Friday, August 26, 2016

Makin' It Rhyme


1) Let's start by just reading. Take a look at Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, possibly the most famous poem of all time. A sonnet is traditionally three ABAB quatrains, followed by a couplet. (It's also supposed to be in iambic pentameter, meaning each line has five iambs, but that's a question of meter, not rhyme.) Try reading it out loud so you can really hear the rhymes!

2) Let's do some analysis. Here's an excerpt from Capital Punishment, by Big Pun. (There's some profanity in that song, so if that bothers you probably don't listen to it. There's none in the quoted excerpt, though.) How many examples of internal rhyme can you find?

I've seen child blossom to man,
some withered and turned to murderers
Led astray by the liars death glorifiers observin us
Watching us close, marketing host is here to purchase, purposely overtaxin the earnings

Nervous, burning down the churches

3) Write a poem! I'd recommend some kind of quatrain, but if you want to go longer that's great. Try to work in some internal rhymes too, if you can. And don't forget about your poetic meter! Writing poetry is really the best practice for writing lyrics. It takes all the same skills, but it lets you focus more on them 'cause you don't have to worry about the underlying music.

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wrapping Things Up: How To End A Song


1) Let's talk color chords! We mentioned some common color chords in the video, but really any chord can be a color chord if it makes a cool sound. What are some other options? The progression we were using was D-A-Bmi-G, a pretty common, basic harmony. Play around with it, see if you can come up with more chords that sound good after that. If you can't play it, just think about it: What sorts of things would make sense?

2) Listening time! We talked about a lot of different endings in this video. Now, see if you can find examples in the music you listen to! You can look for color chords, Vegas endings, rhythmic figures, even Picardy Thirds if you want, although you probably won't find those... See what you can find!

3) While we're at it, let's talk lyrics and melody because we kind of brushed over those in the video. Listen to the ends of songs you like (with vocals) and see what they're doing with those. What trends do you notice? What different categories can you group them into? And, while you're thinking about them anyway, why do you think those techniques work?

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, August 12, 2016

32 Bars Unplanned: The Form Of The Great American Songbook


This time we're gonna do things a little differently! This is gonna be all listening exercises. Check them out and try to follow the forms. Not all of them are going to be AABA! You can start by listening to the lyrics: Those'll usually give you a good indication of where the sections are. After that, try following the melodies and, if you can, the harmony. You can even look up charts for them, although be careful, the chords and melodies in any given performance are going to vary from the "official" ones, often quite a bit! Also, check out the intros and outros for these versions: We talked a lot about the form itself, but how you get into and out of it is really important too!

1) Love Me Or Leave Me, performed by Sammy Davis Jr.

2) Old Country, performed by Dianne Reeves

3) Benny's From Heaven, performed by Eddie Jefferson

4) A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Black Orpheus), performed by Frank Sinatra

5) Lullaby of Birdland, performed by Sarah Vaughan

And that's it! We'll see you next week!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Too Many Tempos!

Hi! Let's talk tempo!

1) Let's try finding examples of these in the music you listen to! Ritardandos will probably be the easiest to find, since they're a pretty common way to end songs. Beyond that, try to think of songs you know that might have double time or half time switches in them, then listen to it and count along to see if it really is. If not, is it a different sort of metric modulation? See what you can find!

2) Now let's try playing metric modulations. You can do this on an instrument, or just tap a table. Find a comfortable tempo, then start tapping along. Once you're feeling it, try switching to double time. After that, try half time. Once you've got those down, maybe even try more advance modulations, like the triplet. It'll be tricky, but there's really no substitute for actually trying these things hands-on!

3) Let's get philosophical for a second. One thing I left out of the video was the observation that our perception of double time works kind of like our perception of the octave. Exactly doubling the pace seems to create a sort of equivalence, where we hear them as almost the same thing. Why do you think that is? Is that similarity even noteworthy? I'm not really sure, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!

And that's it! We'll see you next week!

Friday, July 29, 2016

How To Write A Song Without Playing A Single Note

Total Serialism, huh? That's certainly interesting. Let's dive in!

1) Let's start where serialism always starts: The row. Try writing a tone row, then try converting it into numbers. Once you're there, try making it into a rhythmic row, a dynamic row, or whatever else. Maybe even try putting it all together, see what your row sounds like when you serialize the heck out of it!

2) With that done, let's serialize more! What are some other aspects of music that you could make rows out of? How would you divide them up? On the other end of things, what are some ways to loosen the rules so that you can maintain some artistic control? Get creative!

3) Finally, let's have a discussion question. What do you think of total serialism. It's incredibly alien compared to normal music, but does it appeal to you? Could you see yourself using it? Or does it just seem crazy?

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chords Without Thirds: A Whole New Harmonic World

Hey, thanks for checking out the exercises! This week we talked about chords built without thirds, or so-called Non-Tertian Harmony. Let's dive in!

1) One feature of standard harmony is that we have a name for pretty much every collection of notes already, so non-tertian harmony doesn't actually add anything new, just new ways to construct and interpret. So let's start by reinterpreting them back: Make some chords out of non-third intervals, then see if you can figure out what we'd call those chords in regular harmony. (If you value your sanity, though, you probably shouldn't try it with tone clusters...)

2) We mentioned that there are some good arguments for why we use thirds, but we kind of glossed over what those were, didn't we? Well, gloss no more! Why do you think we settled on thirds as our fundamental interval? How would you describe thirds, and which of those properties do you think make it such a good choice to build a harmonic system on top of?

3) And finally, the discussion question! What do you think of these? Which did you like the sounds of? Which could you see yourself working with? Or do they all just seem pointless to you? No wrong answers!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Don't All Instruments Sound The Same?

This week we got to talk about the harmonic series, or at least we got to start. There's plenty more to say about it, so let's dive in! As always, answers can go in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Let's start by just building the harmonic series again. Pick a starting note (Besides Bb!) and try to figure out the first couple octaves worth of harmonics for that note. Try not to just transpose the notes: Instead, look at the intervals we made with our various ratios and work it out that way.

2) As we mentioned, it's no coincidence that the ratios 2:1, 3:2, and 4:3 are three of the most consonant intervals in modern music. But let's take a look at other intervals that appear in the series. For instance, 5:3 is a major sixth, 5:4 is a major third, 6:5 is a minor third, and 7:5 is a tritone. What do you think that means? Look at the list again: What other intervals occur fairly low in the series?

3) While overtones are certainly an important part of why instruments sound different, they're not the only one. Can you think of others?

And that's that! See you next week!