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What else do i need to know about pop songwriting?
Old 17th January 2015
  #1
Gear Head
 

What else do i need to know about pop songwriting?

I spent the last year analyzing most songs i have ever liked in my life and even more songs which i have never liked but were wildly successful once.

Here are my findings:

-When analyzed from a major key viewpoint the most used chords are I, ii, IV, V, vi, basically any combination of these chords could make a million dollar song.
When you want to get fancy you can invert these chords, or add a 7th or sprinkle on some II, III, iii or bVII chords.

-Two important things about vocal melodies: they are mostly use notes from the underlying chords (aka stable notes) or the 7th of the underlying chord and a lot of the time are the pentatonic major of the song's key. The shorter, connecting notes can be non stable notes but still must be in key.

-The syllables in the lyrics must obey the note lenght and rhythm of the original vocal melody. What i mean by this is that i have a feeling that most of the time writers come up with the chords and vocal melody first and then "force" some lyrics upon that melody.

-The lyrics are about sex, love, partying, happiness and/or zeitgeisty stuff

-Vocals sound awesome most of the time and the mixing and mastering is reasonably good also

-Some version of the intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-mid8-chorus-chorus are obeyed.

-If the song is strong enough then the instrumentation is not that important. I mean you dont need the latest "FM softsynth growls" or anything to stay competitive if the song is good enough.

Is there anything else i need to know? Are there any more rules like that i need to obey if i want to write a hit song?

Last edited by DaPear; 17th January 2015 at 02:47 PM..
Old 17th January 2015
  #2
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I don't really think there's a "recipe" for writing a hit song, but then again I've yet to write one haha I do think you're right about the writing lyrics after the chords are strummed and a rough melody is used to kinda "start" the song roughly. That's what I do anyways. People tend to think mine are poppy haha Tbh maybe you're thinking too much into the logistics of the writing thing and should just write from the soul you know? That's what music's all about anyway right? Hope that helped at least a little bit. Good luck tho!
Old 17th January 2015
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ToneG View Post
I don't really think there's a "recipe" for writing a hit song, but then again I've yet to write one haha I do think you're right about the writing lyrics after the chords are strummed and a rough melody is used to kinda "start" the song roughly. That's what I do anyways. People tend to think mine are poppy haha Tbh maybe you're thinking too much into the logistics of the writing thing and should just write from the soul you know? That's what music's all about anyway right? Hope that helped at least a little bit. Good luck tho!
I have a theory that today's most successful guys swallowed their pride, defeated their egos and ditched the writing from the soul thing. They accepted that they can't be on the top consistently for years and started focusing on pumping out hit songs using every help or tool possible including music theory, sampling, ghost writers, contributors, "stealing" chord progressions, tips from other producers, "unwritten laws and secrets" and other stuff.
I think relying only on ones mind or soul can be risky on the longterm, i think the soul can change overtime. (for example i can hardly imagine that the broke, sex-starved 20 year old guy have the same things on his mind as himself in his thirties after countless albums sold, after countless willing, starstruck perfect bodied young girls, drugs, parties, money and success. And then there are a lot of other biological thing going on like getting older, changes in brain chemistry, lowering testosterone levels etc. but that is probably too far out there for this topic.)
Old 17th January 2015
  #4
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
-If the song is strong enough then the instrumentation is not that important. I mean you dont need the latest "FM softsynth growls" or anything to stay competitive if the song is good enough.
Almost any song on the charts right now will sink your theory in a most brutal way.

Most of today's 'hits' are ALL about the arrangement/sounds which of course is all about the delivery of the hooks and the visceral impact.

Even if I don't like most of the charts stuff I hear I can't deny that the productions are good in the sense that there's is clarity, tightness and punch.

Personally I think the best way is just to try to write great songs and find the best presentation for them which doesn't mean you need to do it all by yourself. Desperately trying to write 'hits' or searching for an elusive 'hit song formula' won't work. For sure.
Old 17th January 2015
  #5
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
Almost any song on the charts right now will sink your theory in a most brutal way.

