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Thread: sections and bars

  1. #1
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    sections and bars

    Howdy..I have a question I'm really not sure how to find the answer to...

    Timing and structure are not my strong points when it comes to composing/arranging. Sometimes when I've written something that sounds fine to my ear, I'll delve into how many bars are here and there and start to wonder whether I'm being incorrect or untidy.

    Anyway, this is my current thing...I have a verse-verse-chorus type structure. Verse 1 has 8 bars, verse 2 has 10 bars. Basically there's an extra chord in the verse before the chorus. On paper, for some reason, I instinctively think that's wrong...I have no idea whether this is a complete no-no, unusual or very common...?

  2. #2
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    common lengths for verses and chorus' tend to be 8-16 bars, if its in between its more than likely 12 I figure. Two verses next to eachother is not very common, but if it sounds good then what does it matter but maybe you should class it as just one verse? who knows. Also your structure mite be acting like a typical AABA structure but then changes at some point.... in any case it doesn't matter if it sounds good that's more important than how many bars are there.

  3. #3
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    It's a bit unusual but it's also a common way to add variety to pop music when the harmony is very predictable. If it sounds good to you - keep it

    cheers,

  4. #4
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    A 10 bar verse is uncommon but not unheard of.

    Like Sean said, if it sounds the way you want it to. Who cares. On that note, there are various structures typically used in standards. From 12bar 16 and 24 bar heads up to 48 and even 68 bars in length and longer.

    Some with evenly separated sections and some with unusual divisions.

    You may benefit from just reading through some reel books and getting an idea of how various composers like to arrange their songs. Regardless of the style you are writing in, the basic 'laws' of composition are pretty universal. Not that you need to adhere to them, it may help you iron out any confusion though.

  5. #5
    Carrots!! All_Ľour_Bass's Avatar
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    It's okay if it's like that. There's no right or wrong, it's what sounds good that matters.
    Hidden Content Originally Posted by Chim_Chim
    Be different.

    Do it for the OATMEAL.

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p View Post
    Howdy..I have a question I'm really not sure how to find the answer to...

    Timing and structure are not my strong points when it comes to composing/arranging. Sometimes when I've written something that sounds fine to my ear, I'll delve into how many bars are here and there and start to wonder whether I'm being incorrect or untidy.

    Anyway, this is my current thing...I have a verse-verse-chorus type structure. Verse 1 has 8 bars, verse 2 has 10 bars. Basically there's an extra chord in the verse before the chorus. On paper, for some reason, I instinctively think that's wrong...I have no idea whether this is a complete no-no, unusual or very common...?
    It's not uncommon, and if you've written it that way, IMO, it must be right.
    I'm guessing it feels right that way, perhaps because of different phrasing in the melody (vocal)?

    What would be wrong would be to chop the song about and make it fit a regular 8-bar or 16-bar length, because you think that's "correct".

    So you have to decide how important you think those extra 2 bars are. How much difference would it make to chop them off? Would it then sound rushed going into the chorus? Then don't do it.

    The point here is that 8- 12- and 16- bar section lengths are expected. When we hear a song, we instinctively expect something else to happen after 8 bars (or 4 or 12 or 16) have gone past: either a repeat of what we just heard (same tune, new words), or a new section. If it doesn't, it may not feel wrong, but it will alert us to something different. That's a good thing, of course! Extending structures can introduce tension or suspense; shortening them can surprise, awaken.
    It will sound wrong if the odd structure doesn't go with the lyrics or melody in some natural, organic way. (Think of the Beatles "I saw her standing there" - it's a traditional AABA format, but the bridge is stretched to 10 bars, not 8, as they stretch out the word "m-i-i-i-i-ne" over an additional chord. That builds a delicious suspense, making the return to the A section more exciting, even triumphant. One of the signs of their genius was the way they habitually stretched and shrunk the conventional 32-bar AABA format, intuitively, adding bars or taking them away. AFAIK, the only song of theirs that fits that format exactly was "From Me to You".)

    IOW, there has to be a good reason for diverging from regular multiples of 4 bars. And my guess is, if you've written the song before counting the bars, there IS a good reason. If it feels/sounds right, it IS right.

    Always go with feel and instinct when writing songs. Try not to squeeze your inspiration into a predetermined format - unless you really feel lost without one. You've heard enough songs in your life to know when a chorus ought to happen, or a bridge, or whatever. You don't have to count bars.

    The only real structural tip to bear in mind (to maybe consciously impose sometimes) is KISS - "keep it simple, stupid". There's few songs so great that they're not improved (at the writing stage) by cutting something out, somewhere. The great geniuses of songwriting knew how to keep things simple and to the point. The trick is to know what "the point" is - to know the essential elements of your song, and be able to spot parts that don't really contribute anything (other than making it longer or fancier...).

  7. #7
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback, I think I will keep it. One thing I've noticed is that most of the time I run into this issue if I'm writing in 6/8, don't know whether that has anything to do with it? It isn't really a melody thing that justifies the extra chord, I suppose it's there to make a deal out of the rearrangement of harmonic expectation in a more extroverted way..if that makes sense. Either that or I'm just a sloppy writer!

