Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Music Theory & Harmony: The Key To Understanding How Music Works

It's a sad fact that most people, including piano players, regard music theory and harmony as some abstract concept that has very little to do with the songs they play on their pianos. Nothing could be further from the truth. Knowing music theory and harmony is the key to opening a whole new world of exciting insights into the songs we play, and enable us to do things on the piano we never dreamed we could do, to say nothing of enjoying the process a hundred times more.

What is music theory, and how can I benefit?

Here are just a few of the wonderful skills and insights a person benefits from by learning music theory:
How notation works -- a huge advantage in sight-reading.

The hierarchy of rhythm -- solving rhythm problems before they begin.

All kinds of scales -- the "ladders of notes" every song is composed of. Major scales, 3 types of minor scales, chromatic scales, whole tone scales, modal scales.

How transposition and modulation works -- playing songs in different keys, and getting from one key to another smoothly.

Complex time signatures, and what they tell you.

Perfect, major & minor intervals -- helps ear training greatly.

Two-part and four-part harmony.

Figured bass such as IV, V7, ii6, I6/4, etc. and how it relates to chord symbols such as Fm7, F6, Dmaj7, etc.

Harmonizing melodies with all these chords.

Open & close voicing, inversions, secondary chords, form, cadences, non-harmonic tones, arranging for voices, arranging for brass, arranging for strings, transposing instruments, key relationships and many other exciting insights into the inner workings of music!

But what is harmony?

Harmony is a sub-set of music theory. It is a series of notes in combination, played simultaneously. Listen to your favorite songs, and pay close attention to the back-up vocals when they're being sung along with the lead. Can you hear how the two vocal melodies differ in pitch? That's harmony, and it's highly possible that those back-up vocalists were chosen because of their strong ability to harmonize.

Singing a harmony, or rather picking one out on your own without written sheet music, is an almost inherent musical skill that many singers would die to possess. But harmony isn't just the province of singers; it's found in every single area of music. Any time a sound is layered on top of another sound and those sounds match each other in rhythm and melody (but not pitch), a harmony is created.

Harmony is made of intervals, and as such, it can be considered dissonant (scratchy, uncomfortable, like playing an E and an F at the same time) or consonant (pleasing or smooth). What makes a harmony pleasing or unpleasing, however, is extremely relative. In medieval times, only octaves and perfect fifths were considered harmonious, and any harmony that deviated from that was generally frowned upon. In modern western music, though, nearly everything is considered to be harmonious by someone. Fifths are still very popular in modern harmony but are now used in the most unlikely of places; heavy metal music, for example, frequently uses perfect fifths in the vocal harmony to create an eerie effect when layered on top of the more dissonant instrumentation.

Harmony, in addition to being consonant or dissonant, can also be subordinate or coordinate. Subordinate harmony, the tonal harmony used most frequently today, is a series of harmonies that are based on each other. The harmony moves in such a way that a resolution is somewhat predictable; you can hear this type of harmony in modern pop music, musical parts that flow very easily into each other and don't leave the listener baffled as to the turn the song has taken. On the other hand, coordinate harmony is a series of harmonies that operate independently of each other. They do have some common relation, of course, but don't typically move toward a goal, or predictable resolution. Renaissance musicians often used this type of harmony, and it's capable of producing rich and moving textures within a piece of music.

Learning music theory and harmony is not just an option you can take or leave: it is part and parcel of the "stuff of music". No surgeon would ever say "I don't want to learn all that stuff about the nervous system & the skeletal system and blood vessels and how the lungs and heart works and all that stuff -- I just want to operate".

And yet the majority of piano players ignore the very thing that would take them to the next level in their playing and knowledge -- music theory & harmony.

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10 Good Reasons to add Royalty Free Music to Your Website

The number of Internet broadband subscribers surpassed 200 million in 2005. According to the Computer Industry Almanac, this number is forecasted to reach 500M by the end of 2010. This expanded broadband capacity is creating an explosion of rich media productions.

Companies are now demanding music-enriched websites, advertising and e-learning tools to serve this growing clientele. Sounds and images are now the norm and music is being integrated at every step. To meet that demand, Web designers and Flash developers are constantly looking for good music at a decent price.

Here's why Royalty Free Music is the best option available on the Internet.

1. Royalty Free Music is 100% legal.
When you purchase a license from a Royalty Free Music vendor, you are legally allowed to play the music on your website. No need to worry about copyright or music clearance.

