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.

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