Tip #244 – Expanded Possibilities with a Limited Melody

This has apparently been going around the web:

With the most recent pop music hitting radio stations and streaming platforms, there seems to be a rise in a stagnant melody. Such as one where the chorus of the song form features a melody were it is just on one note.

For compositional and performance purposes, this is really easy. I mean, it is only one pitch – you can’t really mess that up so much. However, as an arranger for harmonic purposes, you have a load of possibilities.

More often than not, people make the pitch the fifth of the chord because it makes the tonality of the key (major or minor) ambiguous. However, that is for you to decide on.

Basically, make a list of all chords (stick to triads) that feature that one pitch. Then, attempt to use them in a creatively manner to harmonize the stagnant melody.

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Tip #243 – Fake Sidechain

A sidechain in the audio-technology world means something different that what musicians/producers typically associate it with. Most of the time, sidechaining involves compressing the volume of an instrument when a more prominent sound plays at the same time. People might referring to this as “ducking” the volume.

Anyways, this is only one of the many uses of sidechaining – but this is certainly one of the most common scenarios.

But say that you don’t have the ability to use a DAW’s and mixing console’s compressor to do a volume ducking sidechain. You are not out of luck.

As a composer, have you thought of writing in volume swells? When you have an instrument whose attack you want to accentuate, try ducking the volume of all the other instruments and have them swell to an increased volume right after the initial attack.

This will create for of an artificial sidechain that can be used in the concert hall and in recordings, too!

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #51

It is important to set goals before attempting to start a project. With lyric writing, here is a goal you can set for yourself that could help dramatically improve your writing ability:

For people who typically write music in the verse-chorus form, they fall into the trap of allowing themselves too many verses. And it comes to no surprise either; a lot of grate music has the form of VVCVCBC – with two or three verses leading up to the fist chorus.

As mentioned previously, a verse is used to help narrate the story you are telling. Give details, explain the situation, etc. But allowing yourself too many verses can cause you to not get to the point – instead, blabbering on with unnecessary words cluttering up your song.

So, set yourself the goal of only allowing yourself one (and only one) verse before the first chorus. 4 to 8 small lines max.

Forcing yourself to be constrained to one verse will make you prioritize the important information first. Then, if you were to add another verse, you will be secured of already have hit the punch of the song.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 37.) Beginning Rules to Renaissance Counterpoint

To write appropriately within the style of the music, one must be aware of the hard and soft rules.

For Renaissance counterpoint, there are a lot of rules – some that can be broken in certain situations, and some that must stay intact at all times. These next blog posts will be a barrage of rules. But do not worry! Throughout, we will be reinforcing these rules so that they become second nature and that you won’t forget while writing.

To begin, it is worth to note that most of the pieces composed during this era were written using cut-time of a 2/1 or a 4/2 time signature. Most of these upcoming posts will attempt to stay within the limits of 4/2, but might occasionally drift into the now commonly accepted time signature of 4/4.

In addition, the music of the Renaissance era was known for its rhythmic contrast. This came from the use of agogic accents, or the secondary rhythm comprised of irregular accented syllables on beats 2 and 4.

When beginning to write a piece in the style of Renaissance counterpoint(especially in 4/2), it is good to have these rules in your pocket:

  • Compositions must begin with a note value of a dotted half-note or longer.
  • Compositions must end with a note value of a breve or longer.
  • Note values of equal length may be tied to each other, but only breves, whole notes, half notes, and occasionally quarter notes.
  • Only in triple time may a dotted note be tied to another dotted note
  • Note values may be tired to another note half their value, but the larger value must appear first*.
  • *(Unless it is the end of the piece, then a whole note may be tied to a breve.)
  • Dotted whole notes must only be placed on beats 1 or 3.
  • Rests usually occur only on beats 1 or 3.

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Tip #242 – Changing a Voicing Midway

Most people when writing or performing music tend to stick to one chord voicing for a harmony. While this is perfectly okay to do, this can lead into having trouble to voice leading because there is a limit to possibilities.

Often, composers don’t practice re-voicing a harmony. For example: if you have an A major seventh chord that lasts a measure long, try a different voicing at the halfway point.

Here is another example of it in action:

Try it out and see if it makes transitions sound smoother and give the piece more interest/variety!

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Tip #241 – Understanding the Jalarnavam 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 Jalarnavam scale, the second scale from the seventh chakra.

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

Both the first (SA) and fifth (PA) scale degrees are in a placement normal to most scales found in Western music.  However, the lowered second (RI) and third (GA) scale degrees as well as the raised fourth (MA) degree creates chromatic lines.

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

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Tip #240 – Add Some Nice Crunch

One way to add some nice density to your chords for some unsettling atmosphere is by adding tones that will creating a m2 interval.

Triads, as you know, are made up of combinations of major and minor thirds. Dissonance mostly occurs in the stacking of two minor thirds or two major thirds (a diminished and augmented triad, respectively).

By either adding a fourth to a major triad, or a second to a minor triad, you create the really dissonant m2 interval:

Not only can it make the sound spooky, but add2 and aad4 chords can create some nice clusters for density purposes.

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