#325

Real Talk With MC Meow: Music Theory

Tuesday, January 19th 2021, 4:28:35 pm

Music Theory is not something you learn or study,
it is something you independently invent.
Music theory contains a very important lesson,
there is an infinity within.
You can spend a life inventing music,
but you have to stop yourself, to live one.
Similarly, you can spend a lifetime
trying to create photo-realistic paintings.
But it is best to let the brush be a brush,
and let the paining say that it is a painting.
The perfection of a painting
is found in the rays of the sun it contains.
The perfection of a song,
is found in the way it makes a dancer's body move.
To sit down with sound synthesizers
is more about meditation than composition.
There are libraries of pre-made sounds out there,
and it is not a terrible thing to use them.
Just like it is better to learn to make songs,
by trying to replicate existing ones.
It is better to learn about good sound synthesis,
by making use of pre made sounds or sample.
The samples that you fall in love with,
will call to you, and eventually you'll recreate them.
Once you create a really good song that connects with you,
you can then re-synthesize your own version of the sounds within.
Music is about having fun, it is about creating beautiful things,
it is not about slaving over bare bone sound synthesis.
It is important to keep in mind that sharing fun, is even more fun,
songs that help people dance, may just be the loveliest kind of songs.
 
Let us make a strange little dance song,
out of existing sound samples.
We'll use the sounds found in
Sam Aaron's Sonic Pi project.
 
It is not a bad idea to start with the Rhythm of the song first,
the rhythm is like a foundation onto which we can add Harmony and Melody.
If we started with Melody first,
the melody would not tell us much about the rhythm of the song.
Starting with rhythm we can get our foot tapping,
and those taps will dictate how that melody will move.
 
Using ready made samples
we can instantly get a nice drum setup going.
*song plays*
 
And then sprinkle in a bit of hats, or cymbals,
now to be fair, we got to get our shoes on, and dance it out.
A dance song must always be tested,
against the type of dancing that it will be used for.
Here are the fist three sections,
a clumsy intro, a cymbal free beat, and then the initial enchilada.
*song plays*
It is at 130 beats per minute, and it is reasonably danceable,
it is nothing too special, but it is a danceable rhythm.
 
We can bend it a little bit,
but we have to mindful of our dancer.
They are currently meditating to our song,
and we must not interrupt their mediation.
Or they'll skip the song,
and later remove the song from their play list.
 
It is a sad fact of life,
that no matter how good our song is.
It will stop being catchy to the dancer,
in less than 30 days.
There is nothing you can do,
your song will expire like produce.
 
While we are on the dancer's mind,
we can bring them some joy by alternating moods as the song progresses.
Let us create a more intense mood in what we have so far,
by adding bass.
Bass is still a low frequency sound like the drums,
but it is less percussive (as in hitting a drum) and more stretched as in a whistle.
One common example of bass is a bass guitar,
it is low and deep, but unlike the drum the sound it makes is long.
 
Let me take a moment and explain how melodies,
including bass, as bass guitar usually plays simple melody get created.
The rule of melody making is keep it simple and sweet,
and I am not joking about this.
The creation is so simple that all we need to create a melody,
is dots and lines.
Moreover, it almost does not matter how the dots and lines are arranged,
so as long as they go up and down a little bit.
(Just to clarify, the dots and lines I am referring to, represent long ans short sounds,
is basically what you would see on an cowboy era automatic-player-piano sheet.)
Let us go over to a text to Morse code translator,
and convert the word meow to Morse code for our melody.
*beeps play*
This does not sound very good because it is the same note,
it is as boring as whistling the same tone:
*whistle -- / . / --- / .--*
So let us very gently vary the notes used in our melody here,
just gently going left and right with our finger on the piano.
When making melodies, you can skip two keys, maybe three,
but don't make a huge jump of four notes, because then you have to search for notes that go well together.
Interestingly enough if you have a piano handy and never played it,
you can easily improvise a song by pressing a key to a tempo, and then just gently moving left and right.
As a bonus try to keep rhythm with the low frequency keys on your left,
that will be your "piano drum" and your right hand will give the melody.
As an extra bonus try pressing two or three keys at the same time to create a chord,
this will make a richer sound - you'll probably make a better song than I am making right now...
 
Here is what our Morse code melody sounds like, in low bass,
with a couple of gentle changes to sync it up top the back beat.
*song plays*
and here it is with drums:
*song plays*
 
Remember, that all the samples you are using, are uniquely stacked together,
very few other songs will use the same bass sample, with whatever you put on top of it.
The way to think about bass is this:
a fuzzy and furry container for higher pitched melodies.
It almost has the same result as hall effect has on old school computer chip tunes,
but here you are not relying on an echo to blend beeps into something richer,
You are relying on hand picked bass sample, or even a real guitar,
and there ain't no nothing wrong with that.
So now that we have the beat, the hat/cymbals, and the bass,
we now need to add that melody that goes on top of the bass, that will melt into the bass.
 
Now, before we you add a melody, you need to take a breath of fresh air,
we can't pretend that music creation is a science, it is a exploratory and generative process.
So we have to listen, and understand to the soul of the song we have just created,
my use of the Morse code, is kind of already whispering something.
When you really listen to the melody our Morse code created,
it sounds Russian.
We have to listen to the song,
the song is dictating a certain path through a maze of infinite complexity.
In this situation,
And our little Sputnik gives us melody,
here is what it sounds like.
*song plays*
 
At this point we have a tird of a song,
it is not a bad idea to end the song, with a variation on the begining, without ading anything new.
So that gives us about a minute and a half,
and we only need about 60 more seconds, as our dancer has better songs to dance to.
Since our song wants to be russion, let us grab a recording of an old russian number station from wikipedia,
and sprinkle in a bit more more sputnik at the end.
 
I chose to decorate the center of the song with a piano,
as that will pleasantly surprise our dancer.
Overall the songe ended up being very tanky,
but it is dancable.
If I had to do something differently,
it would be spending more time replicationg and studying othr songs to make the song less Heavy Industries and more Cutting Shapes.
In closing, Building songs should not rely on a pre-set recipe,
it is a creative process that should invole lots of randomness and pleanty of dancing.
Here is the full song we just created,
*song plays*.

#325: Real Talk With MC Meow: Music Theory

Tuesday, January 19th 2021, 4:28:35 pm