- Song Analysis:
- How to represent the structure of a song using roman numeral chord analysis
- Understanding the basic structures of songs (eg: Verse, Chorus, Bridge)
- Song Writing:
- Techniques for writing catchy music
- Writing Lyrics
- Making sure the song does what it is meant to (eg: background music for film versus pitching a song to a heavy metal band versus pitching a song to an R&B diva)
- Creativity ideas
- Arranging and Recording Songs:
- Making use of the resources you have available
- Building a team
- What to consider when arranging a song (eg: how difficult is it to play, are you being realistic, who is going to perform the song)
- Production values and what is required for different situations (eg: demos for song pitching, finished versions for pitching to film and television)
- The Music Business:
- Royalties and Performing Rights
- Songwriting Agreements
- Booking gigs
- The role of record labels today
- Agents, Managers, Lawyers and Accountants and what they do
- Developing Yourself as an Artist:
- Image and presentation
- Social Media and Building an Audience
- Marketing yourself versus using professionals
- How to practice
- Performance techniques and ideas
- Building connections in the industry and music submission opportunities for film/television/other artists
Professional Organisation to Join:
http://apraamcos.com.au/ (Australasian Performing Rights Association)
www.robinfrederick.com (Robin Frederick, Berklee College of Music)
How the Roman Numeral System Works – Music Theory (Michael New)
Basic Music Theory I – The Major Scale and how it makes chords (Eric Haugen):
Basic Music Theory II – Thinking of Chords as Roman Numerals (Eric Haugen)
A cadence is simply a way of describing the relationship between adjacent chords. There are a number of different types of cadences, the most common are listed below:
Cadences that sound “finished” or “completed”:
Perfect cadence: V to I (often V7 to I) (in minor keys: V to i v to i V7 to i v7 to i)
Plagal cadence: IV to I (in minor keys iv to i)
Cadences that sound “unfinished” or “incomplete”:
These are “weak” cadences that makes the music feel like it needs to continue.
Imperfect Cadence (aka Half cadence): any cadence ending on V.
Plagal half-cadence: I–IV progression.
Interrupted cadence: V to vi.
(Well set out, easy read)
(A bit overly detailed)
(Online tutorial with worked examples)
Strong and Weak Beats/Metre of Lyrics:
https://www.thoughtco.com/beats-and-meter-2456427 (Simple explanation of strong beats in the bar)
https://www.musesongwriters.com/forums/index.php?/topic/55743-does-meter-matter/ (Easy to read discussion of finding the metre in lyrics)
There is no set formula for writing something “catchy”, but here are a few approaches you might like to try:
4 Steps to Writing a Hit Chorus: http://www.songmd.com/col_hitchorus.shtml
3 Great Hook Types and How to Write Them: http://www.secretsofsongwriting.com/2012/04/05/3-great-song-hook-types-and-how-to-write-them/
How to Write A Catchy Chorus and Create Epic Songs: https://www.musicindustryhowto.com/how-to-write-a-catchy-chorus-create-epic-songs/
Improve Your Lyrics With This Easy Exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBatKQhvl_A
Class Notes for 16/05/2017
Given that songs you write can (potentially) generate money, it is important that you consider setting out in writing who owns those songs and how they may be used. It is worth seeing a practicing lawyer to discuss your legal rights and obligations, but if you cannot/have not done so, you can still set out what you agree to in your own words. If you’re in a band, the songwriters agreement might be covered in your band agreement.
Here are a few things of which to be mindful when writing lyrics:
- Who is going to be singing the song? You may be the intended singer, but if the song is to be pitched to another artist or another band member is the singer, consider that person’s abilities and image. Are the lyrics suitable for that person? Do they lyrics suit their public image (and also consider your image as a songwriter as you’ll want your name associated with your song)? Is the singer going to be capable of pronouncing/enunciating the lyrics? Is the range of the melody appropriate?
- Do the lyrics fit the music? Last week we discussed “metre” (the rhythm of the lyrics and where the accents fall). As a songwriter, even if you’re only contributing lyrics, consider the melody and the overall sound of the musical components of the song. For example, you might not wish to use words like “high” or “flying” or “up” when the melody is travelling downwards in pitch (although you may want to do this for artistic purposes, of course!) Likewise, you may or may not want happy lyrics being sung over a “sad” or “sombre” set of chords. If you are not going to be the singer, consider when the singer is going to be able to breathe!
- Think about “form”: Most popular songs usually have a verse and a chorus, but there are notable exceptions. Think about the rhyming scheme you want to use and remember that sung words can sometimes sound different to spoken words. Consider putting the “catchy” words in the chorus section. If you can’t find an exact rhyme for words, try using repeated words (ie: end each line with the same word), half rhymes, sibilance or alliteration to add structure to the song.
Class Notes for 23/05/2017
Writing “Catchy” Songs:
Songs that are successful usually tend to “stick around” in a listener’s head. A songwriter is basically trying to create an “earworm” (from the German, “Ohrwürmer”) when writing a song for popular consumption. Lyrics, melody, riffs and chord patterns all contribute to making a song “catchy”. Here are a few (by no means prescriptive or exhaustive) things that you can try to make your song more “catchy”.
- Repetition of patterns is something which makes humans comfortable and it also makes a song easier to remember. Patterns can appear in:
- lyrics (eg: repeating a phrase or word);
- the form of the song (eg: a chorus that repeats again and again);
- rhythms (eg: a repetitious metre in the lyrics, a repeated drum pattern or a rhythmic ostinato in the bass part); and
- melody and harmony (eg: a repeated chord pattern or series of notes in a melody).
