Joni Mitchell

Understanding a Song’s Climactic Moment

Most songs have a “climactic moment”, usually in the chorus, but sometimes in other places, like a song’s bridge. In most cases, you can identify a climactic moment by finding the highest note. This has been a noticeable trait in music for centuries. You can go back to Handel’s oratorio “Messiah”, for example, and see […]

John Legend - Nervous

How Controlling Musical Energy Keeps People Listening

There are some songs, when you compare the start of the song to the end of it, make it obvious what we mean by musical energy. “Stairway to Heaven” is a great example: it starts very quietly, uses subdued acoustic guitar and recorders, with a nostalgic, mid-range vocal approach. The hook is probably the most […]

Band rehearsal session

Verses, Choruses, and the Role of the Tonic Chord

The key of your song is usually determined by the key of your chorus. Your song’s verse might be in A minor, but it’s quite common for the key to then switch to C major for the chorus, and that’s usually what we think of as the song’s main key. When you put the magnifying […]

Sigrid - Don't Kill My Vibe

Using Melodic Range to Create Musical Energy

If you’re not sure what’s meant by a phrase, think of it as a part of a sentence up to a comma or a period, where the sentence seems to pause, either temporarily or permanently, like this 2-phrase unit from Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening”: Whose woods these are I […]

Songwriting notepad

Identifying the Principles That Guide Good Songwriting

In order to help students fully understand a topic, teachers will identify a list of principles that strive to explain as much as possible with as few words as possible. We teachers of music do that very thing: we study as large a collection of music as possible, and then come up with a few statements […]

Tony Banks - Genesis

Songs With Almost No Melody

If you’ve ever written an instrumental, you’ve hopefully noticed that the same principles of good composition apply as when writing a song that’s meant to be sung. The way the chords work, the way you shape the melodies, and the general ideas behind production issues — these things stay the same whether you’re writing a […]