Sunday, March 10, 2013

Slur Vs Tie

Slur Vs. Tie

Just like the previous post about dotted half notes and staccato accents, many people can get confused between the slur and the tie.

Can you guess which line below the note is a slur and which one is a tie?

Well it's fairly simple to tell between the two once you understand one simple rule. A tie is always connected to the exact same note and it means you add those note values together to make one gigantic  note. So if you see above, the two A's on the right hand side are connected, one is an eighth note and the other is a quarter note. Now when you play the notes together, it actually equals 1 1/2 beats and you do not lift your hand when you play it. 

A slur is an accent in which you "slur" the notes together. So if you look at the c and e on the left, you blend those notes together but at the same time you play them separately. In other words, the opposite of a staccato accent. 

Now you may ask, what happens when it's a slur and the two notes are the same? Well my friend I will tell you what you do in that kind of situation. The slur will always be slightly slanted at an angle and slightly further away from the notes. The tie will almost be touching the notes and it's usually fairly obvious when you are in a tie type situation. 

The main reason why a tie was created was because when you write sheet music, you need to fit a certain amount of values within a measure, just like how there is four beats in four measures. The problem, what if you need to continue that note to a new measure?

That's It! 

I hope you enjoyed this post and put it to good use. Now get out there and make some music! 

Dotted Notes Vs Staccato Accent

Dotted Notes Vs Staccato Accent

Whenever you see a dot next to a note, it will either be a dotted note or a staccato accent. The problem is, the only way to tell the difference between the two is to look at where the dot is located. 

Dotted Half Note

When there is a dot next to a half note, it then gives that note a value of three beats.

Dotted Quarter Note

When there is a dot next to a quarter note, this note will then have a value of one and a half beats. If you ever get confused on which dotted note gets what value, always take the original value of the note, divided it by two, and then add that value to the original note.(and people say music doesn't improve math and problem solving)

Staccato Accent

Okay now this is a staccato accent. As you can see, the dot is located either above or bellow the note. This does not change the value of the note, well actually it kinda does. When you come across a note that looks like this, you abruptly tap the note. You may hear this when Tom, from Tom and Jerry, is tip toeing away from its adversary Jerry the cat. 

It may seem simple enough, but many music theory related accents and values can be easily 
mismatched, especially when you are not expecting them to be there. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Developing a Song's Interest


                Have you ever written a song, thought it was the best song ever, recorded it, and then when you showed it to your listener, towards the end they appeared to be really bored? Well, this may be because you didn't develop the "Interest" throughout the song.

                Okay so how do I make it interesting? Different types of added interest may include: providing a specific cadence to your strumming patterns on a stringed instrument, changing the chord structure from a boring triad to a broken chord, changing the dynamics from loud to soft in certain parts of the song, randomly adding or taking away an instrument(if you're in a band), change the chord progression as a whole, throw in a random solo, slightly change the lyrics of the hook, have your engineer add a filter sweep, have an instrument follow the melody of the vocals, throw in a entirely new feel during the bridge (Tighten Up by The Black Keys), do something creative with your vocals, add in a different effect on your instrument, and pretty much any other creative idea you can come up with.

                The goal is consistently change up the song every four to eight bars. Because we live in a world where many people have pretty short attention spans, guilty, we need to do this to keep them in "the zone."

               Other reasons that people may not like your song may be as followed: you are off key to the point that it's unappealing, the timbre of some instruments are to much or not enough, the mood is confusing, and finally if the song is missing the ever so essential "Groove".

               Please tune in next week to see exactly what the "Groove" is and how you can improve your "Groove" .....................

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Memorizing the Circle of Fifths on the Piano

       Hello everyone, today I want to talk to you about the Circle of Fifths and the Piano. Now any songwriter or producer will want to know how to play beginning to intermediate piano. Also it's important to know how each key signature works and to come up with a system to memorize each key. This will also work for any kind of MIDI instrument. Even if you are an engineer, you will need to know this because you will need to know the key, tempo, and structure of any song you produce.

(Now this exercise will only be successful if you have some prior knowledge with reading sheet music. Please let me know if you have want me to send you some information)

       You can see the circle of fifths and at the very top is the C. So I would start with C,D,E,F,G,A, and B in that order on the piano. Then I would add C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab, and A#/Bb to the mix, which would complete the circle. 

       It's the best to start with C because, of course, it's by far the easiest major key signature. So whatever key that you're in, you will want to start with that note on the piano and end with that note. This will be one of the 7 octaves on the piano and it will be best if you have have one in front of you.

        Hit the C and work your way up the keyboard D,E,F,G,A,B then go back down. Go back to the Circle of Fifths chart as a reference to see what notes are in that key. 

        Now go to D. Hit D,E, F#,G,A,B,C#,D then go back down

        Now go to E. Hit E F#,G#,A,B,C#,D#, and E then go back down

        Now go to F and so on....................

If you practice this once every few days a week, you will memorize all of the key signatures within a small amount of time. 

Now if you are an engineer or songwriter you can hum the tonic, which is the 1st note in each key, and be able to more successfully write your music. 

No matter what environment you are in, I would always have a least a small midi controller and this exercise in your head.  


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Choosing the Right Workstation for Songwriting (if you read this, it will save you years worth of headaches) 

         Now even though this article is more about being a producer, almost every modern songwriter will want to mess around with a Digital Audio Workstation, have to choose what kind of instruments they want to purchase, or need to know what kind of timbre each instrument provides. 

         If you are reading this and are asking yourself, "what on earth is timbre?" Then I'll give you a brief definition. Timbre is the character or quality of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity. In short, timbre is the tonal quality of an instrument. The sweet legato sound of a flute in comparison to an abrupt sound of a bass drum is a dramatic difference in timbre. They both can play the same "notes", but they have a much different timbre.

