The Sound of Copy

Music Theories Applied to Copywriting

The sound of copy can transform your text into a harmonious experience that captivates and retains your audience’s attention. The sound of copy ensures that every sentence flows smoothly into the next, maintaining reader interest and evoking the desired emotional responses. By understanding and employing various musical techniques, you can create a seamless and engaging narrative.

Just as a well-composed piece of music holds the listener from the first note to the last, the sound of copy hooks the reader with a compelling headline and sustains their interest through a blend of sentence structures, tones, and rhythms. This approach not only makes the content more enjoyable to read but also enhances the clarity and impact of your message.

Integrating musical principles into copywriting can trigger specific emotions and prompt actions in your readers. Techniques like staccato sentences for emphasis, legato sentences for smooth storytelling, and crescendos to build excitement can guide your audience’s emotional journey. By aligning your writing with these musical concepts, you create a powerful and memorable experience that resonates deeply with your audience, driving them to take the desired actions.

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Staccato: Short, Punchy Sentences

Definition: In music, staccato notes are sharp and detached. In copywriting, staccato sentences are brief and impactful.

Application: Use short, punchy sentences to create impact and maintain reader interest.

Example: “Buy now. Save big. Limited offer.”

Real World Application: Tesla’s advertising often features staccato sentences like “Accelerate the future. Drive electric.” This approach grabs attention and emphasises key points.

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Legato: Smooth, Flowing Sentences

Definition: Legato in music means smooth and connected. In copywriting, it involves using longer, flowing sentences.

Application: Use longer, flowing sentences to create a smooth and engaging narrative.

Example: “As the sun set over the horizon, the golden light bathed the landscape in a warm, ethereal glow.”

Real World Application: Patagonia uses legato sentences in their storytelling to evoke a sense of adventure and connection to nature, enhancing the reader’s experience.

Crescendo: Increasing Intensity

Definition: A crescendo is a gradual increase in volume and intensity. In copywriting, it builds excitement or urgency, contributing to the overall sound of copy.

Application: Build up your copy to a climax, gradually increasing the intensity or urgency, and enhancing the sound of the copy.

Example: “Don’t miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. The clock is ticking. Act now before it’s too late!”

Real World Application: Red Bull employs crescendos in their extreme sports event promotions, building up the excitement and adrenaline rush leading up to the main event. Their marketing crescendos engage and energise their audience, culminating in powerful calls to action, and amplifying the sound of the copy.

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Decrescendo: Easing Off Intensity

Definition: The opposite of a crescendo, a decrescendo gradually decreases intensity. In copywriting, it creates a soothing effect.

Application: Gradually ease off the intensity in your copy after making a strong point.

Example: “Relax, unwind, and let the worries of the day fade away. Your perfect evening awaits.”

Real World Application: Aesop, an Australian skincare brand, uses decrescendo in their product descriptions and customer communications, providing a calming and satisfying end to their narrative, and reinforcing their brand’s soothing and luxurious image.

Rhythm: Sentence Variation

Definition: Rhythm in music is the pattern of sounds and silences. In copywriting, it’s the variation of sentence lengths and structures.

Application: Create a rhythm through sentence length variation, punctuation, and repetition.

Example: “Discover our new range. Experience innovation. Elevate your life with cutting-edge technology.”

Real World Application: Apple’s product announcements and marketing materials demonstrate perfect rhythm. They vary sentence lengths to keep readers engaged, ensuring the message remains clear and compelling.

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Harmony: Cohesive Elements

Definition: Harmony in music is the combination of different musical notes to produce a pleasing sound. In copywriting, it’s ensuring all elements of the copy work together harmoniously to create the sound of the copy.

Application: Ensure all elements of your copy work together harmoniously to enhance the sound of the copy.

Example: “At Serenity Spa, every detail is crafted to perfection. From our soothing ambience to our expert therapists, we harmonise every element to provide you with the ultimate relaxation experience.”

Real World Application: Canva, a design software company, exemplifies harmony in its content by maintaining a consistent tone and style across all platforms. Their cohesive message of empowering everyone to design ensures that every piece of communication aligns with their brand identity, perfecting the sound of the copy.

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Dissonance: Contrasting Ideas

Definition: Dissonance in music involves clashing or unresolved chords. In copywriting, it highlights contrasts or provokes thought.

Application: Use contrasting ideas or unexpected twists to capture attention.

Example: “In a world full of chaos, find your peace. Amidst the noise, discover the silence.”

Real World Application: Harley-Davidson uses dissonance effectively by contrasting the freedom of the open road with the constraints of everyday life, challenging their audience to break free and embrace the rebellious spirit of motorcycling.

Tempo: Writing Pace

Definition: Tempo in music is the speed at which a piece is played. In copywriting, it refers to the pacing of the content.

Application: Adjust the pace of your writing to affect engagement and urgency.

Example: “Ready, set, go! Your adventure starts now. Take your time, explore every moment.”

Real World Application: Nike uses tempo masterfully in their ad campaigns, varying the pace to build excitement and convey a sense of urgency in their motivational messages, urging customers to “Just Do It.”

