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advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
#1775780 10/23/11 03:39 PM
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as in ME.
my current piano teacher tells me she doesn't do much of it, just plays and maybe changes an ending, etc.

So anybody have any tips for a 46 yr old, NON professional, interested in pop, rock and synths?

Books? Find a new teacher? Just keep playing pop and pay attention to chord progressions?

I know the basics of chord construction and have found this cool site that lists off the more "consonant" progressions.
http://musictoolsforpeople.com/Music_Tools/The_Big_Map.html

Do I just keep blindly feeling my way through?
Or is there an obvious route I should be on?

thanks for any ideas smile


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Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1776029 10/24/11 02:09 AM
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Hi Stephen

Composition is divided into many genres. To write in a particular genre you must be able to feel the essence of that genre and translate those feeling into sounds.

So what you have to do is to just get some pop, rock, pop rock music that you like, listen to it, read the sheet music and memorize it....yeah memorize it..

Memorizing will help you retain those feelings better. Start with a simple song, understand that the phrase in pop music is usually divided into 4 bars etc and understand the structure etc<---this is very important...

Don't read books aye....I never read books...it's like reading how to swim but swimming can never be taught unless you actually practice in water,...so just keep practicing best of luck !



Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1776171 10/24/11 09:50 AM
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By the time the notes,rhythms and feel are down, I've always got it memorized.

I was just kind of hoping there was a standardized process for coming up with the basics of a song.
As a computer programmer, it's kind of frustrating when people tell me "how do I write a song? Oh, I just feel it".

For example, I'm pretty sure I've read SOMEwhere round here that you can start with chords, then add melody or start with melody, then add chords...
But which way do you end up going MOST often?

I think my next stab at this will be trying out a new teacher.
(And the usual, keep listening biz)


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Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1776235 10/24/11 11:47 AM
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Well, there are a couple of stand progressions that make up a pop song
Most basic ones are just I vi iv V, or just go step wise downwards for each bar and put a melody in to match the progression, or there's the I iii IV V or I V IV V, etc....a couple more but these are the most basic ones, ..

it's true that pop music an be created from standard progressions, but don't think too much about it cuz then the music will lose it's flow,


Well the way I write is a bit strange, but I'd advice you to think both at the same time, cuz harmony can guide the direction of the melody so best to think both at same time


Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1778753 10/28/11 11:26 AM
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I remember an interview with Neil Sedaka where he said he tries to get in at least one unexpected modulation in his songs. I wish all songwriters would take his advice.


Scott
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
ScottM #1778853 10/28/11 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Hazel
... I'm pretty sure I've read SOMEwhere round here that you can start with chords, then add melody or start with melody, then add chords...
But which way do you end up going MOST often?

I think my next stab at this will be trying out a new teacher.
(And the usual, keep listening biz)


I was having this conversation with my son last night. We were cruising in the truck listening to a Beatles tune. He said "they really wrote some great music huh? How come?

At the rist of being self congratulating, I think I had a great answer. I told him "Their songs, and all great songs are great melodies. Chord changes are just support." Then (and my one moment of genius comes here) I said "Can you walk down the street whistling chord changes? no. Melodies are what you whistle."

He laughed and I knew I had struck a chord (punnnn)

Seriously, start with the melody. Chord changes come later. Step away from the piano, get on your bike and begin to sing.


Originally Posted by ScottM
I remember an interview with Neil Sedaka where he said he tries to get in at least one unexpected modulation in his songs. I wish all songwriters would take his advice.


Why?


David Sprunger - Learn to play piano by ear using the revolutionary technique of "Rhythmic Patterns". Piano Lessons Homepage here - includes library of piano lessons for beginners through advanced piano and keyboard players.
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
David Sprunger #1779209 10/29/11 01:35 AM
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thumb
Great reply!


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1779322 10/29/11 10:21 AM
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Yes thank you.

"whistle-able" is a quality of all the pop songs I like.
And I've heard in the past that melody is most important.

I also notice that as I'm whistlin' songs, the good songs
all seem to have alternate melodies that seem to easily
come to me. They don't really change the melody MUCH,
but are different notes, of the chord I think.


http://PianoCheetah.app - my weird piano practice program
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1779378 10/29/11 12:33 PM
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Steve

A pop song has 3 crucial ingredients, melody (and words), hook and chorus. The hook can be part of the melody or chorus or something completely separate. For example (and here I give away my age) the Rolling Stones did a song called "I can't get no Satisfaction." It's hook is the guitar part that starts it. If you can write a song where each of these three ingredients is unforgettable it'll be a hit. Whistlable melodies are a great start, but only that, a start. Good luck!


Steve Chandler
composer/amateur pianist

stevechandler-music.com
http://www.soundcloud.com/pantonality
http://www.youtube.com/pantonality
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1779382 10/29/11 12:44 PM
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So in that song, the hook is sort of an additional line to the melody, eh?
That compliments melody as it goes along.
I think what really makes that song is the lyrics smile

It also seems like pop songs rely a lot on
parts transitioning in and out quite a bit.


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Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1779987 10/30/11 02:39 PM
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Lyrics? I think lyrics are what kills a song. There's so much awful, awful lyric writing out there (say 90%) it's obvious that the average listener has very low standards in that department. Even when I was young more than half the time I had NO idea what the words to songs were because the music was too loud or the diction terrible, or both. I still get the occasional surprise when I learn that a song I've "known" for decades was about such and such.

