Thinking Out Loud – Appropriation of Rearranging

When it comes to versions of songs, there are two options: the original and the cover/rearrangement of it.

Some people prefer the originals, while others find how a different artist or arranger reworked the song into new.

In classical music, you sometimes see other prolific composers rework other’s pieces. As for jazz, it is very common – in fact, a standard – to play covers from the fake book. And rock music has many people doing covers of each other’s tunes.

But, one thing that strikes me odd is when I see a rearrangement of a spiritual in a classical context.

On the outside, it may seem like nothing is wrong… but I want to bring to the table to idea of cultural appropriation.

With spirituals coming from an African American background (especially during the times of slavery and segregation), the music has a weight of history behind it. Reworking the spiritual into a piece that sounds like music from the classical era is – what I consider to be – an act of white washing. To take a piece of history and rearrange it to sound like Western music is like taking cultural identity away.

So does that mean that different races cannot cover each other’s tunes? I’m not suggesting that, but I am saying to consider the history behind a piece of music before deciding to rearrange it into a different style or for a different purpose.

Just thinking out loud..

Tip #191 – Changing the Tools

Percussion is usually played with a stick/mallet/beater. Guitars are usually played with a pick. Violins are usually played by bows. Etcetera, etcetera.

You don’t actually have to limit yourself to this.

When you are performing, recording, or writing notes into your score for the performers – you can change things up.

Think of all the times Eddie Van Halen used a drill on his guitar strings. Or the many times classical composers have used a prepared piano. Violins playing with the back of their bows or with pencils. Using a glass bottle or slider.

Be creative and play around with how you can achieve the sound you imagine with unconventional tools.

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.

How To Beat Writer’s Block – Tip #17

Here is a tip just to get the ball rolling with music writing. This is not intended for you to write music to release.

Whenever you stop doing something (writing music, arranging, letting the creative juices flow, etc.) it can be difficult to get back into the swing of the activity.

So, you will need to start with baby-steps before doing it own you own – letting your music walk on two feet again.

One way to achieve baby steps is to take a musical logo or jingle from your favorite product and try rewriting it. Or take a favorite tune and rewrite it. See how close you can come to the original without sounding like a pirated or infringed work.

NOTE: infringing copyright, plagiarism, and stealing ideas are wrong. More important, I never advise anyone to do it.

However, trying to copy a song AND NEVER RELEASING IT – can help get the momentum and writing again. To repeat: try to get as close to the original in your rewrite without making it sound like a carbon copy.

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 #178 – Applying What You’ve Learned

Now I know that I’m preaching to the choir as I type up this post, but it is important to remind:

That no matter how much you read of these blog posts, you will not become a better composer/songwriter/arranger/music theorist without actually doing them.

The only tip that I can give is to actually do the tips as you are reading them, or be creative and come up with your own way.

For example: in the past we have talked about chord substitution and the use of the vi – V progression to avoid the tonic. If you remember those topics and have been using them in your writing, then this should look like a no-brainer:

A chord progression of vi – IV – V – vi to substitute the tonic and create an avoidance to resolve back to the home key area.

Basically, the more you practice these tips, the more you will discover and the better your writing will become.

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 #161 – Cheat-Sheet for Building Large Eight-Part Chord Structures

Previously, we have talked about reimagining the idea of eight-part chord structures. Instead of thinking the chords as one big harmony, we can mentally divide the chord into two different chords at smaller harmonic density – and then from there, arrange the two chords into unique voicings.

Below is a cheat-sheet on how to build these large chord structures:

To read the cheat-sheet, start by deciding what chord harmony/family you want to do in the left-most column. Then, you will notice that each selection is made up of two horizontal rows. The bottom horizontal rows are chord harmonies that work best for the bottom half. Likewise, the upper horizontal row is of chord harmonies that work best for the upper half.

If the chord is highlighted in light blues, that means that it is most optimal to use if you want the root to be in the melody.

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 #160 – Cheat-Sheet for Pairing Scales and Chords Together

Many times I hear among jazz musicians the idea of what scale(s) should go with what chord harmony.

It makes sense to understand what scale works best with what harmony so that you know which pitches to chose from when constructing a melody, improvisation, counterpoint, etc.

Below is a lengthy (but not perfect) cheat-sheet for multiple kids of scales, and what chords work best:

Note that this graph is turned on its side so that it can fit your screen better. To turn it, simply download the picture and edit it with a rotation app.

To read this cheat-sheet, find the scale you want starting on the right scale degree of the key that you are in. From there, look at the harmonic possibilities as the Roman numerals relate to the key that you are in.

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 #159 – Reframing Thoughts on Eight-Part Chord Structures

Say that you are being extravagant and want to incorporate a chord like this into your composition:

This is a D7(b9 b13) chord with the doubling of the root at the top.

Instead of thinking of this as one big chord, you can divide it in half and get this result:

Now, you have a D7 chord on the bottom with an Ebmaj7 chord above it.

Thinking of large chords at a micro level can help with voicing. Now that we know that the D7(b9 b13) chord is really just a combination of the two chords (D7 and Ebmaj7), we can essentially “divide and conquer” with solving how we want to voice the chord harmony:

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.