Songwriting - Books, Dvd's or Tips

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by TimothyLeary, Feb 25, 2010.

  1. TimothyLeary

    TimothyLeary Tune in, Drop out

    Messages:
    906
    Likes Received:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Location:
    Portugal
    Hi guys,

    Sorry if this had been asked before. I want suggestions for everything(books, dvd's, etc), that can help me understand songwriting. I can understand a little of theory, like scales, chords and intervals, but I'm lost when I have to apply the theory that I know, to play and create music..

    Like, I play a chord progression of 3 chords, but where I go after that? How to pick a melody line, and harmonize that line to maintain the melody(like jazz players do), and go after that so something different.

    I like jazz, progressive rock, so I need something that goes beyond the 1-4-5 progression.

    If possible, documents that are explained simple and concise.

    Thanks. :yesway:
     
  2. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

    Messages:
    5,089
    Likes Received:
    914
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    You're probably going to want to understand harmony and form, for the most part. What makes music is repetition, predictability, and the manipulation thereof. Check this out:



    The tapping lick at the beginning is reflected in the bass riff at 1:16. Through use of orchestration, there is a sense of continuity in the song. If you try to explain music in terms of what's happening in relation to the overall song/piece, or through several pieces (example: key relationships in nineteenth century European song cycles), then the function of the elements of music should become more clear to you.

    Here's a fun one:

    The riff at 1:34:


    And at 5:12:



    Beethoven did shit like that; the rhythm of that famous four-note motif from the beginning of his fifth symphony can be found all over his music. I'm not saying that you have to be a genius of form and decide on specific motivic material that you'll disperse throughout the body of your work for your entire career, but all music has a gimmick, and it's up to you to find out how to make it work for you.


    Now, as far as selecting notes for the construction of melodies and themes, I think it would behoove you to study four-part writing and voice leading. Knowing how a given tone functions in a chord is the beginning of an understanding of melody.
     
  3. TimothyLeary

    TimothyLeary Tune in, Drop out

    Messages:
    906
    Likes Received:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Location:
    Portugal
    thanks for all the tips and examples. need to search four-part writing and other terms you refer. i really like how progressive rock band go from a melody to a big chord part, with all the instruments making the song big, and then another change, another rest, and the melody came again and explore and sometimes evolve to another thing.

    bands like opeth, maudlin of the well and ephel duath, make some variations between heavy parts and melodic parts, when everything rests, and appear something to create tension to the heavy part.. I just want to make something like that, and I know that I need to understand harmony and music form, hence this topic.

    thumbs up.
     
  4. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

    Messages:
    5,089
    Likes Received:
    914
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Most college level harmony books teach four part harmony. That's where you get melodic ideas. I should point out, though, that a lot of metal does not use chord progressions derived from a diatonic circle of fifths. A lot of it is linear and modal. It certainly doesn't hurt to learn that stuff, however, as an understanding of functional harmony makes generating new ideas easier, as well as providing a consistent language for understanding a lot of music. Also, classical theory is very systematic.

    Part of the study of form is a focus on contrasting sections. Effective orchestration/arranging can really make contrasts sound good. Opeth does this all the time: acoustic section with the clean vocals, contrasted with a loud, heavy section with growling vocals. And it sounds awesome. I personally think that's the easy part, so long as you know how to write for each of those sections.
     
  5. TimothyLeary

    TimothyLeary Tune in, Drop out

    Messages:
    906
    Likes Received:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Location:
    Portugal
    I think i need to understand modulation, and changing keys in songs. That will give me a good idea, for what I can do, and the variations that are possible in a song.

    Because I still make confusion between changes that use the same notes of the key, but they have have different roots(using inversions, and modes), and change to a key that have notes that they're not in he key I started, and may sound very different, but not totally wrong..

    I may be making a lot of confusing, because theory can be really tricky, and english is not the better way to express what I want to say. But thanks man, for helping me out everytime.
     
  6. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

    Messages:
    5,089
    Likes Received:
    914
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    If you need me to explain anything, feel free to ask. :)

    Before we get started, let's go over what modulation actually is. By definition, modulation (key change) is the change of tonal center. Simply, that means that we were in E minor, now we're in D minor, or whatever. Some modulations go smoother than others, depending on how closely related the keys are. Their relation is based on how many notes they have in common: the more notes in common, the closer the keys are related, and the easier the modulation. Let's take, for example, three keys:

    F major - F G A Bb C D E
    C major - C D E F G A B
    G major - G A B C D E F#

    As you can see, F and G both have one note different from C. Going between these keys is pretty easy. It so happens that the interval from F to C is a perfect fifth, and from C to G is a perfect fifth. If we go a perfect fifth up from G, we end up at D. Here are those two keys:

    G major - G A B C D E F#
    D major - D E F# G A B C#

    Once again, they are one note different. Descending a perfect fifth from F to Bb, it's the same story:

    F major - F G A Bb C D E
    Bb major - Bb C D Eb F G A

    If we continue to move away from the previous note by perfect fifths, we end up with what is called a circle of fifths:

    [​IMG]

    It looks confusing, so I'll explain what's going on. The purple part of the circle is major keys. The blue part are the relative minor keys of the major keys they are next to. As you can see, every time you move left or right on the circle, an accidental is either added or subtracted from the key signature. The further you go from any point, the smaller the amount of notes the keys have in common. In reality, this is what's going on:

    [​IMG]

    So, you can see that even though two notes are right next to each other, like C and C#, their keys have very little in common:

    C major - C D E F G A B C
    C# major - C# D# E# F# G# A# B#



    If you understand this, I'll move on to the mechanisms of modulation.
     
    xiphoscesar likes this.
  7. TimothyLeary

    TimothyLeary Tune in, Drop out

    Messages:
    906
    Likes Received:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Location:
    Portugal
    man.. you rock. you deserve some reputation but i can't give to you.. don't know why.

