What's In A Song? Finding an Arc

Within every good story, there is an arc - an experience and storyline to travel with.  The same goes for a song as well.  The main role of an arc is to drive the story from point A to point B, the creativity is how to get to your destination.  The only real question is, how do you want your story to travel? How will you get to point B?

With our new search feature that gives results based on the arc of a song, it's helps makes your life a little easier to find the right musical structure to your scene and film.  To start things off, when searching for music, click on the Arc option and click from the following options.

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Steady

Songs with a steady arc are marked by a consistent tone or pulse. Creating a steady rhythm and mood is a unique, and often effective mode of storytelling in that it keeps the observer locked into a consistent space. Whether a high energy garage-rock song, or a low hazy ambient composition, a song doesn't necessarily need peaks and valleys to create a feeling of movement and evolution.

A good example of a Steady composition is Total Fascination by Reporter.  Throughout the song, there is a steady and consistent mood. It relies on a subtle sense of evolution, but never substantially departs from it's initial texture and pace.

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Ascending

Songs with an ascending arc start with less energy and slowly gain momentum as they evolve. Does your story have a big payoff at the end? A calm before the storm?  Is your story meant to be a call to action? These are the home turf of the ascending arc. The feeling of upward motion can be created by the layering of new elements in a composition, or by the increasingly fervent way in which each musician plays their instrument.

Fremont showcases the ascending arc in their instrumental version of Catch The Light .  As the song bounces along, new textures (guitars, vocals, piano) are introduced. The added layers create a sense of evolution that serves to propel the song to it's climax.

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Descending

A song with a descending arc always starts bigger than it ends. A descending arc is commonly used when a scene has a substantial moment that is succeeded by a sense of calm. In the opposite manor to the ascending arc, the descending arc loses momentum through textural subtraction, or as the musicians slowly reduce the energy of their performances.

A good example of this is the song Reaching You by Mars Water. The composition starts with a present guitar that starts right out of the gates; after a while, the guitar is replaced and fades into more subdued textures to end the song on a more reflective note.

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Middle Crescendo

In many songs and stories, there's a trajectory that feels much like a mountain climbing expedition. First you climb, then you reach the peak, then you slowly descend. Songs with a Middle Crescendo commonly present an entire experience independently. In story telling, the descent is commonly used as an opportunity to linger over the big "ah hah" moment. Other times it functions like an epilogue or unique chapter.


Daniel Dixon wrote a beautiful song called February that exemplifies how a middle arc surfaces in a composition.  The song starts with minimal guitar and with each texture that comes into form (banjo, accordian and piano) the piece becomes bigger and more arranged.  Upon reaching a high crescendo and emotional crux, the song wanes back into minimalism, bringing around a full circle of an experience.

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Multiple Crescendos

Songs with Multiple Crescendos are marked by a series of musical hills and valleys.  Good stories commonly have twists and turns. Moments of inflation and deflation. Songs with Multiple crescendos provide the story teller many opportunities to capture these moments.

A strong example of multiple crescendos is a sentimental number by Chris Molitor called You're My Baby. This composition is a great example of what it feels like when a song contains many little moments.

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Frenetic

The Frenetic arc often denotes a lack of pop-song structure. Rather than respectfully hopping from verse to chorus and so forth, these pieces tend to undulate, dart about, and change mood or tempo without warning.  Songs with frenetic movement tend to have sharp edges to them, Songs with a frenetic arc tell a story with lots and lots of twists and turns.

Check out an example with the song Oxen Free by Pegasus Dream.  This song weaves together heavily percussive moments with serene and synthetic ones, ebbing and flowing with various different moods coming in and out of focus.

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As you can see, there are various different arcs and ways to travel.  With this search tool, we're excited to help you find the right companion soundtrack to your travels.  Have fun exploring.