If your song a jumble of noise?

No, this post is not about mixing – it’s about composition.

Do you have too many unrelated musical ideas in your song?

While sometimes the problem is a lack of variety, other times the problem is too much variety. You’ll know you have too much variety when you have sections in your song that sound unrelated to each other – as if your song were made up of bits from other songs.

The problem with this is that it becomes confusing for the listener to understand the music. People are very good at finding patterns and relationships. Music lacking in patterns and relationships can easily end up sounding like a jumble of noise.

To make sure you’re not falling into this trap, think about the links and common elements tying together all the sections of your song. To improve coherence, consider aspects such as these:

  • Instrumentation (sounds)
  • Tonality (key, chords, scale)
  • Groove (timing, rhythmic modes)
  • Melodic ideas (recurring motifs and melodies)
  • Contour (relationship in the overall structure in the song)

Of course, you need to strike a balance! Too much coherence will bore your listener, just as too little coherence will confuse your listener.

The next step is to be able to deliberately vary the coherence in a song. Not just randomly – but to deliberately choose different levels of coherence at different points in the song.

For example, you might choose to have a high level of coherence at the beginning of the song, in order to establish the musical language of the song and familiarise the listener with the principal musical ideas. Similarly, you might want to have a lower level of coherence in the middle of the song (or two thirds in – such as the bridge), in order to surprise and provoke the listener, and develop the song in a new direction. You might want to return to a higher level of coherence at the end of the song in order to create a satisfying conclusion and provide a sense of arrival or return for the listener.

-Kim.

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