Most of today's 'hits' are ALL about the arrangement/sounds which of course is all about the delivery of the hooks and the visceral impact.

Even if I don't like most of the charts stuff I hear I can't deny that the productions are good in the sense that there's is clarity, tightness and punch.

Personally I think the best way is just to try to write great songs and find the best presentation for them which doesn't mean you need to do it all by yourself. Desperately trying to write 'hits' or searching for an elusive 'hit song formula' won't work. For sure.
In the last 2-3 years we had hits (like 50M+ youtube views) with over produced electronic club sounds, girl and a piano, guy and an acoustic guitar, songs with heavy drum sounds strong vocals and almost no instrumentation, rehash of 80s and 90s popular electronic styles, then a hugely popular guy who one time copies funk, next time Sting, next time disco, sometimes do minimalist singer songwriter stuff etc. We have pop artists who went from softsynth disco to piano and classical instruments and still remained popular.

I think the only connection between those were the stuff i observed in my first post.
Old 17th January 2015
  #6
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
In the last 2-3 years we had hits (like 50M+ youtube views) with over produced electronic club sounds, girl and a piano, guy and an acoustic guitar, songs with heavy drum sounds strong vocals and almost no instrumentation, rehash of 80s and 90s popular electronic styles, then a hugely popular guy who one time copies funk, next time Sting, next time disco, sometimes do minimalist singer songwriter stuff etc. We have pop artists who went from softsynth disco to piano and classical instruments and still remained popular.

I think the only connection between those were the stuff i observed in my first post.
Sorry if I misread what you posted. I agree that it's not about specific instrumentation but production values (which doesn't mean OVERproduction) matter very much.

Though it is certainly never the only factor, specific sounds are extremely important I think and can't be seperated from the performance. Dire Straits 'Sultans Of Swing' or 'Money For Nothing' wouldn't work without those specific guitar sounds. There is a reason why Daft Punk spent something like 18 months on 'Get Lucky'. We might like certain songs better than others but in pop music production values are as important as musical ones IMO.
Old 17th January 2015
  #7
Gear Addict
 

This sort of thinking is exactly why pop music is so derivative, banal and goddawful.
And this is officially my first ever troll post.
Old 17th January 2015
  #8
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
Sorry if I misread what you posted. I agree that it's not about specific instrumentation but production values (which doesn't mean OVERproduction) matter very much.

Though it is certainly never the only factor, specific sounds are extremely important I think and can't be seperated from the performance. Dire Straits 'Sultans Of Swing' or 'Money For Nothing' wouldn't work without those specific guitar sounds. There is a reason why Daft Punk spent something like 18 months on 'Get Lucky'. We might like certain songs better than others but in pop music production values are as important as musical ones IMO.
Yes those songs have outstanding production values.
Btw i remember analyzing both of them, Sultans Of Swing is one of my favourite songs of all time and i was curious about what was the reason that they suddenly started playing Daft Punk in places where you could have only heard a selection of club chart hits and MTV top 10 hits.
It turned out that both of those songs obey these rules.
Old 17th January 2015
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beel Zebub View Post
This sort of thinking is exactly why pop music is so derivative, banal and goddawful.
And this is officially my first ever troll post.
I can understand your point of view but here is something that almost made me "love" the rules:

