ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

I expect many clever comments about the amazing Swedish pop band here, and I will enjoy them all, but I am mostly interested to find out who out there has experimented with creating melodies/songs using this song structure or form. Perhaps this form is most widely understood to be called "marches" but many marches are not ABBA. I believe that "marches" here on thesession.org generally are generally in 4/4 time.

Some prime examples of ABBA melody form are Raglan Road, Roddy McCorley, Boys of Barre Na Sraide, or Lakes of Pontchartrain. In these examples, the songs can be in 4/4 or 3/4 time. The melody structure is ABBA in each case regardless of the meter. Therefore I think that this melody form is kind of unique in that it is not meter-based.

I have created a few melodies in this ABBA pattern and I was able to record a medley with some fine musical friends a few years ago. I would love to listen to other musical links posted here that are original melodies that follow this ABBA pattern. Here’s my link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CHZzhLkDtQ

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

I think that structure works well and makes sense for songs, but for reels or jigs what exactly would ABBA mean?

It wouldn’t make much sense to apply it to parts, because if you played the tune three times as usual it would come out

ABBAABBAABBA

in other words it would sound like a normal AABB tune played three times but with the repeat of the first A part cut out and moved to the back end.

If we apply it to the internal structure within a part we would end up with either

-if we do it with one-bar phrases, bars 1 and 4 would be identical, and bars 2 and 3 would be identical:

1 2 2 1

-if we do it with two-bar phrases, bars (1+2) and (7+8) would be identical two-bar phrases, while bars (3+4) and (5+6) would be identical two-bar phrases:

(1+2) (3+4) (3+4) (1+2)

Are there reels and/or jigs structured like that?

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

"Therefore I think that this melody form is kind of unique in that it is not meter-based."

I would have thought that no melody forms were meter-based, whether ABBA, ABAB, AABA, ABAC, ABCD or whatever.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

That’s an interesting take. If you listen to a recording of any of the well-known titles I mentioned, or in my recording, I think it’s sonically evident that there is an ABBA form to all of these examples. I suppose someone could ignore the first A part, and actually start listening to any of these tunes on the first B part, and it may sound like BBAA. Somehow my mind auto-corrects this to recognize this as ABBA form which seems distinct. Thanks for your input.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

Hello DonaldK - that’s another interesting observation. I’ve thought about ABBA form a lot, and I’ve even written tunes using this pattern, but I’ve never really conversed with anyone about the form and how it fits into the overall ITM canon. So with these comments, I’ve already had my preconceptions altered about how to think of this form. Yes, I believe that other forms such as AABB or ABAB are not meter-based. However, when I think of a jig, I generally think of a number of possibilities, such as single-jig AB, or double-jig AABB, or 3-part jig AABBCC. In all these jig forms, they sound like a jig no matter what because of the 6/8 meter. With ABBA song or melody structure it seems to me like this is a specific form, whether the meter is 3/4 or 4/4.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

When talking about AABB in terms of tunes, normally people will take the As and Bs to be parts. Using the same idea for songs, normal song form (if there is such a thing) is AABA, where B is the "middle eight" (think "I Got Rhythm" or "Somewhere Over the Rainbow").

When talking about phrases, then ABAC or ABAB’ would probably be the most common melodic structure of an 8-bar tune part, whether we’re talking about jigs, reels, polkas or marches or whatever. In other words, the tune melody form is not meter-based.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

Not really ABBA, but in my repertoire, Bring Back the Child stands out in terms of repetetivity:
https://thesession.org/tunes/1653

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

When playing for dancers, doesn’t the A part get played three times the first time around? As Richard points out, with ABBA, you only notice the change in structure the first time through, after which two A’s will be played together, unless you end on a single A. That would make most tunes sound unresolved. In songs, you don’t really have parts as you do in tunes. You have introductuons, verses, refrains, bridges, choruses and codas (as in Over the Rainbow). Each serve a purpose for the lyric and exist in service to the lyric, which accounts for whether they are or are not used in a particular song. In an instrumental piece, you can structure any way you like, but I’m not sure anything is accomplished musically. The dance example I gave I assume is to let the dancers get acclimated to the tune and tempo before the tune proper (AABB) gets under way. It seems to me that AABB or ABAB is less of a musical format than simply a logical way to play a tune of multiple parts.

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Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

You might notice the structure of ABBA from the figures of a dance, as you would from the verses of a song.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

halfwaythere is talking about melodic phrases, not parts, as they appear in songs.
So, for example, in Raglan Road, as mentioned in the OP, the first and last lines share the same melody and the second and third lines share the same melody, giving the melodic structure of the verse as ABBA.
I seem to remember an article in The Living Tradition a few years back detailing all the various melodic verse forms used in folk songs - I’ll see if I can dig it out (from under the bed).

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

I was responding to Richard and Ailin. That nice clip in the OP demonstrates that words are not required for it to be clear which A is which.

