Stability

Stability is the effect of a number of elements in the song all contributing to a sense of predictability and comfort. Some techniques that can produce a sense of stability are:

  • Simple, regular rhythm; or repetitive or predictable rhythm (Not just drums, but rhythm of other elements too).
  • Unchanging or predictable sonic texture.
  • “Easy” chord progressions.
  • Consonant harmony (Consonance is the opposite to dissonance)

 Stability comes from repetition, predictability, and simplicity.  Two common uses of stability are:

Exposition of material. This is the introduction or presentation of new musical ideas. Stability is useful for exposition because material is easier to remember when it is easy to digest (the mind remembers material better when it doesn’t have to work hard to interpret or decypher it).

Conclusion. Stability is usually a desirable attribute for a conclusion (ending) section because it tends to resolve expectations (rather than create them), that is – it makes it easier to “finish” questions, rather than ask new ones. Stability is very effective in resolving tension.

The flip side of stability is instability. This is the opposite of stability – where tension is easier to create, where the listener has to work harder to understand the music. Instability is often where things get much more interesting as well – this is where the music develops and veers into new territory. Instability is usually unpredictable and unsettling – there are more surprises, new sounds, and sometimes unpredictable patterns.

As a composer (or producer), it should be farily obvious that it’s a good idea to aim for a balance of stability and instability within a song. Beyond mere balance, think about deliberately controlling the level of stability throughout the song so that it enhances the contour of the song. For example, pop songs have most stability during the chorus. This reinforces the chorus as the most important and memorable part of the song. It makes it easier for the listener to understand and memorise. Conversely, the bridge is usually less stable. This adds interest and catches the listener’s ear. It also sets up the following chorus – making the stability of that chorus more welcome. Sometimes the introduction (intro) of the song is very unstable – again, this is to catch the ear before diving into the relative stability of the verses and choruses. While instability is useful, too much will make the song difficult to understand and listen to.  Conversely, too much stability will make the song boring and uninteresting.

-Kim.

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  1. June 14th, 2009
  2. June 17th, 2009
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