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p View Post
    Thanks for the feedback, I think I will keep it. One thing I've noticed is that most of the time I run into this issue if I'm writing in 6/8, don't know whether that has anything to do with it? It isn't really a melody thing that justifies the extra chord, I suppose it's there to make a deal out of the rearrangement of harmonic expectation in a more extroverted way..if that makes sense. Either that or I'm just a sloppy writer!
    Hey, you can be extroverted and sloppy! That's cool.... (Or I dunno maybe it isn't, it's a long time since I knew anything about cool...)

    As soon as you mentioned 6/8 and extra bars I thought of the Beatles (again) and You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, where they add an extra couple of bars on the verse - the melody doesn't need it, but it provides a descending bass, and sets up the chorus; like taking a deep breath ("all together now...") before that "Hey!...".

    I don't suppose they worried too introspectively about the theoretical ramifications of it...

  9. #9
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    As soon as you mentioned 6/8 and extra bars I thought of the Beatles (again) and You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, where they add an extra couple of bars on the verse - the melody doesn't need it, but it provides a descending bass, and sets up the chorus; like taking a deep breath ("all together now...") before that "Hey!...".

    I don't suppose they worried too introspectively about the theoretical ramifications of it...
    Thanks, that's exactly it! I think I can definitely justify it on those grounds. My chords very basically go:

    Am | AmM7 | C | AmM7 | F | F | Eb | Eb

    Am | CM7 | C | AmM7 | F | F | Eb | Eb | D7 | D7

    C(#4)....a chorus based around a kind of C lydian dominant thing. I'm using some unusual voicings and extensions that make this a bit more original in the first section and generally flow better than it probably would playing from these symbols. But yea, it's the Eb descending into the D7 that suddenly rearranges your expectation of Am as it then descends further from D to C.

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    i find usually things workout in multiples of 4. but i've done stuff that doesn't. i've also heard songs others have written where they somehow choose weird numbers of bars for stuff. it sounds good to them but it's somehow not right. i don't know why music is that way, but it is.

    but unfortunately as so often is the case, you can't judge music on paper. if you could post it somewhere i'd be bale to give you better feedback.

    i don't find that if it sounds right to you it must be right is necessarily a good philosophy.

    although "it sounds good to me, and that's all that matters" is a good philosophy to have. because music is to be enjoyed it's for you, and that you enjoy it and like it is the bottom line really.

    but that doesn't make it "right".

    although what's weird to think about is if your intention is to make weird music that has strange numbers of loops and that's the effect you want to make then that does make it "right".... weird.

    idk art is so subjective. but if i heard it i could tell you what i think. but it's your art so at the end of the day what matters is what you think. but still 2nd opinions never hurt, and constructive criticism is always good. living by the philosophy "whatever i do is good because i did it" doesn't bode well for improvement. i know nobody said that exactly here, but you know what i mean.

  11. #11
    Carrots!! All_Ľour_Bass's Avatar
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    I actually like to use phrases/bars/numbers of repeats that aren't multiples of 4/8/16 to make things a bit off kilter. I consider it a form of syncopation-having something go on longer than you thought or having it end 'early'. It adds a bit of surprise to a song.
    Hidden Content Originally Posted by Chim_Chim
    Be different.

    Do it for the OATMEAL.

  12. #12
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    ya it can work to be uneven numbers what it looks like on paper is not a good judge. it needs to be heard. i think the best way to solve it is to get second opinions.

  13. #13
    Registered User TheAristocrat's Avatar
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    Question

    I try to write instrumental music, and have been having lots of trouble trying to maintain any kind of structure. Could anyone impart a few pearls of wisdom?

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAristocrat View Post
    I try to write instrumental music, and have been having lots of trouble trying to maintain any kind of structure. Could anyone impart a few pearls of wisdom?
    I'd be glad to give input on any of your music, although i'd have to hear it. "any kind of structure" is a little vague. i think any advice people would give you without hearing your music might not be as helpful as it would otherwise be if they heard it.

  15. #15
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAristocrat View Post
    I try to write instrumental music, and have been having lots of trouble trying to maintain any kind of structure. Could anyone impart a few pearls of wisdom?
    Er - impose a structure?
    The music is under your control, after all.

    That is, good composition is a balance between "letting inspiration flow" (allowing a melody to go where it wants, without theoretical prejudice), and working within familiar structures.

    Generally (IMO) the more music you've listened to (of the kind you are trying to write), the more you will intuitively follow conventional structures anyway. Eg, you'll want to go to a chorus or bridge when it feels right to do so. And it will feel right when a certain number of bars have gone past (typically 16, sometimes 8 or even 32; more rarely 12 or 24).
    As All_Ľour_Bass says, you can then consciously diverge from those expected forms (if you want to) for particular effects: tension, surprise, etc.

    And instrumental music can (in fact should) still have verses, choruses and bridges, like a song (vocal) can. Just think of your tune as something a singer might sing. You don't need words, but a good melody is always singable. (Mozart said that - and I agree even tho I'm not a big fan of his music.)
    Great instrumental music is always something you want to sing along with.

    But even when you can't - or if you disagree about singability - the same kind of structures apply: statement of theme, repetition, development, possible alternative theme ("bridge"), recapitulation. Even the simplest pop songs follow such a format.

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