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Music Theory Tricks Used in Hit Songs

Music Theory tricks used in hit songs

Try out these music theory tricks

Songwriting is often simultaneously one of the most magical and frustrating parts of being a musician. Sometimes, the best songs seem to appear in our heads without prompting and demand to be written down before they disappear, while other times great songs take forever to finish and are nothing but hard work.

Musically speaking, there is another way to write great songs: You can learn the theory behind them that helps make them work. Here are a few common music theory tricks that are frequently used in hit songs.

Magical Chord Combinations

One of the most frustrating challenges when writing songs can be finding the right chords to play. So here’s music theory trick number one: Understanding harmonic function. This is extremely helpful to know because it tells you how chords are related and which chords sound “best” together.

For instance, if you are building a chord progression in C major, knowing chord function tells you that the following chords can be mixed and matched together in whatever order: C, D-, E-, F, G, A- and (sometimes) B diminished. You can know this because the key of C major provides seven notes to build chords on. If you know how to build chords, you can then combine the seven chords in C major however you like.

I can go further and categorize these chords into three basic groups based on how they function in my ear: tonic, dominant and predominant. Tonic is typically the most relaxed, dominant is usually tense, and predominant chords are somewhere in between. This helps me choose chords for my song based on how much tension I want to hear.


Start learning music theory and see how the concepts are at work in modern music. Download the free ebook – Inside the Hits: The Music Theory Behind 10 Hit Songs


Harmonic Sequences

One of the most effective music theory tricks you can use to develop strong chord progressions is to create a harmonic sequence. All that means is that you play a set of chords (usually inside a particular key) whose root notes (the notes the chords are built on) follow a particular interval pattern.

For instance, a common harmonic sequence uses the interval of a fourth. if I wanted to create this chord sequence in C major, I might start with a C major chord and follow it with chords that are each a fourth above C (F, B diminished, E-, A-, D-, G, C). Doing this creates a strong expectation in the listener’s ear that can make your chord progressions feel exceptionally strong. Pachelbel’s Canon is a well-known example of this.

Read more here http://hitmusictheory.com

Why You Should Learn Music Theory as an Adult

learn music theory as an adult

Music theory is wonderful, exciting, and enormously useful. But for many musicians who received any kind of music theory education growing up, the experience is usually exactly the opposite. Music theory classes can feel one step removed from strict math classes where the concepts never really seem to apply to “real life.” 

But have no fear – just because you had a bad music theory education (or no formal music education at all) in the past doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself a fantastic one now. In fact, if you learn music theory as an adult with the music chops you already have, it means that you’ll be able to actually apply everything immediately. 

There is a beautiful world of music theory you can discover and use. Here are a few music theory secrets from that world.

Theory Is Just a Naming Convention

First, when it comes right down to it, music theory is just a way to name sounds. It isn’t derived from a set of archaic principles. Instead, it is just a way to name and talk about how (in general) humans hear sound. There are no rules – there are only sounds with names to be explored and reveled in. 

For instance, a key is just a pool of notes that sound “pleasing” and are useful for making musical ideas from. A chord is just three or more notes stacked on top of each other. A motif is just a short musical idea – exactly the same as a phrase you might say in any other language. 


Start learning music theory and see how the concepts are used in modern music. Download the free ebook – Inside the Hits: The Music Theory Behind 10 Hit Songs


You Don’t Ever Need Perfect Pitch

Second, you do not need perfect pitch to understand, explain, or play any music you hear. You just need a decent understanding of theory. For example, theory teaches you to name the function of the chords. This gives you a way to train your ear to hear these functions in any music and quickly figure out the exact names of chords being played. You can do this with any sound – chord or not – in music. Developing this skill can give you a huge leg up in all musical situations.

Theory Can Break You Out of Creative Ruts

One of the most common reasons many of us get stuck in creative ruts is that we keep running over the same musical ideas without reflecting on what they are, how to talk about them, or how to use them. Music theory provides a way to name what we are doing and intentionally to reframe and create new musical ideas. 

For instance, if you learn that you are always using major chords, you can shift your focus and throw in a few minor chords instead. If you always play rhythms made out of eighth notes, you can learn about and use triplets. Once you learn music theory and start using it this way, you will never have to be stuck in another creative musical rut again.

Final Thoughts

There are so many more ways that theory can enable and empower your creative work – and it is all something you can start learning and using today. One of the best ways to start exploring music theory is through an online course. There are tons of options out there, but if you want to learn music theory with modern examples from popular hit songs, check out Hit Music Theory.

 

Read more here http://hitmusictheory.com

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Know Your Craft

Know Your Craft

So here you are again. Sitting with your instrument trying to learn or create another song – but the process is taking forever! Every new song you learn or write feels like starting from square one with a totally blank slate. What can you do? Well as it turns out, theory can be a huge help in this situation.. Here are three reasons theory can help you know your craft.