Something that I find fascinating is that the cadence of a final A often seems much stronger than the one at the end of the same phrase at the start.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

DonaldK clearly explains what my main point is here. Thank you for that. I am curious if anyone out there has created tunes/songs with this structure. I actually have words for 2 of the melodies in my original post.
It’s just a matter of chance if anyone sees this who has a strong interest or experience with creating music with this structure. Now that DonaldK has narrowed down what I was hoping to examine, thanks for any further contributions. (I would say that analyzing this from a dance point of view is not really my wheelhouse.)

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

@halfway there - this is all very well, but does your mother know? 🙂

So … I’m thinking of the Coachman’s Whip, where the B part starts low, whereas in most tunes the A part starts low, and the B part starts high.

So the "turn" is down, rather than up. Interesting. Now what about the A-B-C tunes? I wonder …

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

Hello Jim the Fiddleologist. I’m sorry but I don’t understand the first part of your comment. I’m across the pond so that might explain it. Anyways, I listened to Coachman’s Whip and I also don’t see the connection to my query about ABBA tune/song structures. But thank you for checking in. Perhaps there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

"The Coachman’s Whip, where the B part starts low, whereas in most tunes the A part starts low, and the B part starts high. So the "turn" is down, rather than up."

That’s common in Appalachian tunes.

The Scottish Highland pipe reel Mrs MacLeod of Raasay is like that too.

I just got out The Skye Collection (1887) and looking through several pages of reels I see that it’s common for the first part to be the higher part, and also common for both parts to have more or less the same range. (Most of the reels are 2-part tunes.)

Of course this is a different topic than the OP raised.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this?

halfwaythere, I think more than a few replies to your original post will gravitate toward various, possibly many ways to "experiment" with ABBA song/dance/melody structures. Perhaps this was more than you desired or expected. More to the point though you’re absolutely interested in members who are creating melodies structured around an ABBA form. However, I might be way off point.

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Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

For me dance music patterns are relevant because I think how I hear something is strongly influenced by what I have heard before, especially things I have paid particular attention to. Though for the clip in the OP my thought is that it is ‘song like’.

I wonder how many marches with an ABBA structure started as songs and if songs were turned into marches because marching to popular songs was popular with those required to march.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

Hello AB - (that moniker is perfect for this thread!) - thank you for narrowing down my hopes for this conversation, also echoed by DonaldK above. I have composed melodies that I purposely set out to do in the ABBA format. At the start of this thread I posted a link to a youtube recording I created. It has 3 melodies that are in this format. All of them are in 4/4 time similar to a march.
I’ve also created ABBA melodies in 3/4 time. Thus I do not propose that ABBA is strictly a march tune form which I believe has a 4/4 meter. I also mentioned examples such as Raglan Road and Lakes of Pontchartrain which are both ABBA, but Raglan R is in 4/4 and Lakes of P is in 3/4, on all the recordings I have heard.

Well, it’s clear that it was pure coincidence if anyone who saw the thread has composed tunes in this format. There must be people out there that have done this, but no one yet has stopped by here.
I haven’t looked at the discussion section here in a LONG time, so it’s just pure chance that I even decided to start up this conversation. I hope to see some contributions in the form of links to original recordings that purposefully use the ABBA song structure.

I think it’s a very interesting structure because it has been used in so many Irish songs. Someone a long while back realized it’s a perfect vehicle for songs. Many creators over the years have done this.

Some commenters have created tangents to this conversation that are also very interesting. I definitely had never considered before the dance implications of this topic and I also discovered that if you play an ABBA song three times in a row, ABBA ABBA ABBA and you ignore the ABB at the beginning and the A at the end, then you have AABB AABB, which is a very common tune format.

I also warned that this was not a thread about the amazing Swedish pop group, but since no one made a single quip about that, I think it’s appropriate for somebody to just post just one ABBA song here, but only if there is no other original contribution in the ABBA structure that I am curious about.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

I haven’t listened to your link, but a very well-known song which comes to mind in this format is The Wild Colonial Boy.
There are some others in the back of my head which won’t come to the forefront just now, but they’ll probably all come out as melody rather than words or titles: I accompany, not sing.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

The Galtee Mountain Boy has the same structure, and a near-identical melody.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

Spancil Hill’s another ABBA.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

There are numerous (countless?) ABBA melodies/songs that are well-known to many ITM listeners. Who knows of any composers or songwriters who have created new ones recently? There must be some. I recognize that there is a tune section here on thesession.org that I can scour, and I will go ahead and do that. But does anyone know if there are recent recordings of new music with this format? I do know of at least one great song written more "recently" - as in the last 30 years or so - Here is John Connolly singing his original song "Joe Pearson" to a tune in ABBA format. I don’t know if he actually wrote the tune, but he did write "the song". Please note that this tune is in 3/4 time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdiSLJ_5Qns

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

There are plenty of links to existing recordings of ABBA form songs. This thread could go on forever if that is the challenge. It’s not hard to find old songs that do this. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem must have done dozens of them. But that’s not the challenge. I was hoping to see if there are any more recent additions. I have supplied my own link with a medley of 3 ABBA tunes at the beginning of this thread and also I posted "Joe Pearson" by John Connolly. Maybe this is a rare thing to have new ABBA songs or melodies. Certainly there are no shortage of newly composed tunes in every other form. I think it’s interesting that this form seems to be less attractive as a form for contemporary composers. Perhaps many exist, but this conversation may never be known to them. Thanks for all the contributions so far.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

@halfwaythere

//Hello Jim the Fiddleologist. I’m sorry but I don’t understand the first part of your comment. I’m across the pond so that might explain it. Anyways, I listened to Coachman’s Whip and I also don’t see the connection to my query about ABBA tune/song structures. But thank you for checking in. Perhaps there’s more to this than meets the eye.//

Hello, "Does Your Mother Know?" is an ABBA (the band) song. Little joke, that’s all.