I'm a classical composer, but from my perspective the order of importance is 1. hook 2. melody 3 lyrics. In the case where there is no hook (for lack of a better term) then the song's interest derives mostly from either the melody or an interesting rhythmic or harmonic element.

If lyrics made the song we'd all still be listening to ballads. Some songs where I feel everything came together include "One Less" and some others by the 5th dimension (yeah, I know those are ancient songs).


Scott
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1780010 10/30/11 03:42 PM
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Well, I meant specifically for the song Satisfaction, that
the lyrics make it.
What teenage boy can't relate to THAT song? laugh
If a pop song HAPPENS to have good simple emotive lyrics,
it'll be permanently lodged in your brain.
(tied to the hook in the music area of yer brain)

But, I totally agree that in general lyrics are a teeny
bit outside of composing music. They're an "extra".

I should explain that where I'm TRYin' to go with this is
to make a computer program that helps with composing
pop songs.
So far, I've got something that'll create random chord
progressions. Just the "consonant expected" progressions
in that link at top of this thread. Along with substitutions
also shown in the link's pic.
It makes very "Bach-like" sounding progressions.

My next step was adding a totally random
melody that has a limited pitch range for next note.
And stays within the chord you're on, handspan is limited,
and stays in higher registers.
I have a list of preset simple rhythms that the melody
uses with the random pitches.
Same thing for a "bass line" melody - although the pitches
here are just bass of chord, maybe a 5th thrown in.

As you can guess, this does NOT sound musical.
But it's a start.

Next steps will probably be:
given a "real" (human composed) melody,
try some variations on it.
add some random "consonant progression"
chords to it and let me hear a few variations.

Also, somehow come up with a complimenting bass line
given the chord and melody's rhythm.

I mean, this thing won't win any awards and what it
comes up with MOST of the time will likely be crap.
But I'm hoping that every once in a while, something
nice comes out the other end.

Or, you pull out the nice parts, and put em through
another "randomization cycle"

I'm just curious what kind of things a pop composer
would find really helpful if they had a computer
programmer at their beck and call.

I'm NOT talking about these looper type of apps
where you just restring bars of techno songs.
I mean REAL composing.

Coming up with drum track, bass line and
chord progression that GROOVES married with
a great melody (and I guess the hook falls in
there SOMEwhere)

So, of course, what I need to start with is
the human process of composing pop.
(Somethin a little more detailed than what
my current piano teacher tells me - "Oh, I
just FEEL it"...)
I'm slowwwwly making this out by reading up
here in pianoworld. And trying to take apart
the songs I'm practicing.


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Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1780074 10/30/11 05:57 PM
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Stephen - you're trying to do the impossible. Awesome - keep it up.


David Sprunger - Learn to play piano by ear using the revolutionary technique of "Rhythmic Patterns". Piano Lessons Homepage here - includes library of piano lessons for beginners through advanced piano and keyboard players.
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1780127 10/30/11 07:11 PM
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If yer interested in how this crazy stuff sounds so far...
http://pianocheater.com/etc/rand.mid

But, eh, it's not very pretty smirk

So next step is to make the melody/bassline
entered by human - at least the rhythm of it.
Maybe randomize the pitches some and find
weird ways to repeat it slightly differently, etc.

We'll see how it goes......


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Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1780332 10/31/11 04:30 AM
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If you want a straightforward, methodological way of writing pop (and similar stuff), I'd suggest having a look at Perricone's 'Melody in songwriting'.

Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1780429 10/31/11 10:11 AM
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Thank you! Will do.


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Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1781914 11/02/11 05:25 PM
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I just remembered that some songs do live by the lyrics. I wouldn't listen to some songs without Weird Al Yankovic's lyrics.


Scott
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
David Sprunger #1783708 11/05/11 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by David Sprunger
Stephen - you're trying to do the impossible. Awesome - keep it up.


It's not impossible, just takes lots and lots of tweaking. Stephen's midi example above sounds musical (the chord progressions are definitely there and there is no dissonance anywhere), but has no verse, chorus, bridge, intro, ending, etc... It sounds more like the instrumental solo in the middle of a song.

If you listen to the autogenerated songs from Band-In-A-Box, they do sound like a real song. I've generated hundreds of pop songs with it at my workplace's Band-In-A-Box (each song only requires the press of a button and a fraction of a second to generate), and none of them are clones of each other, so there does exist a computer algorithm to generate real songs. Anyone know what their secret is?

Last edited by MathTeacher; 11/05/11 03:02 PM.
Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
MathTeacher #1784580 11/07/11 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by MathTeacher
If you listen to the autogenerated songs from Band-In-A-Box, they do sound like a real song. I've generated hundreds of pop songs with it at my workplace's Band-In-A-Box (each song only requires the press of a button and a fraction of a second to generate), and none of them are clones of each other, so there does exist a computer algorithm to generate real songs. Anyone know what their secret is?


Lots and lots of templates, and a bit of randomization? Algorithmically, it doesn't sound all that difficult, if you have time to produce lots of convincing templates.

Re: advice for a beginner who wants to learn pop composition
Stephen Hazel #1784633 11/07/11 10:27 AM
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I was watching one of their videos explaining the product.
They have "RealTracks" now which are apparently audio tracks
of a decent musician that they pitch adjust to the key/chord
you're in. I guess if your synth is lame that'd sound better.
But the way they talked about midi tracks - sheesh - somebody
in their marketing dept should be shot smile

by the way, I got 'Melody in songwriting' now.
I really do like it and think it'll help me out.
If not with the computer program, with real composin'


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