Songwriting 101 Using the Long-Line Concept

Songwriting 101: Using the “Long-Line” Concept

songwriting by ricOne of the most wonderful and rewarding things about the art of songwriting is that there are many different ways to approach making your own music. Arlington,TX music teacher Ric F. previously shared with us his tips on using rhythm as a guide to writing. Today, Ric would like to add another aspect to your understanding of writing songs, something he calls the “long-line” concept.

Unlike visual art where you can see it all at once, music takes “time” to reveal itself. Today I would like to talk about the “long-line” concept.

Long-line does not mean the music has to be “long” or a “line” (melody). Any of the elements of music may be used as your primary element. In songwriting it is usually the melody.

The result that you want is to be able to get from here (beginning) to there (end) giving your listener a sense of completeness and natural progression. Many elements go into accomplishing this, but your ability to write horizontally will greatly help you.

As a songwriter and teacher, I preach this because I have noticed that many students are no longer taught this concept due to a number of reasons. One is…

Technology

I use lots of technology and love it! But I learned my craft before the technology we currently use developed so I am a bit old school in my work.

Technology allows us to bring up a digital score or get our hands on sounds by way of multiple keyboards and find ourselves in this position…

Many students come to me with a digital score (i.e. orchestral) with two or so measures full of notes from the top stave down to the bottom and say something like this: “I love these two measures but I don’t know where to go from here – I’m stuck!” I also have students come with a recording of two or so measures of a song, completely produced and say the same.

Answer? They did not conceive the song as best they could from beginning to end. They did not determine an element that could help them get the long-line, thinking “horizontally”. They thought “vertically” and that’s why they’re stuck!

Before going further, let me say that what I am talking about is not a rule. How you write your music is totally up to you, and all composer-songwriters have different processes.

If you can play your melody with no accompaniment and it holds your listeners’ interest from beginning to end, you have something!

As a teacher I use melody because it is something that anyone can create. You do not have to be an instrumental virtuoso to write a melody.

Let’s proceed…

As an example, below is the structure of an instrumental song of mine that was recently recorded and released.

It has these sections:

  • Intro
  • (A) section: Presentation of the melody in basic “verse” form
  • (B) section: 8 measures. Melody range higher. The 5th measure is the “hook” (higher – the melody has been building toward this moment)
  • Vamp

Note: The Intro has no melody. The (A) section has melody in a lower range. The (B) section has melody higher in its range leading up to the “hook” where the melody is at its highest point.  The “Vamp” has its melodic element in the accompaniment. It is a motif based on the melody and not essential as a melodic element.

If you play the melodies of these sections in succession they will stand up on their own – as a song. The “melody” is my long-line. It is what drives the song from beginning to end.

Assignment

Use this simple song form (simple does NOT equate bad!) to write your own composition.

(A) = 8 measures / (A) again, maybe some small changes / (B) something different, yet related / (A) again, perhaps exactly as the first (A) section or slightly different.

Write a song with melody as your long-line.

Ric F. teaches songwriting, music recording, and music theory in Arlington, TX. Ric specializes in music composition and can teach anything from arranging and orchestration to film scoring. Learn more about Ric or search for a teacher near you!

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