Friday, June 24, 2016

Polychords: Double Crossed

Polychords! Two chords for the price of one! Why not? Let's dive in!

As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Take a look at each of the following polychords. Try to figure out how they overlap, looking especially for common tones and notes a half step apart. Try to guess how they sound. Do you think they'll sound pretty? Harsh? Take a guess, then listen to these recordings and see if you were right!

       F                    Eb                    A                     B
a)  ----            b)    ----           c)    ----           d)    ----
    F#mi                 D                   Ao7                 Emi

2) Now it's time to try some of your own! Pick two chords that you think might sound good together and give them a try! Did they work? Ok, now try two that you think will sound awful together and try those. How did they turn out? If you don't have access to a piano or music software, just post your polychords and I'll try to get you a sample audio!

3) Discussion time! What do you think of split chords? Do you think they should count as polychords? Do you think polychords even make sense at all when we can always describe them in other ways? Why or why not? Try not to let my views bias yours here: Music theory is a consensus-based field, so there's plenty of room for disagreement!

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding The Motif

Motifs! Little, recognizable chunks of music that add cohesion to compositions. Seems simple enough, let's dive in!

As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) I don't think there's ever been a topic that more called for a listening exercise. Listen to some of your favorite songs and try to identify motifs. Look for the different types: How many can you find? Remember that many motifs are multiple types at once!

2) Now that you've found them, why not try to write your own? try writing a melody that utilizes a motif. It doesn't have to be long: Four bars or so should be just fine. Or if you want to do more, that's great too! Longer pieces give you room for longer motifs as well: They don't all have to be 3-4 notes!

3) Let's look at leitmotifs. In addition to being catchy, they also have to capture their character's personality and presence in just a short musical idea. The Jaws theme is a great example of this. Why do you think it works so well? What is it about the theme that screams "Shark!"? Can you think of other leitmotifs? What is it about those, musically speaking, that makes them fit so well with their characters? Dig deep!

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Twelve Bar Blues Clues

This week we covered one of popular music's oldest and most prolific traditions, the 12-bar blues! Let's try some exercises! As always, you can put your answer in the comments below or on the main video.

1) First let's make sure you understand the idea. Try writing out the 12-bar pattern in, say, the key of E. First do the basic form, then try out the variations we covered. Try it with the turnaround, with a quick change, and try out the chord substitutions we discussed. Then why not try adding your own chord substitutions? Who says you have to stick with the ones I mentioned? Try to play them if you can, but if you can't then send me a transcription and I'll try to make you a demo of it.

2) Try to find some examples of 12-bar blues in songs you've listened to. See if you can find them with and without turnarounds, examples of quatrain form and quick-change blues, and other variations. And don't limit your search to blues songs: The 12-bar blues pattern has been adopted by rock, jazz, R&B, and pop musicians too!

3) Improvising is a big part of the 12-bar tradition, so let's give that a shot. There's lots of backing tracks out there for twelve-bar blues in various keys. Here's one with a quickchange and a turnaround, but feel free to find another if you don't like the way it sounds. Anyway, listen to it for a bit, then try singing or playing some lines over it. If you want to get really inventive, maybe even try making up some lyrics!

And that's that! See you next week!

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Many Modes Of Melodic Minor (And Harmonic Too)

This week we took a look at a bunch of variant scales. There's a lot to process, so let's dive in!

1) To start, let's make sure you have the scale forms down! Give me the notes in each of the following scales:

  • C lydian #2
  • B dorian #4
  • A locrian natural 2
  • D lydian augmented
  • F# altered diminished
  • A# locrian natural 6
2) Let's talk about the scales we heard today. Were there any that stood out to you? Any you thought sounded particularly interesting? Could you see yourself writing with any of these? I think I gave away which one was my favorite, but what's yours?

3) Some of the scales from this video were ones we'd seen before, but there's still plenty more scales out there! Can you think of any scales we've covered that didn't appear here? Try to find some of their modes! See what happens! Try to play it if you can, hearing scales really helps.

And that's it! As always you can put your answers in the comments or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!