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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?