Another practice another day of staring at the wall while the ole band goes through each song. All I have to do is just remember my three parts, Intro, Verse, Chorus, repeat again and again for each song. Life as a rhythm guitarist, well and my case the singer also. But it leaves so much to the imagination, do you ever feel like your songs can be arranged in a different way. In a way that can bring excitement and really give it it's own personality.
My goal, well with in the band, is to try and make each and every song unique not by just riffs or rhythm or lyrics, but by song arrangement! For you young song writers out there, the key to a great and maybe even epic song starts, or ends, right here (depending how you like to construct your songs, and I'll explain)! This article will give you many tips on how to arrange your songs in ways you never imagined and how to make it bold and shine. One thing I want to make clear, there are no rules in making a song, a song should never have a time limit when you start writing it, there shouldn't ever be a solo or no solo rule. Each and every song should take on a life of it's own, whether if it's 30 seconds or 30 minutes. As long as it takes to make your complete statement through music.
Ok for your first step you have to decide if you want to build the core of your song (main melody, or maybe chorus and verse rhythm and riffs) and then build the arrangement around the core. Or your second option is to lay out an arrangement, like a blue print, and then insert rhythm and riffs into each part of the arrangement. I'll explain how to go about each option more.
Option One: Arrange Around Core
So lets say you have your chorus riff and verse riff. Where to go from here you ask? Any where you want actually but I'll lend a few tips for this method. It actually depends on the song and how you feel it should flow. But if you want to go from here, best thing to do is go from intro to end. Maybe take that chorus riff, alter it a bit and make it into a chorus or post chorus, or both! Then maybe take that verse riff and if it's clean maybe add some mute to it and make it an altered second verse. Then a solo is an option any where in between there, you can maybe play it over that chorus riff, but I'll talk about solos later on in extent. That's pretty much it for building from the core, basic stuff really.
Option Two: Arrange Then Insert Parts
I've developed this method for myself and I like this a lot, but it does take some creativity, and helps if you are the lyric writer or know the lyrics in advance. Basically you are trying to lay out the 'story' or song and get the mood going. Like where to build up to the climax and in what way, where to add that thumping rhythmic breakdown, where to have the solo. All that fun stuff is just laid out before you make a single note. I'll go into the depths of this strategy even more, with an example of what I mean.
It's hard to lay out direct ideas n this topic and tell you what to do, but I can give suggestions and tips I've learned. Most of arranging is just good ole fashioned creativity. So I'll just go through parts of each song and what purpose each could be used for, and then various ways to arrange them.
The intro is one of my favorite parts of a song, it kind of sets the mood right away and I almost look at it as another solo in a way. It can be almost separate from the song in that it can be like an acoustic prelude to the actual song or maybe a nice instrumental piece of harmonized guitars that can go on for minutes. Some songs don't even have an intro and jump into the verse right away.
One of my favorite ways of using an intro is to make an extended catchy riff from what I'll be using as my chorus. So then I play this extended riff for the intro and then just go right into it after the chorus as a post-chorus. That way it adds flow and melody.
Other tips for intro, use just a speaking voice, making a statement, and no instruments. Usually something relating to the message within the lyrics. Children Of Bodom is a good example of this, they use this to start or end songs some times. This can be a very powerful way to start a song, yet sometimes very melodramatic too. Whatever suits you.
Intro in the Song Arrangement: Along the lines of arrangement, the intro is one of the only parts that have solidified spots within the song, it just depends on if you want to duplicate the intro through out the song. Again, the intro can very well be the verse or chorus too, so it does not have to be a separate riff, but every song has an intro.
The verse is usually the meat of the song, you usually get the most info from the lyricist about what he/she is trying to say in that song in the verse. The verse usually acts as the rumbling of thunder in the distance before the chorus crashes in like a storm, sorry for the cheesy comparison.
It can be catchy but you usually want to save your catchiest riffs and lyrics for the chorus. I have yet to find a song where the verse is catchier than the chorus. A good way to make this underlining feeling that the chorus is going to crash through at any time is to use finely placed mutes. Another technique is to play a step or to slower than the chorus.
Another tip is if you have your chorus riff or chord progression assembled already, just play with it until you make it less catchy but still sounds good, maybe a different rhythm, if that all makes sense. Then use that as your verse. That way if you are using maybe three out of five of the same chords in the verse as you are in the chorus the song will flow really well.
Verse in the Song Arrangement: the verse can be put in the song in a lot a cool ways, it is essentially the meat of the song, so place wisely. Preferable before the chorus. If your verse sings about how a someone died, and your chorus just makes the statement that someone died, it might confuse the listener if you put the verse after the chorus. But it may not, it's up to you. Just weight the options with the way the lyrics are written.
Some cool arrangements ideas with a verse is to make one long one right after the intro and then jump into the chorus followed by a mini altered second verse then back to the chorus again, so on and so forth, many options. That way the main idea is all laid out for the climax, or climaxes. The downfall is the one long verse might make the song some what boring to start out, so maybe add a few cool guitar lead fills to break it up.
The altered verse's is another cool way to make a song interesting. There is no rule that a verse that is played multiple times has to be the same guitar riffs, try making a completely new verse to sandwich the chorus with. Maybe the first one is real melodic and clean and the second one is the same melody but faster and with distortion. There is endless possibilities.
The fill is basically what the name is, a break or notes inserted in between to parts to connect them or break them apart. You can have a fill with any instrument or even a voice. My favorite kinds are usually guitar, maybe a unique lead guitar riff from the verse or chorus. That follows the same key and might sound like it should be from the chorus or verse but is different actually. Fills are usually fairly short, but you can make them as long as you want.