i analyzed every song i wrote before i knew anything about theory or songwriting, i just loved playing electric guitar and writing some of my song ideas into Guitar Pro. (i never had a teacher or any kind of music theory knowledge) It turned out that the only songs which sounded to my ears as worthwhile songs instead of blind noodling with off-key chords and dissonant riffs and stuff were the songs which obeyed these rules without me knowing anything about these rules.
Also my observations can be applied to classic rock hits also, not just current radio pop.
Old 17th January 2015
  #10
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
Yes those songs have outstanding production values.
Btw i remember analyzing both of them, Sultans Of Swing is one of my favourite songs of all time and i was curious about what was the reason that they suddenly started playing Daft Punk in places where you could have only heard a selection of club chart hits and MTV top 10 hits.
It turned out that both of those songs obey these rules.
Well, dating myself here, I can remember when 'Sultans Of Swing' came out and I couldn't believe that it was a contemporary band - I thought it was an 'oldie' of sorts because it sounded so unlike everything that was on the radio then. Though I doubt that it could happen today on that scale, 'Sultans' was all about NOT following any formulas or trends.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
-The lyrics are about sex, love, partying, happiness and/or zeitgeisty stuff
Can you explain how that relates to 'Sultans of Swing'?
Old 17th January 2015
  #11
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
i analyzed every song i wrote before i knew anything about theory or songwriting, i just loved playing electric guitar and writing some of my song ideas into Guitar Pro. (i never had a teacher or any kind of music theory knowledge) It turned out that the only songs which sounded to my ears as worthwhile songs instead of blind noodling with off-key chords and dissonant riffs and stuff were the songs which obeyed these rules without me knowing anything about these rules.
Also my observations can be applied to classic rock hits also, not just current radio pop.
I'm not trying to belittle your efforts but I think what you found were simply some of the basic building blocks of music in general and the song form specifically.
Old 17th January 2015
  #12
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
Well, dating myself here, I can remember when 'Sultans Of Swing' came out and I couldn't believe that it was a contemporary band - I thought it was an 'oldie' of sorts because it sounded so unlike everything that was on the radio then. Though I doubt that it could happen today on that scale, 'Sultans' was all about NOT following any formulas or trends.
Well the verse is something (with one note modified in one chord) what we can call one of the most popular progressions in classical music according to wikipedia (Andalusian cadence) and the chorus is some order of our well known I IV V iv chords. The guy mostly sings the chord notes. This does not sound too ground breaking. Pretty much the only difference compared to other pop song in its time was the instrumentation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
Can you explain how that relates to 'Sultans of Swing'?
I can't, that is right.

Last edited by DaPear; 17th January 2015 at 05:49 PM..
Old 17th January 2015
  #13
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
I'm not trying to belittle your efforts but I think what you found were simply some of the basic building blocks of music in general and the song form specifically.
I wish someone showed me this stuff when i was younger. Do you have any "essential" bits of info regarding songwriting?
I have rarely seen these mentioned in one place and i went through a lot of material on the internet. (the usual stuff like the pop songwriting threads here, The Manual, youtube videos along the lines of "Dr. Luke's Secret Songwriting Formula" or any other bigshot producer or band) I found a lot of info about chord progressions, like "use I-IV-V or vi-IV-I-V" but that does not really explained to me how the other hundreds of songs using different progressions got popular. I have pretty much never found anything specifically about writing vocal melodies just vague stuff like "they are the most important" but no actual practical useful info about them.
Old 17th January 2015
  #14
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
Well the verse is something (with one note modified in one chord) what we can call one of the most popular progressions in classical music according to wikipedia (Andalusian cadence) and the chorus is some order of our well known I IV V iv chords. The guy mostly sings the chord notes. This does not sound too ground breaking. Pretty much the only difference compared to other pop song in its time was the instrumentation.
I don't think so because there were plenty of 4-piece bands around then. I mean say the Clash worked from the same instrumentation (at least in the beginning) yet sounded totally different. Mostly the attitude was completely different.

I remember something that Franz Zappa once said about 'timbre' in music. Play 'Louie Louie' is like the quintessental rock and roll riff. Play it on a church organ and it's not rock and roll anymore. It's the 'timbre', the attitude not only of the players but of the sounds they create.

It might be argued that today those 'timbres' are often chosen or found rather than created but the basic principle is the same I think.
Old 17th January 2015
  #15
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
I wish someone showed me this stuff when i was younger. Do you have any "essential" bits of info regarding songwriting?
The best songwriters I know are the ones that just come up with stuff rather than following any formula or theory.

