Song writing tip

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Re: Song writing tip

Post by shufflebeat »

Those edit and quote buttons are so close together. At some point someone's going to say something in a fit of self-righteousness, look at it, think better of it and take it out but leave both versions up.

Don't ask.

Albatross wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 9:55 pm I wish I knew more about the theory... I have no clue. People seem to enjoy my stuff but I'm oblivious to the science and mathematics of it.

This illustrates really well the "rules vs theory" question.

It would be difficult to be successful at cricket without knowing the rules, one would immediately fall foul of some "leg before tea" rule within the first half.

On the other hand the laws of physics are regularly upended as we observe at smaller and larger scales than Newton was technically able to.

Cricket is, of course, subject to rules disruption, there is still no clarity on hand ball that I can work out, but it is still defined by it's rules.

Physics is different, as new theories emerge so do novel methods of exploration and eventually old theories are shown to be incorrect, or at least incomplete.

But even early wo/man could use the "laws" of physics without codifying them, if only to beat each other with sticks.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Folderol »

Some years ago I read an article (sorry no idea where it was) that described ways in which much of music is sort of built-in to us. One quite amazing example is the childhood na-nah taunt. It's the same across multiple cultures some of which have had millennia long separation from the rest of us, and while sung at different pitches, is always the same interval.
Music that evokes certain moods often parallels natural sounds. The ones I remember are thunder-danger/aggression, 'rippling' arpeggios-water.
There is also a direct relationship between heart rate, musical tempo and mood.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Albatross »

All that type of good stuff is in this 'must listen' for musos ...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/b01sk5xs The Science of Music by Robert Winston, absolutely fascinating.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Drew Stephenson »

Albatross wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 4:12 pm All that type of good stuff is in this 'must listen' for musos ...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/b01sk5xs The Science of Music by Robert Winston, absolutely fascinating.

::: adds to ever-growing list of interesting, open browser tabs :::
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by N i g e l »

Albatross wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 4:12 pm ..... The Science of Music by Robert Winston....

great stuff, thanks for the link.

:D:thumbup:
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by OneWorld »

N i g e l wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 12:24 am
Albatross wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 4:12 pm ..... The Science of Music by Robert Winston....

great stuff, thanks for the link.

:D:thumbup:

It does make for an interesting list, but there are the puzzling claims such as "A lot of teachers tell a lot of kids not to sing because they are not good enough" In these sort of programmes you always get someone making a controversial claim, goodness knows why. I have never come across any teacher of any discipline, that discourages participation. OK yes, there will be the exception to the rule, but they do not represent the norm
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Drew Stephenson »

I suspect there has been a fair change in teaching approaches between when some of these authorities were in school and how things are done today. :)
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Folderol »

blinddrew wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 1:04 pm I suspect there has been a fair change in teaching approaches between when some of these authorities were in school and how things are done today. :)

Exactly.
The impression I get is teachers are pretty open these days, but when I was a kid it was very much a case of:
"Just do what you're told."
"What makes you think you know better than the experts?"
"Play exactly what's on the music. Not what you think should be there."

And the absolute killer:
"Lets face it you've got a really boring voice. OK for filling out the choir but you'll never be a singer".
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by RichardT »

Folderol wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 2:10 pm
blinddrew wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 1:04 pm I suspect there has been a fair change in teaching approaches between when some of these authorities were in school and how things are done today. :)

Exactly.
The impression I get is teachers are pretty open these days, but when I was a kid it was very much a case of:
"Just do what you're told."
"What makes you think you know better than the experts?"
"Play exactly what's on the music. Not what you think should be there."

And the absolute killer:
"Lets face it you've got a really boring voice. OK for filling out the choir but you'll never be a singer".

Not related to music, but a friend’s essay at secondary school got the teacher’s comment ‘attempts at humour depressing’.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by MaestroMikeT »

merlyn wrote:
RobinDorset wrote: Tue Jun 28, 2022 6:33 pm ... it's something I've noticed in many great songs.

I've noticed those chords in songs.

E major in C -- Space Oddity It's the first chord change of the verse

F minor in C -- also Space Oddity There is a change | F / / / | Fm / / /| This is also in Nowhere Man and Creep in G.

Anyone got examples of the other chords?

