Everyone knows how extraordinarily complex the process of filmmaking is. Millions of dollars are spend in order to transport viewers to another time and place. Elaborate costumes, dramatic sound effects, and other cinematic tools ensure that moviegoers absorb the entire experience. The songwriting process can seem just as taxing for artists (though not nearly as involved.) But for some reason, songs tend to cling to the human memory much more easily than films. For that reason, a song’s creation requires extreme care and attention. And in many ways, it mirrors the tedious process of filmmaking.
Plot: What’s the Song About?
To make a good movie, you’ve got to have a plot; to write a good song, you’ve also got to have a plot. For obvious reasons, the focus does not have to be as complicated as that of a film. But there definitely should be a general topic that you’re attempting to cover. Even the simplest of songs have a focus (example: Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.) Once you understand what it is you’re trying to say, the rest should fall into place. How many times have you heard that the best songs tell stories? This is because the songwriter had a good “plot” in mind.
Just as casting directors are skilled at placing the right actors in certain roles (most of the time), songwriters must determine which instruments will work best for particular parts of a song. To carry off an aggressive sound, strong instruments (think heavy guitars, coarse percussion) might be used. On the other hand, delicate ballet pieces are often filled with flutes and other light instrumentation. The instruments themselves serve as the voices for the musical piece. This is why people are so fond of remixes—just the way filmgoers enjoy seeing remakes of their favorite movies and television programs. The bottom line is that the various types of sounds created by different instruments are what make up the texture of a song. Just as one needs a set of characters to complete a film, a songwriter needs instruments to voice his/her ideas.
Dialogue/ Script: Lyrics
What’s being said in a song is perhaps even more important than the landscape it’s framed in. Sure, you can have films with no sound (this is the way they were initially done)—and you can certainly have songs with no lyrics.
But with no lyrics, there is nothing for listeners to sing to.
Through dialogue, the viewer learns all sorts of things about the characters, and the plot itself. The same is true of lyrics. This is why some songs are still memorable and popular decades after they’ve been released.
Special Effects: The “Sweetness”
A blockbuster film just wouldn’t be a blockbuster film without all the accoutrement attached to the process of making it. This is a direct reference to the CGI special effects, sound effects, advanced lighting techniques, and even elaborate make-up and costuming. These things help the viewer to become completely immersed in the movie-watching experience. These subtle (and not so subtle) “tricks” are designed to perpetuate fantasy or even create “realism.” If you think that songwriters and producers don’t have a few tricks of their own, you’d be sadly mistaken. Stacking of vocals make thin-voiced singers seem more powerful. There is also computer software capable of taking off-pitch tunes and correcting them instantly (think Snoop Dogg’s vocals on “Sensual Seduction”). Additionally, other vocal effects like echo and reverb serve to provide the kind of spin that a song needs.
This “dressing up” of films and songs are simply the icing that completes the cake.