2. Royalty Free Music is cost effective.
Licensed music can cost a fortune! But you can use original musical compositions on your website for a fraction of the cost one would normally pay.

3. Royalty Free Music is instantly available.
As soon as your transaction has been processed, a link is sent to your email address. You simply click on the link and follow the instructions to download the music immediately. No need to wait for a CD to come in the mail.

4. Royalty Free Music offers worldwide unlimited license.
Once you purchase a license, you can use the recording for as long as you want, anywhere in the world, with no additional payments.

5. Royalty Free Music is made by professional composers.
Several Royalty Free Music libraries are now filled with professional quality work. Long gone are the days when Royalty Free Music or Stock Music meant low quality "canned music".

6. Royalty Free Music is flexible to fit your needs.
Available in various formats, track lengths may be as short as 15 seconds or as long as 10 minutes. Loops are also available. Loops are small piece of music that "loop" or repeat themselves indefinitely. Because of their small size, loops load rapidly and are often used for flash animations.

7. Music helps you stand out and capture your visitors' attention.
Times have changed. Over 30 million websites are competing for the attention of more than 1 billion users. High speed broadband use on the Internet keeps expanding. Streaming music and videos are everywhere. Internet surfers now expect websites enriched with music and images.

8. Music makes your website more stimulating and alive.
Today's Web surfers are demanding not only information, but also an entertaining Internet experience. Properly chosen music enables a more complete appreciation of your website. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture with music is worth ten thousand.

9. Music moves people to action.
Music makes any presentation more effective. Music adds instant mood to a message, and helps people bond with the values of your products and services. Multimedia presentations are far more engaging. People will feel more emotionally connected to your website.

10. Music can be integrated into your website within minutes.
You can easily find inexpensive Flash Music Players on the Internet. Some websites even offer various models for free. Simple and clear instructions make for an easy installation on your website.

If you want to add music to your website, Royalty Free Music is the way to go. Stay on the legal side without going broke, and feature high quality professional music. Get you visitors' attention and help them remember your website by engaging their emotions through music.

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Green Day Revives Punk Rock Music

Green Day is an American punk rock trio composed of Tre Cool on drums, Mike Dirnt on bass and Billie Joe Armstrong on lead vocals and guitars. They have backup members for guitars (Jason White), keyboards (Jason Freese) and trumpet (Ronnie Blake).

During the mid 90s, along with other Californian bands like Rancid and The Offspring, Green Day revived the popularity of the punk rock scene in the United States. The success of Green Day and other punk rock bands have influenced the new generation of punk rock bands like Good Charlotte and Sum41.

Having sold over 25 million records in the U.S. alone and over 65 million albums worldwide, Green Day is one of the most successful punk rock bands of all time.

Green Day have successfully won three Grammy Awards Best Rock Album for American Idiot, Best Alternative Album for Dookie and Record of the Year for the single Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

The story of Green Day started when childhood friends Mike Dirnt and Billy Joe Armstrong, which were both 14 years old in 1986, decided to form a 2 person band that they called Sweet Children.

Performing their first live act at the workplace of Armstrong`s mom, Sweet Children experience their first exposure as a band. In 1998, however, Al Sobrante joined the band as their drummer. The three piece band soon switched their band name to Green Day after a marijuana incident and played their first performance at Sobrante`s school in Contra Costa College, San Pablo, California.

When Larry Livermore of Lookout! Records saw Green Day performed, he offered the band a record deal and immediately released their first EP in 1989 called 1,000 Hours. The band recorded two other EPs known as Slappy and Sweet Children.

When Sobranted moved to California to attend college, Tre Cool became a temporary drummer for Green Day. However, when Sobrante couldn`t commit to the band any further, Tre became the permanent drummer for the band.

In early 1991, Green Day released their second album known as Kerplunk! under Lookout! Records, while featuring Tre Cool on drums. Green Day successfully performed plenty of live acts during 1992 and 1993 all throughout U.S. and Europe. The second album sold over fifty thousand albums in the U.S. alone and over two million records worldwide.

With the release of the successful Kerplunk! album, Green Day was a focus of major record labels and the band ultimately left Lookout Records. Although many fans regarded Green Day as a sell out, the trio had no choice but to move.

