Tip #128 – Rethinking One-Part Density / Unison Lines

I can personally speak for myself in this scenario – sometimes when we are writing a piece of music, we tend to overwrite. And with this, we clutter the musical atmosphere and distract the audience from the main melodic lines. This is because it is scary to have a single melodic line that every instrument is playing; a fear that this will be considered “too easy,” “simplistic,” or “lazy” even.

In actuality, having a one-part density (or otherwise known as unison lines), can be the best option. Some arrangers and composers have estimated that 70% – 80% of a piece of music should utilize unison lines.

After writing a sketch of a melody, consider this process:

  1. Will one-part density strengthen the line, or make it too thin compared to what else is going on?
  2. How many instruments can/will play the line?
  3. Which instruments fit the primary range of the line?
  4. What instruments will you choose and do they compliment/contrast in color?
  5. Are there any addition instruments that can double at the adjacent octave above/below for greater effect?
  6. Can percussion hits be added to the line?

And after considering these questions of the process to writing a unison line you will begin to have a better grasp of the arrangement/compositional process of your music.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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