The Golden Ratio

Applying Some Math to Form

Jörgen Elofsson, former Cheiron member, and the songwriter behind numerous Billboard hits has given a lot of thought to how one creates good form (the disposition of ideas and form parts). He tells us: ”Creating good form is the art of creating and maintaining energy”. Energy is a way to talk about the intensity of the listening experience. When working with the distribution of energy in a song one can sometimes be helped by mathematics.

Guest Post from Songwriting: Get Your Black Belt In Music & Lyrics

The Golden Ratio

There’s a measure, or a ratio rather, that you should know about when you are working with form: The golden ratio.

There is no absolute science behind it, but the more you learn about it the more amazed you get. This ratio has been in use in all types of art since the renaissance, and you do in fact find it in lots of music – regardless of genre.

1:0,618 – that’s it (approximately). A rectangle where one side measures 1 meter and the other 0,618 meter is a golden rectangle.

How can you make use of the golden ratio in songwriting? Let’s say you’ve made a song that is 3 minutes and 33 seconds long. You’re not all satisfied with how the disposition of the content is working.

  • Where does the climatic point of your song sit? If it is not at the very end, you might want to try placing it at a point in time given by the golden ratio. That would be at (213 seconds x 0,618 =) 132 seconds.
  • Does your song have a variational part? A bridge maybe? This is often somewhat of a pivotal point in a song. You can hear information a few times more before the variation than afterwards. Try applying the golden ratio to balance around the pivot!
  • Work with melodies and phrases in the same fashion. Ask yourself where the highest note occurs if the melody describes an arc.

All songs work differently, and the golden ration can certainly not be applied everywhere, but if you’re stuck and don’t know what more to try. Give the golden ratio a thought!

Learn more

You can read more about song form in the book: Songwriting: Get Your Black Belt In Music & Lyrics.


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