Structuring Song Sections: Two Progressions Per Section

Structuring Song Sections: Two Equal Length  Progressions Per Section

While repeating one progression for the entirety of a verse, chorus, or bridge can be quite effective, adding a second progression to a section can have interesting effects.  This technique can be used to provide contrast or push the song into a new section, or both.  In this lesson we will discuss some ways of structuring a section with using two progressions of equal length for maximum effect.  For the sake of simplicity, we will stick to 16-measure sections, but these structures can esaliy be applied to more unconventional section lengths.  Let’s begin by picking two power progressions of differing emotional impact.

Progession A:

|| C      | Am      | F      | G      ||

Progression B:

|| Am      | G      | F      | G      ||

Structure 1:  ABAB

|| C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | Am      | G      | F      | G      |

 | C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | Am      | G      | F      | G      ||

This is the most conventional approach to a two progression structure, playing the progressions back-to-back and repeating.  Both balanced and symmetrical, this structure effectively makes two seperate progressions into one long eight-measure progression.

Structure 2:  AABB

|| C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | Am      | G      | F      | G      |

 | Am      | G      | F      | G      ||

The next most common approach, this structure repeats the Progression A for the first half of the section, then repeats Progression B in the section’s second half.  While balanced, the assymetry between the two halves creates an emotional shift that can mirror, contrast, or comment on the lyrics or melody.

Structure 3:   AAAB

|| C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | Am      | G      | F      | G      ||

In repeating Progression A three times before shifting to the Progression B, this structure delays the emotional shift to the end of the section.  If thenew progression at the end of the section ends with a half cadence (like it does her. it can be used to build momentum for a new section (as in a verse or bridge).  If it ends with a full cadence, it can be used to provide closure at the end of the section (as in a chorus or verse/refrain).

Structure 4:  AABA

|| C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | C      | Am      | F      | G      |

 | Am      | G      | F      | G      |

 | C      | Am      | F      | G      ||

By using Progression B only in the third position, this structure creates emotional contrast, before returning to the original feel.  Such an effect can used to frame a shift in content in the lyrics or melody.

These four structures just scrape the surface of what is possible when structuring a section.  Any one of them can be expanded or contracted to accomodate various section lengths.  Each repetition of either progressions can be varied to create new feelins in a familiar setting.  The key to mastery of this topic is experimenting with these tools until your song has the feeling you desire.

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