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Thread: Creating density in my songwritting

  1. #1
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    Creating density in my songwritting

    I would like to ask question regarding "texture" in my songwriting.
    Lets say I have piano chord progression on my first track.
    What rules are you using to add more instrument layers to add density.
    The only technique I know and I am using is by playing notes from one scale only for all instruments.
    But I would like to learn some more advanced techniques.
    I know that there are songs which have notes from outside of the scale.
    Could you teach me some different approach/use of scales and notes when adding instrument layers.
    How would you call this task in musical jargon is it orchestration voicing???

    Thank You
    Last edited by ssyniu; 06-03-2016 at 03:08 PM.

  2. #2
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    Generally speaking, one typically uses the notes from the *key* when writing key-based music.

    How you use them depends on the style you're writing.

    There is nothing wrong with staying in a single key the entire time. However, then it probably does become more important to vary the texture and other musical elements for variety, since the variety may not be as evident in the pitch content (still there's a lot that can be done with just 7 notes, and *rhythm* is where the real variety comes in).

    However, it is quite common to use notes outside of the key. Again, how you use them depends on the style.

    Notes outside of the key are called "Chromatic" notes (notes in the key are usually called "diatonic"). Chromaticism usually comes in two types, "functional" and "embellishing" (many terms are used synonymous). Functional Chromaticism is generally there to "enhance" the function of a chord, such as what happens with a Secondary Dominant chord.

    Embellishing Chromaticism is generally more decorative in nature.

    However, just sticking in chromatic notes willy-nilly is no more effective than sticking in key notes willy-nilly.

    You can also write music that is not in a key, and uses various other sets of notes (modal, whole tone, etc.) and the full chromatic scale (another use of the word) of all 12 tones. You don't have to stick to key-based music - you can write Modal, Tonal, Atonal, 12-Tone, Bi- and Poly-tonal, Pandiatonic, Centric, etc. music.

    But none of this has anything to do with "Density".

    Density usually refers to either the frequency content being covered, or the combinations of multiple parts. A Chord of 12 notes is more dense than a chord of 3 notes. 4 part counterpoint is generally more dense than 2-part. An orchestra playing an entire chord spread out over multiple octaves covering a huge frequency range is considered more dense than a string quartet playing the same 4 note chord. "More stuff" is "more dense".

    However, I don't think you're pursuing the correct thing.

    I've never once sat down and said, "I have this, how do I make it more dense".

    I have written things and said, "you know what, that's too dense".

    Really, most great music starts with a MELODY, and is then harmonized.

    While starting with a chord progression first is commonplace now, it's a relative newcomer and one could argue that it doesn't make the best compositions.

    Nonetheless, what's really important here with regard to "texture" is "foreground and background" and "foreground, middleground, and background" which is something writers don't learn about and really should.

    Think about it as "things of interest".

    If you're riding in a car or train, or plane - through fields, or over the ocean - the landscape can get quite "similar" and even "boring". That's "background". If you see scarecrow in the middle of a field, or a solitary barn, or a cruise ship in the ocean, that's a "point of interest" and that's the foreground.

    What composers/songwriters do is set up a "background" for a "point of interest" to live over. So usually it's an accompaniment (chord progression) in the background and a melody in the foreground.

    Now I used the words "boring" and "interest" but I don't mean the music you write should have a "boring part" and and "interesting part" but what it needs is "things to pay attention to" - and it's YOUR job as the writer to give a "road map" or "sighseeing map" to your audience.

    You can set up a "mood" with an accompaniment figure, which at the beginning will be the only thing heard, so it will be interesting. But, after a couple of repeats, it may get old.

    It then either needs variation itself, of it needs something added to it (variation of the entire texture) to maintain interest.

    So you shouldn't be adding another track "just to add density". You should be doing it to "maintain interest" - especially if the chord progression itself gets old quickly.

    There are MANY strategies to this and the absolute best way to learn is to learn how to play music of others, tear it apart and figure out what makes it tick.

    Simply adding new track after new track is also not a good way to maintain interest - it just eventually gets too dense.

    Instead, it's better to decide on a texture you want - maybe a melody with an accompaniment and some random stabs here and there - and once that all gets going things need to DROP OUT to vary the texture rather than you adding more in. Change is good too of course.

    So you're seeking a balance between "foreground and background" a balance between "similar and variation" and a balance between "interest and information overload"!

    HTH
    Steve

  3. #3
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    Hi
    Steve
    Great post, good read, Thank you for your help.

  4. #4
    I usually advise bands to agree on this pretty early on, which is essentially split the songs into all their parts and go from there.

    I dunno if this is how your band is set up, but I'll presume it's something like this; lyrics/melody (topline), vocalist, guitar, bass, drums. So the song has 5 parts, at 20% each. But if two of the people wrote topline, presumably vocalist and guitarist, they split it, so they get 10% more each. Unless you're handing your bass player/drummer charts you wrote for them, you might as well give them points, since they are writing their parts.

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