Same pattern repeated half a tone lower - good idea in a song? How to make it work?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Tomek Worek, Jun 22, 2022.

  1. Tomek Worek

    Tomek Worek

    Sep 8, 2016
    Hi there, so i'm a writing a new song for my band (on bass). I've written the chorus part (which kinda outlines a chord progression) and had this idea to instead of playing it twice, play it once in its original form, and right after that play it a half-tone lower. It sounds pretty cool to me, and the keys/chords match up good enough for it to work tonally, but i'm not so sure if its going to really work as a actual song (as in with more instruments)
    Will it sound interesting and progressive, or just a little off and confusing? Is it something vocalists (generally speaking) can have problems with? Does this kind of stuff happen often in popular music?
    I know my description is pretty vague and there is only so much you can do without actually hearing the part, but I do intend to try it with the band (yes I already know I should "trust my ears" :laugh:). So I'm mostly hoping for some general advice (EDIT: meaning information) on that kind of a part (how to make it work, what to look out for) from someone with more song - writing experience and skill. Even if it won't apply here I'm happy to learn. Peace :)
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2022
    BluesWalker likes this.
  2. Lenny JG

    Lenny JG

    Aug 3, 2019
    Not even gonna read this to lyk if it sounds good it sounds good.
  3. Tomek Worek

    Tomek Worek

    Sep 8, 2016
    Yeah, as I said in that post you missed I already know that. It has potential and I intend to make it good, that's why I asked for actual advice, not cliches ;)
  4. Lenny JG

    Lenny JG

    Aug 3, 2019
    My advice is to use your ears, if it doesn't sound good, it doesn't work.
  5. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    On paper, this sounds like the reverse of that old cliche, when the songwriter has run out of ideas; throw in a key change (usually playing the next verse / repeating the chorus a semi-tone higher).

    But in all honesty, you're only going to know for sure if you try it.
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  6. Tomek Worek

    Tomek Worek

    Sep 8, 2016
    Can you read the last paragraph of my original post (since reading it whole is too much) and tell me your advice isn't a little garbage? Thanks anyway :)

    Yep that's true, but while going "up" usually adds more tension and urgency, I'm not rly sure how to describe going down. But yeah solid point, maybe I'll check out some of the songs written like that for inspiration
    I will try it out when I meet the rest of the band :D
    Wood and Wire likes this.
  7. Lenny JG

    Lenny JG

    Aug 3, 2019
    If my advice to use your ears is garbage, I guess you probably don't even need help. Just do it, if it sounds bad, stop doing it. Repeat until sounds good. Easy. I'll take my garbage advice elsewhere though.
  8. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    Perhaps if the mood of the song is melancholy, moving a pattern a half step down would convey the right sentiment. It seems that the lyrics/mood need to match the music more than moving up a half step, which to me can be utilized in a wider variety of circumstances.
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  9. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Rebel Rouser by Duane Eddy repeats the same melody 4 times moving up a half step each time.
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  10. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Back in the late 70's / early 80's I knew a guy who played solo gigs on the same circuit as me and my friends. Now and then he'd ask me to sit in with him, and his key to building excitement was to modulate up a half step toward the end. Every single song. I can still hear him yelling "modulate! modulate!" in the middle of a song.
  11. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Bob_Ross, Tomek Worek, smogg and 3 others like this.
  12. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Try it record it.

    If you think it sounds good keep it. It really is that simple. Lots of songs do this.
  13. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    I have always felt 1/2 step up modulation as a cheap tired trick to (attempt) creating sime excitement in a tune. Doing that several times in a row, or for every song, would be just unbearable.

    I am not sure about whether the opposite (1/2 step down modulation) will sound much more interesting. But, as many already pointed out, you ears (and your musical taste) will tell you, just as it will tell your band mates and your audience.
  14. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Miles spent half his career modulating up for 8 bars and then back down. I don't see it as a gimmick; more of another useful composing tool.
  15. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    Sure, you are right about "So What", but Miles had so many different ways of creating tension and interest in his playing. He could make "twinkle twinkle" sound amazing...

    My comment was about this post:
    Doing this in every single song suggests some rather unimaginative playing (kind of one-trick poney).
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2022
  16. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Bergantino-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    I can’t remember ever hearing a chorus drop down a semi-tone upon repeating in any of the hundreds of popular music songs I’ve ever learned for corporate and wedding cover gigs over the years.

    So no, that kind of stuff definitely doesn’t happen often in popular music.

    As far as “how to make it work”, forcing an key change is never very musical: a momentary key change a half step down, before I assume returning to the original key in the verse, is something most vocalists will definitely have a problem with.

    It’s worth trying something new, so don’t throw it out without actually giving it a shot with the band, but it’s never worth doing something new that doesn’t sound musical just for the sake of being “unique” or “progressive”.
    E Joe, AGCurry, Bass and 2 others like this.
  17. Iristone


    Jul 8, 2017
    I tried it once. There's a nice tension build-up between triad chords, because the root note of the 1st chord forms a tritone with the fifth note of the 2nd one.
    In my case it was:
    • Ab (Ab C Eb)
    • G (G B D)
    With a tritone between Ab and D.
  18. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    Didn't The Ramones do it quite a lot? I hear it all the time in contemporary pop music. And I do mean all the time ...
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  19. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    Ok, the answer is it depends on how you do this, what else is going on, the context as a whole. This is where learning some theory might help. Example, a half step shift like you are talking about takes it from one tonal area (key) to about the farthest tonal area away, quite jarringly. This kind of thing is usually avoided in music composition because it's not smooth and sounds bad. But there are ways to make it sound good, if used sparingly. Your job is to figure that out.
    Tomek Worek likes this.
  20. Jeff Elkins

    Jeff Elkins Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2007
    Johnson City, TN
    This is way out of my grasp of theory at the moment, but watching Janek Gwizdala’s practices I’ve made a mental note to check out Neopolitan chords. Db major against Cm (or is that Cmaj7?) for example? Again I don’t have a handle on how it works just yet, but your post reminded of that and I was wondering if, as you modulate down, you might use the neopolitan triad to maintain the melodic theme after the demodulation?

    Possibly someone with more theory could riff on that idea in a way that it becomes useful! Good luck!
    Tomek Worek likes this.

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