I have been doing a lot of songwriting lately and I absolutely love the way that finishing a new song feels. The whole process has its ups and downs but once it is complete there is a moment. A knowing.
You know instantly that every note you have played, every lyric you have written, has been tied together like a bow on a beautiful present. When you write an ending to the piece, your ideas and experiences come to life as something new; a song. And in the moment that you play your song completely, from start to finish, you feel as if you not only made and offered the gift, but you just received it too!!
As this year comes to a close, I like the idea of applying some of the ways you can end a song to how you can end your year. If we choose the ending we want, then we can come into the new year with a sense of completion and wholeness. So let’s take a closer look at some typical ways to end a song, and you choose which ending you want to bring into your life.
The Fade Out
This seems to be the go to when I am jamming a new song with my friends or leading an impromptu drum circle. There is something fun and easy about the fade out. Even if you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going (often my feeling when improvising) when the tempo starts to change just a bit, and everyone comes to a softer dynamic, clarity arises and the fun of the fade out begins. You begin to relax a bit in your body, because you aren’t pushing towards the climax of the song any more, but you are hanging out, and then slowly dropping away. A good fade out captures the attention of the audience and somehow ropes everyone into being in a sacred, quiet space. When the last note of the song has faded away, the next few moments of silence are full of presence and awareness.
So, if it seems like you have been improvising a lot this year and you have had a lot of things going on, think about starting a fade out. Let the activity and all of your parts keep playing, but slowly bring the volume down on everything. This might look like actually being silent when doing end of the year business or family tasks. Creating slower meals, bedtime routines, or writing those last payroll checks with intent and meaning. Let the last of your to do list or memories from the year drop off, and enjoy the moments of awareness and sense of space you will be holding from ending your year this way.
Resolve Back To The 1 Chord
Most songs have a cadence, an ending where the chords lead back to the root or the 1 chord. This brings a sense of resolution and any level of music listener can tell that it is complete just by hearing the chords move from the 4th or 5th chord back to the 1st. An easy way for me to end a song is by playing the chorus at the end and then “tagging” the end with a V – I. You hear this example in a lot of old marches or traditional folk songs. Ending a song this way brings completion no matter what tempo or dynamic you are using. It is predictable, reliable and should be a go to that any songwriter knows about.
If you are wanting a sense of solid structure and closure of your year, then spend some time coming back to your root. For some that is family, for others it is faith. When I think of my 1 Chord, metaphysically, I think of my breath. I think of meditation and how I can find my original key so easily when I come back to this space. When you end your year grounded in this, then everyone around you knows a sense of completion, and you are strong and ready to start the next song.
Some of the most interesting songs are unresolved. They end on a dissonant chord, which means that it sounds uncommon, and the notes that are played together don’t sound complete. Perhaps it is ending on a minor chord when the key of the song is major, or by playing a ‘blue note’, a flattened 3rd, 5th or 7th. This brings about a feeling of tension for the listener and there is always a sense that there is more that needs to be said. In a way, it is like a cliffhanger.
If you feel a lot of tension right now, and you do not see any resolution happening at the end of this year, go with it! A lot of personal growth and depth as an artist in life comes from holding the tension of things being unresolved. If we can make a space for this and actually sit with it for a while, then we might start to notice anticipation for the resolve that is coming. Sometimes when things are tense, we close off, we shut down and we no longer look forward to resolutions. What if during your most tense times, you stayed open, proudly held onto the the year that has lead up to this dissonance, and you played it like a blue note. With confidence, with conviction, and with a knowing that it is bringing color and meaning to the whole song.
This is a favorite of my band mates!! It is so much fun to kind of trick the audience, play a phrase and stop…….wait a second……and then bring it back for more. It’s like a fun game that can go on and on, until there is one final ending, for real this time with crash symbols and scales and trills and the big ta do. It’s finally the end!!!!
If you are wanting to bring some fun and excitement into your end of year celebrations, think about having several of them!!! How can you celebrate your life as a song over and over again, until it leads up to one over the top, hair raising, epic ending? Think about making everything you do this last month of 2017 really count. Do everything with fun and celebration. Look to those people around you in your home or business to be on board with you. To play in your game. It is fun to start and stop together. Maybe you can create a whole list of ways to end your year, and you do it together with those around you, for a really big impact!!
Repeat the Main Line
Some of the most memorable songs end the way they began. They come back to the hook, or repeat a riff or loop that has been heard throughout the song. I love when songs end with the same lyric that is in the title or is the main theme of the song. This is a nice touch that reminds us what the song was really about.
How did you start the year off? What has been the main theme for you? I think back to my first article in Owl Creek Gazette, entitled, There Needs To Be More Music. When I look back on my year, I see how that has played out and been the main theme for me in my life. What better way than to end it with this idea, to bring my attention and the attention of those around me back to the theme.
Our life is truly like a song
We create structure and patterns through our everyday rhythms and routines. We shape a melody by the way we express ourselves. We add richness and complexity to it when we harmonize with others. We can choose how we want to end things, just as we can choose how we want to begin again. Our life is our greatest masterpiece, our most epic symphony. As this year comes to a close, it is my wish for you to find the perfect ending. To feel that moment of completion, of knowing, and then when it is right, to have an excitement growing inside to start a new song. Because There Needs to Be More Music……There Needs to Be More You.