The Economy Of Song

The KinksOne of the fundamental laws of good writing is ‘omit needless words’. The same law, I am beginning to find, applies to structuring a song, only with songs the law is perhaps better expressed as ‘omit needles bits’.

Don’t get me wrong good songs come in all varieties. There are many great songs that just sit on a tasty groove and quality melody for a long time, but most I am finding have a tightly structured craftsmanship to them.

A good example is ‘Leaps and Bounds’, a Paul Kelly song I was analysing recently.

Here’s the structure:

  • Intro: 21 seconds (21 seconds)
  • Verse 1: 15 seconds (36 seconds)
  • Chorus: 9 seconds (45 seconds)
  • Verse 2: 15 seconds (1 minute)
  • Chorus: (extended): 15 second  (1 minute, 15 seconds)
  • Bridge:15 second bridge (1 minutes, 30 seconds)
  • Chorus: (extended): 15 seconds (1 minutes, 45 seconds)
  • Guitar solo:17 seconds (2 minutes, 2 seconds)
  • Verse 3 (repeated 1st verse): 15 seconds (2 minutes, 17 seconds)
  • Chorus: (extended/outro): 45 seconds (3 minutes, 2 seconds)
  • Intrumental Outro: 20 seconds (3 minutes, 22 seconds)

Have a listen:


Notice that by 1 minute and 15 seconds, we’ve already had an intro, two verses and two choruses, at which time the bridge kicks in before heading back into another chorus.

Kelly doesn’t stuff around.

Notably, the guitar solo starting at 1 minute and 45 seconds goes for only 15 seconds but still managers to make a tasty contribution to the song.

By 2 minutes and 17 seconds the song has divulged all its secrets. We’ve already heard the chorus three times, gotten familiar with it and want to hear it more. And our wish is granted. The last chorus repeats for 45 seconds before leading into a chilled-out 20-second instrumental outro.

I’ve decided it’s time for me to write a tight little tune like this one.

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photo by: forayinto35mm

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