         A Digital Audio Workstation is a software program like Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Reason, Ableton Live, or many other ones not mentioned. These programs either record audio to your computer, record pre made midi instruments from within the program, or do both. Timbre and Digital Audio Workstations go hand-in-hand as well. 

         The interesting part of Digital Audio Workstations, or "DAWs" for short, is that each one plays an important roll when it comes down to how experienced you are, what kind of sound you want, and how good is your equipment? Each DAW has their own individual pianos, individual drums, individual features, individual timbres, individual required CPU power, different embedded instruments, and different kinds of required hardware.

I think it's very important to go through each one and decide which one is the right for you.  

Reason: If you are a beginner that wants something affordable and you only want to make music that is strictly made from instruments that are off your computer, Reason is the way to go. It only takes up a very small amount of CPU power, isn't too hard to use, and has decent sounding instruments. Now these instruments will be somewhat cheesy in comparison to your other workstations, even though all stock sounds are usually cheesy, and you cannot record any audio. This is however great to use when you want to put down ideas and your computer isn't top notch. 

Logic Pro: Now if you are an intermediate songwriter, I would say to use Apple's Logic Pro. The sounds are slightly less cheesy than Reason, you can record decent audio with a decent interface, everything is mostly pre-mastered, laying down your midi instruments are simple, the actual program is super user friendly, and your computer will more than likely be able to handle it. Logic has made it clear that they want the average person to be able to pick up most of this program in a short amount of time. Another great benefit is that you can buy other outsourced plugins or sounds that will be useable within the program, these will be the least cheesy sounding midi interments you will find on the market.

Pro Tools: The last pick between the three is Pro Tools. Pro Tools will be the absolute best sounding DAW for recording audio, will have the least cheesy sounding instruments (debatable), like Logic Pro you can buy the best outsourced plugins and sound libraries, Reason can be used within the program, and it's usually the general top pick for most professional studios. 

The problem is that it isn't cheap, your computer better be fast or else it will not handle most sessions, and it is not user friendly by any means. 

Before You Start Messing With DAWs 

You need to ask yourself, "which DAW fits me?" Now if you plan to get your music on the radio, I would say you need at least Logic Pro and highly recommend Pro Tools. If you just want to jot down some ideas and let an engineer handle the rest, I would say Reason or Logic. 

Most importantly, If you look back at each one, I will guarantee that if you wrote the same song on each DAW, all three songs will sound completely different. 

Reason will sound very cheesy, Logic will sound slightly cheesy but will be pretty much premastered(will sound better with outsourced plugins), and Pro Tools will sound by far the best (will sound extremely well with outsourced plugins).

Some of these "outsourced plugins" include, Native Instruments Komplete, Waves Bundle, Sonnox Plugins (Dubstep and Hip-Hop Sampla), Alicia Keys Piano for Kontakt, and a million more. 

By Far The Best Sound

BY FAR, if you are a DIY songwriter like myself, you will want the following; Pro Tools 10, a high quality interface, a fast computer (at least 8GB RAM and QuadCore Processor), all of the plugins mentioned above, a decent microphone, an acoustic and electric guitar that costs more than 200 dollars, a decent bass guitar, a gobo, a decent midi controller, monitor headphones, a place where you can be somewhat loud, and monitor speakers. 

If you have all of this and you learn how to use it correctly, you will not need an engineer and you will be able to make radio quality materiel.

If you want an easy cheap way to jot down ideas for later use in a professional studio, you will want either Reason or Logic Pro, a decent computer, a decent microphone, an okay interface, an okay midi controller, and some monitor headphones. 

So there you go, I just saved you a big headache, a couple years worth of experimenting, and a direction to start jotting your song ideas down in the right modernized way.    


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rhyming Schemes

Rhyming Schemes 

 No matter what anyone says, I believe that having a rhyming scheme is essential to making your song popular. Yes many will say,"I'm going off the grid and will go with whatever my heart says". This is a very good idea and you should do this, but if you don't have some kind of pattern to your lyrics, your listener WILL NOT CONNECT TO IT! 

I guarantee this...... Lyrics help carry the rhythm by creating that kind of foundation we expect from, lets say the kick drum. In a combination of bouncing guitars, a hard structural rhythmic foundation (solid snare, kick, hi-hat, bass), melodic lead, a little zest added here and there to add interest, and a catchy rhyming scheme, you will always have a pretty darn good song. The crazy part is, the lyrics dont really have to make sense, as long as they rhyme. 

For example. This is a Sesame Street Song called " A Song Without A Reason, A Song Without a Rhyme"

This is a song without a reason a song without a rhyme
A song you sing because you feel like singing do do do do
Well you don't need rhyme or reason to sing a happy song
Do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do

This is a song without a reason a song without a rhyme
A song that you can sing or hum or whistle do do do do
Well you don't need rhyme or reason to sing a happy song
Do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do

You can sing it high or low
You can sing it fast or slow
It doesn't matter . . . .
Do do do do do do do do do do

This is a song without a reason a song without a rhyme
A song that doesn't even have an ending do do do do
La la la la la la la (etc.)

As you can see, the title of the song itself has some kind of catchiness but when you read the rest of it, your mind kinda wonders off and your connection to the poem is taken off track to the point where you get bored. 

Ironically, the song is about not rhyming but in the middle they had to add something that rhymed because the listener would've gotten turned off.   

You can sing it high or low
You can sing it fast or slow

Now look at this song, a musician that is considered to be one of the best lyricists of all time.  Look at his rhyming scheme........

                                     "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but know you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?
You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you'd better take your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

Do you see what I mean now? I guarantee that your song, no matter how good it is, will go straight down the drain if you don't have a rhyming scheme and your listener will be disconnected.