The Important Roles of Tension and Release in Songwriting
Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on January 18, 2010
The alternate building and releasing of tension, or conﬂict and resolution, keeps our listeners’ attention alive.
• Lyric conﬂict consists in raising questions and answering them, posing problems and resolving them:
Problem: “I once was lost”
Resolution:“but now am found”
Problem: “was blind”
Resolution: “but now I see.”
Problems and their solutions are not always this rapid-ﬁre, of course. Sometimes it takes a whole verse or two to set up a problem and a whole chorus to resolve it. Not every song has lyric conﬂict. Some worship songs, for example, may consist of a pouring out of one’s heart in love to the Lord—no conﬂict there.
• Harmonic conﬂict has to do with the continual tantalizing of our ears with harmonic tensions—hanging, unresolved tones that cry out to move up or down to a place of rest in the next chord.
• Rhythmic contrast is created by a series of short notes coming to rest on a long note, or a syncopated passage settling back into stride.
• Melodic conﬂict is a combination of harmonic and rhythmic factors. Every song has it constantly—long tones following short ones, melody notes hanging suspended before resolving to the next tone. Since melody consists simply of pitch, a component of harmony, and duration, a component of rhythm, it’s hard to divorce melody from either rhythm or harmony. But conﬂict is what keeps music interesting—the alternate building and releasing of tension. With too little conﬂict, music quickly becomes boring.
• However, a word of caution. With too much conﬂict, the song may become confusing and hard for the listener to take in. Generally, too many chord changes, too many syllables and too many wide melodic leaps, all at a rapid tempo, may create a frenetic quality that can defeat your song as fast as too little conﬂict.
Other Posts Featuring Paul Baloche
- How To Thrive This Christmas - Webinar with Paul Baloche
- For Unto Us A Child Is Born (Open the Eyes of My Heart) Tutorial with Paul Baloche
- How To Play "Hark The Herald" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "Your Name (Christmas Version)" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "What Can I Do (Christmas Version)" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "This Is Love (with Come Thou Long Expected Jesus)" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "Prepare Him Room" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "O Come Emmanuel" by Paul Baloche