Learning lots of different songs is always a good idea though. When the asked Keith Richards how he writes songs he said something to the effect of 'I just play 10 of my favorite songs on the piano or guitar and hope that the one of mine slips off at the end'. It's about getting into the zone where you pick stuff out of the air so to say. It might be a punchline, a riff, a chord sequence or even a title.

When the asked John Fogerty 'What makes a hit' he answered 'The title'. This can be true but often is related to an image of an artist.

This is just my personal opinion but I think the most important thing is the way the words and msuic come together. Not only what you say but how it sounds. The Beatles didn't write lyrics like Dylan or Ray Davies but the way the words and music fitted was incredible. 'Love me do' sounds like an almost moronic kind of lyric but it is totally musical in my opinion when heard in context.

Also I think that 'rock and roll' and 'pop' songwriting are very different - at least regarding the classics of the past - in the sense that pop songwriting harkens back to Cole Porter, Gerswin, etc where you often had sophisticated chord changes and melodies. Paul Mc Cartney, Randy Newman or Brian Wilson would be good examples here I think.

'Rock and roll' songwriting so often came from the guitar and riffs or from the lyrics. For example I found it interesting to learn that Bob Dylan seems to always start with the lyrics even to the point of putting them to totally different chord changes till he finds a final version (if there is any).

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
I have rarely seen these mentioned in one place and i went through a lot of material on the internet. (the usual stuff like the pop songwriting threads here, The Manual, youtube videos along the lines of "Dr. Luke's Secret Songwriting Formula" or any other bigshot producer or band) I found a lot of info about chord progressions, like "use I-IV-V or vi-IV-I-V" but that does not really explained to me how the other hundreds of songs using different progressions got popular. I have pretty much never found anything specifically about writing vocal melodies just vague stuff like "they are the most important" but no actual practical useful info about them.
I wouldn't worry about this stuff. Write the best songs you can, if others like them too there will be ways to find an outlet for it. Remember that pop music was always and still is about being at the right place at the right time and knowing the right people.

Last edited by doorknocker; 17th January 2015 at 06:08 PM..
Old 17th January 2015
  #16
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You don't open a restaurant to get rich. You don't write songs to become famous.

Yes, formulas are good if you'd like to have some place to start from when you are a beginner, or you could just start with the music theory,..I don't know...but eventually you'd discover that it's all about self-expression. And the form will fit the content of what you want to say with the song.

Everyone's different, but my experience is that the older you get, the contrast between happy memories and regrets gets bigger and one is inspired to reminisce of both sides equally.

Music allows you to live through the experience you may never experience in the reality. I suggest you take up that opportunity and give into the music wholeheartedly. And forget all that nonsense around it, productions, labels, awards, who's your audience or what's the most appealing style....what form the song should have and so on and on..
Old 18th January 2015
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Withme Whostoned View Post
eventually you'd discover that it's all about self-expression.
Its about self-expression AND communication/connection.

Everyone's personal expression is their own to claim, there's very little room for critique or analysis there. So when discussing "pop" or "hits" the conversation turns to the "communication/connection" side of things.

Here's a good article:

Expression vs Communication - The Heart of Songwriting

"You most certainly have expressed yourself, but there has been no communication."

You need both. The "communication" side of things can be objectively broken down and analyzed. . where personal expression cannot. So that becomes the focus in "pop/hits" discussion.
Old 18th January 2015
  #18
Gear Addict
I'm going to be the voice of dissent. I don't think recent hits made it big because of arrangement and producing. I think the two most key ingredients in the vast majority of hits in the history of pop music are (1) catchy melody and (2) compelling rhythm. It then helps if you can attach those to some sort of brand (usually an good looking singer and/or a dance).