- Melodies that use easily singable notes tend to be easier to remember. Choosing a fairly limited range and using intervals that are relatively small helps although octaves are fine. Try not to use intervals that are difficult to sing (such as sevenths).
- Note values can provide both unity and variation. Long notes with pitches close together tend to be more memorable, as do repeated rhythms as it prompts the listener to recall the lyrics.
Variation is important. Even the simplest sounding songs in the charts today have variation of some kind. Usually it is in the instrumentation (ie: which instruments are playing), but there are also chord substitutions and modulation. Variation can also help with placements in TV, commercials and film. Music supervisors usually do not want to have to remix songs for backing music, so if they can find a suitable song for a scene and can use sections of it to convey different feelings (eg: a quiet or stripped back section and a louder or busier section) they may be more likely to select your song.
Class Notes for 06/06/2017
Arranging a Song for Recording or Performance:
Once you’ve written a song, you need to consider how it is to be performed (either for a recording or live for an audience). Technological advances mean there are virtually no limits as to what can be achieved these days, although there are still budgetary limits. This can be a problem, in terms of knowing where to start and what to consider when coming up with a workable arrangement for your song. Here are a few ideas on the subject.
- Consider your audience/the purpose of the piece of music:
If you are hoping to pitch your song to a TV or film production, you may need a number of different textures and feelings throughout the recording. An interesting instrumental version can help get a song accepted for use by a TV or film production.
If you are trying to record a hit song, listen to the songs that are successful in the charts now, within the genre you’re working. Consider what sticks out about those songs: instrumentation, textures, the vocal delivery and the rhythms being used, etc.
If you are working towards live performance, consider the limitations of the venue, and how long it will take to set up. A bunch of computers or an enormous pedal board full of effects can often be a disaster, especially if you’re playing a short set alongside of a lot of other bands with limited time to set up). Pare it down to the essentials until you are a headline act that can afford a team of roadies and techs!
- What instruments can you or your band play? Will you hire someone to play other parts?
If you are a multi-instrumentalist with a great singing voice, you might not have to worry too much about this. For most of us there will be an instrument or two that we cannot play that we want to use in our recording. If you have someone play on the recording, be aware that you will need to agree to the terms of their doing so. Will they get a one off fee, do it for free (and agree to you keeping all profits), or will they get some form of royalty? If you are able to use a computer, MIDI can cover many of these issues, but good samples can be expensive (and you have to have the right to use the samples or risk being sued if your song is successful!)
- Limit your considerations to what brings out the best in the song.
An overly complicated arrangement in a recording can make a song difficult to reproduce live (if that’s what you intend to do with it). Likewise, if your recording contains sections that are beyond your capabilities, your live performance might be a bit disappointing for fans. If you are purely pitching a song for TV or film, or to another artist, prioritise what the music supervisor at the TV or film production, or the artist want from the recording. For example, pitching a song performed in an industrial metal song to a country artist or a TV show for toddlers would be pointless.
Here are a few tips for arranging, mainly looking towards “working in the studio”:
Class Notes for 27/06/2017
Songs that “write themselves”:
Hopefully the things that you have learned this term have equipped you with the basic tools for songwriting. Bringing together the foundational ideas we have covered so far, below are a few steps to make songwriting easier.
- Choose a key: The finished song does not have to be performed in that key, but sticking to a key will make it easier to push out a song.
- Know the names of the chords in the key you have chosen, and the notes in those chords: This is the palette with which you will paint your harmonic content. Major and minor chords feel different to one another and you will want to arrange them according to the feeling you want to evoke in the listener.
- Find a phrase, a few words…anything (even nonsense words) to start the process of lyric writing: You do not need to have a topic in mind (but it helps) when you start a song. You do not need to start at the beginning of a song either. As we discussed in previous classes, the rhythm of the lyrics will become the rhythm of your melody. Work out the accents and how you might naturally say the phrase.
- Choose a chord to start the section you are working on: look at the lyrics you have and consider the feeling you want to evoke. Simpler chords tend to work best to start with, and it is often the case that a simple chord structure will make a song more memorable.
- Choose a note to start the melody: It will either be a note in the chord or a note that is not in the chord. You can create “tension” by choosing a non chordal note and “release” by moving to a chordal note in your melody. Songs that are memorable and easy to sing tend to use chordal notes more often than not. (For example, the chorus of “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba has a very simple I – V structure and the melody exclusively uses chordal notes).
- Experiment with different choices: Once you have a starting note, see if the rest of your lyrics give you any clues as to where the melody should go. For example, if the words suggest going up high (words like “fly”, or “high”, etc) then chose a note that is higher for that word. Think about the intervals between each note in the melody – are they easy or difficult to sing. Usually, the closer together notes in a melody are the easier it is to sing (and normally a listener will find it easier to remember). If you can’t find a note to move to, try choosing the next chord and choose a note from the chord for your melody. Go back to our notes from earlier this term when we covered chord choices and cadences and this should help.
STUART ' CAT' CORK
Stuart is a guitarist with over 20 years’ experience. He was very fortunate to have been raised by parents and grandparents who were professional musicians as he was able to absorb a great deal of musical knowledge from them at quite a young age.
He started his formal musical studies at age 6, progressing through AMEB piano and theory to 7th grade. At 15 he switched his focus to the guitar.
He continued his music studies at Sydney University as part of his Bachelor of Arts degree. Over the years, Stuart has performed and recorded with a number of Sydney bands, and as a solo artist, in a variety of styles.
He’s recently released an album titled “Feet in the Dirt”, where a portion of proceeds have gone towards StreetSmart Charity.