Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #16

There are certain power positions in your lyrics that can effect the entire meaning that you want to come across to your audience.

Okay, now let’s back it up a bit.

A power position is a place in your lyric verses that holds a lot of effect (possibly in meaning or in memory) to the people listening.

Think about it – where do you want your best home-hitting lyrics to be in your song? Buried in the middle?

The three most common power positions in music are:

  • The first/opening line of a section
  • The last/closing line of a section
  • Extra lines out of the 4 line stanza

These areas grab the most attention to the listeners and make those the most memorable lyrics.

So, be sure to put your strongest or ear-catchy lyrics in those power positions.

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Tip #137 – Simplifying Harmony to a Pedal Point

Say you have a beginning of a new musical work like this below:

As of right now, there is nothing wrong with it, but it can sure use some development and expansion.

However, what if you didn’t like the idea of the harmony jumping from chord to chord each measure? What can you do?

One tip I learned is that you can reduce the harmony down to a single melodic (or harmonic) pedal point based on either the first of fifth scale degree of the scale/mode.

So, a revised version of creating a stagnant pedal on those two scale degrees look as such:

Play both examples above, and listen to how they both sound “complete” in a way.

Still, the pedal point does not always have to be in the bass. Take a look at what is done here:

A pedal based on the arpeggiation of a harmony built on the fifth scale degree is play continuously over the same melody. And even though the melody itself suggests chord changes to that of the original, the simplified pedal works great harmonically with everything.

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Tip #136 – Plurality in Chord Substitution

In Western classical music theory, there are three groups of “harmonic areas,” that being:

  • Tonic
  • Pre-dominant
  • Dominant

Jazz theory expands upon this by assigning a specific chord/function to each of these harmonic areas:

  • I for Tonic
  • ii for Pre-dominant
  • V for Dominant

Not only do these chords and types word as specific harmonic areas, but they can also be used as diatonic passing chords in certain harmonizing situations.

That being said, it seems a bit boring that music is reduced down to the I, ii, and V chords. What about the other diatonic chords? Do they fit any purpose?

Well, here comes the idea of plurality – that because certain chords share multiple notes with each other, that they can be interchangeable. Take a look below:

See how both the iii and vi chord can function as a tonic I. Plus, the IV works as a pre-dominant because it shares a lot of chord tones with ii. And vii is interchangeable to V.

So now, we can potentially revise this as:

  • I , iii , and vi for Tonic
  • ii and IV for Pre-dominant
  • V and vii for Dominant

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Tip #135 – Understanding the Kokilapriya 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 Kokilapriya scale (meaning “the one dear to the koel bird”), the fifth scale from the second 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 second scale degree (RI) is lowered, creating a tendency to resolve downward. In addition, the sixth (DHA) and seventh scale degree (NI) are raised.  While this may sound dissonant or exotic, this scale gives a great amount of opportunity to play with tension and chromatic passing tones.

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

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Tip #134 – Ending with a Cadenza

One option for you to end your composition or song is with a cadenza.

It can either be written out for a performer to play perfectly, or you can just give chord changes of harmonies held by a fermata and allow the person to improvise.

Either way, this gives opportunity for not only your composition to have an exciting climatic ending, but to also give freedom to the performers to creatively craft a solo.

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Tip #133 – Checklist for a Well-Crafted Ending

At some point, you are going to want your musical compositional piece to end. As good as a composition is, it should end to give way to another exciting work of yours.

So, what are some aspects to keep in mind on writing a strong ending?

Well, we can think of several aspects that can act as a checklist, such as having the ending of a piece of music…

  • Officially end the composition in an interesting and engaging way
  • Use a finish of slowing-down (or speeding up) rhythmically
  • Extend an ending phrase, as possibly a vamp or sequence
  • Be characteristic to the rest of the composition
  • Utilize it as the peak climax, or point of resolution

Once again, these are tips in mind – whether you decide to use them or not is up to you. You are the composer, write how you want!

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #15

A cliché is an overused idea – overused to the point where it doesn’t sound like an original and/or creative thought. More importantly, it can hinder the creativity of your lyrics.

While some people can argue that there are a lot of successful songs that use clichés, another person can argue that those songs tend to be prone to ridicule for their simplistic lyrics.

Either way, how you write your lyrics is up to you… but today’s tip is on what to avoid.

Some common clichés appear in the forms of:

  • Cliché Rhymes – predictable close rhymes
  • Cliché Phrases – commonly-used statements
  • Cliché Images – regularly mentioned objects
  • Cliché Topics – oversaturated field of song topics
  • Cliché Metaphors – typical representations

HOWEVER, clichés can also be used strategically by taking an overused idea and reworking it into a new angle.

This can be done by expanding upon the idea, or reframing how the idea is presented.

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