Cookies, part Four: the form

The next step is to envision some kind of shape to the entire song and map it out. This helps us to set up the invisible walls in which we'll contain the musical material. These walls will be defined by little moments of musical punctuation we call cadences. Cadences are chord progressions that come in the places where the song pauses. These pauses create the sense of punctuation in a song. Some cadences amount to a full stop, the grammar equivalent of which is a period, and other cadences amount to merely a pause. Expressed in terms of visual art, cadences are the lines an artist pencils in for guidance before she starts to apply the paint. Songs progress in sections. So far we have an introduction and a chorus. For purposes of illustration, I'm going to call the introduction A, and the chorus B.

Okay, so, how do we know what the overall shape of the song will be? Well, that depends on a few factors. One important factor is convention. There are a million established song forms in the world, stretching back all the way to, I'd say, the 17th Century. But we're not going to look back that far, of course. Looking through some old songbooks from the era I'm trying to place these songs in, I've observed that most of those old songs contain an introduction, a verse, then a chorus, and all of that repeats. So:

INTRO | A | B :||

The colon and two lines are a repeat sign. The first repeat is usually punctuated by a half-cadence (comma), and after the repeat, an ending cadence is added to bring the whole thing to a close (period). The next factor in the shape of the song is how much lyrical material you have. You can just keep writing lyrics until you finish the narrative of your story, or, in situations like I'm Cookies For You, where you have the same idea repeating itself, you might want to keep it short. So, we're going to keep it short. Another factor is balance. How does the shape of the song feel? Is there enough material to create a feeling in the listener that they've experienced a complete story? We will revisit the balance question periodically as we progress. For now, the way I check for balance is to sing the song to myself, imagining different shapes, and see how it feels. I sit back and imagine the whole song, just in vague terms, imagine someone singing it, trying to judge how much music should go in between the lyrics, how long the cadences should be, etc. This I do on the drive home from somewhere, or dancing around my apartment, or while playing with Lily.

Having done all that, experimenting with different forms, I think the best shape for this song is the one above. Having counted the measures, I think that the form should be:

INTRO (4 – 8 mm.) | A (8 mm.) | B (16 mm.) | interlude (4 – 8 mm.) |
| A ( 8 mm.) | B (16 mm.) | coda (4 – 8 mm.) ||

Okay, so, looking at this map, I see that I've written enough lyrics for one A section, and one B section. So I basically need one more set of lyrics for another A section and another B section. The introduction will be a little piano intro, and the interlude is going to be a little bit of piano music to get us back to the repeat of the first A section. It'll be a comma. The coda is going to be similar to the intro, but its chord progression is going to finish off the song. In other words, it's a period. Okay, now we have an idea of the shape, let's get back to finishing the lyrics!