SIMPLE SONG STRUCTURES, PART 1 OF 2
The simplest formal design for a piece of music is to have every section in the song is the same (A). This is appropriately designated a "simple" structure.
'If I Fell' is a good example:
(A) Verse 1 0:19-0:40
(A) Verse 2 0:40-1:13
(A) Verse 3 1:13-1:46
(A) Verse 4 1:46-2:18
Notice that the entire song consists of four iterations of the A section (excluding the intro, which is be definition supplemental to the song's form). The alphabetic label is therefore "AAAA", or "A x4".
The Beatles use this simple structure relatively frequently, however the number of iterations of that single A section is highly variable (anywhere from 2 to 9 times).
x2, one song:
'Mean Mr. Mustard'
x3, six songs:
'Baby It's You'
'In My Life'
'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for My and My Monkey'
'Why Don't We Do It In The Road?'
x4, seven songs:
'Twist and Shout'
'Devil in Her Heart'
'If I Fell'
'Tell Me What You See'
x5, four songs:
'The Fool on the Hill'
x6, two songs:
'For You Blue'
x7, two songs:
'Money (That's What I Want)'
'Words of Love'
x8, three songs:
'Everybody's Trying to be My Baby'
'Dizzy Miss Lizzy'
'Tomorrow Never Knows'
x9, two songs:
Careful readers might notice that there are actually a couple others that could fit into the "simple structure" category. 'Maggie Mae' is an A x2, 'Her Majesty' is an A x1, 'Dig It' could be interpreted any number of ways (all of which would have to be simple), and 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)' could be interpreted as A x2. All of these, however, fit better into the structural label of "fragment" because they are incomplete songs. A case could be made that 'Mean Mr. Mustard' should also fit into the "fragment" category rather than "simple", but I chose otherwise because 'Mustard', though short, offers two complete iterations of its (A) section, whereas these others offer only parts.
In a simple structure, there is no contrast at the macro-level because simple structures by definition use the same macro-level sections on each iteration.
The challenge of using simple structures, then, is the threat of monotony. If the music carries on without ever changing, boredom sets in. Composers must find ways to vary the music within that simple framework to maintain interest.
One solution is to use a solo. Even if the music is fundamentally the same, the performance of that music on an instrument (as opposed to sung) can provide the contrast necessary to sustain listeners' attention. 12 Beatles songs use this technique (interestingly, the first 7 of them are covers):
Similarly, two songs use breaks for the same purpose (breaks, like solos, are instrumental - a "break" for the singers - but do not highlight a single instrument):
Many simple songs use refrains for contrast. While verses typically use different lyrics but the same music on each iteration, refrains by definition use the same lyrics and same music. In that sense, they are quite similar to choruses. The biggest distinguishing factor between choruses and refrains is that choruses are independent from other sections, while refrains are dependent on other section(s) - usually but not always the verses. 14 Beatles songs use this concept (several of which, you'll notice, also use solos, as described above):
Another tactic is to reprise the introduction in the body of the song. Intros and outros are by definition supplemental to the form, but they can be used to parse out the macro-scale sections of songs, especially in simple structures. 4 Beatles songs do this:
Abbey Road on the River continues tomorrow:
Saturday, 28 May 2016, 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Abbey Road on the River: Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY
Carte Blanche: The Beatles' White Abum
The Beatles' only double-album, The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) is the band's most individualized and stylistically diverse work, and the antithesis of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This 90-minute multimedia presentation will observe and analyze The White Album by putting it in musical and historical context. Topics and people discussed will include Eric Clapton, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his camp in Rishikesh, India, the influence of Yoko Ono, and the beginning of the end for the Beatles.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.