Thinking Out Loud – The Need for Meta-Classes

Too often do I find assignments in college classes to be outside the topic of the class. For example: take a film scoring class where the assignment is to score a scene with funk music. On surface level, it seems like a reasonable assignment – the class is about writing music for film, and the homework is to write funk music for this film clip. But, as you start with an attempt towards the project, you’ll notice that there are many hurdles.

Like:

  • How do I write music to movies?
  • What DAW should I use and how?
  • What is the best way to synch music to film?
  • How do I write funk music?
  • How do I analyze funk music to understand it more?
  • How do I record, program, and mix the sounds?

These questions are usually answered by a “figure it out yourself,” attitude from the teacher that often points the student towards the library or YouTube. While this prepares a person somewhat to being independent, it lessens the need for college education – making it frivolous. Why go to an expensive college in that case what the teacher just asks you to be taught using YouTube for free?

We have talked about this before, but my idea is offering these “meta” classes to help fill in the blanks. I don’t expect there to be classes that teach funk music – but I would like classes that teach form & analysis to amend their curriculum to have students apply the knowledge they’ve learned to take unfamiliar styles of music and recreate them compositionally.

In addition, there should be time in classes to go over the tips and tricks of working with DAWs as well as the process the professor (who should be a professional in their field) maintains their workflow when doing a music project.

It cannot be “do this assignment, figure it out on the way, and I’ll grade you at the end” mentality.

Just thinking out loud.

Tip #209 – Understanding the Dhirasankarabharani Scale

The Carnatic music of South India has 72 scales (melakartas) comprised of seven different notes in either an ascending (arohana) or descending (avarohana) fashion. These scales are used in a kind of India music called rāga and are extremely beautiful. In addition these scales are grouped into different chakras, based on certain similarities.

Today’s melakarta is the Dhirasankarabharani scale (roughly translating to “the jewel of Shankara”), the fifth scale from the fifth chakra.

Below is a representation of the scale as if it was put into Western notation:

It is really a major scale.

Try playing around with the scale, possible harmonies, and progressions!

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Mix and Master Yourself – Quick Mix Guide (Part 2)

Today we are going to be talking about a quick guide in several installations on how to give your recorded song a good mix.  These tips can also be applied to using live sound as well, so keep your imagination wide with possibilities.

The next step you want to take is filtering out some unneeded frequencies.  This is a MUST in recorded audio, but it can also help when working with MIDI and the sound coming from virtual instruments.

In situation where you have mic bleeding (meaning that you are capturing unintended recorded audio – say from another instrument playing or from another room) you need to make sure it is not there for when you do the final mastering.  Using a low pass filter (LPF) that cuts high frequencies, or a high pass filter (HPF) that cuts low frequencies will be the best bet in a plug-in to use for cleaning out your audio.

This will allow instruments that naturally sound in the extreme low or high ends of our hearing to have less frequencies competing against them.  The filtering out of unnecessary sounds will make the necessary ones pop-out!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Mix and Master Yourself – Quick Mix Guide (Part 1)

Today we are going to be talking about a quick guide in several installations on how to give your recorded song a good mix.  These tips can also be applied to using live sound as well, so keep your imagination wide with possibilities.

Once all the tracks and parts of your song is recorded, the first step you want to do is set all the volume and panning to where they should be using a “reference track.”

A reference track is a fully mixed, mastered, and produced song that you are taking inspiration from.  Simply, place the audio from the song into a track in the DAW and use it as a “reference” as to how loud/soft the instruments should sound, as well as to which side they should be panned.

Remember, you don’t have to stay strict to the reference track.  It is a means of support so you have a place on where to start from.  You can adjust after that.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #208 – Jazzy Progressions with the III7 Chord

Oh no, here is another dominant chord.

Well, this isn’t as boring as it could be – trust me. While dominant chords appear often in music (as well as in these blog posts) there is something new to learn about them every time.

Typically, a dominant chord would resolve down to the chord a P5 below it. So in this case it would be III7 – vi like in this progression:

I – III7 – vi7 – Imaj7

But, another way that I found interesting that appears in jazz music is a resolution up a m2 interval to the predominant chord:

I – III7 – IVmaj7 – Imaj7

Here we see a motion opposite to that of the tritone substitution bII7 chord, but this time it is resolving up. Also, the root motion of III to IV is common in music, so the ear tunes in to the bass. Try it out!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #41

When beginning with the frame of your song, there are many things to consider.  We have talked about brainstorming an idea, building a catchy title, writing a great opening, detailing the plot, and setting a conclusion in mind.  Now that these pillars are set, we need to talk about the form.

Without a form in mind, your lyrics will lack structure that that can hurt how the listeners will enjoy or even remember the song.  In addition, it is good to know about multiple kinds of forms.  Why?  Each year in music sees a new trend.  Plus, old styles have an importance as well.  More tools that you have, the better you are.

Today, let’s talk about the 12-Bar Blues form.  This post will only focus on lyrics, so I suggest to look at previous posts about the musical form and blues scales from previous posts as well.

The lyrical structure of the 12-Bar Blues form is a couplet (two rhymed lines) with the first line repeated (with a bit of variation) forming the lines AAB or AA’B:

Oh you hurt me good, my baby girl

Yeah you hurt me real good, my baby girl

I never felt a pain like this, in the entire world

Each line is dedicated to 4 measures in the 12-Bar Blues form (4×3=12), with about each line leaving roughly 1.5 measures at the end for improvisation.  See older posts for more information.

While each “couplet” can talk about a different thing, there is usually a linear progression as to the story.  Possibly like indicating the problem, explaining how one feels, talk about the resolution, etc.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 31.) Figured-Bass and Lead-Sheet Notation

Even though we have been using the staff and writing notes to communicate which notes to play, there are other ways of notating music.

The first way we are going to talk about is figured-bass, which is a more “classical music way” of using Roman numerals and symbols to notate what chords to play in relation to the key.  To notate with figured-bass, you take the following steps:

  • Start by finding the key that you are in (with the example below, we are in C major)
  • Next, determine the chord harmonies with their qualities and inversion
  • Place a Roman numeral underneath each chord, with the numeric value corresponding to the root of the chord in relation to the kay
  • If it is a major triad, use uppercase letters
  • If it is a minor triad, use lowercase letters
  • If it is a diminished triad, use lowercase letters plus an “ o “ symbol
  • If it is an augmented triad, use uppercase letters plus a “ + “ symbol
  • Finally, add extra figures if inverted
  • If it is in first inversion, add a “ 6 “
  • If it is in second inversion, add a “ 6 “ with a “ 4 “ below it

Notice how the “ 6 “ and “ 4 “ correspond to the interval made with the root during an inversion.

Another way is lead-sheet, which is a way commonly found in jazz, pop, and rock tunes of writing out the letter names, chord qualities, as well as inversions of the harmonies.  To notate in a lead-sheet style, you take the following steps:

  • Determine the root of the chord and write it in an uppercase letter above the chord
  • If it is a major triad, do nothing more for its chord quality
  • If it is a minor triad, add “ min “
  • If it is a diminished triad, add an “ o “ symbol
  • If it is an augmented triad, add a “ + “ symbol
  • Finally, add extra figures if inverted
  • Add a slash mark “ / “ and write the bass note after it

Tah-dah!  There you have it.  Give it some practice, but we will be using these forms of communicating and writing for now on.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.