Breaking down song structures

To carry on from last week’s progress, this week we headed deeper into composition. As I found out in class, the next step involved breaking down song structures into numbers.

Once the key of a song is determined, we then can try to find out exactly which notes go into forming the backbone of a song – often heard as chord changes or bass notes.

These notes, of course, come from the key the selected song is in and are numbered according to degree. The purpose of breaking down songs into numbers (as opposed to letters) is to understand the relationships between sounds; to understand how they go together to ultimately understand how they can be put together (composed).

It comes in handy learning songs as a series of numbers as opposed to letters as the numbered system is interchangeable with different keys.

Take, for example, Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”: I found the song is in G and has a structure of I, I, IV, V. In notes, that would be G, G, C, D. If we changed keys, the numbers would still tell us how the song should sound, however, the notes would only sound off.


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