Tip #204 – Bluesy Vamp

Another vamp chord progression you can use is this:

I – IV7

Some of you might be thinking “but the IV chord isn’t usually a dominant-seventh chord… nor does it resolve to the I.”

Remember this from previous posts: in the twelve-bar blues progression the IV chord resolves more naturally to the I than the V does. Plus, the IV chord harmony appears more frequently than the V chord.

In addition, the IV7 chord provides the b3 scale degree. b3, which is in the blues scale.

Play around with it and see how it works!

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #40

If we are making an analogy that a song’s lyrics is like a story’s framework – it should have a start, a middle, and an end. The start is the first line that will grab the attention of the listeners. As for the middle, that is reserved for the body of the song and how the plot will develop.

The end is the conclusion or basically what the listener will take away from the song at the end. Generally, you should have the conclusion in mind before starting the beginning, but it is always good to come back to it in the revision process to make sure you have hit the mark on how you wanted you end to be.

Conclusions are meant to wrap-up the song and state the meaning as well as the purpose of the song. You can either:

  • Explicitly state the meaning
  • Imply the meaning
  • Leaving the meaning up to interpretation

To explicitly do so, you simply say in your lyrics what you want to say. Implying means that while it is say said directly, a listener can get clues from the story on what you are trying to say. Other times with a song title a lyrics that don’t match, you create ambiguity that leaves the audience to interpret and analyze what you are trying to say.

Listen to a variety of your favorite song and see where do they fall under in each category.

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Tip #203 – Jazzy Way of Modulating to Predominant Key Area

Most music typically modulates from the tonic to the dominant, but that is not the only place it can go to.

Say that you wanted to go to the predominant (which is the fourth scale degree). That is like going from the key of C to the key of F.

One way that can be done is with an I – v7 – I7 – IV progression that utilizes the common ii – V7 formula found in jazz music:

Essentially, because the tonic chord hasn’t played the seventh, we are in ambiguous terms as to whether the triad expands to a major-seventh chord or dominant seventh chord. This works to our advantage that when we set up the ii – V motion, all we do is lower the leading tone down (making it mixolydian). Finally, the ii – V tonicizes the IV chord to become the new tonic and having the piece modulate to the subdominant area.

Try it out and see how you can vary this up.

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Tip #202 – Understanding the Sarasangi 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 Sarasangi scale (roughly translating to “lake”), the third scale from the fifth 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. In addition, it contains the major tetrachord in the beginning with a raised seventh degree (NI).

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

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Tip #201 – Ghost Notes

Because there are many types, notations, and definitions of ghost notes, I will be doing my best to cover them all in one example:

Essentially, a ghost note is a note that is unaccented, soft in dynamic to the point that it is inaudible but still helps with the rhythmic groove, or is “choked” in sound.

Typically, on most melodic instruments, a ghost note is noted with an “x” symbol. You should use these in a majority of the time when you want to indicate to a performer in your piece that you want the not ghosted-over.

However, in guitar and other stringed instruments like the violin, and “x” notehead indicates to mute, dampen, chop bow, or “choke” the strings while playing. One can argue that this is another way of ghosting a note, but it will create a different timbre besides lowering the dynamic.

“X” noteheads are typically used by drums for the cymbals, so to indicate a ghosted hit they use brackets and parenthesis around the notehead.

Learning how to properly notate is the best way to communicate to your performers how you want a part to be played and sounded.

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How To Beat Writer’s Block – Tip #18

Sometimes, having a block comes from the opposite of what you expect. Instead of having little-to-no ideas, you might have too many. In most cases, being imaginative and creative to the point where you have an overflow of ideas is not a bad thing… but it can cause a feeling of being overwhelmed on not knowing which of your fantastic ideas to start.

My suggestion would to do the following:

  • Physically write all of your ideas down (don’t keep them in your head)
  • Revise them and see which ones will work best for your next composition
  • Take those ones and order them in level of importance
  • Revise the list again into an order that the piece will progressively use

From there you can use this as a checklist for your composition being sure to accomplish the ideas that you had in a step-by-step manner that will also make the music flow from smallest to largest in scale on what you consider to be important musical aspects.

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Tip #200 – Turning a Melodic Instrument into a Percussive/Rhythmic Instrument

Not every instrument that has the capability to produce multiple pitches should be used exclusively for melodic or harmonic purposes depending on the kind of musical piece you are trying to achieve.

While not every percussive instrument can play in a variety of pitches to make a melody – every melodic instrument can be used as a percussion instrument.

The best ways of doing so of turning a melodic instrument into a percussive instrument is to think of it like a drum:

  • Have it keep the beat
  • Have it employ rhythmic complexity with natural accentuation
  • Have it focus down to one or two pitch classes (tonic and/or dominant)
  • Have it be relatively staccato to avoid pitch ringing out

Having melodic instruments be more rhythmic/percussive can make your piece more “war-like,” have an accentuated groove, gain motion, and more.

If you feel like something is lacking in your piece, try it out and see what holes can be filled by simply having the melodic instruments at your disposal become rhythmic instruments.

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