Dynamics: Language Intensity

Definition: Dynamics in music refer to variations in loudness. In copywriting, it’s varying the intensity of language to create impact.

Application: Vary the intensity of your language to keep the reader interested.

Example: “Feel the thrill. Experience the rush. Live the adventure.”

Real World Application: GoPro uses dynamic language to emphasise the excitement and intensity of their action cameras, capturing the thrill of adventure and extreme sports.

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Melody: Clear Message

Definition: Melody in music is a sequence of notes that is musically satisfying. In copywriting, it’s about having a clear and compelling main message.

Application: Craft a clear and compelling message that flows logically.

Example: “Unlock your potential with our innovative solutions.”

Real World Application: Apple’s “Think Different” campaign showcases a clear, memorable message that resonates with its innovative brand identity, creating a lasting impact.

Motif: Recurring Themes

Definition: A motif in music is a short recurring musical idea. In copywriting, it involves repeating key themes or phrases to reinforce the message.

Application: Use recurring themes or taglines to reinforce your message.

Example: “Quality you can trust. Service you deserve. Value you will love.”

Real World Application: Coca-Cola consistently uses motifs in their advertising, reinforcing themes of happiness, togetherness, and refreshment to create a strong brand identity.

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Syncopation: Unexpected Choices

Definition: Syncopation in music involves placing emphasis on normally unaccented beats. In copywriting, it refers to making unexpected choices to surprise and engage the reader.

Application: Use unexpected word choices or sentence structures to surprise and engage the reader.

Example: “Expect the unexpected. Delight in the details.”

Real World Application: Virgin, known for its bold and unconventional approach, often uses syncopation in its marketing to surprise and engage its audience, making its brand stand out.

Counterpoint: Multiple Viewpoints

Definition: Counterpoint in music is the combination of different melodic lines played simultaneously. In copywriting, it involves presenting multiple viewpoints or benefits.

Application: Present multiple viewpoints or benefits simultaneously.

Example: “Smart design. Unmatched performance. Effortless style.”

Real World Application: Mercedes-Benz showcases counterpoint in their marketing by highlighting various aspects of their vehicles, such as luxury, performance, and safety, appealing to a wide range of customer needs.

Chord Progression: Logical Sequence

Definition: Chord progression in music is a series of chords played in a sequence. In copywriting, it refers to presenting information in a logical, flowing order.

Application: Structure your arguments or points in a logical sequence.

Example: “Step into luxury. Indulge in comfort. Experience excellence.”

Real World Application: IKEA uses chord progression in their product descriptions, guiding customers through the features and benefits in a logical sequence that makes the decision-making process seamless.

Timbre: Distinctive Tone

Definition: Timbre in music is the quality of a musical note that distinguishes different types of sound. In copywriting, it refers to the unique tone and style of your writing.

Application: Develop a distinctive tone that resonates with your audience.

Example: “Boldly crafted. Uniquely yours.”

Real World Application: Lush, a cosmetic retailer, uses a distinctive and playful tone in their product descriptions and brand communications, which sets them apart from competitors and resonates with their audience.

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Polyrhythm: Integrate Different Themes

Definition: Polyrhythm in music involves multiple rhythms played simultaneously. In copywriting, it refers to weaving different themes together.

Application: Integrate different themes or perspectives in your copy.

Example: “Innovation meets tradition. Performance meets style.”

Real World Application: Apple often integrates themes of innovation and simplicity in their product launches, creating a rich, multi-layered message that appeals to diverse customer needs.

Orchestration: Arrange Elements

Definition: Orchestration in music is the arrangement of musical compositions for performance. In copywriting, it involves arranging various elements of your copy strategically.

Application: Strategically arrange and balance different elements of your copy.

Example: “Discover our range of products. Learn about their benefits. Find your perfect match.”

Real World Application: Amazon’s product pages are well-orchestrated, with clear sections for product descriptions, benefits, user reviews, and related items, making it easy for customers to find the information they need.

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Modulation: Shifting Tone

Definition: Modulation in music is the change from one key to another. In copywriting, it involves shifting the tone to suit different parts of the message.

Application: Shift the tone or perspective to maintain interest.

Example: “Ready for a change? Let’s get started. Because when you choose us, you choose excellence.”

Real World Application: Nike often shifts the tone in their campaigns from motivational to reflective, keeping the audience engaged and emotionally invested.

Cadence: Concluding Statement

Definition: Cadence in music is the ending of a phrase or piece. In copywriting, it refers to a strong concluding statement.

Application: Use a strong concluding statement or call to action.

Example: “Experience the future. Start today.”

Real World Application: Salesforce concludes its case studies and customer stories with strong calls to action, encouraging potential clients to take the next step in their journey.

Riff: Recurring Phrases

Definition: A riff in music is a repeated sequence of notes. In copywriting, it refers to using recurring phrases for emphasis.

Application: Use recurring phrases or themes to reinforce key messages.

Example: “Think big. Act big. Be big.”

Real World Application: L’Oréal uses the recurring phrase “Because you’re worth it” across various campaigns, reinforcing their core message of self-worth and empowerment.

Improvisation: Flexible Writing

Definition: Improvisation in music is the spontaneous creation of music. In copywriting, it involves being flexible and adaptable in your writing approach.

