Rhythmic complexity – strive for it

Rhythmic complexity is a term today’s pop songwriters should study. Quite thoroughly so. Because let’s be honest, most of these tunes miss it. It’s actually one of the reasons why they suck so bad. Coming up with some basic, sampled crap and placing it over a strict grid of 4/4 time. That’s what they keep trying to shove down our throats. It only sounds barely interesting for newborns. But even for them, it gets old pretty quick. And if the music only changes at every 4th, 8th, 16th, etc. beat, it will remain unimaginative forever.

Rhythmic complexity – you’re supposed to use it

rhythmic complexityBut what is rhythmic complexity? Is the 4/4 time really the problem? Of course not. Imagine a tune crafted of even 3/4, 5/4, 7/8 measures. It won’t make it more interesting. Because as long as they are even all the way through, it will be lacking variety. And that is what we need. When it comes to rhythm, variety appears in the form of rhythmic accents. Or we can call it syncopation as well. If you have come up with a melody, it will of course have its own rhythm. (And let’s assume you can come up with your own.) But it doesn’t mean that you are stuck with the whole thing as is. You can actually play around with the way these melodic parts connect. The spaces between these is where you can use rhythmic complexity to your advantage. It means that even if you are in 4/4, you don’t have to wait 4 beats between the verse and the chorus. If you can come up with a riff or turnaround that lasts only 3 beats, it will work much more interesting. Its length and time signature can of course be anything else. Just make sure that it’s different from the general pulse of the tune. It will be very effective, trust me on that.

Rhythmic complexity – you’re supposed to use it

Using rhythmic complexity as a musical device is not limited to the melody though. Your song can have a steady, even pulse. But if you put some syncopation in the bass line, the plainness will suddenly be gone. Anticipated bass notes can work really good. Think salsa. You can also inject some rhythmic complexity in the other members of the rhythm section. A variety of several syncopated figures in the rhythm guitar or the piano comping will do wonders.

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