The Fill in the Song Arrangement: the fill can actually be placed anywhere in between to other parts of a song. They are great for effects and adding drama at the song. Maybe make it sound like your going off in a completely different direction with the song, like put in a fill of soft clean stuff, then explode into the chorus or back into the verse. That always add a big dramatic effect. Another dramatic effect you can use is another one of those melodramatic speaking parts, makes more for a journal sounding lyric or a theatrical sound. Fill are great right before a solo or to break up a long verse or chorus. Think of them as intermissions. To infuse energy in a song.
Yes, the chorus, the heartbeat of most songs. The part that most songs are known for and that get sung along to. Save the catchiest riffs and lyrics for this part, if you want to put a chorus into a song that is. It's hard to say into words what catchy is, it basically is something that, well, catches your ear. The part that you are humming along to later, that sticks in you head. A chorus usually makes the song more dramatic and emotional. It's like the verse is sometimes why you feel something and the chorus is how you feel about it, that's one way to write lyrics.
The Chorus in the Song Arrangment: The chorus usually is the climax or one of them, it is the part you will probably want to repeat a few times if you are looking to make your song catchy to the ear. If this is the part you want to get stuck in the listener's head. Some options for arrangements are to make it as the intro, why not start straight out with your catchiest riff or lyric. Grab the attention right away of listeners.
You could go old fashion and standard and put it right after the first two verse's and then do the solo and put one after that, but that's exactly why I'm writing this article, so you try and broaden your song writing horizon from just verse, chorus, verse, chorus style. But it's how some of the most popular songs have been written so I can't disagree with it to much, it's sensible and effective in a short amount of time.
Also you can make variations of chorus's I've seen this a few times recently, and I like it. Avenged Sevenfold on the City Of Evil record did this a few times. They would have the main chorus played twice through out the song then to end the song, alter the chorus and slow it down, make it softer and more melodic. I like that approach, it's a different feel and defiantly takes any repetitive feel out of the song. You can do a few things with the chorus to spice it up besides slowing it down and making it melodic. Why not add a harmony with guitars or even voices for one of the chorus's, that adds a kind of epic feel to it. Or just adding a different guitar lead to it, maybe even the solo over it. I like that approach to ending a song. Just have the rhythm guitar player pay the chorus and the singer sing the chorus but the lead play a solo over it.
Another idea is to play the chorus played the same but a step or two higher a second time through. Trivium does this with their last chorus's sometimes to end a song. That also adds an epic feel to a song.
Just be careful to not play a chorus too much, and make it too repetitive. That's if you have a chorus in your songs, you don't have to have one, you could have a song with maybe a bunch of verse's linked by fills or solos.
A favorite by many guitarists, the solo is the key to that wow factor in a song usually. The part in a song where a guitarist wants to add excitement and climax sometimes. But there are also many types and ideas that go along with a solo. What is considered one, what is the difference of a solo and a fill? I'll give you my opinion on this. I think the solo should be a part where an artist, being the person playing the solo, plays to his ability, to the max of what he/she knows and has learned to that point. Combining all his/her knowledge to assemble a section of a song that brings a song to life and is trying to make that instrument tell a part of the story of that song. Slash, I think, does a great job of this, he plays his guitar in such a way it's almost in a human vocal like kind of sound.
The Solo in the Song Arrangement: The or A solo is stereo typically placed towards the end or at the end of a song and made as the climax, usually. But I've seen a solo placed as the intro which is another way to kick start a song quick and grab someone's attention, whether it be fast or slow and melodic.
Also you can have multiple solos through out the song, maybe one quick one right after the first chorus and a long climactic one to end the song. You can have any instrument have a solo too, I wish I could see drummers and bassists get more solos, I'm trying to implement that into my band. So you could have one member of your band get a solo or all of them, like in Green Day's Jesus Of Suburbia (as simple as the solos are..) Iron Maiden does a good job of giving more than one person solos in the band and where to place them.
Just be creative with where to put solos, but make sure they fit the mood of the song. But if you can make a song go from a Johnny Cash acoustic slow melody to a blazing Dream Theater Style solo and be relevant to the song, more power to you.
One last note about solos, a song doesn't have to have one, there are no rules, even if your making a metal style song. And a solo doesn't have to be fast, make it a compliment to the song and fit in it.
Last Parts To A Song
I've covered the main parts to making a song but there are other parts you can add in. Like the pre-verse, pre-chorus, post-verse, post-chorus. But I consider them to be fills, don't they all fit my definition of a fill being something that links to parts together to add flow or break up? They are more like an extension of a verse or chorus. And the other options in a song are breakdown and outro which are both used to an extent but can also be interpreted as something else. A breakdown can be considered a fill, and the outro can be anything, or something separate. The outro uses the same rules as an intro but to end a song.
Some Unique Song Arragment Example's
01. Intro riff/slow melodic solo/one long verse with fill in the middle/chorus/mini altered verse/chorus/ intro riff/climatic longer solo
02. Solo as the intro/verse/chorus/verse/extended instrumental part/chorus/fill/Altered 2nd chorus
03. Chorus as the intro/ verse/ quick solo/verse/ chorus/ chorus with solo played over top
04. Intro Riff/chorus/verse/fill/intro riff/verse/same fill/chorus
05. Verse/fill/verse/longer instrumental part/verse/fill/outro altered instrumental part
Those are just a few ideas I could think of up on the spot here, but you get the idea, run with it. Make it your own. And I hope I've inspired some of you to think out side of the box. Maybe make a few songs that stray away from the intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo arrangement. Never make rules when it comes to making a song, always present yourself with a clean slate when starting on a new song. Challenge yourself but have fun.
'Live, love, learn musica wonderful life'
-article by Kyle Nevitt (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for one on one advice about this or for suggestions, or just to say HEY)