Michael Jackson - Thriller

Making Connections Within a Song to Strengthen Its Structure

When we talk about “making connections within a song”, we’re usually talking about finding ways to have, let’s say, some characteristics of your verse show up in other sections of your song — your chorus, or perhaps pre-chorus or bridge.

For example, there is a noticeable connection between the initial verse idea and the start of the chorus melody of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (Rod Temperton) – an ascending figure that ends with a downward gesture (“It’s close to midnight…”), the shape of which is mimicked in the chorus (“‘Cause this is Thriller…”)

How to Harmonize a Melody“How to Harmonize a Melody.” It shows you, step-by-step, how to add chords to that melody you’ve created. The perfect text for songwriters trying to improve on their melody-first songwriting skills.

There is a rhythmic connection when you look at the verse of Lennon & McCartney’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” — that swinging rhythm on the words “What would you do if I sang out of tune…”, which is then used in a modified form in the refrain “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

These kinds of connections are the musical glue that help pull everything together and make all the bits sound like they come from the same song. As you can see with these two examples I’ve mentioned, the connections are often subtle.

Musical connections, when done well, will usually fly under the radar for most listeners; for most, it’s more a case of feeling that a song has a strong sense of cohesion from start to finish without knowing why or even needing to know why.

Sometimes if a song is lacking in musical cohesion on a songwriting level, a connection can be created in the production phase of recording it. In other words, it’s usually OK if you like what you’ve written, but you don’t notice any particular connection between the various sections of your song.

Take, for example, Peter Gabriel’s hit song “Solsbury Hill.” There is, in fact, a noticeable connection in the fact that many lines of lyric start with a quick couple of words, followed by slightly longer durations (“Climbing up on Solsbury Hill…”).

But pay attention to what the instruments are doing behind that melody, and you hear the magic that pulls everything together, everything from that initial acoustic guitar riff to the subtle bass drum figure, the short descending three-note motif that keeps repeating, developing, changing, but always there.

In your own songs, you should be noticing something that happens in one section of your song that gets repeated, even if just approximately, in some other section. When you make these connections, it sounds as if the various sections of your song are all, as it were, speaking the same language.

And it’s worth repeating that those little connected ideas are still every bit as powerful even if the listener doesn’t notice them. In songwriting, as in most of the creative arts, the best bits often fly under the radar.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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