Sloboda conducted an experiment where he asked listeners to identify passages in a song that register a strong emotion like tears or goose bumps. The listeners found 20 such passages which Sloboda then analyzed and found that 18 contained a writing device known as "appoggiatura."
An appoggiatura can be a passing note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a temporary dissonance, an entrance of a new voice, or song dynamics, all of which creates tension for the listener. As I mention on this blog and in all of my books, all art is based around tension and release. In art, it's black against white. In photography, its light against the shadows. In music, it's dissonance against harmony or quiet to loud. Tension and release makes things interesting. You can't have any kind of art without it.
When several appoggiaturas happen close to one another in a melody, it develops a constant state of tension and release, which makes the melody of a song more powerful and provokes an even stronger reaction from the listener.
One of the reasons why psychologists think that Adele was so successful with her album 21, was because of the strong use of appoggiaturas in songs like "Rolling In The Deep" and "Someone Like You." In "Someone Like You," the song starts with a soft repetitive pattern, then jumps an octave to a loud chorus (listen to the examples below, which came from a Wall Street Journal article on the subject).
It turns out that there actually is a formula for appoggiatura that's comprised of 4 elements:
- Passages that go from quiet to loud
- An entrance of a new instrument or harmony
- A melody that suddenly expands its range
- Unexpected deviations of melody or harmony.
All of these are great arrangement devices which we talk about here often, especially in song analysis, so none are new to us. The fact that there have actually been studies that verify what we've already known for ages is, however. One fact remains - surprises in volume level, melody, and harmony are what makes a listener's spine tingle. Remember to use them.
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