have thought of a chorus for your song, but it might work – even a wordless one that involves humming or some other non-word approach.

If adding a new section such as a chorus or bridge is the way you want to go, you’ll find that switching the mode (e.g., a new section in major for songs that are predominantly minor) will give a nice sense of variety.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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