In 1994, Dookie became a major commercial hit, after recording it in a mere three weeks. Songs like basket case, when I come around and Longview all became #1 songs on different charts. Because of this massive popularity, Green Day was able to perform at Woodstock 1994 and Lollapalooza. The following year, Green Day was nominated for nine awards while winning the Best Alternative Album.

Green Day released a single entitled J.A.R. in 1995, which was soon followed by their third album Insomniac. The album comprised of a darker and more melodic style of songs like Walking Contradiction, Stuck With Me and Brain Stew/Jaded. After winning an MTV Video Music Award, Green Day took a break from producing music and performing concerts, claiming exhaustion.

In 1996, after their much criticized break, Green Day recorded and released their nimrod album. Major hit songs like Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), Redundant and Hitchin` a Ride were products of the band`s experimental style, far from their standard pop punk rock signature. The band again took two years off to spend time with their families.

When Green Day came back to the music scene in 2000, they released an album called Warning:, which reflects a more mature version of their music. However, the Warning: album only received gold, instead of double platinum labels like their past albums. Fortunately, Green Day won eight awards at the California Music Awards on 2001 for this album.

While Green Day was working on a new album, which was supposed to be entitled Cigarettes and Valentines, the master tapes of 20 complete tracks were stolen from their recording studio. In 2004, without trying to use their materials from the stolen album, Green Day released the 2004 American Idiot album, which instantly became #1 on different music charts.

All throughout 2005, Green Day did 150 shows promoting their album on a worldwide tour. To this day, Green Day remains a strong influence to modern punk rock bands.

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Music Contract Lies, 101

Brace yourself, because the music industry is full of lies. But what industry doesn't have its share of truths, lies and exaggerations? I am sure there isn't one without issues. But you are in the music industry so you need to be aware of some of the issues that pertain to you, especially when dealing with music contracts and recording contracts. Being naive is something that can hurt you the most. That is why I am here to reveal some of the biggest lies to look for and how you can prepare yourself. The music industry can be tough but you will do fine as long has you know what you are getting into.

One of the first lies that you need to avoid is, "I can't throw "that" in the contract right now, but you have my word on it." If you hear this, red flags should go up. Most of the time little idiosyncrasies can be worked out later but you have to be on guard. A man's handshake is not what it used to be. If you feel the detail is crucial then demand it be in writing in your music business contracts or else you may find yourself in an unwanted situation.

The next big lie when it comes to music contracts is, "You don't need to show this to your lawyer." Hmm...It makes you think, right? Well, at least it should! There should be nothing in writing that you shouldn't show to your lawyer when someone says that. That should throw up another red flag because why can't you show it to your lawyer? Don't believe it!

Another big lie you need to watch out for may come up in simple conversation about your recording contracts. This one is..."Of course, everyone has agreed to this..." or "That's standard, it is in every contract." They may be telling the truth but then again, they may not be. If you feel uneasy about what it is you are about to sign, then seek help from a trusted friend, manager, lawyer, colleague, whoever. Don't be afraid to take time to read over ANY contract.

The bottom line is that if you feel that a situation is uncomfortable or unfair for any reason, then always trust your instincts. Don't assume that because you have become friends with a person that their word is enough. Business is business when it comes down to music contracts. Never mix friendship and business because they don't mesh. If you keep everything in writing then no one gets hurt and everyone stays aware and happy.

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Ty Cohen, owner of Platinum Millennium publishing, former record label owner & national music industry seminar speaker/panelist.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Song Writing: Why Is Completing Your Songs Important

Do you find it easy to write songs? Too easy? Well, I at least have had a problem with this.

If you would visit our home and my garage you would find a lot of unfinished songs and a lot of manuscript paper with some notes on them showing that I wanted to say something with music but never finished it.

Maybe you always finish your songs, record them or have well documented lists with your songs for easy access. That's the way I work now but obviously didn't work before.

Nowadays I have started to realize the importance of finishing songs that I have found enough important to start writing in the first place.

I think it is important for you and me to complete songs we have started to write for the following reasons:

1. It is when songs are complete that other people can benefit from them and you can feel that you have contributed something to the benefit of others and to yourself.

2. It has a positive effect on your subconsious mind to take your composition the whole way to completion. It will give you the realization that you can write songs. It's that simple!

