Tip #124 – Understanding the Dhenuka 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 Dhenuka scale (meaning “dust”), the third 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 seventh scale degree (NI) is raised to go back to the tonic as well.  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 #123 – Conceptualizing a Thematic Bridge

Just as the name would suggest, a thematic bridge is somethings that acts as a connection between two fairly different themes in a piece of music.

It would help if the two themes are connect is some way to begin with – being fragmented developments of each other, or whatever. However, it is possible to do so with very different themes.

First thing to do would be to point out where in the composition you need the thematic bridge to be – obviously between the two contrasting parts. From there look at the measures before and after it to note what are the characteristics of the opposing themes.

Finally, (and this may be the hardest part) attempt to make a “natural sounding” combination of the two themes. Be like Dr. Frankenstein and mix-n-match different characteristics of the two to form one complete idea.

Of course, this is a tip on how to create smoothness between to sections IF smoothness is desired. It is your composition – do what you want!

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Tip #122 – Mindfulness When Using Wind Pads

I certain situations where your live performance/recording is in need of human performers instead of electronic or artificial instruments – you must keep in mind the limitations of a human, especially a wind player.

Unless they know how to do “circular breathing” chances of you having a wind section hold long notes for extended periods of time is slim to none.

So, what are some options that you can do for creating a wind instrument pad while being mindful the lung limitations of the performers.

One thing you can do, if there are multiple people in a section, is to write staggered points of breathing marks or rests. That helps create a smooth continuous line without the players taking a breath at the same time.

In the case you only have one person per instrument section, look as to wear you can add breath marks or rests that best complement the melody. Meaning, structure it around the phrasing of the main melody or harmonic rhythm. This will make the pad seem connect to another part of the music, even if it has to take a breath and break the pad.

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Tip #121 – Double Meter Mindfulness

What is the difference between in playing this melody below correctly…:

And this one as well?:

Honestly, barely anything. Even though the tempos and note value lengths are written different, they are played exactly the same.

This is called a double meter, when the notes can be doubled in value and doubled in tempo to create the same affect as the original. Yes, this is an augmentation – but the tempo change evens it out.

It is important to be mindful of this and how you want to write out your score so that:

  1. The beats/rhythm best fit what you imagine.
  2. The musical ideas clearly presented to the performers to avoid any confusion.

So in other words; while the two examples above are the same thing, be mindful as to which you choose that will best help get the message across to the performers.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #13

This week we are going to talk about how to break free from perfect rhymes.

Sometimes, we may feel like a “slave to the rhyme” when writing lyrics; sacrificing creativity for the continuation of a rhyme that can

Today, we are going to discuss how family rhymes can help expand lyric writing out of perfect rhymes.

Family rhymes are when the two rhyming words do not end in the same consonant letter, but have similar sounds that still make a rhyme.

Here are some “families” of consonant sounds at the ends of words that work well with each other in a rhyme:

Plosives:

  • -b
  • -d
  • -g
  • -p
  • -t
  • -k

Fricatives:

  • -v
  • -th
  • -z
  • -zh
  • -j
  • -f
  • -s
  • -sh
  • -ch

and Nasals:

  • -m
  • -n
  • -ng

Play around with seeing and singing how family rhymes can work into your songwriting poetry.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 14.) Key Signature

A key signature is a marking of sharps or flats found at the beginning of a piece of music (or section) right after the clef. It is used to tell the performer what pitches are to be sharpened/flattened throughout, which pitch collections are used, and what is the center of tonality.

First, let’s take a look at the sharp keys:

With every sharp, the respective major/minor key goes up a perfect fifth. Also, notice that the addition of sharps in the key signature form a pattern of { F# – C# – G# – D# – A# – E# – B# } and are placed in there respective place on the staff lines.

So, if the piece has one sharp in the key signature, we can tell that it is in either G Major / e minor and that we must play F# throughout the entire composition.

Now, let’s take a look at the flat keys:

Once again, we can see a similar pattern with the respective major/minor key going DOWN a perfect fifth with each flat added to the key signature. Also, the flats work in a backwards pattern from the sharps, going { Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb – Cb – Fb } and still be placed on the correct line of the staff.

So, if the piece has four flats, we know to lower those notes down and play in the equivalent pitch collection of an Ab Major / f minor key.

Okay, so now how do we tell what key a piece of music is in?

  1. First, check the key signature to decipher how many sharps or flats it has.
  2. Second, look at the beginning and end of the piece and see what scale degree it lands on.
  3. Third from the information gathered, make a educated conclusion as to where the music is focused around – a major or minor key.

And there you go. Unfortunately, there are some exceptions to the guideline, but above all gather information and make a supportive conclusion as to where you think the piece of music lives in – being either a major or minor key within the given key signature.

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Tip #120 – Writing and Building Polychords

Polychords are when multiple chords (particularly triads) are played at the same time. They are used to expend the harmony and offer an interesting blend of acoustic colors.

While there is no limit to the combined chord qualities of the number of chords used to build a polychord, typically people make polychords just out of two triads.

Below is a representation of a poly chord with the proper notation (similar to a fraction sign):

Notice how this polychord above can also be written as a Bb13 chord with no 7th.

That being said, some polychords can ultimately be jazz chords (and this term is used lightly, as no chord belongs exclusively to a genre of music) with upper extensions. So, that is up to you, the composer, to play around with triadic combinations.

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