Write a song for a musical

The musical score is the most important element of a musical. However, writing a musical song can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are trying it for the first time. In this blog, I explain the difference between a musical, a pop song and film music. In addition, I give practical advice on how to write a musical song. Very interesting reading for songwriters and fans of the genre in general!

  • What is a musical?
  • Genres
  • Stop and progress
  • The difference between a musical comedy song and a pop song
  • The difference between a musical comedy song and film music
  • Tips for Writing a Musical Song

What is a musical?

A musical is a theatrical genre that combines dialogue, song and dance. If there is almost no dialogue and the work is largely sung, it is called an opera. The Phantom of the Opera is one of the best known operas. Note that composing songs for a traditional Broadway-style musical requires a certain degree of experience. However, I will try to explain how to do it anyway! But since there are many types of musicals, I won’t go into too many details.

Genres

Although each musical is unique, we can roughly distinguish between two types of musicals.

Broadway

The musicals that come straight off Broadway are the most famous. These are great musicals such as The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and The Secret Garden. In terms of popularity, The Phantom of the Opera can also be considered a musical, even though there is almost no dialogue.

Another example of a Broadway production is the musical Chess with music by the pop group ABBA. Disney studio animation films such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King also belong to Broadway musicals.

Pop

Musically speaking, the other genre is less like the so-called “Broadway musicals”. They are (more) modern plays with modern pop songs. These shows are more like the plays that are performed in elementary or high school. The musicals Mamma Mia and Avenue Q, for example, are based on the repertoire of pop groups and are not as theatrical as those on Broadway.

Broadway vs. Pop

Writing a musical score for a Broadway-style musical is no easy task. It requires skills and knowledge in the field of orchestration and composition of film music. Writing a musical score for a pop musical is easier because you can use synthesizers, guitars, drums and other types of instruments.

Of course, there are also musicals that are halfway between the so-called traditional genre and the modern genre. In the rest of the blog, I will talk more in depth about the difference between a musical and a pop song.

Stop and progress

During a musical show, it is interesting to see what happens when the music starts. Does the story continue or does it stop? Normally, a musical is made up of different types of songs. If the story continues, the story is told through singing.

Examples of a continuing story

A good example of a story that continues is a journey. Travelling is an adventure and you can tell that story in a song. The songs I Have Confidence (The Sound of Music) and A Man Has Dreams are examples of this. In the last song, George Banks’ point of view changes.

Examples of a story that stops

The song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Mary Poppins) is an example of a story that stops. The story and the characters’ characters do not change.

The difference between a musical comedy song and a pop song

Some musicals use pop songs. But is there a difference between a musical and a pop song? Yes, absolutely! Below, I explain the main differences between these two types of songs. Of course, you don’t have to choose one of the two types; you can also write a song that’s a little bit halfway between a musical and a pop song.

Dynamics

Pop songs are not very dynamic. This is not a reproach; they don’t need to be! Indeed, pop songs are normally used as background music, for example when listening to music at work or in the car.

A musical comedy song, on the other hand, is played in the theater or cinema. The audience focuses entirely on the music and is not distracted by other sound sources (such as a car, machines, colleagues, etc.). As a result, a musical can be more dynamic.

Complexity

Pop music works thanks to an easy melody. Most pop songs use simple chord progressions based on a limited number of chords. And here again, this is not a reproach! If you are going to see a musical, you expect the music to be more complex and composed of different chord progressions.

Also, choruses and verses do not need to be in a certain order. If you are going to write a musical, you are indeed free to do whatever you want. You can tell the story you want, and in the way you want.

Decoration

Normally, a pop song does not use many musical layers or complicated rhythms or melodies. Since pop songs often serve as background music, they don’t need to be very complex. Traditionally, pop bands are made up of a singer, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. We focus on the essence of the music.

A musical comedy song, on the other hand, is much more complex and very detailed. All kinds of instruments are used to compose a musical song: flutes, piccolos, violins, double basses and trombones.

A musical comedy is a play with music and the musical score is the most important element. The title Music by John Miles, for example, is very orchestral and is still often played on the radio.