These are very far from arbitrary “non-scale” chords! The F-Fm is a very old, very beaten route to returning to the tonic chord, being IV maj - IV minor - I maj (or eventually the III minor en route to the sub dominant group, then dominant and release to I.
Also the E maj in C is essentially raising the III from minor to dominant seventh to guide to VI minor, also a very characteristic harmonic path.
The same can be said about turning the II from minor (in a major scale) to dominant - it is called double dominant, cause it became a the… dominant of the dominant ;). I’m sorry if this sounds condescending, that is surely not my intention, but these are very very beaten roads, with very explicit and typical harmonic pathways. I guess it really puts a shine on one’s need to get to grips with the fundamentals of harmony. Even if you stray to reharmonizing in a jazzy fashion, you’re still using substitution pieces of the puzzle, not inventing a new one - like the Lydian chord substituting the I major, or the alt9 for the V.
The true inventiveness comes from creating a cohesive whole, in which no chord sounds out of place but rather the one you can’t imagine a different solution without. If you pick pop or rock from the 70s through to the 90s you’ll have lots and lots of examples, and more so if you go to fusion, singer-songwriter stuff, pop-jazz, etc. Harmony if a wonderful, wonderful land! :)

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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Exalted Wombat »

This is all sounding like 'theory for guitarists (or computer-based 'producers') who don't read music'. An obsession with the diatonic chords of a key, and a feeling that doing something non-diatonic is remarkable, requiring special justification.

Read music, play music. From simple early Classical ('Minuet in G') to 'Golden age' Hollywood scores, Jazz standards, John Williams, even the Beatles... and that's leaving out the way-out stuff! All pretty tonal, we generally know what key we're in. But WAY more choice of chords than just the diatonic ones.

Yes, in Harmony #101 we learn the Primary Triads, I, IV and V. And we write simple exercises using just them. But at the same time our PLAYING studies are introducing us to music that does far more interesting things! Don't worry, the theory will catch up.
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You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont bore us with beefing about it. Go fishing instead.

Re: Song writing tip

Post by MaestroMikeT »

exactly, the actual great music you devour from others will provide a copious amount of knowledge to go hand in hand with harmony studies. Learn, learn, learn. Know the rules, then consciently break them.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Uncovered Pitch »

merlyn wrote: Fri Jul 01, 2022 3:14 pm So where is this nostalgia barrier in the space-time continuum? What period did you look at where the harmony is 90% diatonic (sticks to the scale)?


GilesAnt wrote: Fri Jul 01, 2022 3:58 pm .......not to mention what exactly do you mean by pop music? Would that include blues for example - a fertile ground for non scale harmonies

With pop music I mean recent top 40 hits in the UK and US charts. Of course there are blues influences in many pop hits, but that's not what blues enthusiasts would recognise as "their" music.

Really liking the concept of a "nostalgia barrier". I'd place it from around 2009/10 onwards when Electronic Dance Music (EDM) was starting to infiltrate the pop charts in a big way. Everything in EDM is much simpler: melodies, harmonies and lyrics. What's more sophisticated is the sound design aspect which is obviously not the subject of this discussion.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

MaestroMikeT wrote: Mon Jul 04, 2022 9:48 am These are very far from arbitrary “non-scale” chords! The F-Fm is a very old, very beaten route to returning to the tonic chord, being IV maj - IV minor - I maj (or eventually the III minor en route to the sub dominant group, then dominant and release to I.
Also the E maj in C is essentially raising the III from minor to dominant seventh to guide to VI minor, also a very characteristic harmonic path.

Sure, yes. I thought using examples from well known songs would be more accessible. With E in C and Fm in C it's the same note that's been changed. G# in E which is the same note, although spelled as Ab in Fm.

If we keep all the notes from C and change G to G# we have A harmonic minor, which is closely related to C. E and Fm then come from A harmonic minor.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by MaestroMikeT »

That's not correct, I'm afraid, Fm doesn't stem from A minor, it's a chromatic harmonic route if you're in C - you can say it's from the harmonic major scale, a scale with all but the sixth tone equal to the "regular" major diatonic. Of course you could use Fm (and whatever fancies you :) ) in A minor, but that's not the point here.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

Suit yourself. I don't think the chords mentioned in the original post are arbitrary. Scales that are near C are A harmonic minor, A melodic minor and (seems odd but) C minor.

