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Melody: take the variation you like best and use that for a new starting point for another melody.
The more often you do this and the more melodies you do it with, the more you understand about the typical characteristics good melodies possess.
Once you have two melodies you like, and these are hopefully not the very first two that you came up with, it’s time to start harmonising them. Use the handout to start trying different harmonies. Harmonise and reharmonise.
– Don’t discard ideas that you think are average or a bit unexciting. Try them with different bass notes and chords progressions, imagine how they might sound on different instruments. Vary them more along the lines already discussed in previous post.
– Create at least two more variations based on the same melody. You can either further develop your first variation and make something new out of that, or you can return to the original melody and create a different variation using a different approach.
– Start a list of awesome melodies that you love. They can be from film, pop/rock, classical music. Ideally they will not be very long.
3 July MELODIES!
A photo of them is linked above.
Also! Check out the Rachmaninov/Rachmaninoff variations on a theme by Paganini.
There are quite a few, but start with variation 18. This sounds NOTHING like the original – but is very effective.
If you listen to others, consider what you think the variation technique he used might have been.
Writing to established song forms
Hopefully by now you have checked out the Davis personality scale and got your Myers Briggs letters.
Now use them to work out your cognitive style as outlined here
And see whether how it is described aligns with your own perception.
Melodies – Ways of writing hooks and motifs
1. On one single power chord, write at least two melodic motifs. You are allowed to use notes 1, 2, 4, 5, b7. You are not allowed to use 3 or 6 unless those are the very last notes of the second motif. Do you notice anything about how this sounds? What do you notice about the character? What do you notice about the mood of the first motif that has no 3? Make sure your motif has a combination of notes in series and notes not right next to each other ie bigger steps apart. Don’t start the first motif on beat 1.
2. Exotic notes. Now, on a power chord, you can use 1, 2, 3, 5, b6, b7. The b6 suggests minor, the major third is major, and the effect can be dramatic and pleasing. You’re still working over one chord, and you’re still creating two motifs. From your root note, work out where the respective intervals you’re going to be using are. You can either visualise from a scale perspective or a
3. Now, you are going to have two chords for two or four bars each depending how fast the tempo of your song is. Still working with power chords, over the first chord work with the 1 2 4 5 b7 set of notes. Over the second chord, use these notes plus 3 and 6. See it how it sounds to end on the six. The chords for this are going to be a I chord and a IV chord. As the function of the notes will change when you go to the IV chord, you’ll need to figure out where those notes are for each chord.
4. Now, you are are going to make a change of your choosing to the series of notes. Maybe you are going to go for another exotic sound with a b2, 3, 5, b6, b7.
Maybe you’re going to go harmonic minor – 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7. Whatever alteration you make, you’re going to start from an arpeggio this time and add the extra notes in around the framework of the arpeggio. Still work with power chords as this will give you flexibility as to major or minor directions. When you change the notes, see how it sounds to keep a similar motif as you had before, but now with these added notes in. Otherwise the change may seem too abrupt.
Feb 20 – Individual assignments
Feb 6-13 – Get back into 6 mins writing.
Considering the idea of connection in lyric writing – via powerhouse verbs, via detail about your situation, via inhabiting the voice of someone else.
Considering the speed of the narrative. More detail = slower plot action.
Less detail = faster plot action.
No detail = we don’t care about the plot action…
PEOPLE, PLACES, AND TIMES “Who” barmaid
BMW driver on his
husband and father
of four “When” just after midnight
while brushing your
pulling into your
just before falling
just waking up
driving to work in the
while waiting for test
just after a kiss
while putting on
while running the
running through the
just before a car crash “Where” coffee shop
inside a stolen car
a hotel room
alley in NYC
on the interstate
a wine cellar
a school gym
an office cubicle
on top of Mt. Everest
standing in front of
the last pew of a
the bottom of the
your living room with
the lights out
a fine art gallery
gazing through a
bakery window in
Stolpe, Andrea. Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps to Effective Storytelling (Kindle Locations 2526-2532). Berklee Press. Kindle Edition.
23 Jan Zoe – note down chord structure for variations on common chords-based song, try out some alternative sections.
Gowyn – New song based on the characteristics of Kong
Liou – Decide on end section for composition, consider how to reinforce or bring out rhythmic qualities of composition.
