When it comes to the performance of a song, you’re probably very well aware of the importance of musical energy. Much of the time we might safely equate energy with loudness, though the true definition involves a lot more than just loudness.
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And in fact, if you take the focus off of performance, and put it on the actual structure of your song, you’ll find that the notion of musical energy is influenced by other factors:
- How high the melody is. (As a melody moves higher, the human voice generates more energy.)
- How tonally strong the chord progression is. (Strong progressions, ones that sit around the tonic chord, have a way of heightening musical energy.)
- How emotional the lyric is.
- How rhythmically busy the instrumentation is.
As a songwriter, it’s that short list that should be important to you. It’s important to get the energy levels of your songs working properly, or else you run the risk of ending up with a song that sounds boring to an audience.
The most common way to get energy working properly is to make sure that it fluctuates as a song progresses. Songs that display musical energy that’s constantly on the move, with moments of intensity contrasted with other moments of relative calm, give you the best shot at pulling an audience in and having them feel excited.
So here are some specific things you can and should be doing to make the energy of your songs work well for you:
- Avoid placing the verse and chorus melodies in the exact same vocal range. Since you want a chorus to really pop, you’ll want your highest notes to happen in the chorus.
- Allow your verse chord progressions to be creative and surprising, partnering up with the story your verse is telling.
- Keep chorus progressions strong and unambiguous. Your verse progressions may wander, but the chorus ones should be shorter and more obviously in one clear key.
- Let your verse lyrics concentrate on telling a story, keeping emotional words and phrases more descriptive.
- Let your chorus lyrics concentrate on emotion, helping the listener experience strong feelings.
- Think of ways to have the instrumental accompaniment for your song be busier and more intense in the chorus.
- Notwithstanding the busier instrumentation in the chorus, let the vocal rhythms simplify, as that will help intensify the emotion of the chorus melody.
- In general, musical energy should start relatively low, and then move up and down as a song progresses from beginning to end.
And of all those points, the eighth one is the point most vital to the success of your song. Energy fluctuations are crucial.
And remember that all of those aspects will work together; nothing happens in isolation. If your song, for example, is a dance tune where the instrumental and vocal energy stays constant throughout the song, you can build and relax musical energy by thinking about the kinds of words you’re using in the lyric.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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