Sure, Get Lucky has good production quality. But it could be played on a plastic guitar and cardboard boxes for drums and it would still be catchy. I think on this site, there's a tendency to give too much credit to music production (which shouldn't be all that surprising given it's a population of self-described "gear slutz").
Old 18th January 2015
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin_B View Post
I'm going to be the voice of dissent. I don't think recent hits made it big because of arrangement and producing. I think the two most key ingredients in the vast majority of hits in the history of pop music are (1) catchy melody and (2) compelling rhythm. It then helps if you can attach those to some sort of brand (usually an good looking singer and/or a dance).

Sure, Get Lucky has good production quality. But it could be played on a plastic guitar and cardboard boxes for drums and it would still be catchy. I think on this site, there's a tendency to give too much credit to music production (which shouldn't be all that surprising given it's a population of self-described "gear slutz").
This wasn't my point in this thread, but I've made it in others. Its not so much "production quality" as in "good engineering." Its about creating an appealing overall sound that sets a distinct mood. An incongruent cheap sounding rendition of "Get Lucky" would never break through.

From the last paragraph of the article I listed above:

"From a commercial perspective, songs are successful because of either their mood/groove, or for the impact of their story or message. Either element alone can make a hit. Songs that sit in between which have no distinct musical or emotive identity and which do not have a clear and cinematic lyric, are the ones that are going to need significant re-working."

So a great lyric melody can carry it sometimes (ie "Say Something") or a great mood/groove can carry it (which is more common in 2015 if you break it down to raw numbers.)

EDIT -

Most music fans are fans of a sound first (a genre), and THEN the songs within that sound. If the song doesn't fit the sound, most of the genre fans won't listen.

Last edited by newguy1; 18th January 2015 at 12:33 AM..
Old 18th January 2015
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Its about self-expression AND communication/connection.

Everyone's personal expression is their own to claim, there's very little room for critique or analysis there. So when discussing "pop" or "hits" the conversation turns to the "communication/connection" side of things.

Here's a good article:

Expression vs Communication - The Heart of Songwriting

"You most certainly have expressed yourself, but there has been no communication."

You need both. The "communication" side of things can be objectively broken down and analyzed. . where personal expression cannot. So that becomes the focus in "pop/hits" discussion.
I mean the music is about self-expression and creating that version of the world that you want to be in.
Who cares for people that listen to it, seriously though, who does that?
If you perceive the music as a job, which is ok by any standards, then the connection part will be relevant and needs to be considered.
For a moment there, I was thinking of the music as something that allows you to escape the reality of this world.

Which is what the greatest artists ever did. All their works are an outburst of emotions, they created what they created because those pieces provided them with the comfort they were struggling to find in real life. And the greater their frustration, the bigger their emotions, hence producing beautifully turbulent pieces seeking that someone who understands the message they convey. Because any how you put it or any way you talk about it, in the end, everyone just wants to be profoundly understood.
Old 18th January 2015
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Withme Whostoned View Post
Who cares for people that listen to it, seriously though, who does that?
Many artists care greatly about the people who listen to their music, and wish to put effort into the communication aspects of their work.

Everyone is of course free to care only about their own expression and care nothing for others. But that's not what "pop" music, the OT, is about. Pop music is about forming an expression in ways to maximize its communicability and connect-ablity. There are many techniques and tactics that can objectively improve the connet-ability of your creative work, the OP has listed some good ones!
Old 18th January 2015
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Many artists care greatly about the people who listen to their music, and wish to put effort into the communication aspects of their work.

Everyone is of course free to care only about their own expression and care nothing for others. But that's not what "pop" music, the OT, is about. Pop music is about forming an expression in ways to maximize its communicability and connect-ablity. There are many techniques and tactics that can objectively improve the connet-ability of your creative work, the OP has listed some good ones!
And you're right! Sorry, my mind has wandered off topic there.
Old 18th January 2015
  #23
A pretty face and nice abs/rack will help to sell your music. Just take your shirt off and you're half way there.
Old 18th January 2015
  #24
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
This wasn't my point in this thread, but I've made it in others. Its not so much "production quality" as in "good engineering." Its about creating an appealing overall sound that sets a distinct mood. An incongruent cheap sounding rendition of "Get Lucky" would never break through.
Incongruent? I agree. Cheap sounding rendition? I bet it would still make it -- even in a genre that usually relies on a lot of bells and whistles.

