What Makes an Epic Song?

ZidaneZidane Road Warrior
edited February 2008 in History of Rock
I've always felt that there were a few must haves to be considered an "Epic" song.

1. Time: I've always felt that if the clock went over the usual time of a regular song, like about 4:00 minutes then it's something bigger and grander than usual.

2. Tells a story: Even if it's not complex, a story for a song is important. And it can't just be, "Oh my baby left me!" It has to be something more, something that you can tell went through maybe more than a draft or two.

3. The song would have to be both easy and hard to master for a musician. Something that can't be done by people in one day. Complex, but at the same time something that someone would strive to learn as best they can.

Other things that might be considered for an epic EPIC song.

Guitar Solo: I mean, why not?

Possibly part of a larger scale: In a concept album, it would probably play into a grander scale with the rest of the songs.

Teach a lesson: Maybe, it doesn't seem like much EPIC songs really do this.


Can anyone else think of other things that you think go into making a perfect EPIC song? I'd like to hear everyone's opinions on this subject. And tell me what you think of my opinions on the idea of an EPIC song.

Comments

  • BhindBluEyes430BhindBluEyes430 Road Warrior
    edited February 2008
    I think something that sets some songs apart from others is the contrast that all Epic songs have

    Wont get fooled again -Sythesiser part -all out rocking part
    Stairway Slow part - Guitar solo
    Freebird Slow slide guitar - fast 2 guitared solo

    But yea i can see how all the great songs are like what you said
  • HadokenchildHadokenchild Unsigned
    edited February 2008
    I agree. I also think it should have that "whoa" moment. Like hearing the opening for "Heart Of The Sunrise" by Yes or the synth of "Baba O'Riley" by The Who, it will make you say "whoa" out loud.
  • NX013NX013 Road Warrior
    edited February 2008
    Anther thing is that the song has to change it self at some point. Take Child in Time by Deep Purple for example, the song starts of slow and simple but slowly it goes into a hard fast rock number than goes back to the regular pace only to take over again.

    Other Epic Songs:

    Queen -Father to son
    Rush - 2112
    Genesis - Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
    Genesis - Musical Box
    Yes - Starship Trooper
    Yes - Close to the Edge
    Muse - Knights of Cydonia
    King Crimson -Court of the Crimson King
    Radiohead - Paranoid Android
    Faith no More - Epic (j/k)
  • Julio_Strikes_BackJulio_Strikes_Back Headliner
    edited February 2008
    Very melodic vocals, fast bass, slow guitar part, explosive drums.
  • OldFogeyOldFogey Road Warrior
    edited February 2008
    Zidane;311574 said:
    I've always felt that there were a few must haves to be considered an "Epic" song.

    1. Time: I've always felt that if the clock went over the usual time of a regular song, like about 4:00 minutes then it's something bigger and grander than usual.

    2. Tells a story: Even if it's not complex, a story for a song is important. And it can't just be, "Oh my baby left me!" It has to be something more, something that you can tell went through maybe more than a draft or two.

    3. The song would have to be both easy and hard to master for a musician. Something that can't be done by people in one day. Complex, but at the same time something that someone would strive to learn as best they can.

    Other things that might be considered for an epic EPIC song.

    Guitar Solo: I mean, why not?

    Possibly part of a larger scale: In a concept album, it would probably play into a grander scale with the rest of the songs.

    Teach a lesson: Maybe, it doesn't seem like much EPIC songs really do this.


    Can anyone else think of other things that you think go into making a perfect EPIC song? I'd like to hear everyone's opinions on this subject. And tell me what you think of my opinions on the idea of an EPIC song.
    Cool question! Should make for an interesting discussion.

    Time is certainly part of it -- but it seems like the time thing needs to be more on the order of 7 or more minutes. But there are some long songs I would not consider epic -- Hey Jude, for example. (Agreed? Not Epic?)

    I think the other answers hit on a key part -- distinct sections, definitely with different dynamics, and frequently with different tempos and rhythms maybe even time signatures. And it should feel like it builds to some kind of clear ending. An epic that just fades out seems kind of lame to me.

    The story idea makes sense, because there has to be a sense of taking you on a journey. Not sure about teaching a lesson, but if it's going to be long and sustain interest there has to be some sense of building.

    I'm not sure about 3 -- maybe I agree, in this sense -- it's not the technical difficulty, in my opinion, it's more like a kind of depth that means there's always some new little twist to discover. The reason I hesitate is because I've been around so many great jazz and classical musicians who could sight read anything you gave 'em, so at least in the sense of being able to play it I doubt there's anything you could throw at those folks they couldn't get on first pass.

    Two of my favorite "epic" songs from days gone by illustrate how different epic songs can be: "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and "The Fool" from Quicksilver Messenger Service. The first is completely acoustic with only a bit of a guitar break. The other is basically an instrumental for the first 9 minutes and then goes into a song for the final three. A pure instrumental could be epic, but I can't think of one of the top of my head. Maybe something from Zappa.

