Songwriting 101: Waves

Photo by Clara S.

Welcome to the second installment of my Songwriting 101 series where I dissect and explain the rationale behind the art of writing music. Today I’ll be going over a new Electronica song I recently wrote titled “Waves.” Let’s get started.

Waves is a slow tempo song that keeps a steady pace of 75 BPM. Slower tempos are often associated with styles like ambient, jazz, and soul in addition to some newer electronica genres such as downtempo and chill-out. These styles are frequently known for their relaxing and sensual feel. And this was exactly my aim while creating Waves. Electronica music, more than any other type, often begins with defining the tempo before doing anything else.

After deciding on my tempo of 75 BPM, I began to build a core foundation with a groove. For Waves, I decided on forming a groove around a simple drum beat and synthesizer. This core foundation is than repeated throughout the rest of the song, with the exception of a quick break in the middle of the song from (1:29 – 1:42).

With the core foundation created, I went on to form a song structure. I ultimately decided on going with a very simple structure of ABAB. For this song, “A” represents verse and “B” represents chorus. The reason for choosing this simple structure was because of the amount of instrumentation I planned on adding to the song. As a general rule of thumb, when I plan for 4+ instruments, the better it is to keep the song structure simple. In contrast, with less instrumentation, I like to make the song structure more complex to compensate. For Waves, I used 10 different instruments (including my voice) in total for the piece.

With the song structure in tact, the next step was to decide on how I wanted to define the verse and the chorus. After all, what’s the point of creating a song structure if there is no difference between the parts? Here’s how I broke the two parts down:

Verse: The verse is defined by the build of instrumentation. The beginning of each verse begins with the core foundation (groove), and gradually adds instrumentation every two bars. The end of the verse is recognized only when the entire set of instrumentation plays simultaneously (0:51 and 2:33).

Chorus: The chorus is defined by the simultaneous instrumentation and the vocal lyrics (1:04 and 2:46). The end of the chorus is recognized when the bass begins to play by itself (1:29 and 3:11).

I should also note that there is a short outro at the end of the song. The reason why I would still classify the song as ABAB over ABABA is because the length of this part is insignificant and it doesn’t fit with how I categorized my verses. For this reason, intros and outros (unless significant parts of the song), shouldn’t be included in the song structure.

Finally, let’s look at the lyrics:

Idealistic, utopian dream
The Sun and the moon blend into
Pools of emotion, A feeling waves
Can’t you see everything I do?

Like I mentioned in my first Songwriting 101, lyrics should make the listener curious. For this song, because of the minimal amount of lyrics, I really wanted to paint a picture in the listeners head. In order to do this I used several descriptive words like “idealistic” and “utopian” with words that everyone can relate to like “sun” and “moon” and “emotion.” As another general rule of thumb, I purposely like to be more vague for songs with a lot of lyrics because there are more words to play with. For songs like Waves that have few lyrics, detail is king.

Hopefully this 101 has been of some use to you. Make sure to check out my previous article Songwriting 101: Goodbye and to follow my blog for more songwriting tips. Thanks for reading!

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