In the art of music, the sequence of the sounds plays a large role on the listener’s experience. REPETITION is a powerful way to relax, build tension, and set listeners up for surprises.
Music is a balancing act between tension and release between singer and band, chord and melody, loud and soft, and ultimately: repetition and change. Repeating notes, phrases, lyrics, and whole song sections help listeners feel calm, train them to sing along, and understand the timing of the piece. Alas, too much repetition can become boring and it is up to the artist to decide when and where to make changes to the music to keep things fresh.
The opening riff to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses is an 8 note loop on the guitar that changes just the first note of the pattern every 2 repeats. Those 8 notes are played 8 times and then the whole larger pattern repeats 3 times to complete the intro. The repetition of this beautiful sequence of tones draws the listener into the song with a sense of familiarity.
In the Foo Fighter’s “The Pretender”, the bridge of the song delays the repeating of the Chorus. Like most pop songs, the Chorus is the main character and repeating it is the main way a song captures your attention and makes you want to sing along. Listen to this tune in its entirety and notice the effect of the long two-part bridge (2:37-3:27) to build tension as they work towards multiple choruses to close the show.
In Radiohead’s “Creep” (EXPLICIT), each of the first 2 choruses is a blasting rock anthem with loud guitars. The band sets you up to want the final chorus to be as loud or louder, like almost every rock song ever. Instead they pull the rug out on you and the final chorus (3:28) is soft, restrained, and deflated. Surprise, its the final curtain!