Tip #90 – Carousel-ing Harmonic Progressions

Sometimes, it seems that popular music stays with the same chord progression and all the radio-hits are born the same way. Times, you may feel like your harmonic progressions falls into the “norm” category.

One way to break free as well as find something new and exciting is to treat your progression like a carousel.

When looking at a carousel, you see the painted ponies chasing each other in a circle. But which pony is the first? Who is ahead of this race.

Point being taken here: nothing in a cyclical pattern can be defined as being “first” or “last,” so everything can be adjusted in framework to appear as first of last.

Now, let’s take this into practice. Take this common repeated progression below:

So, like the painted ponies on a carousel, let’s imagine that a different church of the cyclical progression is really the start. We would get possibilities from the original like this:

Out of one common chord progression, we have just created three new ones to experiment with and see how they can work with your song. Play around and see what else you can come up with!


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Tip #89 – Crafting Modal Interchange from a Tone Drone

Going back to an early topic of borrowed chords and altering a harmony by changing a chord quality to its parallel major/minor – here is another way on how to view it:

Say you have a melody that you want to craft around a single note drone. In this example, the tone used will be E.

So, E what?? E major? E minor? E Dorian mode? E Mixolydian mode?

Well… why not all give them a shot?

With keeping the tone drone constant in the harmonies (either as a chord tone or upper structure tension), try changing each section of the melody to be in a different mode. Below is the example with every measure changing to a different mode corresponding to E as the center tone.


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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #5

Talking to some songwriters, some say that they want their lyrics to tell a story – to be almost cinematic. To be so descriptive that a person can easily understand the meaning of the song.

In the case where you want to make your lyrics absolute – meaning, without confusion as to what it is about – and story-like, don’t forget to add words to describe:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

We take these for granted, associating them with what your elementary literature teacher repeated nonstop. However, these points are critical when trying to convey an absolute story-like lyrics nature.

As you are revising your lyrics, look and see if you (or someone else) can easily tell the who, what, when, where, why, and how.


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Tip #88 – Breaking a Chord Rhythmically

Say you have a chord and a really good voicing too for a measure. It sounds great… but it is lacking a sense of motion that you desire.

Without disrupting the harmony, how do you accomplish it?

One way is by breaking apart the chord so that each of the chord members sound at different times within a period of length. You see this already in stuff like “boom-chuck” guitar accompaniment, Travis picking, arpeggiating, etc.

Besides breaking it apart, try to come up with a pattern as well for it. Below is a common pattern found in ragtime music used to break-apart a chord:

Notice that there are a few arpeggiations of single notes, and broken parts of group chords as well.


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Tip #87 – Using a Break, Be it Three Kinds

Break can mean a couple of different things in music, depending on the genre’s jargon.

One can use a break as an idea of a rest. A break – a sudden pause – in the music that can be used for dramatic effect or a place for breathing.

A break can be literal, using sounds of something crashing or breaking apart. This can be performed live, or used as sample.

Or, the most conventional meaning – where the rest of the ensemble stops playing (or holds back greatly in dynamics) while a single instrument takes a solo line. This can be used to surprise the listener while bringing attention to a specific sound source before the rest of the ensemble returns.

Try putting it into your new composition!


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How To Beat Writer’s Block – Tip #8

Take a look a the artwork masterpieces of Jackson Pollock. Simple, yet visionary and revolutionary. And most of what he did was drip, splatter, and throw paint randomly on a canvas.

With a piece of sheet music, and paint brush, and some paint – do something similar to the art of Jackson Pollock. Be random with how you splatter the paint across the sheet music. Let it drip random drops.

After it dries, interpret you new score. What lines of contour do you see? What noteheads on the staves are there? Is there a rhythm and flow to it?

Musical inspiration can come from anywhere, including art.


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Tip #86 – Backbeat Inclusion

This will be a short tip today.

In most music, especially those in the cannon of classical music, there is a hierarchy of which beats within a measured grouping get the most emphasis – and that tends to be beats 1 and 3 of a 4/4 time signature.

As blues, jazz, R&B, soul, etc. became more popular, so did the use of a backbeat – which is emphasizing beats 2 and 4 instead.

Funk came around, and the primarily emphasis on beat 1 returned back into the prominence of popular music.

And then disco/EDM with the classic snare hits on 2 and 4 revamped the backbeat.

So…

Point being, not all music has to tend to the “classical” pattern of emphasizing beats 1 and 3. And, one can even experiment with the backbeat as well. How about you just emphasize beats 2 and 5 within a 6/4 measure? Play around with it.


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