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The Magic Behind One-Chord Songs

The Magic Behind One-Chord Songs

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I’m obsessive about trying underneath the hood of nice songs to determine what makes them hum. If we hear carefully, some function cool rhythm patterns within the melody, others defy the norms of type, whereas different songs showcase distinctive chord progressions. However, what sort of voodoo pulses via the veins of one-chord songs?

Let me unravel a number of the thriller—there’s even a playlist of songs to get you within the temper. So, begin spinning, it’s time to get this one-chord occasion began!

Clay’s Playlist: One-Chord Songs

Aretha Franklin – “Chain of Fools”
Pink – “Get This Celebration Began”
Blake Shelton – “Neon Mild”
Bob Marley – “Get Up, Stand Up”
Beck – “Loser”
Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Run By The Jungle”
Steely Dan – “Present Biz Youngsters”
Harry Nilsson – “Coconut”
Eddie Grant – “Electrical Avenue”
Bo Diddley – “Bo Diddley” and “I’m A Man” (Either side of Bo’s first single had been one chord songs!)

Tempo and Vitality: One-chord songs groove and transfer.

Virtually all one-chord songs are mid to up-tempo. It’s close to not possible to drag off a one-chord ballad. Why? As a result of with out the help of a number of chords, the author should pay extra consideration to the rhythmic groove components within the melody and instrumental monitor. Quicker tempos create extra vitality and have interaction the listener to maneuver their physique, or not less than, bob their head.

Riffs and Motifs

Riffs are important to one-chord tunes. A riff is a repeated melodic motif on a number of devices within the monitor. Riffs create the grand phantasm of chord modifications with out really making any. Take a take heed to Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” The rhythm guitar performs one chord all through, whereas the bass and second electrical guitar play a slinky riff in opposition to it. This produces sufficient ahead motion that the listener doesn’t discover the dearth of chord modifications.

Stress and Launch in a one-chord tune

So, how do one-chord songs foster rigidity and launch with out chord modifications? Simply as all these songs want rhythm and tempo to select up a number of the slack, your alternative of melody notes turns into an important system, too. Discover how songwriter Don Covay pulls this off within the basic Aretha tune.

Take heed to Aretha sing the refrain lyric to “Chain Of Fools:”

Chain, chain, chain…

Chain of fools

Her voice stretches the third “chain” out longer, beginning the be aware a half step beneath earlier than slowly bending as much as its eventual conclusion. This sluggish bending motion creates rigidity within the tune despite the fact that the chords by no means change. The melody rubs in opposition to the chord after which is resolved.

Blake Shelton’s “Neon Mild,” written by Mark Irwin, Josh Keare, and Andrew Dorff, is one other nice instance of rigidity and launch in a one-chord tune. Blake holds out the be aware on the phrase “gentle” and bends as much as the be aware from a decrease pitch creating lovely rigidity, after which, launch.

There’s a neon gentle…

On the finish of the tunnel

Each songs use the identical approach at first of their respective choruses. This can be a nice system for creating distinction between verses and choruses in one-chord songs.

The Track Arc

All through literary historical past, nice novelists grasp the story arc. An arc is the trajectory of the story from the place it begins to the place it ends, representing a journey. The story takes us on an emotional journey with ups and downs, contrasts between moments or sections, and presents up a theme or motif that threads itself via the story. With each intense and calm moments, an ideal story has each rigidity and reduction of rigidity.

An awesome tune has an arc, too. If a complete tune holds the identical depth degree, the listener would possible get bored or turned off. That’s why songs have louder elements, softer elements, larger notes, decrease notes, and even, silence. One of many prime methods to create part distinction in a tune is thru using chord progressions. Nonetheless, in one-chord songs, we don’t have the luxurious of chord progressions, proper? For example, we will’t go to a 4 minor chord on the finish of a refrain to create rigidity that resolves to a one chord. So, different components within the tune tackle heightened significance to arrange distinction.

A vocalist sings quick phrases and lengthy phrases, legato melodies and fast-paced melodies, longer line lengths, and shorter line lengths.

A melody desires to take us on a journey.

All of those non-chordal components are sufficient to do the job when deftly positioned.

Try P!nk’s hit “Get This Celebration Began.” The verse melody consists of all quick be aware durations. All of the strains are ten to 12 syllables fired off in fast succession.

Get this occasion began on a Saturday night time
Everyone’s waitin’ for me to reach
Sendin’ out the message to all of my associates
We’ll be lookin’ flashy in my Mercedes Benz
I acquired lotsa model, acquired my gold diamond rings
I can go for miles if what I imply

Subsequent, the downbeat of the refrain begins with a protracted held-out be aware on the phrase “I’m”.

I’m……………………… comin’ up so that you higher get this occasion began
I’m……………………… comin’ up so that you higher get this occasion began

P!nk stretches that first phrase over a bar and a beat every time it comes round. The listener is aware of the refrain has arrived as a result of it clearly contrasts from the verse.

Tempo, vitality, riffs, motif, rigidity, reduction, tune arc—these are time-proven strategies that many one-chord songs share. I encourage you to take your individual deep dive into the one-chord tune. Hear first, then strive your hand at writing just a few. Somewhat than limiting your inventive course of, writing a one-chord tune may simply level-up your writing in shocking new methods.

Till subsequent time, write on!

~ CM

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He’s the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Stunning Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay Mills can be the co-author of The Songwriter’s Information To Mastering Co-writing.


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