Intros and endings are often overlooked in music by most folks. I was once told that if you can start and stop a song, then the middle part will take care of itself. Every time I’m in a band or group this certainly seems to remain true.
Intros and endings is the step where we begin to work on the arrangement of the song. It’s also a step that I feel could never really be finished. Moreover, you are likely to explore a lot of ways to begin and end a tune and switch them out occasionally to freshen up a tune.
With both intros and endings we have a lot of options. I’m going to walk through a few, and then talk about what I ended up with.
Option 1) Play a whole section (verse, chorus, etc) as an intro. This is a good method and is a common fall back in groups who are jamming.
Option 2) Play the last ## verses of a section as the intro. Another common choice and closely related. Generally, this would be a last 4 bars.
Option 3) Back cycle on the circle of fifths with the target chord being either the I chord or the first chord in the song. This one is more complex and takes some thinking. In Scotch & Soda, we are in the key of D but we start on a Gmaj7. We could either count four chords clockwise around the circle from D or Gmaj7 to get this. (I prefer targeting the I chord usually.)
Targeting to the Gmaj7, we would play: | B7 | E7 | A7 | D(7) |
Targeting to the D, we would play: | F#7 | B7 | E7 | A7 |
It is important to point out that in the second example there, we are targeting the D chord (I chord) but we are not actually playing it. After the A7, we go to the Gmaj7 to begin the first verse of the song.
Option 4) We play a lick to start out. This could be a self written lick or a common lick or a part of the melody that just grabs the attention. You see this style of intro a lot in jazz and folk music.
What I ended up with is sort of a combination of some of what’s going on in each option. I listened to the Lou Rawls recording (mentioned during Research) and found that his band starts on a verse but quickly changes style (not really playing melody) and resolves into the Gmaj7. My take is a little different. I play through to the D chord and play a lick right before the Gmaj7.
Endings shouldn’t be overlooked either. It’s important that songs don’t just fade off (especially in this genre). I’ve always been against fading out like you hear on records. I mean, who does that at a gig. End the song. (Sorry, I soap boxed that for a minute. Moving on…)
When we talk about the ending, we aren’t just talking about the last couple of chords. We need to consider also the last time through a section. Sometimes that will be the A section (like the third A of an AABA) or just a chorus or bridge. Whatever sounds good to you.
In Scotch and Soda, the tune is laid out AABA, so it makes sense the we would play out from an A section. Now, in a band situation, you may be trading solos around. At the end of the last solo, the band leader (and/or singer) may call you to play from the B section and out rather than go back to the head. As a soloist, I don’t tend to cut to the B section often, but it is certainly an option.
The last few bars there is a decision to make. We are either going to play the song out to the last I chord (after all we resolve to the I). Or, and I like this for S&S, instead of going to the D in the second from the last we go to the F#7 (a III chord). At that point we transition to the E7 (to start the last four bars) by way of a B7 and play it out.
For the above example I put a ii-V7 at the end of the second-to-the-last measure (the Em – A7) and ended the song on the very jazzy D7 chord. Alternatively, I’m likely to use another lick right there (during that ii-V) to end it. It just feels better to me.
The next step is to talk a little about the chord melody which ought to be fun. Check back with the blog soon as I get that post created for you.