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Understand Music Theory: Lessons
by Margaret Richer
If you are interested in learning about some aspect of music, chances are you’ll be looking for instruction. Lessons come in many forms including private tuition, classes or self-teaching at home. Private teachers may be found in several ways. Word of mouth is probably best, but newspaper ads are also useful. Many colleges and universities keep a list of music students available for teaching. Group learning does not provide as much individual attention, but you will meet others with your interest and learn from their mistakes! Home study is becoming very popular as lesson times can be arranged around other activities. However, it can be a solitary experience, and without a teacher available to help, the student must learn to make good use of study time and set realistic goals. Whatever the style of instruction, a good quality music lesson should include ear-training, music theory and practical work. You also need to make sure that the lessons are designed to fit your learning requirements.
Practice between lessons is important if progress is going to be made. To make your practice sessions enjoyable, pick manageable pieces that interest you, if possible, in a variety of styles. Also, be sure to have an aim for each session. If you find you are having trouble with one particular section, isolate it! Don’t go back and start again from the beginning of the piece. The problem won’t get solved. Try to practice frequently. Short sessions everyday are better than one or two long ones between lessons. Good luck!
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Get Started in Songwriting: Genres (rock, pop)
Should a good songwriter be able to write in any genre? Or are the fundamental skills different in hardcore punk and, say, Christian soul? The answer is: a bit of both.
Understand Music Theory: Key terms
Music theory is all about exploring the fascinating mechanics of music. Like any creative work, certain basic elements are needed. In music, the terms used to define these elements are rhythm, pitch, melody and harmony.
Understand Music Theory: Skills
Music theory, like any subject, consists of certain basic elements. The terms used for these elements include rhythm, pitch, melody and harmony. To understand the theory of music, various skills need to be developed in all of these areas.
Understand Music Theory: Dynamics
In musical terms, the word, dynamics, is often confused with the term, expression.
Understand Music Theory: Train your ear
Ear training or aural training is instruction designed to develop the sense of hearing and listening skills in music. It includes recognition of pitch, intervals, chords, meter and rhythmic patterns, and may be taught in several ways.
Understand Music Theory: Scales
A scale is the alphabetical succession of notes beginning on a particular pitch. The term comes from the Latin word ‘scala’, which means ladder. All music is composed using some sort of scale. Many different types have been used in music throughout the ages, from ancient church modes to the twelve tone row in the 20th century.
Understand Music Theory: Time signatures and meter
At the beginning of a piece of music, you will find two numbers resembling a fraction. This is called the time signature or meter. The top number indicates the number of beats per bar. The bottom number gives the type of note which gets the basic beat. The most common time signature used is 4/4. The top 4 shows there are four beats in every bar. The bottom 4 states that the crotchet or quarter note gets one beat.
Understand Music Theory: Bars and measures
A bar, also known as a measure in some countries, is the space between two vertical lines called bar-lines. Each bar contains a group of beats, the first usually slightly accented.
Understand Music Theory: Phrasing and articulation
Just as written words have punctuation marks like commas to help structure a section, music also uses a type of punctuation. A phrase is similar to a line of writing and is several bars long. In simple music such as a folk song, the phrases are usually two or fours bars in length. There is, however, no set rule about how long a phrase should last.
Understand Music Theory: Music history
The study of music history generally refers to the development of Western music and is divided into various periods. The Monophonic period dates back from the ‘beginnings’ to about 1300 A.D. During this time, pre-Christian music was mainly developed by the Greeks.
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Get Started in Songwriting: Collaboration
Lennon and McCartney; Rodgers and Hart; Bacharach and David; Lamont: duos and songwriting teams have been responsible for some of the most memorable hit songs of the 20th century. Are two brains always better than one? And how do you find a working method that allows you to fuse your talent with other people’s?
Get Started in Songwriting: Lyrics
There are musical genres that don't necessarily involve singing, like jazz and post-rock, but for most of us, a song isn't complete without words. The words to a song have two main functions. The most obvious one is that they mean something. The lyrics to a song convey a message to the listener: lyrics can tell stories, implore lovers to return, celebrate good times or bemoan bad ones.
Get Started in Songwriting: Harmony
Harmony is one of those musical terms that can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but at the basic level, it's something we all understand. Whenever you accompany yourself with simple chords on the guitar or piano, you're adding harmony to your song. And although it's possible to get a lot more theoretical and complex, you don't have to.
Get Started in Songwriting: Rhythm
The term 'rhythm' is used in two related ways in songwriting. In one sense, it can be applied to any instrumental or vocal part, to describe the timing of notes: take away the pitches of the notes and think only about their length and spacing, and you have the rhythm of that part. For most pop and rock songs, however, 'rhythm' also refers to a regular, repeating pulse that underlies a band performance.
Get Started in Songwriting: The artist/voice
What is the relationship between the singer and the song? This is a key question, and being clear about the answer can be invaluable to the songwriter. Like any piece of writing, a song lyric can be written in the first person ("I love you!"), the second person ("You're great!") or the third person ("She went to the shops to buy a pint of milk").
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There are two kinds of bandleader. There's the control freak insistent on writing every musician's part and having it played exactly right. And there's the more relaxed individual who gives his band members a rough sketch of the song, expecting them to thrash out their own parts in rehearsal.
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Don't be intimidated by the idea there is a 'right' structure that you need to adhere to when writing. Song structure is not a matter of rules that need to be followed, more a concept for understanding other people's songs, and for helping to figure out where you might be going wrong.
Get Started in Songwriting: Writing for a band with different instruments
The fundamental components of a song are the words, the tune, and the chords, perhaps represented in a basic guitar or keyboard part. Other instrumental elements such as drum rhythms, bass lines and string parts make up what's called an 'arrangement', and the same song can be arranged in any number of ways. The songs of the Beatles, for example, have been recorded in every musical style from punk to bossa nova, using any number of musical instruments.
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