I think production or engineering helps make something sound more professional (and that almost always will help the appeal), but it isn't the reason why songs get attention. Get Lucky has a persistent, danceable beat and a repetitive, catchy melody. That is why the song was successful. Keep those two elements and you can change pretty much anything else -- lyrics, arrangement, overall production -- and it will still maintain its appeal. However, get rid of those two elements and keep everything else (mood, arrangement, production) and you don't necessarily have an "earworm" song.

Actually, I think the rest of the album is a good testament to that. There's a reason why Get Lucky was so successful, it was clearly the catchiest single. The rest of the album keeps the same strong qualities of "well engineered" songs, but nothing else on the album has nearly as catchy of a melody.

For instance, take this cover of Get Lucky:


It escapes the funky sorta-EDM genre. The instruments are different. The production is fine, but obviously isn't as professionally recorded, mixed, and produced as Daft Punk's original was. However, the song is still very catchy. I could definitely hear that song getting a ton of radio play if that was it's original recording. Do you disagree?

Quote:
From the last paragraph of the article I listed above:

"From a commercial perspective, songs are successful because of either their mood/groove, or for the impact of their story or message. Either element alone can make a hit. Songs that sit in between which have no distinct musical or emotive identity and which do not have a clear and cinematic lyric, are the ones that are going to need significant re-working."
I agree in some ways, but I think that passage over-emphasizes the role of lyrics (or "story or message"). Even the most beautiful prose can't make a pop song successful by itself. As your example, "Say Something" is beautifully written and has strong emotional component. However, without the catchy melody of the song, it would have failed miserably. Want to test this theory out? I bet I could take just the lyrics of the song and could render it un-palatable by changing the melody to something dull and non-repetitive.

Last edited by Kevin_B; 18th January 2015 at 08:58 AM..
Old 18th January 2015
  #25
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On the subject, perhaps you'd benefit from watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wBOUJ5Mbrk as well. Where Ralph Murphy talks about the forms of pop songs and general concepts helpful for their production.
Old 18th January 2015
  #26
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dick swifter's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaPear View Post
I wish someone showed me this stuff when i was younger. Do you have any "essential" bits of info regarding songwriting?
I have rarely seen these mentioned in one place and i went through a lot of material on the internet. (the usual stuff like the pop songwriting threads here, The Manual, youtube videos along the lines of "Dr. Luke's Secret Songwriting Formula" or any other bigshot producer or band) I found a lot of info about chord progressions, like "use I-IV-V or vi-IV-I-V" but that does not really explained to me how the other hundreds of songs using different progressions got popular. I have pretty much never found anything specifically about writing vocal melodies just vague stuff like "they are the most important" but no actual practical useful info about them.
I had a Berklee Music Theory professor who said, "The best way to learn music theory, is to learn 500 tunes." I can't say I did that, but I think it's sound advice. After all, theory came about as a way to map out what pre-theory composers came up with using their natural creativity.
That said, I really don't worry about chord progressions.
One of my favorite quotes is from Robbie Neville, who said, "Don't let a good groove trick you into thinking you have a good song." I believe the melody is everything, so I usually try to come up with a melody that I think is TRULY SPECIAL, and figure out the chords later. The reason for that is, I don't want my melody to be constrained by a set chord structure, or by my limited tendencies. If I do start with the music first, it's because I was playing and came up with something I thought sounded really cool musically, then start singing melodies over it until I come up with something I find special/memorable. Kind of like coming up with a solo. Once you have one line/melody that you like, hopefully something else occurs to you, and so on...

