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Graphic scores

Graphic scores provide a way communicating musical ideas. Composers have used them for decades when they don’t get what they want from traditional means. Some of them can be appreciated simply for how they look.

Here are a couple of examples…

graphic score 2

graphic score 1

 

… and a website dedicated to graphic scores.

http://www.notations21.net/

 

 Writing it down

How can this kind of thing be used in songwriting? Good question.

If you put your music on paper, it can be a great way of communicating chaos, noise, a departure from normalcy, etc. You can write a normal chord progression, follow it with some kind of abstract image, and then go back to the chord progression. And yes, you can just explain this kind of thing to your band, but it helps to work out ideas in this way before you start talking about it.

 

Generating new ideas

If you’re blocked, no ideas (or worse nothing but old ideas), it can help to draw pictures. Get away from the way that you’re used to working. Try paint, clay, whatever.

Can you make a picture of the song you want to write? What do the verses look like? The choruses? The bridge?

Get six pieces of paper, and make some pictures. As a way of keeping your thought process open, make them abstract. No people, animals, houses, etc.

Now group them into verses, choruses, and a bridge. Three of the pieces of paper are verses, two are choruses, and one is a bridge (I’m using colors for the sake of expediency. I use pictures to go deeper).

Graphic song

 

 

Now move the pieces of paper into a song form. Here’s a standard, alternating section example:

Graphic song2

You can move the papers in any order you want. What would it mean if the bridge was the first section? How about one chorus and six verses. Maybe four choruses and 2 verses. Two bridges?

Or you can get rid of the labels and just let the images flow into each other. This may feel like a stretch. But it’s not necessary to use what you produce in this process. It’s an exercise to stretch your brain. And who knows? You might find some sounds you really like…

Relating the medium that you’re used to with a medium that you’re not is a really healthy practice. It’s a way of subverting your normal way of thinking. It gets you out of ruts.

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