What Does a Song Need to Earn the Label “Epic”?

Themes and Variation
Themes and Variation

“This checklist is a lot different than mine…”

What comes to mind when you think of an epic song? Is it virtuosic guitar shredding? Ear-piercing vocal performances? Perhaps it’s simply the sheer length of the track that invokes a certain epic quality?

Whatever your criteria, we’ve got you covered with this episode of Themes and VariationWe’ll pick apart songs, artists, entire genres, and simply what it takes for an artist to veritably label their music as “epic.” And as is customary, we have a ton of fun doing it — you’ll have fun too. Join us, won’t you, down this rabbit hole?

You can listen to Episode 3 in its entirety right here, or click over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts to subscribe.

For this episode, I’m joined by Soundfly’s CEO and Founder, Ian Temple (follow him on Twitter here), as well as Soundfly’s VP of Curriculum/Composer, Mahea Lee. We dive into everything from what might be the first effective use of a vocoder, to how using masterful orchestration can stretch a single melody to the brink. We also learn a lot about each other and our tastes in music, oh boy…

Want to dig a bit deeper? Check out the companion course on Soundfly.

episode grid

If you’re enjoying this episode, and you’d like to learn more about some of the musical topics we touched on, go ahead and visit Soundfly’s free companion course for songwriting prompts and additional resources. From modes to melody-writing, we’ve curated some extra resources for listeners who want to go the extra creative mile and put stuff from the episode into action.

Episode 3 Highlights

1. Want to write something harmonically ambiguous? Try using the Dorian mode.

Mahea: It’s hard to feel super settled in dorian because you don’t have that big leading tone on the five (chord). We talked about my love of grey areas in songs when we talked about songs from the first album you ever bought with Marty. Modes like dorian that are like “dark” but there’s a little ambiguity, are great songwriting devices in particular.

2. There was only one song that ticked every box on Ian’s epic song template.

Ian: As I said at the start of the show I came up with a template to help myself navigate. So I decided that songs would be graded according to five characteristics. Insane dynamics, we have tension until you’re gonna explode, that’s another thing I was looking for. We’ve got length, its gotta go long longer than you expect. We’ve got grandiosity, it’s got a big sound. And then the fifth was just like magic sauce, something unexpected or unexplainable.

3. Carter may have picked the cheesiest song of the bunch, due to some record scratching.

Carter: Other notes on my “checklist of epic ness” you have sorting vocals, which don’t enter song until minute three. You got pinch harmonics, some of my favorite guitar stuff ever. Ugh, this pretty cheesy but you have record scratches so this 2002…

Ian: (laughing) noooo, no, no, no!

Carter: Yeah, so uh, 2002 this song comes out and that was like peak nu-metal…

Mahea: Was it a statement or just like, they liked the sound?

Carter: Well, we’re gonna listen to that right now.

Collaborative Playlist

We’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song talked about and mentioned on this episode.  Feel free to add any epic songs you want to share!

Note: Please don’t just add your own songs that don’t match the theme. While we love hearing your music, this is not a playlist for self-promotions, and we will remove them. 

We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

Elijah Fox at the piano

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