It certainly helps to have a title or a good line to start, but I usually use non-sensicle words as place holders to fill in the blanks, until I have a complete melody that sounds special ALL BY ITSELF. Then, using that melody, I try to write lyrics that fit the melody.

I don't know if this makes any sense, as it's hard to describe a process. But one thing I'm pretty sure about, is that things have to occur to you. If when trying to write a melody, nothing special occurs to you, you may want to come back to it later, again and again until something special comes out of you.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Old 18th January 2015
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dick swifter View Post
I had a Berklee Music Theory professor who said, "The best way to learn music theory, is to learn 500 tunes." I can't say I did that, but I think it's sound advice. After all, theory came about as a way to map out what pre-theory composers came up with using their natural creativity.
That said, I really don't worry about chord progressions.
One of my favorite quotes is from Robbie Neville, who said, "Don't let a good groove trick you into thinking you have a good song." I believe the melody is everything, so I usually try to come up with a melody that I think is TRULY SPECIAL, and figure out the chords later. The reason for that is, I don't want my melody to be constrained by a set chord structure, or by my limited tendencies. If I do start with the music first, it's because I was playing and came up with something I thought sounded really cool musically, then start singing melodies over it until I come up with something I find special/memorable. Kind of like coming up with a solo. Once you have one line/melody that you like, hopefully something else occurs to you, and so on...

It certainly helps to have a title or a good line to start, but I usually use non-sensicle words as place holders to fill in the blanks, until I have a complete melody that sounds special ALL BY ITSELF. Then, using that melody, I try to write lyrics that fit the melody.

I don't know if this makes any sense, as it's hard to describe a process. But one thing I'm pretty sure about, is that things have to occur to you. If when trying to write a melody, nothing special occurs to you, you may want to come back to it later, again and again until something special comes out of you.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Wow, I could've written this, my thoughts exactly!!


HW
Old 18th January 2015
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dick swifter View Post
I had a Berklee Music Theory professor who said, "The best way to learn music theory, is to learn 500 tunes."
Right on, and learn tunes/songs WAY outside your preferred genres of music. Nothing gives you a greater appreciation of other forms, be it pop schlock or bel canto, than trying to learn to play it. And of course then you can appropriate it for your own purposes.
Old 18th January 2015
  #29
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I was just looking at this-

Number One Song of the Year: 1946-2014

And the chords for the songs and listening to a lot of older songs lately.

I think it's interesting because basically everything after Elvis follows these rules listed by the OP. IOW hit songs ceased to be somewhat *high art* in about the mid 50's and never went back. Ever since then the vast majority of songs have been musically simplistic and highly based on a lot of the sonic/technical developments. Everything more centered around catchy melodies and simplistic repetitive chord progressions. V-CH-V-CH-Bridge-Ch is pretty standard (which is sortof a condensed sonata allegro when you think about it).

Of course there are some outliers, but there are outliers in every decade. IE crazy by Gnarls Barkley, Africa by Toto etc.

Long story short, I don't think these *rules* are anything new, other than different trends of lyrics or sonic tech. They fit "greensleves" as well as they do "wrecking ball" as well as they do "Me an julio down by the school yard" the *hit* part of beethovens 9th as well as "take me to church".

The one thing that I see as fairly consistent is that in any era it seems *the masses* prefer purity of emotional intent/content to compositional complexity.

IMO if people want to find a place for fancy writing, especially harmonically, and they can do that really well, J-Pop is a great market. It seems like maybe the Japanese now are more like western culture was in the 20's through 40's when the average Joe was a decent musician.

I really don't get all the pining for the 60's and 70's. It seems to me that people are cherry picking the most complex stuff from a large period and ignoring that there were plenty of simplistic pop hits at those times too.
Old 18th January 2015
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Originally Posted by pinkheadedbug View Post
And of course then you can appropriate it for your own purposes.
Appropriate? How dare you, sir!!!
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