Tuesday 9th November – adding chords to a melody – otherwise known as Reharmonizing a melody

Reharmonizing a melody
So, you have a killer riff in your head, but you don’t know how to add chords to it.
What to do?
You can just randomly experiment, especially if you know what scale or key the melody is in. But – trial and error can take a while to work.
A slightly more guided approach is to write down what the notes are in the melody.
Let’s say I have a melody that goes C, G, C, F, C, E, C, D Bold notes are where the beat falls.
Each of those notes could be the root, third, fifth of a chord. So the C at the beginning could be the root if I play a C chord. It could be the minor third of an Am chord, or the fifth of an F chord. Each of those chord choices will alter the feel of the note.
Chords with three notes, 1,3,5 are known as triads. BUT! You can add another note, the seventh. Then we get 1,3,5,7 chords. The third as you know can be minor/flat or major, and the seventh can also be flat or major. So that means we can have major triad with natural seventh on top, (a major seventh chord) major triad with flat seven on top (dominant 7 chord) and minor triads with major seventh on top (not so common in pop, a minor/major7) and minor triads with flat seven on top, a minor seventh chord.
So if we use these chords, our melody note could be the root, third, or seventh in the chord – and it could be a different note entirely that’s not in the chord.
In the example melody above, if I start with a C chord, the G is the fifth in that chord. If start with a G chord, the G note is now the root of the chord.
If I play C, F, C, G, (try it, two beats each) I’ll get a C major, quite upbeat feel. The bolded notes will be the fifth, root, third, and fifth of the chords respectively.
If I play G, Dm, Fmaj7, Dm, the bolded notes are now the root, minor third, major 7, and root notes of the chord
If I play Em, G7, Am and D the bolded notes are now the minor third, flat 7, fifth and root notes of the chord.

I can add tension by play a chord under the note that is altered. If I play a G6 under the note E, it sounds a little bit tense/dissonant, but if I resolve on the next chord that can sound really great.
I appreciate it may seem laborious to start with thinking about working out the intervals for everything. But there are only 12 notes in the western music system, and there are a finite number of possible intervals. Of the possibilities, there are some that are very rarely used in contemporary song. The ones you’re most likely to encounter are roots, thirds, fifths, sevenths – and then sixths, ninths, and passing tones from the scale.
You will get used to how these intervals sound fast when you start putting this into practice. You can also start with bass notes instead of chords.

NB – an interval is rarely the same distance in frets as it is scale degrees.
Here is a list of how intervals are spaced on the guitar:
How many frets away from start note on same string
Sounds like first two notes of:
2 frets
Happy birthday
3 frets
4 frets
O when the saints
5 frets
Here comes the bride
7 frets
Twinkle Twinkle little star
9 frets
My bonnie lies over the ocean
10 frets
Star wars theme
Maj 7
11 frets
Somewhere Over the rainbow
12 frets
Some-where Over the rainbow

Tuesday 14th November: Object writing challenge!

We have talked about this a bit already, but here is a bit more context for you: download and read this document which I have also copied below:
Massively improve your lyric writing

When you have read it, your first Object writing target is Airport.

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write for no more than this, even if you’ve got on a roll. The point of the activity is not that you are going to write material that you can turn into a song (although this might happen), it’s to get you into the habit of writing with the senses described at the forefront. As you do this regularly, your ability to quickly go into a mode of expression that is richer and more detailed will increase.

For now, don’t worry if you start on one topic and free associate into other recollections and topics. You can be fluid with this part of the process.

Developing Your Textual Awareness: 14 Day Challenge:
Any text that you read or hear can be analysed through a number of lenses. We are going to focus on two: plot, or information; and response, or emotion. In any story, the plot or information can be relayed in ways which makes us invested in finding out what happens next, or which make us care, or in ways which leave us more or less indifferent. A very dramatic plot can fall flat, and a very mundane plot can be captivating, depending on whether it is told in a way that connects emotionally.

When it comes to writing song lyrics, we swiftly come up against some problems that can be inhibiting to getting started:

1. How to treat a subject that has been treated a gazillion times before – which is to say, how to take a narrative or story or plot that is fundamentally unoriginal – and make it worth retelling, or fresh.