The only point I was trying to make about the Coachman’s Whip is that it (like most tunes) is played ABAB (1st part, 2nd part), then that sequence repeated. Also, for most tunes, the A part starts in a low frame, and the B part is in a higher frame. The Coachman’s Whip does the opposite (high, then low), so maybe ABBA (or BABA) would sound better. I don’t know. It’s all abjectively objectively subjective 🙂

I was looking at this one, 1st setting : https://thesession.org/tunes/2227

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

I was trying to think of non-songs (dance tunes or even marches) with the ABBA structure and what I did recall is the jig Gobby-O https://thesession.org/tunes/5806

which, if considered as being constructed of two-bar phrases, would be

ABAA

or more precisely

A1BA1A2

because the final A has a different beginning. To write it out bar-by-bar gives

ABCD
ABEB

The Strathspey "Loudon’s Bonny Woods And Braes" if you consider each half-bar separately is

ABCD
ABEA

but if considered bar-by-bar

A1BA1A2

That is, a similar structure to Gobby-O.

With less repetition but still beginning and ending with the same phrase is the Strathspey "Highland Harry".
If you consider each half-bar separately it would be

AABC
DEFA

or if you do it bar-by-bar

A1BCA2

There are pipe tunes where the initial and final A’s are exactly the same but I can’t find them at the moment.

I wrote one in that style, the structure is

ABAC
ABDA

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

|| ecBd cA~A2 | ceec Bcdf |
| ecBd cA~A2 | ceec Bffa |
| ecBd cA~A2 | ceec Bcdf |
| ~e3a ~f3a | ecBd cA ~A2 ||

ABAC
ABDA

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

Thank you Richard for your contributions here. I’m still curious to find new songs/tunes composed specifically in the ABBA format. It’s just a matter of chance if someone who does this, sees this discussion, but where else will I find such a focused and knowledgeable readership?

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

It would only take one good-sounding example to prove me wrong, but it seems that ABBA just doesn’t sound satisfying in a dance tune.

Here’s Gobby-O in its AABA format

|| c2A AGA| E2A A2c| B2G GBc| dBG GAB|
c2A AGA| E2A A2B| cBA BAG| E2A A2 ||

and here in ABBA format

|| c2A AGA| E2A A2c| B2G GBc| dBG G2A|
B2G GBc| dBG GAB| cBA BAG| E2A A2 ||

Is it just the fact that AABA isn’t uncommon for jigs, Strathspeys, and reels but ABBA is? Or some underlying feature of dance music?

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

There are many old songs with ABBA structure. I mentioned a few in earlier comments.
"Black is the Color" is a very popular song in this format. It’s been around for quite awhile. More recently, Gordon Lightfoot used the ABBA structure for his widely covered "In The Early Morning Rain". Is any current songwriter using this structure that is known to anyone who happens to read this discussion?

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

I found this tune last week. Since then I have been searching for either the MS of 1790 (cited as it’s source by Phillips Barry in 1909). Or even another source of the tune. It’s named "The Irish Girl" in the form a, b, b’, a.
Lovely melody! Hope the link works. If not I can post a copy or send one for anyone who would like it.

https://books.google.com/books?id=E-rWAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

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Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

@ AB (off the main topic)

The current (at the time of posting) top thread on mudcat https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=169387&messages=16 refers to "The Irish Girl".

Cecil Sharp, mentioned in your linked page, lists several common patterns. The second he lists ("another and very common pattern") is ABBA.

I interpret halfwaythere’s ‘point’ in the OP to be that it is not particularly common in recent compositions, not that it is unusual.

Re: ABBA song structure - who has experimented with this? (this is not about the Swedish pop band!)

David50, I found tons of information about songs named "The Irish Girl" and various other titles and versions with similar words. What I have yet to find is the same melody (Barry’s) either in sheet music or a recording. Also I have not identified what is the Massachusetts manuscript of 1790 which Barry credits as his source. Phillips Barry is writing about ballads but in his example of "The Irish Girl" he doesn’t seem to mention a song or words; just the tune (melody) as an example of a, b, b’, a.

"I interpret halfwaythere’s ‘point’ in the OP to be that it is not particularly common in recent compositions, not that it is unusual." Absolutely!

"… ("another and very common pattern") is ABBA."
~ https://books.google.com/books?id=E-rWAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA10&lpg=PA10&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

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