# The Golden Mean

Discussion in 'The Writers' Block' started by kbold, Feb 2, 2020.

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1. ### kboldTele-AfflictedSilver Supporter

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The Golden Mean is where the ratio of x to y = the ratio of x+y to x (=1.618)
The inverse of 1.618 = 0.618

<---------- x+y ---------->
<------- x -----><-- y --->

Many classical composers used the golden mean, as a point where a climax or change would occur.
(i.e. the climax would occur at the bar 62% of the way though the song.) Sometimes the golden mean was also applied within sections of a score (creating means within means, so to speak).

Have you ever structured a song based on the Golden Mean?

Or ... have you looked at whether your songs adhere to this ratio?

2. ### Larry FDoctor of TeleocityVendor Member

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My first doctoral student wrote his thesis on the golden mean in Bach's sacred cantatas.

He found that there is a place in the texts that he used where the mood and tone change, becoming darker and more serious.

The measure which corresponds to such a textual turning point, turns out to be the golden mean. This was true for the majority of Bach's 200 surviving sacred cantatas. I forget the percentage, but it was high. We even a math professor on the committee to verify the results.

Edward Albee's advice for writing a play is to have the climax 2/3rds through. Which roughly corresponds to the golden mean. It seems like this form is used a lot in movies, tv, and literature.

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Interesting! I just did a random sampling of ten of my original songs. Of those ten only one hit the golden mean (62%). Since most of the songs have the climax/key change/bridge around 50-53% I can only assume that my legacy as a composer will not be golden.

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4. ### kboldTele-AfflictedSilver Supporter

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Maybe an instrumental introduction (or extending an existing one) will get you to 62%.
Or ... shortening the ending?

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Well, yes I suppose that's a possibility, but it sounds like actual work. On the other hand, I can claim to have discovered the quintessential "alloyed mean" (50-53%), then just sit back and wait for an outpouring of accolades and my pride of place in music history.

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6. ### popthreePoster Extraordinaire

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maybe i'm wrong here, but i am thinking that generally, songs pretty much follow the golden mean (i hadn't heard of it till reading this thread).

most songs (painting with a wide brush here) are Verse, Chorus, Verse Chorus, Bridge, Verse, Chorus. So, it seems like that bridge is going to flirt with the 62% mark.

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7. ### chulaivet1966Tele-Afflicted

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Hmmm.....

I've never heard the term "Golden Mean".

Of the 32 original songs I've finished/recorded (20 on my s/c page) I don't think any would adhere to the "Golden Mean" writing process.

I won't analyzing them to determine either way because I'm afraid OCD may kick in I'll think they all suck and decide to re-write all of them....I've don't have enough time on Orb Earth to accomplish the task.

Just looking at that equation gives me vertigo.
Did I mention I hate math.

Carry on....a good day to all.

8. ### GreggoriosFriend of Leo'sSilver Supporter

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I have no expertise here at all but wanted to mention that the Golden Mean, also know as the Golden Ratio and the number Phi (1.618) has been postulated by some to describe a variety of things in nature. It is also part of the infamous Fibonacci sequence in math, legend and lore.

I expect a number of our members can speak to this more intelligently than me.

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I play guitar to get away from egghead stuff

10. ### Steve 78Friend of Leo'sSilver Supporter

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If you want to picture it without the maths, imagine a rectangle of the size where, if you cut a line through to make a square, the remaining rectangle is a smaller version of your original rectangle (ie the ratio of the long and short sides is the same).

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11. ### DukexTele-Holic

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I've written 30-40 songs and have read many songwriting books, and don't remember ever encountering this concept. I'm not sure it is something I would ever use, but now that I'm aware of it you never know.

12. ### ClashCityTeleTele-Afflicted

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Just checked 10 of my songs. Two changed at 62%, 3 at 57%, 1 at 57% & 68% which would average about 62%.
Is 57% the Silver Mean?
I've noticed that many famous, hit singles have an intro of around 20 seconds.
Maybe after 20 seconds people get bored & turn to another radio station.
Doesn't apply to famous album tracks, they can go on forever.

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13. ### popthreePoster Extraordinaire

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my rules for writing songs

1) there are no rules

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15. ### Charlie BernsteinPoster Extraordinaire

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Nope. Pure superstition.

My songs are mostly structured on 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . .

16. ### ndcasterPoster Extraordinaire

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17. ### Charlie BernsteinPoster Extraordinaire

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18. ### teletimetxDoctor of Teleocity

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ok, here's the thing about that kind of analysis for me: a math professor can, after the fact, assess the point in time that a piece of music enters some obvious different phase and bingo we have proof?

No I think it's rather the other way round - as busy as our little brains are, about 2/3 of the way into composing something, we get bored with our original thesis, our original statement and it's various counterpoints and we want to shake things up a little bit, to keep the audience from falling asleep. So now we interject some dramatic shift, just like the playwright does near the end of Act 2, and bingo, the Golden Mean Fibonacci sequence event! And the proof is the pudding, or vice versa.

Does it make a song better simply by thinking of it? I remain skeptical. I haven't tested the idea, but I wonder of the completely atonal, arhythmic folks also employ this technique? (How could you tell ?)

My thinking is maybe just go back to trying to make a piece of music sound effortless and seamless in it's changes, like that was the way it was meant to be, not like I counted the measures or timed it and then thought, ok, here's where the bridge goes, or the modulation or the pie chart...

I think it's interesting to note coincidences and to advance science, cool.

In one band, our bass player is a huge Fibonacci math freak, but that doesn't make him a better bassist or keep him from playing too much on the upper frets...

19. ### elihuPoster Extraordinaire

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I think it's good advice for a solo to peak somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way through.

And Bach's stuff seems mathematical to me. On any piece he seems to descend in pitch as much as he ascends so it all seems balanced.

And yeah, like teletimetx said folks like Charles Ives and Ornette Coleman likely didn't ascribe to the golden mean theory.

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20. ### Charlie BernsteinPoster Extraordinaire

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Neither did Leadbelly or Woody Guthrie or John Hurt or Gary Davis or Robert Johnson or Dave Van Ronk or Florence Reece or Aunt Molly Jackson. Neither does Dylan.

A song doesn't need a peak. It just needs a point.

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