Music Genre and Composition theory

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My points on why different music genres should be explored and why situation matters in your music

First of all, one thing you have to understand (or ignore; either is fine) is that music has a lot of power, no matter how poorly you make it, or how good you make it. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, most music that you hear has a lot of things in it that can mess you up or inspire you (depending on how you want to look at it.) When you look at a popular song, what do you see, mostly you'll either see that it's about self indulgence, depression, money or love. Unless it's not popular, then you'll see that it's about ANYTHING. Ok the point of all this is that music can influence you heavily, and most of the time it has a negative effect on you. Lucifer (the "angel of light") before he was cast out of heaven was supposedly the angel who was the master of music. Now take that how you want, but it's interesting to me that the most powerful form of influence in the world is exactly the same thing that Satan was in charge of in heaven...

Now I don't know about you, but I must have some kind of brain problem where I don't finish 90% of my songs, no matter how good they sound, I just never finish them. I have finished some, but not as many as everyone else. However, through all those times I've learned an important thing: making songs that don't sound good and songs that are incomplete tell you a lot more about what to do more so than making songs that sound good. You see mistakes will teach you a lot more about what is right, than doing what's right will teach you about what you're doing wrong.

Now let me point you in some directions that might help you with your music. First of all, listening to the same kind of music as the kind that your making won't give you very many fresh ideas; I used to make electronic music, and all I did was listen to electronic music...the final outcome of most of my songs were saturated versions of 19 different electronic songs I listened to. I'm not saying you'll never come up with something new by listening to the same style of music that your making, but I am saying that if you go explore and listen to something completely off the deep end and completely different than the type of music you're trying to make, you'll incorporate a lot of the different styles you hear in these songs into your songs; and that makes your sound unique and different, but more importantly that teaches you even more about (fill in the blanks here).

You see for the longest time I told myself (and everyone else) that I was going to make the most unique and progressive electronic music on the face of the planet. Besides the fact that it never happened, I found out that I was copying every other electronic artist out there. Sure I could have made money, but that wasn't the point, the point was I was just the same as everyone else making electronic music. So I talked to one of my friends; who is a producer and has his own progressive hardcore band, and all he would do was talk on and on about Miles Davis, or 40sElectronic music. I finally decided to try listening to some of that stuff (not the 40sElectro music), and...well to my amazement I liked jazz music. Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you this because from jazz music alone you can learn SOOOO much; and who knows you may even find out that you enjoy making jazz more than you do heavy metal.

The bottom line is that if you don't start exploring other music genres, then you're never going to learn unique ways of composing music. However let me warn you, you are responsible for the message your music brings...

I have a running theory: Situation shapes perspective, and perspective shapes your views on what is the truth, situation and perspective combined harden or soften your heart to what really is the truth. In music, situation shapes whether something else is good or not. For instance: this jazz track I'm listening to, the song is epic...but why is that. at least half the notes that are played in the song are "odd" or wierd sounding...but I mean if this song has so many "wrong" notes in it, how can it still be considered good? Because of situation. Every song sets it's own atmosphere, and tone; so when you hear in the beginning these Rhodes that are played across these unusual scales; and then you hear it progress into a "normal" scale of chords; the situation set up the tone, and it caused the "normal" sounds to become the payoff. Because through the whole song, you won't hear anything that's really normal, so when it comes to the chords, it sounds so good in comparison to the avante gard style notes that follow and preside. I hope I'm getting the point across to you, because I feel this is a very important thing to learn. I'm sure that if you think about it one afternoon in silence, that you'll learn even more than what I have said today (or tonight).

So look, the further away you get from your genre, the more you'll end up learning how to make it better.

I do find it amazing my friends, that we need not a sword or a gun by which to destroy someones life, but only a sheet of music and a guitar.

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User-submitted comments

Jun 29, 2004 03:24 pm
Great Article!
Although it's a cliché to say "my music cannot be categorized" I must say that it was through embracing all genres that my songwriting really blossomed. The song's in there somewhere, and it can be the strangest of things/emotions/thoughts etc. that can bring it out. The Prokofiev-esque string arrangement over the Bad Company style guitars? Who'd've thunk it? If it works, it works. If you like it, it's right.
Where would we be now had Lennon and McCartney stuck to three chord Chuck Berry songs? Where did that flugelhorn come from? Not from Bill Haley!
Open your ears and let it happen. If you don't like something, move on. If you like it, take away the basic part of it that you like - not the actual song itself (there we end up with 100+ bands all sounding the same). Take a pinch of white man, wrap him up in black skin, add a drop of blue blood......

Jul 04, 2004 09:17 pm
Rap- the death of music
To follow on from the comment about responsible musicianship, daily I get more and more depressed by Rap trends.

Now, this said, down here in Sydney we had the Refrains play just the other night, and they were brilliant, with a very cool hip hop edge, but even more so their content exhorted, built up, and encouraged.

I'm sure we all remember the old teen angst days (this is to the guys out there) where there was a girl we liked and we went through a thousand songs trying to find one that expressed the soppy emotions which filled our mind and consumed us day and night. Of course, by our 20's and beyond we were a little more jaded but even listening to the old songs we had used to court women will, I'm sure, bring back fun and nostalgic memories.

By comparison, the only content currently being dispersed is violence and sex. I mean, as bad as 80's rap was (including the Turtle Power! rap from the TMNT movie) it was not confined to violence and sex. In an already over-sexualised society, the incredibly graphic and irresponsible behaviour beind expounded in song and, eventually, imitated in life, is creating a generation of people who are either heartbroken or have walled themselves up to emotion in order to achieve the maximum from physical pleasure, unable to express long-term heartfelt commitment or even live a life of sacrifice. The recurrent themes are basically, if I'm not happy, I'll do whatever I want.

Compare it with, for example, classical music in which every note tugs at emotions. Or jazz, often dark and brooding, a sense of excitement and smooth tones, racy and under the surface. Rock, even, energetic and motivating. In many ways Rock has become a more responsible genre than its old "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll" days of the 70's and 80's.

Hopefully, the proliferation of Rap will see it, too, take responsibility for the audience it influences.

Adam Joyner
Apr 15, 2012 04:00 pm
Couldn't have said it better myself.
I would like to address your comment about listening to several styles of music, even though you may only be trying to focus on writing in one specific genre.
I go to school at the Living Arts College in Raleigh, NC. I am in the Audio Production and Sound Design major, so most of my classmates are in the same field. I have to surround myself with narrow-minded "producers/performers" EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It's always been baffling to me. My fellow peers, for the most part, only listen to and only WANT to listen to one style of music (seriously, in an Audio Production field?) because they want to be proficient in that one genre. I never understood that. Why limit your inspiration and knowledge? I listen to every genre I can and try to write in every style [I mean it, too. Every genre. (Rap, Rock, Metal, Country, Reggae, Folk, Blues, RnB, Jazz, Classical and anything else I can get my hands on.)] I find it very important to listen to EVERYTHING, because you can draw experience and ideas from ANYTHING.
I look at it this way; Without classical music, jazz would not exist. Without jazz, rock and rhythm and blues would not exist. Without rhythm and blues, rap would not exist- so on and so forth. NEVER limit yourself to one genre, especially when writing, because you'd be remiss if you did. I've gotten my best ideas while listening to other genres that I wasn't trying to record in.

Broaden your horizons. You'll be surprised what you can accomplish.

Also, if you wish to, you can check out my blog. I will be posting music/score reviews and other articles involving composition. Right now, I am just starting out, so I only have one review up, but check it out if you have time!

Thank you for you time and keep composing!

-Adam Joyner

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