The chords from the original post were :

D major -- A melodic minor
E major -- A harmonic minor
F minor -- A harmonic minor (we can agree to differ)
Bb major -- C minor
Ab major -- C minor
G minor -- C minor

and A major -- that doesn't fit into one of those scales and would be V of ii

So anyway, got any examples? :D
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

So here's the verse ofSpace Oddity (This is ground control to Major Tom, you've really made the grade ...):

||: C / / / | C / / / | E / / / | E / / / |
| F / / / | F / / / | F / / / | Fm / / / |
| C / / / | C / / / | F / / / | Fm / / / |
| C / / / | C / / / :||

Pop music has its own rules, like a fourteen bar verse. :D The E is not a dominant going to Am, it goes to F. Sure there are in-depth analyses of a ivm chord, but does that really apply here?

It's similar to Creep and when these things come up often we can say they're pop staples :

||: G / / / | G / / / | B / / / | B / / / |
| C / / / | C / / / | Cm / / / | Cm / / / :||
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by RichardT »

Harmonic analysis can be useful - and it's also worth remembering that most music is composed without using explicit harmonic analysis (implicit is a different thing).
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

The E to F change is also in Imagine. The "you may say I'm a dreamer" bit :

| F / / / | G / / / | C / / / | E / / / |
| F / / / | G / / / | C / / / | E / / / |
| F / / / | G / / / | C / / / | E / / / |
| F / / / | G / / / | C / / / | C / / / |
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Mattsong »

These music theory discussions are always interesting. One way to look at this is in terms of tension and release, whether it is melodic or harmonic. Once you establish the key, every note and chord that you play after that will have a degree of tension.Tension can create interest and relief when it resolves. Charlie Parker said (and I paraphrase) that once he realized he could play any note he wanted to, as long as he resolved it, he became free. If you want to step outside of the pop music field, just listen to film composers who are the masters of tension and release.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

Using an E major chord in C involves changing G to G#. If we do that with a C triad we get C augmented, notated as C+. If you play C+ you might think it has no place in pop. Actually it's the intro to Mama Mia:D

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Re: Song writing tip

Post by shufflebeat »

G# ver a C would be a C+ but it's not over a C in Mama Mia, there is no definitive bass note but if there was it wouldn't be C.

There is a C (actually, it's in D) under the changing note but I'd suggest that's the 1 when the top note is G(A) and the maj3 of Ab (Bb) when the top note goes up a semitone.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

shufflebeat wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 3:40 pm G# ver a C would be a C+ but it's not over a C in Mama Mia, there is no definitive bass note but if there was it wouldn't be C.

You don't need a bass note for there to be a chord.

There is a C (actually, it's in D) under the changing note but I'd suggest that's the 1 when the top note is G(A) and the maj3 of Ab (Bb) when the top note goes up a semitone.

I hear C+ (D+). You're suggesting it goes | D / / / | Bb / / / | That doesn't sound right to me.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

Maybe the next bit will make more sense of it :
Image
This comes back later in the song as a vocal line with a good ole pumpin' bassline on C (D) in case there was any doubt. :D
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by shufflebeat »

merlyn wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 3:53 pm
shufflebeat wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 3:40 pm G# ver a C would be a C+ but it's not over a C in Mama Mia, there is no definitive bass note but if there was it wouldn't be C.

You don't need a bass note for there to be a chord.

Agreed, but there will often be some.amibuity when all you have in and interval. It could be part of many potential harmonic structures, which are themselves often emergent rather than pre-scripted so the composer might not even be thinking in terms of larger scale harmonic structure.

There is a C (actually, it's in D) under the changing note but I'd suggest that's the 1 when the top note is G(A) and the maj3 of Ab (Bb) when the top note goes up a semitone.

I hear C+ (D+). You're suggesting it goes | D / / / | Bb / / / | That doesn't sound right to me.

That's a perfectly reasonable suggestion because those notes fit that pattern. However, there are other patterns that fit as well. Not all will be credible but some are at least as credible as the C+ (D+).

If I play, for instance, an Am7 chord (1/m3/5/b7) and then take the 1 out the remaining notes don't necessarily remain an Am if I do something in the melody to imply movement. Ergo, the move to G# (A#) in the line you refer to *may* be understood in more than one way.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by RichardT »

shufflebeat wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 3:40 pm G# ver a C would be a C+ but it's not over a C in Mama Mia, there is no definitive bass note but if there was it wouldn't be C.

