Updated: Oct 5, 2019
Writing a song isn't the hardest part - it's writing a strong song that keeps a listeners attention span for longer than the intro and the key part of doing this is having a great understanding of level dynamics, knowing the in's and out's of a song structure and which sections need to peak and which need to be much more subtle.
What are level dynamics?
Most successful hit songs, especially Pop / Dance have such strong and distinctive dynamics. It's where a song LIFTS and DESCENDS. This can be mostly from the production with layers of harmonies, instrumentals and hooks to back up a hook making it lift - commonly and most importantly needed in choruses and pre's.
The more subtle sections would simply be the opposite, so less layers and more simplicity to get the lyrics and story across in the verses and bridge.
A great example would be some of the most successful hit songs - let's take a look at Katy Perry's 'Unconditionally' for instance and strip down the level dynamics.
INTRO & VERSE
Clear, short and easy intro that leads into a similar short but clear and strong verse.
Bassy-harsh drums that clearly show a big chorus is about to happen, along with a lyrical line that is a great starting line to the choruses context.
Higher booming vocals, strong synths with 3 simple chords to take the production an extra mile. Listening closely, you can hear high electric guitar notes - simple 'twinkly' effects that give it the romantic and exciting spark.
Very similar to the first verse, but vocal harmonies thrown in there. Not too much of them and not too little.
Again, similar to 1st pre-chorus except it's taken the extra mile with HARMONIES. A simple way to boost a song. The last line is STRONG, POWERFUL and sums up the emotion of the context. The drums get louder and a little harsher which excites the listener even more knowing, the next chorus will be even BIGGER.
Similar to the first, but added in 'whooshing' effects that can only be heard if you really focus, but it's obvious in the sense that it's given the chorus that extra level. Tiny tweaks make a big difference.
Calm, easy, no more than just vocals and keys. A section that gives the listener a moment just to relax after such powerful choruses. In big pop songs like this, these bridges are common after big choruses.
Loud with an extra touch of harmonies. This song only keeps climbing higher and stronger which is why it was such a success.
Think of level dynamics as a ladder. Each step needs to be greater than the last, but you must know when to take it back and let a verse or bridge just simply breathe. Learn which of your song sections are which and don't overcomplicate it. Getting the right level's isn't complicated unless you make it, just ensure the track keeps climbing that musical ladder and be sure you strip it down from time to time so it doesn't get too exhausting for the listener.
A&R, Unsigned Bible Founder