3. As I mentioned before you will avoid having a lot of unfinished songs hanging around. It can be unfinished recordings or pieces of paper with a few words on them indicating an attempt to create something that probably meant a lot then but now is just words.

If you are signed to a recording company you will be more or less forced to produce things. The product will hopefully be a CD with maybe twelve songs on it and a show for your promotion tour.

It seems like slavery to be forced to produce a product like a CD. But having this obvious goal to work towards and the pressure involved can actually promote creativity.

If you are not signed to a record label you can benefit from working with your songs in a similar way.

1. Set a goal to produce for example three songs and set the prerequisites like writing one love ballad, one uptempo song and a waltz.

2. When you have made the songs record them and burn them on a CD.

3. Learn the songs by heart and sing and play them for your friends.

Doing this will increase your faith in your ability to produce songs and I think you will feel a greater joy and satisfaction in your great enterprise to write songs for the benefit of mankind and, of course, yourself.

Peter Edvinsson is a musician, composer and music teacher. Visit his site Capotasto Music and download your free sheet music and learn to play resources at

Ipod Mp3 – Review for Music Sites

IPOD mp3 music is a wonderful choice for getting the best songs quickly and without the hassles of traveling to the music store. There are many locations right on the web that can provide you with the best of the best for much less. There are several locations that do offer a wide range of choice when it comes to IPOD mp3 music. Some offer more than others or they offer a better quality product. It will take a little looking to find the most affordable choice that is also the one that has what you would like to download.

Once you find the right location for your IPOD mp3 music, you can easily and quickly (it seems almost instantly) download them to your PC, your notebook, or you can check out iPod mp3 music downloads as well. There are specific services that are available to provide you with the ability to get great quality songs on your iPod. If you choose iPod mp3 music, you can find the right location to download from on the web to your iPod, take the music with you wherever you decide to go and, if you like them; you can even burn them to CD.

No matter if you choose iPod mp3 music or find a few great songs to download to your PC, there are many services that are providing this ability to you. If you are skilled, you can even find a few iPod mp3 music downloads. Of course, to get the best products available, you may want to go with a paid service. It also pays for you to take your time in checking out a few of the services for their fees and their membership details. With so much competition out there, you are sure to find a great deal being offered to new members. Music downloads are fast becoming the best way to get the songs you want to see quickly.

From Motown to Hip Hop

Growing up in the City of Detroit during the early sixties was a memorable era for music. It was a period of time whereby the unique sounding records of Motown were being played and heard throughout the streets, nightclubs, house parties and radio stations everywhere. It was common to have the soulful R and B records playing on the jukeboxes while folks were dancing in the streets or singing in the barber shops and beauty parlors to the love songs that eventually captivated the hearts of millions of people throughout the world. Music cds and rap music were not heard of during that period, it was all about the vinyl records and rhythm and blues soul.

The songs that were written by Motown songwriters during the 60’s & 70’s had so much meaning. They were songs that spoke about true love, current events and the heartache and pains of life experiences. Oh yes, Motown had it going on! Their music became universal music. Many of the soulful tunes crossed over into other markets such as pop, jazz, blues, etc… But just like George Benson said in one of his recordings “Everything Must Change”, and sure enough, he was right about the music.

After giving so many years service and great music to the City of Detroit, Motown moved out and Rap/Hip Hop moved in. Instead of hearing someone singing My Baby Loves Me or My Girl, you began to hear new sounding lyrics of street experience expressed in rhythms with the m

This new sound called Rap evolved in the early 80’s and took off as a sky rocket in the late 90’s and New Millennium as Hip Hop/Rap. Even today Rap/Hip Hop music is still a multi billion dollar genre. Millions of cds, videos and dvd’s are sold each year in the Hip Hop genre of music. And there is no sign that Hip Hop will be slowing down or taking a back seat to anyone anytime soon.

So what happened to the Motown sound…. did it die out? No! The Motown sound will never die out. It will always play a significant part in the hearts of millions who embraced it’s sound back in the early 60’s, and continued to pass that sound on to their children throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Sometimes you just have to move over and let the new kids on the block have a turn in expressing their musical talents, songs and ideas. That’s what Motown did…moved over-not out. And now the Hip Hop artists are not the new kids on the block anymore, for they have taken their position to express themselves musically, just like the rhythm and blues artists took their position to express themselves in the Motown era.

That’s how we’ve gone from Motown to Hip Hop!

Written by: Michael Bell