The assignment for week following 16 Jan was:
Liou – create a number of different possible transitions for existing composition
Gowyn – start some new ideas
Zoe – Review other chords progressions that have changed key
Everyone – bring in a suggestion of navigating from Am F Am Dm to
Ebm Bbm Db Ab Gb. (i.e. key of Db).
The assignment for week following 9 Jan was to post further iterations of your individual tasks – Liou – motifs progressing through the order of brightness – Zoe, rhythms, Gowyn, synth loops using order of brightness?
So – this week, you’re going to come up with something new to bring for review next week.
you’re on the right track here, but try to head your topic page whether on here or on a piece of paper, with the sight-sense-smell-touch-etc headings so that you are writing from each of them. This adds an important extra dimension to the free association.
The mission this week is to come back with some composed material for review next Tuesday
Tuesday 28th November: Strong and fragile chord pairs/progressions.
Assignment: Go back through any chord progressions you have written that you like, or songs you particularly love, and analyse the chord movements in terms of strong/fragile chord pairs. Strong progressions are those in which the key is quite clear. Fragile progressions are more ambiguous. Sometimes we want clarity, other times we might want ambiguity.
Write some chord progressions from the perspective of seeking balance between strong and fragile movement. Experiment with some longer sequences that incorporate roots moving in fifths and fourths. You can either stay in key or travel out of a key a bit to do this.
The Cycle of fifths: Strong and Fragile Chord Progressions
So. As there are 12 notes in the Western system, there are 12 places you could start major scale from, and 12 places you could start a series of chords from. 12 keys, in fact. Some, like C# major and Cb, are rarely used.
Some of these keys are quite closely related to one another. The keys of G and C, for example, share four chords. So do the keys of F and C, and the keys of G and D.
G is the adjacent key to C on the cycle of fifths diagram, and D is adjacent to G.
The cycle of fifths works like this: if you go up a fifth ( five notes) from C, the note you get to is G. G has one sharp in its major scale. If you go up a fifth from G, you get D. D has two sharps in its major scale. If you go up a fifth from D, you get A. A has three sharps in its major scale.
The major scale (and therefore the key) that is closest to C isn’t D – it’s the scale that starts a fifth up. So the point of the cycle of fifths is to tell us how close or distant keys are from one another. To identify the closest key from the one you’re in, you need to go up a fifth.
You’ll have noticed the keys which are adjacent on the cycle of fifths share four out of six chords. Keys that are one key apart (eg C and D, which are separated by G) have two chords in common. You can use this knowledge and these common chords to great effect if you want to suggest a move, or actually make a move, into a new key. Doing so can provide a nice lift or dynamic in the chord progression in a song. If you randomly change to a faraway key, it can interrupt the ow-there’s a ne line between maintaining or creating interest, and disrupting the ow of a piece of music.
If you go anti-clockwise, you add a flat in each time. The key of F is as closely related to C as the key of G and also contains four common chords – F, C, Am and Dm.
Where this gets even more interesting is that when you think in fifths or fourths, you can increase the strength or the fragility of your chord progressions. When we use the term strong or fragile in this context, it’s in reference to the effect of certain chord movements. Strong movements tend to sound very clear and to set up or to meet an expectation. Fragile movements are more ambiguous. The downside of strong movements is that they can be predictable, and this might not be what you want. On the other hand, they are satisfying because of the way they set you up to expect something and then meet that expectation. They tend to make it clear what key you’re in, ie what the tonic or I chord is. It sets up expectation.
Fragile chord progressions can meander and lose their way if they continue for too long-but they can be atmospheric and suggestive. Neither is good or poor as a rule, they just have different properties, which you can use to create the momentum or the space you want in your harmonic movements. You may want a balance of both.
The strongest chord movements are those in which the root notes of the chord are a fourth or a fifth away from one another. This is where the cycle of fifths/fourths can come in very useful. Even if you’re choosing chords from one key, having root notes that are a forth or fifth apart will create strong movement.
Try this progression: C Em Am Dm G C
Compare it with this one:
C Bdim Em Dm F Bdim G Em Dm Am
What do you notice? The second one may sound a bit confused in comparison.