Skip to content

Contrasts and Motive Expansion – “Stay”

     This is the first post where I will be talking about the composition process behind the music I make. I won’t go into detail about every little something that happens in the song and instead try to highlight some of the main aspects of the music. Hopefully you will be able to take some of these approaches to your own music composition process, which is the main goal of this blog. And with no further ado, here we go:

     From the beginning, I knew what the song would be about so there were some things I already had in mind. The thematic of the song revolves around the different perception that each individual has of reality, states of mind, the conscious and the subconscious role and how important it is to be centered, focused and not get lost in thoughts.


     As a way of exploring this idea, I aimed for contrasts and those can be achieved in various ways. In this case, I focused on creating contrasts in and between sections. Listen to snippets of the instrumental parts of the song and how they contrast with each other:

     1st Verse – introducing piano, strings and guitar, the instruments that will be used throughout this track.

     2nd Verse – the harmonic rhythm is increased although the target chords remain the same. The extra chords were created through the use of back cycling technique, voice-leading and chromatic approach chords. The other major change is that the snare hits the 2nd and 4th beat, in contrast with the previous section where the snare was hitting the 3rd beat, so it feels that the tempo has increased. Also, the funky clean guitar lends a up-beat feel to this section.

     Pre-Chorus – in this section you can listen to a airy and spacious pad, symbolizing a dream state. In the first part of this section, the chords are built over a pedal point in B. Those chords are G maj7 add13 – F#6 – A6/9 – E6/9. Afterwards, it builds up to prepare us for the chorus – more on this part further ahead in this post.

     Chorus – in terms of music production, this is the section that stands out the most so it’s fuller, it has more going on with the funky guitar on the back, other guitars doing either fat power chords or outlining the chords on a higher register so that it doesn’t clash with what is already going on in other areas.

     Solo – the main idea here was to introduce two different approaches over the same harmony- one being more jazzy and the other with a rock vibe.

     There are other contrasts throughout the song but you will be able to tell once I continue to show you what is going on in other areas.


     Although it may be counter-sense, since I was aiming for contrasts, I also decided to make use of similar materials as much as possible. But I didn’t want to plainly repeat it and so I introduced enough changes to make it sound a bit different and in different contexts. This idea stems from the fact that our conscious actions can be a reflection of our subconscious mind but that program may suffer some slight changes in the decision making process.

     The main motive that I used and abused throughout the song was this small rhythmic cell and you can hear it practically all the sections – listen to it in the first and second verses, and chorus:

rhythmic motif - creating contrasts and motive expansion

     The bridge itself is mainly based on the exploration of this rhythmic cell:

rhythmic motif - creating contrasts and motive expansion II

     In terms of harmony, here and there I make use of the same chord progression but I either re-use it and increase the harmonic rhythm, like I mentioned in the 2nd verses; or play with their relative duration. For instance; in the second part of the pre-chorus, I use the same chords I used on the second part of the 2nd verses. The difference is that I doubled their duration:

The chords you hear are: G maj7 – Em9 – F#m7 add11 | G maj7 – E9 – F#m7 add11

     There is a lot more going on, of course, but I also want to avoid becoming too extensive and overwhelm you with information. l will be ending this post with the full track so that you can hear how every section sounds when everything is put together. Now it’s time to put some of this into practice in your own compositions. If there is anything you would like to share, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

Happy composing!

Do you like what you read?

Subscribe to the blog and get a free sample of the Beyond Music Theory eBook, or simply share on social media!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.