2. Connected to that, how to say something about ourselves or an experience that we had that in such a way that it is interesting to others. Why should anyone be interested in a thing that happens to me, like going through a break up, or facing some kind of struggle, that has also happened to almost everyone on the planet at some point? Why should my experience of it be relevant to them? It can feel cringe-inducing to start describing things that might make us feel simultaneously somewhat exposed but also at risk of being a sounding like a walking cliché.

Both of these can provide jumping off points for lengthy discussions, but for now it suffices to say that even if there are a potentially limited or finite number of emotional and plot arcs available to us, we have an infinite capacity to be told similar stories and enjoy them, and there are also an enormous number of variations in the ways those arcs can play out and how they can be embedded into stories and told.
​For point 2, people love to hear things described or told in a way we can relate to that rings true. It can be deeply cathartic to the point of activating and liberating someone of emotional pain to have something described in a way that accurately articulates and expresses their own experience of an emotion or experience. Hence the popularity of ’25 things you’ll only understand if you went to uni in the 90s’ or ’15 things all British people mean when they say something else’ or ’17 things all cat-owners will relate to’ and other similar things. We always become interested when someone tells us a story ostensibly about them, if it also says something to us about ourselves.

You can think of plots and text existing along a spectrum from very general, like ‘I made a mistake and the consequence was that I was lonely’ to very specific, where we learn exactly what the mistake was, how it arose, how it felt to make the mistake, who else was there, and exactly how the loneliness that arose afterwards felt. If something is too general, the result is that we lose the attention of the listener. Most people are not at risk of being too specific and don’t need to worry about that when they are learning to use the tools we will explore.

There are a lot of language tools that you can use to increase the intensity of the listener’s experience. Whilst there are plenty of mega-selling songs that have very average lyrics, it’s not hard to learn how to make more deliberate choices with language and create a more engaging piece of work as a result.

If there is a disconnect between the words you sing, or if you write for someone else to sing, the words they sing, and the emotion you mean to convey, however sincere and soul-baring your lyrics are, the audience won’t really buy into them. When the listener’s experience matches the intensity of the event, you’ll have their full attention.

Not all music and song has to be super attention-grabbing to work, but if you’re performing material live or creating a recording, there will be some point at which you want to create a certain kind of experience in your listener, (unless you have a specific intention to create background music).

‘In order to care, your audience has got to feel something. They’ve got to feel what it’s like to be you in that moment. Telling them to care won’t make them care. You’ve got to allow them to feel what you feel, to see what you see, to come to believe what you’ve come to believe.’ Another writer whose work on lyrics is legendary sums it up as ‘Show, don’t tell.’ So once you have your intention and your plot and the material you want to convey, learning more about HOW you do that transforms the impact your songs can have.

Developing your capacity to tap into your own unique perspective will allow you to write about anything in a way that captures your listener’s attention. There are a number of tools you can use to increase this capacity.

1. Tool 1 – Object writing.
‘Object writing is writing from your senses. Its whole purpose is to connect our writing to what you see, touch, taste, smell and hear; to the way your body responds – increased breathing, heart-rate, pulse, muscle-tension; and finally, to your sense of movement. It provides your songs with their pictures and experiences’

Writing that derives from and connects to your senses is a foundational part of creating text that is vividly expressive and conveys a lot of meaning in a small amount of time. The process by which you develop a richer seam of writing that accomplishes this is simple and anyone can do it. It’s just habit – it’s object writing.

Your object writing experiments will sometimes concern objects and sometimes be directed at places, people or time instead. The most important part of this is to involve the sense of touch, taste, small, sight, sound and movement. If you struggle with this when you sit down at the time you have set aside to do this, imagine you are a camera lens zooming in to the pattern of the rubber on the car tyre, and then out to model and colour of the car, and then out further to where the car is travelling to and from, and what the road is like, and how many other cars there are. You’ll find that even if something seems uninspiring at first, it’s easy to find a lot of ways to describe it.