    Anyway, I think I got this, so far! Close Keys have close chords and make the transition between them easier, right? So, I can move between major scales who share many notes between them, or I can move from a Major to minor if it's his relative minor.

    I assume I can move between major sharp keys to flat's keys too, although I'm not seeing how... It's the only doubt I have.

    I thought modulation was only within a key, like in C major scale, move to D Dorian. Or in G major move to A dorian. Same notes, different roots.
     
  8. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

    Messages:
    5,089
    Likes Received:
    914
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Modulations to modal scale degrees aren't unheard of, but it's easier to think of modulation involving major and minor keys, then adding stuff later.

    Modulation to relative minor keys is very easy, because they have all notes in common with their relative major keys. Let's take C major and A minor as an example:

    C major - C D E F G A B
    A minor - A B C D E F G# <- the seventh scale degree is raised to make a harmonic minor scale, which will give us a leading tone back to the tonic.

    If we make diatonic chords within these scales, we get these harmonies:

    C major - C Dm Em F G Am B°
    A minor - Am B° C (C+) Dm E F G#°

    I parenthesized the C augmented chord, because even though G# does exist in A harmonic minor, it is not typically applied to the III chord. You can see that for all intensive purposes, A minor and C major are practically the same scale. It is likely that we will use a common chord to modulate from one to the other.

    C F G7 C Dm E7 Am E7 Am

    Here, we have a progression in C major. Then, Dm acts as a common chord between the two keys, and continues to a cadence in the new key. The cadence is restated to solidify the new key. Really, our goal is a V-I cadence (or V-i, for minor) in the new key. vii°-I (or vii°-i) also works. I made a chart that shows exactly what all the chords in every key are.

    [​IMG]

    As you suspected, you can jump from sharp keys to flat keys, and the other way around. Take G and F.

    G major - G Am Bm C D Em F#°
    F major - F Gm Am Bb C Dm E°

    They have a C major chord and an A minor chord in common. A progression that modulates from G to F might look something like this:

    Am D7 G Em C C7 F

    Am D7 G Em C is all in the key of G. C C7 F is in the key of F. C is the common chord between the two keys. The idea is to have a progression in one key, then continue the progression in the new key.
     
  9. TimothyLeary

    TimothyLeary Tune in, Drop out

    Messages:
    906
    Likes Received:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Location:
    Portugal
    And after de modulation you can back to the first key? Going from F major to G major? I would have to do the progression backwards, or play C after F and D after C and finish in G. Right?

    One doubt that came out is, how do you choose the best way to move between degrees in a scale? Is there a wrong and right way to do it? Because the most common progressions only use thre degrees and the others?


    Thanks!
     
  10. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

    Messages:
    5,089
    Likes Received:
    914
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Right. If you get to F, then play F C D G, you're back in G. It's more convincing if the D chord is D7. As far as getting there, remember that V7-I in the new key is the ultimate goal, but you can use any common chord to start the progression. This diagram is pretty reliable:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Or, you can just do a progression in the new key. This is called direct modulation. Jazz does this all the time:
    Am D7 G | Bm E7 A | C#m F#7 B | D#m G#7 C# |
     
  11. AvantGuardian

    AvantGuardian Orange Vigilante

    Messages:
    1,178
    Likes Received:
    273
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle
    As a supplement to all of the great theory Mike is throwing at you, I always recommend the Beatles "Complete Scores" book to people looking to analyze chord progressions and melodies in a modern context. Whether or not you're a Beatles fan, there is a TON to learn from their songs about modulations, substitute chords, harmony/melody relationships, integration of non-standard instruments, etc. I used to think the Beatles' music was simple until I stared teaching some of their songs and I realized that there are some really "smart" harmonic and melodic theory princliples being applied.

    Anyway, I can't recommend analyzing Beatles tunes enough to someone looking to learn about songwriting. Lennon/McCartney had this stuff down and the ideas they used are very applicable across all styles of music really. Good luck!
     
  12. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

    Messages:
    5,089
    Likes Received:
    914
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    :yesway:

    In addition to what AvantGuardian said, this site has analyses of a bunch of Beatles songs:
    Alan W. Pollack's Notes on ... Series
     
    AvantGuardian likes this.
  13. AvantGuardian

    AvantGuardian Orange Vigilante

    Messages:
    1,178
    Likes Received:
    273
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle
    Never seen this site before. Looks awesome, thanks for posting this link! :hbang:
     
  14. TimothyLeary

    TimothyLeary Tune in, Drop out

    Messages:
    906
    Likes Received:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Location:
    Portugal
    Ok.. i'm not the biggest fan of beatles, but I think will give it a try. :D

    SchecterWhore : That diagram is greeeaaaatttt!!! Just one stupid question: after the I degree, I can move to any degree I want? from the diagram the arrow that goes from the I doesn't go anywhere so I assume, it can go everywhere?

    in the direct modulation example that you did, I can't see if the keys are related, because I don't know if you are using the ii-V-I progression, but I did a search in web and for what I understand, direct modulation has no common chords, or pivot chords, is a abrupt modulation(change). Is that what you mean?

    I'm a half way step to understand this shit.weeeeeeeeee :D:D
    than I can finally understand coltrane, I like him already, but he's a little complicated. :p
     
  15. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

    Messages:
    5,089
    Likes Received:
    914
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Right. After I, anything goes. The reasoning being that I is usually the end of the phrase.

    Right again. There are no common/pivot chords, you just go to the new key. And, yes, those are just ii V I progressions.

    That's the idea. The trick is to practice all this theory stuff so that you know how to use it musically.
     

Share This Page