Tip #109 – Key Change with Chromaticism

In the past, we have talked about using a key change by transposing an entire section of the song by an interval. This interval can usually range from a m2 to a m3.

Today we will go more in-depth with the similar idea of using chromaticism to create a key change.

Study the example below:

As we get to the V chord of the composition, we get a pull back to the tonic. However, that pull is “redirected” an is instead used in a chromatic pull towards a new chord outside of the original key – that also become the new tonic as well.

So for today’s tip, experiment with the resolving tendencies of the V chord and how with chromatic motion a composition can get to a new key.

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How To Beat Writer’s Block – Tip #11

There are sounds and inspirations all around you, I grantee it – but you need to be conscious of it first.

Close your eyes, disconnect from the internet, and attempt to remove all senses from your mind momentarily.

Did you hear silence?

Probably not. Maybe there was the hum of a machine, the talking of people, the singing of birds, etc.

Regardless, you can use these sounds as inspirations. Try transcribing the melodic pitches of a songbird or of a windchime. Use the rhythm of natural speech as the source of your next beat. Sample live audio sounds from a household appliance. Be creative!

There are so many sounds and so many possibilities to utilize them. Go at it!

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #10

What’s a verbal metaphor and how can it be used in a song?

Take a look at the stanzas below:

My heart reaches out, clinging to you

Waiting for these shackles to be loose

Can you spot the verbal metaphor?

It is when the song says that the heart reaches and clings to another person. We all know that the heart’s function is to pump blood through the body, so the conflict of giving this personification to the heart is what creates this beautiful verbal metaphor to describe the longing of another.

Basically, the verbal metaphor is the conflict between the verb and its object/subject that it is associated with.

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Tip #108 – Innate Pulls of Dominant Modulations

Take a look at the melody below and analyze it the best you can:

Notice how the melody seems to be for the most part centered in an E Mixolydian mode.

However, you have those two measures highlighted in blue that hint at a temporary modulation to B Mixolydian. Then, it returns back to E Mixolydian.

If you play this melody, the transition works so smoothly. Why?

Well, think about the B Mixolydian mode. The mode itself is built around a B7 chord. In common music theory practice, the B7 chord will resolve (typically) to a chord with a root in E.

Thus, that is why the modulation from B Mixolydian is smooth, because it has the innate pull to resolve back to a centered tone of E anyways.

So, for this tip’s overall lesson: when using temporary modulations, consider the resolution of the scale/mode as well as the chords built on it for a seamless transition.

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Tip #107 – Dominant Chords Resolving Onto Themselves

I noticed this interesting chord progression idea in some heavy metal riffs.

Usually, a V chord resolves to I – that is something we know happens commonly in music.

However, for today’s tip, we will talk about how the dominant chord can resolve to a minor chord version of itself, containing the same root.

Observe the progression below:

Notice how we set up for a cadence in F# minor with the C#7 chord. However, it resolves to a F#7 chord. We think that we have possibly modulated to B Major/minor, or started a circle of fifths progression – but no! Instead, the F#7 chord resolves to a F# minor triad.

With good voice leading, this can work very smoothly. Most of the chord notes are kept the same – only difference being the change from the major third to a minor third, which is just a half-step.

This creates a “deceptive” resolution (and I use this term loosely because there is already a term for a “deceptive cadence”) while smoothly creating momentum back to the minor tonic area**.

**Note, this progression only works if the tonic is in minor.

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Tip #106 – Understanding the Manavati 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 Manavati (meaning “bride”) scale, the fifth scale from the first 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 other scale degrees are lowered as well as clustered in chromatic runs. In addition, the sixth (DHA) and seventh (NI) scale degrees 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 #105 – Weird Minor Chord Substitution

Here is another fun/interesting/odd/useful tip I learned from a professor:

Say you have these chord progressions below:

What you can do for minor chords acting as a ii, iii, or vi chord in the progression is replace them as a major chord one whole-step below while keeping the bass. So, the substitution would look like such:

Now, if we were to alter the progression from before – changing the minor chords functioning as a ii, iii, or vi – we would get these new progressions:

Some of them sound odd and funky. Personally, I preferably like the ii substitution better than iii and vi, but that is just my opinion. Feel free to try it yourself and see if it expands your harmonic pallet.

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