Name the Sounds You Already Use

Theory is in the final analysis, a naming convention. Beyond all its talk about “rules” and “concepts” is a basic foundation of naming sounds. We name and describe intervals, chords, scales, tonalities, rhythms, motifs, hooks, melodies, textures, dynamics, phrases, and everything else under the musical sun. All of these names and descriptions just help us remember and intentionally use specific sounds.

Since theory is a naming convention, are you naming what you play? Are you aware of the function of the chords you are playing? What about the key or tonality you are in? Can you describe the primary rhythmic components you are using? What motifs is this song built on? What is the form of the piece? The more you can clearly identify and name the sounds you already use, the easier it will be to recognize and play them in new music.

Discover New Sounds That Are Exciting to You

In addition to learning new songs with greater ease, digging into theory will help you discover new sounds that are exciting to you and expand your repertoire. A new sound with its own name is invaluable when you are trying to grow musically. We often get stuck feeling like we can’t come up with new ideas because we don’t have a way to think outside of the old ones. Discovering new sounds with their own names breaks us out of our old musical ideas and can make our creative options explode.

Do you use major chords all the time? Consider learning about minor chords. Do you use 7th chords all the time? Consider learning about chord extensions. Do you use a 16th note subdivision when you create strumming patterns? Try using an 8th note subdivision instead. There are always new sounds to be discovered, named and used. You just have to seek them out and use them.

See Inside Hit Songs and How They Work


Discover the Similarities Between Songs

The more you can name what you are playing, the easier it will become to hear, name and manipulate those sounds in your music. This becomes enormously helpful when you are trying to learn a ton of songs. Consider how many blues tunes use the same three chords! Knowing this makes learning blues tunes much easier. The same is true of any other style of music.

As you internalize and use theory more deeply in your creative work, learning or writing new music will become easier and easier. New songs will begin to sound like music you already know in a rearranged form, and pretty soon your repertoire will grow much more easily and effortlessly each time you sit down to work on it.

Read more here http://hitmusictheory.com

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Get the Music Out of Your Head

Get the Music Out of Your Head

We all have found ourselves hearing something in our head that sounds so great that we have to play it and get it down on paper. However, once we find ourselves there, the next step of actually getting what we are hearing into a form that we can use often becomes too frustrating to accomplish – and then as we sit there in front of the paper or DAW being frustrated, and the music we hear disappears into the ether. Thankfully, there are ways you can learn to get the music out of your head and make this process easier – even seamless. Here are a few of the key points to focus on while developing this skill.

Sing what you hear in your head

There are many reasons for every musician to sing, but one of the most compelling for me has always been the power singing has to develop what “we in the business” call “big ears” – the ability to hear, identify and play whatever you want to hear.

Singing has a way of checking whether we hear things accurately. Often, what we don’t actually hear what is in our heads as clearly as we think we do. Singing reveals this. If you can’t sing it, you can’t hear it. You might find singing uncomfortable at first, so feel free to find some space to practice this where no one can hear you. Don’t worry about singing with good tone or anything. Just hit the pitches you are trying to hear.

CLICK HERE TO SEE  HOW TO GET THE MUSIC OUT

 

Give the notes names

To help identify the pitches you are singing, give each of them a name. Most musicians who study music in school do this by using solfege (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do) or scale degrees (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). The most important thing to remember when using these systems is to keep using them. As a melody passes by, just sing it with these syllables as best you can. If you discover later that you used the wrong syllables, you will know your ear is improving.

As you get comfortable with this approach, it will get easier and easier to know what note you are singing at any one time. Pretty soon, simple melodies will become easy to write down because you will clearly be able to hear and identify them.

Sing every part you hear

You will probably find that certain parts of music are easier for you to hear than others. Some musicians hear melodies more clearly than bass lines. Others hear harmony lines easier than melodies. Choir members often most naturally hear the parts that they sing the most. Be honest with what you hear best and be sure to spend time singing whatever you need to hear more accurately. Bass lines and melodies are often a great place to start because they often frame how we hear everything else. After that, learn to identify and sing all the pitches in harmony lines, chords, riffs, solos and any other extraneous musical parts you hear.

Write something you hear down every day

This last point is pretty simple, but very important. Often the reasons we can’t write down what we hear is simply because we never work on it. When it comes right down to it, this is often because we don’t like facing the fact that we are still bad at it. News flash: You will always be terrible if you never practice. In fact – that is the best way to ensure being terrible. The time to start is now. Give yourself a safe, quiet space to write and do it. Every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just write something.

Read more at http://hitmusictheory.com

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Break Out of Your Old Music Habits

Break Out of Your Old Music Habits

One of the greatest challenges any musician faces is the plateau. We all know what it is like. You finally start regularly practicing, you make some strong progress with a few things that you always wanted to learn, and then all of a sudden…you stop improving. Every time you sit down to play, nothing new seems to come out. Try as you will, each practice session starts to feel more and more repetitive, mindless – and definitely not useful.

