Music Theory—Arrangement 1—Song Structure

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   Dynamics 101




     Ok, first things first. The intro C section, as I mentioned earlier, the last 8 bars of the chorus and consists of 6 measures of alternating C6 and Bm7 chords followed by 2 measures of Aadd 2. I decided to have everything come in like gang busters with the exception of an element I’ll introduce later that will help build the tension of the song.


     For the purpose of illustration, I’m leaving the guitar parts out so you hear the rhythm section a bit more clearly. The instrumentation consists of a Fender Rhodes with a bit of vibrato and some delay, finger picked bass and a studio drum kit. All of it is in midi right now but will soon be converted to live played instruments before it’s all said and done.


     The first verse section (A—Em7, Dadd2, B7sus4, A7sus4 X 4) is played against a percussion section with no drums followed by the D (one bar of A followed by a bar of A7) section where the drums reintroduce themselves. Here’s what that sections sounds like by itself and then with the intro. As you can see the build-up of the drums in the intro releases into the relative calmness and laid-back feel of the first chorus.  As you’ll see later, this doesn’t last long.


     The second verse comes in with an entirely different feel to the drums with no high hat keeping the count and very little in the way of cymbals. It’s really the same basic beat as the first section with the drummer substituting drums for cymbals. We go through the D section again and now we’re at the chorus.


    The chorus consists of  2—4 bar sections (C6, Bm7, Aadd 2, Aadd 2) followed by the 8 bar C section. We introduce the choir part here played by a Mellotron plugin. The audio of the plug-in is routed through a chorus effect and then a reverb effect which gives it a big sound. When the next chorus comes around, I’ll add another layer of this to add even more depth.  Click here to here the chorus.


    The next verse is identical to the first with the following chorus adding the aforementioned additional layer of the choir sound. The next verse drops out the keys, adds the percussion bit from the first verse and will be the solo section played by guitar. That’s followed by the final chorus and the outro sections with everything going full bore. The last chord played by the electric piano alone is an Em7 chord which releases the tension built up in the outro section. Click here for the whole son







    Arranging a song consists of several elements, structure, instrumentation, and determining when the instruments play and when they don’t. This month, we’re going to examine song structure and a bit of instrumentation by using a project I’ve worked on to illustrate the concept.


     There is no right or wrong way to create the structure of a song. Each song will tell you if it needs a bridge or if the ending will be a fade out of the chorus or if it needs chorus’ at all. The idea is to build and release tension thoughout the song and in this example, we’re going to use dynamics, ,instrumentation and chord selection to achieve that.


For our purposes, we’re going to label the verse of the song A, the chorus, B and any other sections, C, D and so forth. In many pop songs, the structure is ABABAB while in others, it will be ABABCAB. In our example, the structure is CADABADBADBBC, where the C section is the last 8 bars of the chorus and the D sections are 2 bar turnarounds. You could include them in the verse, I suppose, but they kind of stand on their own.