In my ‘Emotion in Music’ guide, I explore eight different types of emotions that you can use to organise the sections in a song or the different kinds of sounds in a track.
While that’s rather involved (and beyond the scope of a single blog post), there’s a also simpler way to approach it. Rather than exploring eight different types of sounds, we can start with simply two types – masculine and feminine.
You probably already think about other dichotomies such as hard vs soft, rough vs, smooth, loud vs quiet, stable vs unstable, dark vs light etc. Taking a step back, however, most of these kinds of dichotomies are really different dimensions of the same thing. There’s usually one side that’s masculine and the other side is feminine.
Like people, songs are often mostly one or the other. Mostly. They often contain some elements of both. A heavy dance track that’s fast and loud and thick should probably have some elements that are quieter or more fragile. But usually not so much that the fundamental character of the sound is diminished. Similarly, a soft gentle-sounding ballad should probably have some stronger and more stable harmonies in the chorus and definite chords and rhythms. But – again – usually not so much that the fundamental character of the sound is diminished.
Thinking in this way can help guide your decisions when producing a song. Will the song be predominantly masculine or feminine? Within the song, which sections will be more masculine or more feminine than the others? Within each section, which parts or instruments are playing a more masculine role and which are playing a more feminine role?
If you’re working on a song and something’s not quite right or it’s not really hanging together, examining the masculine and feminine elements can help you understand what’s not working and how to fix it. Considering masculine and feminine elements at the beginning of the process can help you produce a song that’s clear in its creative direction and satisfying to listen to.