The Structure of Musical Recordings Understanding how songs are written and how to listen
The Songwriting Process • Songs can be written by the MUSICIAN, or a dedicated SONGWRITER. • They sometimes get assistance from the PRODUCER • Songwriting can be credited to a SINGLE PERSON (usually the lead singer), or the ENTIRE BAND • Why do you think this would make a difference?
ASCAP/BMI • ASCAP = The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers • BMI = Broadcast Music Incorporated • They are technically NON-PROFIT • Hundreds of Millions of dollars in ROYALTIES paid to SONGWRITERS • Venues PAY money, members PAY membership FEES • Payout is based on RADIO AIRPLAY: Does that make sense?
Writing the song • Subject Matter: Are you writing for YOURSELF or for a specific AUDIENCE? This is where a producer can help • INSPIRATION: It’s hard to force, but sometimes has to be • KNOW THE GENRE: What has already been done? What can I do that is new and fresh? • Know where the song fits in the BIG PICTURE • For example: “Where will the song fit on the album?”
Song Structure • Musical forms can be structured with LETTERS • A = Usually always the first part, such as a verse • B = Often the CHORUS • C = Could be a BRIDGE or SOLO section • We use words like INTRO, VERSE, CHORUS, BRIDGE, SOLO, OUTRO
Structure Cont’d. • More sections can be get complicated, but sometimes are needed • Explains how many times certain sections REPEAT • ABA form = TERNARY Form (from Classical music) • It is a RE-STATEMENT of the main theme • This puts the song in the listener’s head, makes it CATCHY
Build the Song • Where will you start? RHYTHM? What will your TEMPO be? How LONG will the song be? • A typical pop song is somewhere between 3-4 minutes • BASS can set up the chord structure • What kind of INSTRUMENTATION will you have? • How DENSE do you want your mix to be?
The HOOK • It’s the part that you REMEMBER, that stays with you • Think of a hook that might have driven you crazy • Most hip-hop music has a clear hook in each chorus • Might have a unique twist: Ex. Lady Gaga • Could be chorus, or pre-post chorus (Rhianna: “You can stand under my umbrella – ella - ella
DRAFTS • It’s like writing a book: Proofread! • Get FEEDBACK from members of the band, producer, engineer, friends, etc. • Don’t be afraid to TWEAK and make changes • Consider recording multiple versions
Example • Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” • Intro: Is there a hook? • Verse into Pre-Chorus (“People always told me…”) • Chorus (“Billie Jean is not my lover…”) • Verse B (what changes?) • Chorus B (What changes?) • What do they add in the Bridge?
Mix Goals • Controlling what stands out: The Mix can be for marketing • What does the band feature: Vocal? Guitar? Something else? • COMPRESSION: Can draw more attention, better for radio… also takes away dynamics, possibly emotion • PANNING: Usually not as extreme as early stereo recordings. How does phasing come into play?