“Progression” in music causes expectations. What things other than chords progress in your songs?
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The idea of chords progressing is a well-known one to us. But other song elements also progress. I’ve mentioned in this blog many times in the past that successful songs are a combination of predictable and innovative events, but balanced heavily toward predictable.
That’s not a bad thing. If you often give people what they expect, but occasionally do something unique and unexpected, you are more successful at pulling them along and keeping them as listeners. In other words, songwriters that compose songs that are mostly predictable do a better job of building an audience base. The notion of progression helps achieve this.
But there are elements other than chords that progress, though you may not have thought of it that way. Have a look at the following list, and then take a look at your own songs. How many of your song elements show a healthy dose of progression?
- Melodies. A song’s melodies experience a kind of progression in the sense that verse melodies differ from chorus melodies, which differ from bridge melodies. There’s a logic to it. Read this article to learn more.
- Energy. Every song exudes energy. Think of energy as a force that moves a song forward. It’s a force that ebbs and flows, rarely staying constant. Your songs usually need to be more energetic toward the end than the beginning, and there are lots of ways to achieve this. Here are a few ideas.
- Lyrics. You can kill the effectiveness of your lyrics if you aren’t aware of how verse and chorus lyrics differ. The way you say things at the beginning of a song will be different from the way you say things toward the end. Here’s what you need to know.
- Instrumentation. Even the instruments you use, and the way you use them, can experience a kind of progression that goes hand-in-hand with song energy. For some tips on how to use instruments effectively in your songs, read this.
Remember, progression simply means that once you’ve done something, listeners can guess what the next thing is likely to be. If you always give them what they expect, you create boredom. But if occasionally you change things up, you entice them, and they keep listening.
The key is to get the balance right: mostly predictable, with something unexpected every once in a while.
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