What makes a song sound like a jingle?
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    The following question came to me from a well-known blogger:

    "I can't identify particular pieces, but the past two weeks at two different parish, the Mass parts and the hymns have all been what I call sing-songy, sentimental...

    is there a *musical* way of identifying this? Are there particular intervals, for example, that give this effect? Keys?"

    I told her I would ask my colleagues. Think of any one of a number of religious songs. Today I heard "We are all one body" - that will do for a start. Does rhythm play a role?

    Many thanks.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    For myself, I think syncopation and Major-minor Seventh chords are major factors, and here in an article I wrote a few years back, wherein I try to explain my thoughts.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577

    In the pop world it is called 'the hook'. It's the single fragment of a melody that 'hooks' you and it gets lodged in your brain. Many of our well known chants have the same property. Attende Domine, Salve Regina, Pange Lingua, etc. Bach sports many hooks in his music. I do not believe it is an exclusive attribute of trite or sing-songy music. Take this hook for instance:

  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'm with Francis. Jingles are jingles because they have well-crafted and memorable melodies, or "the hook". Who can forget, having only once heard it, the melody to "Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes"? Or the subject of any Bach fugue? The composers of, say, the Old Spice song wanted to make their music just as memorable. I seem to recall a similar topic coming up at Cantica Nova, where someone suggested that church music ought to have a short, memorable point to it so as to communicate the sacred message beyond the church doors. Think I'm a heretic? Bet I could hum the Requiem Introit and anyone here would recognize what words go with it. Hence why 12-tone music is nearly useless for anything but stuffy academics, horror movies, and vacuum cleaner commercials.
  • Surely, one doesn't mean that G-G-G-Eb or 'requiem aeternam' , or 'sicut cervus' is anything but radically different from a Mr Clean commercial??? Surely, there is something more fundamental here??? (???)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,713
    "Pascha nostrum" has a well-crafted and memorable "hook" too!

    I find Jeff's explanation reasonable: the entertainment styles not suited for sacred music incorporate syncopation -- that is to say, dance rhythm -- prominently. That might be even more important than the use of major/minor tonality and dominant-seventh chords.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    The first twenty-five times I sang Sicut Cervus, I could not have imagined where the melody was going, unless I had been holding the score.

    GGGEb was a revolutuon.

    Jingles are thoroughly predictable. The hooks are discernible from the very beginning. Whereas to sing the Requiem Introit, one has to learn a new way of thinking.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I agree. 'Jingles' remain as jingles. (Maybe that's why average people like it. It feels comfortable for people who didn't study music.) But the simple 'motif' in master pieces carries out the ingenenuity of the skilled craftmanship.
  • The immediate response most people have to jingles is not unlike the Coke vs Pepsi taste test.
    When asked just to sip a bit of each in a blind trial, a majority of tasters prefer Pepsi: it's sweeter and more immediately appealing.
    Nonetheless, Coke still sells far more product, because more people like it better when consuming an entire can/bottle.
    The lesson? Our immediate reaction to a small fragment of 'content' is likely to differ from our more reasoned, thoughtful evaluation of a larger quantity of 'content'.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Pepsi probably has more sugar in it.
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    There was a study that got a lot of MSM play a few years ago demonstrating that "annoying" tunes are recognized in a different part of the brain, accounting for the phenomenon of the earworm.

    I remember it because the brain scans involved pictures with pretty colors, because i didn't understand a bit of it, and because there was something catchy playing in the background.

    Its the story, of a man named Brady, who was...

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Short melodic motifs
    which recur
    at strong cadential points
    and thus become memorable by design.

    Those are "hooks," not motifs per se. Beethoven's GGGEb is, as we know, transformed over the course of that symphony. It's not the hook but what he does with it that sets Beethoven and that motif apart. A hook differs in that it is never subjected to that kind of musical transformation. Its only function is to be remembered.

    A "hook" comes from the world of corporate marketing and designed groupthink or groupfeel.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364

    Not to be pesky, but does the Mass VIII Sanctus have a hook? I'm inclined to think that it does, and that is one reason why the Mass is so popular.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577

    You are splitting atoms.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    Thanks for the input - any more thoughts will also be gratefully received.

    I think a great deal of the "jingle effect" is the dance rhythms with syncopation and even worse than the proliferation of 7th chords are the long notes tied over a predictable harmonic pattern.

    Of course, I'm printing out Jeff's article for bedtime reading. Oh goodness, my printer liked the article so much it printed out 5 copies.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    mjballou, hopefully it doesn't give you nightmares!
  • I echo Pes' list, as well as the distinction between a 'hook' and a motive. The two are treated in very different ways. This treatment often marks a thoughtful, interesting composer versus one more or less consumed with marketing a product.

    Syncopation and dance rhythms are used to get in the mind. Combined with long notes tied over, and large intervals inherited from the crooner era (and arguably ballads) they have also been used to cover up a low level of amateur composition. Think 'Glory and Praise'.

    The whole aim with the 'hook' idea as applied to liturgy is to get the people singing immediately. Music is sacrificed to immediate gratification. Dare I say that hymns (and good ones) had the same intention for immediate use. But the ditties of today have a commercial purpose, and often an ideological one, mixed in. The system is set up for sale.

    Perhaps this is getting too far afield, but I wanted to address why these compositional patterns occur. They are most often aural sales gimmicks.