Application: Be flexible and adaptable in your writing.

Example: “Stay ahead. Adapt. Innovate.”

Real World Application: Startups like Slack often adapt their messaging based on user feedback and changing market conditions, demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness.

Theme and Variation: Core Idea Explored

Definition: Theme and variation in music is a structure where a theme is presented and then altered in successive variations. In copywriting, it involves exploring different aspects of a core idea.

Application: Introduce a core idea and then explore it from different angles.

Example: “Your journey begins here. Every step counts. Make each moment memorable.”

Real World Application: BMW explores the theme of “driving pleasure” from various angles in their campaigns, such as performance, luxury, and innovation.

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Fugue: Repeated Idea

Definition: A fugue in music involves a main theme that recurs frequently throughout the piece. In copywriting, it involves repeating the main idea in various forms.

Application: Develop a central idea and reinforce it through repetition and elaboration.

Example: “Excellence in every detail. Excellence in every experience.”

Real World Application: Mercedes-Benz frequently revisits its theme of “the best or nothing” across different campaigns, reinforcing its commitment to quality and luxury.

Sonata Form: Introduction, Exploration, Conclusion

Definition: Sonata form in music is a structure consisting of an exposition, development, and recapitulation. In copywriting, it involves introducing an idea, exploring it in depth, and concluding with a strong finish.

Application: Structure your copy with a clear introduction, detailed exploration, and strong conclusion.

Example: “Welcome to a new era. Discover the possibilities. Embrace the change.”

Real World Application: HubSpot structures its blog posts and guides in a sonata form, ensuring a comprehensive and engaging reading experience.

Ostinato: Repeated Phrases

Definition: Ostinato in music is a continually repeated musical phrase. In copywriting, it involves repeating key phrases to create emphasis.

Application: Use repetition of key phrases or slogans.

Example: “Innovation you can trust. Innovation that leads. Innovation that lasts.”

Real World Application: Subway’s “Eat Fresh” slogan is an example of ostinato, repeated consistently across marketing materials to emphasise its commitment to fresh ingredients.

Countermelody: Secondary Benefits

Definition: A countermelody in music is a secondary melody played alongside the main one. In copywriting, it involves highlighting secondary benefits in addition to the primary ones.

Application: Present secondary benefits or supporting arguments alongside your main points.

Example: “Experience superior comfort. Enjoy unmatched style.”

Real World Application: Volvo’s advertisements often highlight both safety and luxury, presenting them as equally important benefits.

Dynamics: Language Intensity

Definition: Dynamics in music refer to changes in loudness and intensity. In copywriting, it involves varying the intensity of your language to create impact.

Application: Vary the intensity of your language to create contrast and emphasis.

Example: “Feel the energy. Embrace the passion. Live the moment.”

Real World Application: Red Bull uses varying language intensity in their copy to emphasise the thrill and excitement of extreme sports and adventure.

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Phrasing: Flow of Sentences

Definition: Phrasing in music refers to the way musical phrases are played or sung. In copywriting, it involves the flow and rhythm of sentences.

Application: Carefully craft the flow and rhythm of your sentences.

Example: “Step into luxury. Embrace elegance. Discover perfection.”

Real World Application: Luxury brands like Chanel carefully phrase their copy to reflect elegance and sophistication, enhancing their brand image.

Interval: Emotional Pitch

Definition: Interval in music is the difference in pitch between two notes. In copywriting, it refers to varying the emotional intensity of your copy.

Application: Vary the emotional pitch of your content.

Example: “From joy to excitement, our products bring your emotions to life.”

Real World Application: Coca-Cola’s advertisements often vary the emotional pitch, transitioning from moments of joy and togetherness to individual satisfaction and refreshment.

Form: Structured Copy

Definition: Form in music refers to the overall structure of a piece. In copywriting, it involves creating a well-organised and logical structure.

Application: Develop a clear structure for your copy.

Example: “Learn, explore, achieve. Our courses are designed for your success.”

Real World Application: Online learning platforms like Coursera structure their course descriptions clearly, outlining learning objectives, content, and benefits in a logical sequence.

Echo: Reiterate Points

Definition: Echo in music involves repeating a sound. In copywriting, it refers to reiterating key points for emphasis.

Application: Reiterate important points or calls to action.

Example: “Quality matters. Service matters. You matter.”

Real World Application: Nonprofit organisations like UNICEF often echo their core messages and calls to action across various communication channels to reinforce their mission.

Symphony: Comprehensive Copy

Definition: A symphony in music is a complex and elaborate musical composition. In copywriting, it involves creating a comprehensive and well-rounded piece.

Application: Create comprehensive, multi-faceted copy that appeals to a wide audience.

Example: “From our exceptional products to our outstanding service, we deliver an experience that is nothing short of a symphony.”

Real World Application: Large corporations like IBM create comprehensive content that covers all aspects of their services, ensuring that they address the needs and concerns of a diverse audience.

By integrating these music theories into your copywriting, you create content that not only captures attention but also engages and moves your audience. This harmonious approach ensures your message is both memorable and effective, driving readers to take the desired actions.

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