There is a C (actually, it's in D) under the changing note but I'd suggest that's the 1 when the top note is G(A) and the maj3 of Ab (Bb) when the top note goes up a semitone.

But there's an E natural in that chord so it can't be an Ab.

If I had written it, I would say it stays in C throughout that motif. But I didn't, so we don't know what the writers had in mind.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by shufflebeat »

RichardT wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 10:11 pm If I had written it, I would say it stays in C throughout that motif. But I didn't, so we don't know what the writers had in mind.

Maybe it just sounded nice.

:)
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by merlyn »

shufflebeat wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 7:51 pm That's a perfectly reasonable suggestion because those notes fit that pattern. However, there are other patterns that fit as well. Not all will be credible but some are at least as credible as the C+ (D+).

My idea of 'what the chords are' is what you would strum along with, or play block chords on the piano. If we're dealing with a record there is less ambiguity.

If I play, for instance, an Am7 chord (1/m3/5/b7) and then take the 1 out the remaining notes don't necessarily remain an Am if I do something in the melody to imply movement.

Yes, if we leave out A from Am7 we have a C triad. Am7 is a C triad with an added A. Four note chords can be thought on as triads with an added note :

Cmaj7 = Em/C, Dm7 = F/D, Em7 = G/E, Fmaj7 = Am/F ...

If a guitarist was playing a C triad then the bass player could decide whether it's C by playing C, E or G, or Am7 by playing A.

We can keep going with that : Fmaj9 = Am7/F. That's in True by ahem ... Spandau Ballet. It's the big ringy out chord.

A lot of pop music uses triads exclusively, with maybe an occasional dominant 7th thrown in.

Ergo, the move to G# (A#) in the line you refer to *may* be understood in more than one way.

Yes, a piece of music can always be re-harmonised.

Maybe it just sounded nice.

:)

I don't know if I'd say 'nice'. :D It's got a slightly manic circus/fairground feel to me. But yes, the sound comes first. Unless you're deaf you must use your ears, surely? The idea that anyone blindly (or deafly) writes music using only theory doesn't hold. Do I think Abba knew that that was an augmented chord? No. He moved his fingers about and came up with something. I would think he realised later.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Albatross »

shufflebeat wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 10:17 pm
RichardT wrote: Fri Jul 08, 2022 10:11 pm If I had written it, I would say it stays in C throughout that motif. But I didn't, so we don't know what the writers had in mind.

Maybe it just sounded nice.

:)

It has to look like it sounds nice... you know that!
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by shufflebeat »

merlyn wrote: Sat Jul 09, 2022 12:12 pm
Yes, if we leave out A from Am7 we have a C triad. Am7 is a C triad with an added A. Four note chords can be thought on as triads with an added note :

I'd both agree and disagree, which, of course, underlines the inherent ambiguity.

Am without the A is not a C triad exclusively. It can be understood as such in a kind of second inversion way but, and here's my underlying point - there are different way to understand and describe this because different languages have emerged and evolved which seek to maintain their internal logic but in order to do so tend to end up sounding arcane and end up chipping off anything that doesn't fit the paradigm until everyone ends up sounding like Andrew Lloyd Webber, tuneful but ultimately meaningless.

But I digress.

Those three notes could be part of any one of many chords, more than the C or Am, that's where all the fun is.

I play a lot of traditional music which, on the face of it, is very simple and straightforward. This is great when you're playing with people you don't know and there's an agreed core around which everyone can orbit. It also means that, so long as everyone knows the core and roles* don't overlap, you can pretty much play all night with people you've never met before. Not like blues where the structure is the benchmark, more like trad jazz where melody and harmony rule. The gold comes when people start reinterpreting the tune to fit the organic-ness of the performance.

*As a rhythm/chord player I can do some radical stuff without stepping on toes, introduce a bass player and we're all back to page 1 until we build up some understanding and agreed structure.

So - the Mama Mia phrase could be D, D+ or it could be D, Bb - both equally valid until the bass player spoils it.

I think we're agreeing her, it's just you're agreeing more than me, which is not unusual.
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