    I don't think songs with just really extended jams are epic -- for example, Spoonful from the live album on Cream's Wheels of Fire.
  • WulfebaneWulfebane Unsigned
    edited February 2008
    My list of Epics

    The Entire Queen II album
    The Prophets Song - Queen
    Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen (enough said...)
    '39 - Queen
    Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot
    Meatloaf - Bat out of Hell Albums
    Thick as A Brick - Jethro Tull
    Passion Play - Jethro Tull
    Stuck in the Drive through - Wierd Al
    Albuquerque - Weird Al

    I am sure there's more... but it' late :p
  • MisterSchulzMisterSchulz Road Warrior
    edited February 2008
    I agree, Hey Jude just doesn't seem Epic, but for the same reason, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes doesn't seem like an Epic to me either though... Fool does though. I think for me, Epic songs rock harder than those two, despite their length. For me, it's all about the guitars. Fittingly, my iTunes playlist is titled "Guitar Epics". I feel like a lot of the songs on this playlist are dramatic too.

    I don't know if you wanted this thread to turn into a 'List your favorite Epics' or not, but i guess just to give y'all an idea:
    - Neil Young - Cortez the Killer, Like A Hurricane, DOwn by the River, Cowgirl in the Sand
    - Television - Marquee Moon, Little Johnny Jewel
    - Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
    - Lynyrd Skynyrd - Simple Man, Tuesday's Gone, Freebird
    - The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
    - Radiohead - Paranoid Android
    - Pink Floyd - Echoes, Dogs, Pigs, Sheep, Time, Have a Cigar
    - Modest Mouse - Dramamine, Talking **** about a Pretty Sunset
    - Weezer - Only In Dreams
    - The Outlaws - GGHT
    - Jimi Hendrix - Bold as Love (7 min. Instrumental version from box set)
    - Santana - Soul Sacrifice (hm, especially the 11 min. woodstock version)
    - The Beatles - I want You (She's so Heavy)

    For example, these songs are long... but don't quite cut it for me as Epics:
    - The Doors - Light My Fire (When the Music's Over, or The End are more epic)
    - Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get what You Want
    - Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone, Desolation Row
    etc.
  • polishdog90polishdog90 Road Warrior
    edited February 2008
    Tenacious D makes epic songs :D.
  • topperharleytopperharley Son of Statler and Waldorf
    edited February 2008
    I don't know that I agree completely about the time aspect. For example, Eruption made jaws drop all over the world when people first heard it, and it's only about a minute and a half. And there are way too many songs that drag on forever without really adding anything to the song (Layla, I'm looking at you).

    But it has to be timeless. If it's forgotten by all but the most ardent fans a few years after it was released, it can't be an epic song. On the other hand, if people who generally aren't music fans know the song, decades later, it's generally the sign of an epic song - unless the only reason people remember it is because it was so annoying and overplayed (Macarena and Don't Worry Be Happy, I'm looking at you).

    I do agree about the whoa factor. There has to be a part, or parts, of the song that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and make you stop whatever else you're doing and just listen, that make you grin in anticipation knowing it's coming up - like during the synth part in Won't Get Fooled Again when you know Moon's drum solo is coming up.
  • HadokenchildHadokenchild Unsigned
    edited February 2008
    topperharley;313951 said:

    But it has to be timeless. If it's forgotten by all but the most ardent fans a few years after it was released, it can't be an epic song. On the other hand, if people who generally aren't music fans know the song, decades later, it's generally the sign of an epic song - unless the only reason people remember it is because it was so annoying and overplayed (Macarena and Don't Worry Be Happy, I'm looking at you).
    I would have to disagree here. My reason is simply because of the generation gap involved. There was a person on this forum who claimed The Who were overated simply because nobody in his school knows who they are and have never heard songs by them. Unless the music is passed on to the next generation, even a band as epic as The Who could fade into obscurity just as it did for this guy. And that my friend is an absolute travisty.
    topperharley;313951 said:

    I do agree about the whoa factor. There has to be a part, or parts, of the song that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and make you stop whatever else you're doing and just listen, that make you grin in anticipation knowing it's coming up - like during the synth part in Won't Get Fooled Again when you know Moon's drum solo is coming up.
    Yes exactly. I love songs where you physicaly grab a freind and say "YOU HAVE TO HEAR THIS!!". The live version of "Long Distance Runaround" by Yes off their Yesongs album is a great example. I was stunned when I figured out that what I initialy thought were skips in the audio turned out to be meticulously rehearsed off time beats that last a mere second.
  • OldFogeyOldFogey Road Warrior
    edited February 2008
    Since Zidane started this thread (good one, Zidane!!) -- I'm curious what he thinks about about the ideas that have been tossed out:
    • Does it have to have heavy guitars or can an acoustic song be epic?
    • How important is length?
    • Do long solos over the same chord changes that make a song long count (e.g., Down By the River), or does the song have to have noticeably different sections with changes in dynamics, tempos, rhythms, instrumentation or whatever (e.g., Bohemian Rhapsody, Stairway)?
    In other words -- are we close to your original intent, Zidane?
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