Saturday, 7 September 2013

Gloomy songs

Last week I looked at the analysis of some motivational songs. We have seen that the song form for these kind of songs leans very strongly towards the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus form.

I wrote my motivational song with verses and chorusses and added a bridge and refrain. Unfortunately for those interested, as the song was written under commission, I can only publish the song once recorded and published by the commissioner. Hopefully, that will be soon.

As a test, I looked at the opposite of the motivational songs, i.e. gloomy songs. There is no better examples of the songs of gloom as those from the fathers of gloom rock, Black Sabbath.

I have to confess to being a great fan of Sabbath, especially of the Ozzy era. So happy that they are back together and recording again.

So, I took a few of Sabbath's greatest early songs and analysed the basic song form to see if we can learn anything about gloom songs. I was surprised about what I have found.

Firstly, many of Sabbath's song do not have a chorus at all. Their songs mainly follow the AAA song form, i.e. only a number of verses where the basic chord structures and melody is repeated, but not the words.

The second striking thing about their songs is the almost absence of the song title in the song. Many of their songs will use the song title only once during the whole song (e.g. War pigs, Sabbath bloody sabbath, etc), or sometimes not at all (e.g. Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Sweat leaf, Wizzard).

A third noticable factor about Black Sabbath's songs is the use of easilly recognizable riffs. In classical music, it would be called motifs, I guess. Iommi is a master at the guitar riffs. Very important about his riffs, or themes, is that most of the songs have more than one riff. War pigs is the best example (ever?) on how to use riffs, variations on the riffs, and mix them up.

Going with the above, is Sabath's use of the breakdown in their songs. Many classic rock and heavy metal bands are to lazy to spend the same amount of time working on the song arrangements. A tip for songwriters and band all over the world to take home from Black Sabbath's teachings: everybody does not have to play all of the time. Mix it up. Change the tempo. Change the feel. Break the song down and build it up again. That is how you can keep your songs interesting to listen to - and no, just a guitar solo does not count.

Many have followed the Black Sabbath recipe for gloom to some extend, especially in the heavy metal genre (e.g. Slayer, Sepultura).


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