As it turns out, there some great ways to free yourself from this horror. The approaches vary widely, but there are always four basic principles to break out of your old music habits that all of these ways have in common.

Read more here…

http://hitmusictheory.com

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How to Jam and Play with Anybody

How to Play and Jam With Anybody

Trust Your Ear 

One of the hardest barriers to jumping in and playing with other people is the perception that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to play music. This perception has come from a lot of places, but it is often very misleading. Some of the most common places this perception comes from are:

  1. Growing up in school and only ever being allowed to read the dots on the page in front of us.
  2. Learning some of the “rules” in the world of music theory and feeling forced to follow them correctly.
  3. Joining a band or other musical context with people who are critical.
  4. Being generally surrounded by people critical of you.

All of these places often add up to an enormous burden of self-criticism that makes us afraid to play for fear of playing something “wrong”. But the problem with this way of thinking is that it completely upends the fundamental nature and purpose of music, which is to express how we feel and think.

So – the first thing to do is to find what helps you to let go of any critical voice and start trusting your ear. Your ear is ALWAYS the final say in every musical situation – NEVER anyone else’s opinion. Remember: it is your own self-expression we are talking about – not someone else’s taste in music. You can tell when when what you are playing resonates with what you want to hear. Do that. It will let you play and jam with anybody.

Read more here…

http://hitmusictheory.com

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Stop Guessing and Learn the Language of Music

When you pay attention to everything that’s going on around you, you’ll be surprised what you hear.

Stop guessing what the chords might be

Instead, learn about keys and harmonic function. This will take enormous amounts of guesswork out of the process. You don’t have to try twenty chords if you know that it can only be one of six chords you like in a key.

As we show you in Hit Music Theory, almost all music has a key. Keys are used to organize how we hear sounds and make it possible to quickly find harmonies and other musical ideas that fit with each other.

For instance, if I am playing in the key of A major, I know right off the bat that the chords A, B-, C#-, D, E and F#- will all work very well with each other. Since we usually hear musical ideas inside of particular keys, the more aware of which chords are in which keys, the more you can limit how many chords you need to try to find the sound you hear in your head.

Develop your ear and become a better musician

Believe it or not, you can learn to connect what you learn in theory to particular sounds you hear in music. You can train yourself to do this to such a degree that you can begin to identify EXACTLY what is going on without any instrument at all.

Notice what key you are in.

Training yourself to do this does not require perfect pitch. Instead, you can use things like solfege and other ear training approaches to hear how the music functions. The reason this is possible is that each note in a scale has its own kind of sound (this is why we like some riffs and not others, some chords and not others, etc – we already can hear it all, we just don’t know what to call each thing we hear). If you give a name or syllable to each pitch in a scale, you can start to identify the sound of a particular note in a scale with a particular syllable.

Be aware of the scale you are playing in and what riffs you have that fit in it.

The process of developing your ear never ends, so don’t worry about getting it right all the time. Learn the language of music and make it a priority to sing (singing these notes with syllables is really helpful) and analyse the music you listen to. The more you do it, the better you will become. Once you start being able to hear these notes and sing them, you can tie them into your understanding of keys and chords and identify the chords you are looking for even faster.

Make it your daily practice to identify everything you hear

Many of the best musicians seem to always be analysing everything they hear out of natural curiosity. So many things in our world have pitch, harmony and rhythm. You can practice grooves to your washing machine, for instance. My electric toothbrush hums a middle C when I turn it on. Most pop songs use the same four types of chords inside of a major key (I, V, vi and IV in case you were wondering). Just stay curious and listen actively to whatever is around you all the time.

My electric toothbrush hums a middle C when I turn it on.

Then, when you sit down to practice, take the same curiosity you are developing by listening to everything around you and apply it to everything you play. Notice what key you are in. Be aware of the scale you are playing and the riffs you like to play that fit in it. Name the chords you are using and be aware of how they function inside the key you are playing in. The more you do it, the more natural and second nature it will become to identify, play and write what you hear.

Put it on the page

As you start to get comfortable identifying what you hear, make it your daily practice to take a little time each day to write down something that you hear or are learning to play. It can be a chord progression, riff, rhythm or anything else.

Remember that music is a language. You learned to write by just doing it every day in school. Every language takes time to learn to speak and write fluently. Don’t be afraid of doing it wrong. The only way to do it wrong is to not try.

Enjoy the process and give yourself the time to enjoy and work on music every day. Before you know it, you will find yourself being able to write down your own musical ideas with ease.

 

Learn music theory at http://hitmusictheory.com

 

This is a guest post by Daniel Roberts and first appeared on:

http://hitmusictheory.com/electric-toothbrush-hums-middle-c-better-musician/