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The Basics of What Goes Into a Rhythm Track for a Song

Updated on March 25, 2014
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Music School Owner, Recording Artist, Guitarist, Composer, Performer & Educator. My goal is to make good music, make and keep good friends.

An Overview of the Elements That Make up a Song

This is a basic overview of what goes into creating a song.

The four main elements in a song are:

Rhythm – what the groove or feel is

Harmony – what the chords are

Melody – what the tune is

Lyrics – The words

Instrumentation

Each instrument used in a song has certain descriptive words often associated with it that help describe each instrument’s role in the song.

Drums – beat, tempo, rhythm, groove or feel (these two words usually mean the same thing)

Bass guitar – low end, bottom, drive, punch, rhythm, groove/feel

Rhythm guitar – chords, harmony, rhythm, groove/feel

Lead guitar – solos, fills, melodic embellishment

Keyboards – chords, harmony, solos, fills, pads, rhythm, groove/feel

Vocals – lyrics, melody

Notice that the drums, bass, rhythm guitar and keyboards all have groove/feel and rhythm associated with them. In a band, these instruments together are often referred to as the rhythm section.

It is the rhythm sections job to create the overall groove/feel of the song. Some common feels or grooves are rock, funk, jazz and blues. A musician might tell his band, “I’ve written a song and I want us to play it at a medium speed with a rock groove.”

Each musician would then play something to create the desired feel. Often a band will play the new song over and over to give each musician a chance to come up with a good part. There can be a lot of experimentation in this very creative process. Hopefully after playing the song several times everyone can agree on the best parts for the song. Other times the person who wrote the song will also write parts the other musicians.

Also a person called an arranger may be called in to write parts for an orchestra to enhance the song. In the Beatles, George Martin wrote many of the orchestral arrangements as well as produced the records.

After the basic rhythm section parts are created and recorded and the vocals are added, then other items like fills and extra instruments might be added.


Song Structure

A structure has to be decided on. There are many ways that a song can be structured. Typical structural items are verses, choruses, pre-choruses, bridges, riffs, interludes, instrumental sections and breakdowns.

Definitions

  • Verse: The main storyline in a song
  • Chorus: The catchy sing-along part. Think "Hotel California," "Knocking On Heaven's Door" and "Let It Be" If anything most of us remember that part of the song.
  • Pre-Chorus: Not always included but is the set up to a chorus. "My Girl" has "I guess you say, what can make me feel this way?" as the set up to the "My Girl" chorus.
  • Bridge: Not always included. Compilmentary part that sums up the feeling of the song.
  • Riff: Catchy instrumental melody that is immediately recognizable. My Girl, Pretty Woman, Smoke on the Water, need we say more?


Song 1

intro /verse/verse/chorus/verse/verse/chorus/outro guitar solo over verse

Hotel California is a classic example of this formula.

Song 2

Intro Riff/Verse/Pre-Chorus/Chorus/Intro Riff/Verse/Pre-Chorus/Chorus/Bridge/Solos/Pre-Chorus/Chorus out

Song 3 (Jazz standard style)

A A B A where A = Verse and B = Bridge

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