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Variation in song

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I’ve been playing some acoustic shows the past year. So I’ve learned a bunch of covers to fill up the sets. Most of these were/are hit songs. The one commonality most of these song share are simplicity. Sometimes riding the same 3 or 4 chords throughout the whole songs. Sometimes only one simple change up using mostly the same chords. When I started writing songs I would do the same thing. The further along I went with songwriting the more I thought every part of the song had to be different for separation. Some of my more recent songs I went back to simplicity.   Sometimes riding the same chords through but just changing intensity in different sections. For acoustic performance and general public listening I think simple is the way to go. I think the more creative change ups are mostly appreciated by other songwriter types. Or more die hard music fans. But I think the general listening public wants nice and simple. As all those hit songs would suggest. Thoughts? 

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I honestly think it is the secret to a classic song, I mean a real gold class song. I spend so much of my writing time just trying songs with the same simple chord structure throughout it is not funny and while I haven't quite pulled one out the bag yet I am getting close! ;-)

 

There are a lot of examples out there, some would surprise people who would never have guessed. For me one of the greatest efforts is a brother and sister from Australia who took three chords from a great, early, Coldplay song and did this.

 

If anyone would ask me to define a perfect song I would probably play them this. It is as close as...

 

 

 

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As Einstein said:

 

Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler

 

My point being that the song should not sacrifice anything so that it can be made simpler. Does the chorus still lift? Does the chorus still stand out lyrically and musically? Is the song interesting enough to support multiple listens?

If you asked me to listen to "You Are My Sunshine" over and over again, I would probably throw up.

Simpler is not always better :)

 

Paul

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40 minutes ago, PaulCanuck said:

As Einstein said:

 

Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler

 

My point being that the song should not sacrifice anything so that it can be made simpler. Does the chorus still lift? Does the chorus still stand out lyrically and musically? Is the song interesting enough to support multiple listens?

If you asked me to listen to "You Are My Sunshine" over and over again, I would probably throw up.

Simpler is not always better :)

 

Paul

I absolutely love playing Can’t You See by the Marshall Tucker Band. D C G over and over again. But it sounds so good I can usually milk that song for up to 6 minutes plus sometimes. 

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2 hours ago, Murphster said:

I honestly think it is the secret to a classic song, I mean a real gold class song. I spend so much of my writing time just trying songs with the same simple chord structure throughout it is not funny and while I haven't quite pulled one out the bag yet I am getting close! ;-)

 

There are a lot of examples out there, some would surprise people who would never have guessed. For me one of the greatest efforts is a brother and sister from Australia who took three chords from a great, early, Coldplay song and did this.

 

If anyone would ask me to define a perfect song I would probably play them this. It is as close as...

 

 

 

Yeah. I know this song. Definitely very simple and effective. Obviously performance and production play a big part in song separation. 

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This is a great topic. 

 

I've watched the classic SNL skit 'More Cowbells' hundreds of times. (my kids keep requesting it.) I naturally started to examine the formula for the song, "Don't Fear the Reaper" by the Blue Oyster Cult, which was recorded before I was born. The melody is pretty much the same throughout the song, except with shortened versions here and there, which means little variation. After a few listens, this is the formula that they used to add interest/variation to this song, which is over 5 minutes long:

 

1) Distinctive guitar riff (All of my favourite songs have a memorable riff, the best imo, is Sheryl Crow's 'You're My Favourite Mistake')

2) Two silent pauses and then a musical build up

3) The electric guitar weaving in and out of the main melody

4) A dynamic middle 8- which is a huge guitar solo

5) And of course, the beloved cowbell

 

So what I've learned from this song, is that variation can be created using other methods other than a new chord progression. One being intensity, which you've mentioned.

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Bohemian Rhapsody?  We, the general public, like all kinds of songs, and we don't really determine what songs become "hits."  We really only determine what songs become hits within the very shallow pool of songs music industry dolts promote and spoon-feed us.  

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I don't think you find this in too many of the old 'classic hits' - 'Can't You See' is one, though.  Bores me when playing it (yeah, we do it in my current band).  The 'same 4 chords'  (sometimes 3) is heard a lot in some recent 'hits' - thinking songs like 'Radioactive' and the older 'Kryptonite' as examples, both songs I dug out last night to 'relearn'.  Sure makes it easy to play them, but it takes some skill to keep them interesting IMO.

I think non-players/songwriters may not even realize the music is monotonously repetitive a lot of the time.

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I agree that the Middle 8 here is probably key to pulling this kind of song off. It needs to be a big middle 8, definitely a change of key, whether that is just shifting to the relative minor/major or something more ballsy and a big change of key for effect.

 

I am already a firm believe that the middle 8 is the key to any song anyway to be honest. 

 

I have a song that, like most of my songs is unfinished and waiting for the moment, and is based on just two chords. Actually a two chord "progression" stolen from Prince's The Cross, which I really like a lot. I will get round to finishing it one day but it will all depend on finding a middle 8. It could be a really great song, haha, it could be crap. But I love the simplicity of it.

 

I am not a performer however and I can fully imagine how batshit boring thse songs must be to play for the guitarist or bass player.

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