The Single Chord Progression Song

For a lot of years the average length of a song has been ~3’30” and that has started to shift in the Spotify era, where only a stream of the first thirty seconds earns you a fractional penny. But let’s say you’re not necessarily wanting to follow the current economic logic to its conclusion by producing 31-second songs but are more or less happy with a duration of a few minutes.

And, let’s say that you have a single chord progression. You can make it to the finish line with just that one chord progression. By ‘finish line’ I actually do mean a finish line, since I usually place a so-labelled marker in my timeline around the 3’30” mark to give me a tangible idea of a generally-aimed at song duration:

Mix template with built-in Finish Line to set a durational limit.

I detail one of the main techniques for extracting maximum compositional use out of a chord progression in my Separated & Sequentialized Density article. There, my focus was on describing an efficient way of achieving compositional unity through initial dense builds followed by an orchestration phase. The present article is more of a case study on applying this technique to continue a single chord progression through to the average song duration in my track Hiatus (the title references my hiatus from music making while I spent some time making digital visual art).

The main chord progression is straightforward:

Chord progressions need chord sweeteners, as I discuss in my article on Chord Sweeteners (they even lack calories!). Below are three of the track’s chord sweeteners, which like the main chord progression, come and go throughout the composition.

Main chord progressions, of course, typically need a main bass line to both underpin the general flow of the tonic and chord changes, and continue it when the harmonic timbres are absent or in counterpoint with melodic and rhythmic elements.

Since Haitus has two main drum loops that are present through most of the song (one main one, and a variation towards the end), one of the melodic lines is timbre-shaped into rhythmic choppiness, so that it functions both melodically and as a companion element to the drum section.

As a contrast to a lot of this electro-feel, there are more recognizably acoustic string instrument melodics based — like the base lines, chord sweeteners and other melodic elements — on the original single chord progression.

Putting all this together, along with other elements based on the same principles but not embedded above, you get a single chord progression track at a little past the finish line at 3’42”.

And, here’s another single chord progression track, just because.

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The Optophonia Festival of Electronic Music, Performance Visuals and Audiovisual Culture