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hoverX

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Learning how to use a DAW and all the gadgets that go along with it are one thing. How does someone learn how to write a good song? Can someone recommend a good book on music theory?

 

Good is in the mind of the beholder. What are you defining as a good song?

 

I'm just looking to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to create but don't know where to start.

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"... Most birds cannot fly until their muscle structure has had time to develop. In the meantime, the nest becomes their entire world. Baby birds are not responsible for food gathering or protection of the nest, so they generally develop a psychological dependence which must be overcome. Parent birds begin to teach their fledglings the importance of flying by remaining a short distance away from the nest during feeding. If the young birds are to survive, they must step away from the nest. Frequently, this means a few hard falls to the ground followed a long trip back to the safety of the nest.

 

All of this practice time, awkward as it may seem, does teach the fledgling about the mechanics of flight. Falls to the ground become more controlled as the young bird stretches out his or her wings. Short hops back to the nest become longer flights. Bird parents continue to encourage their brood to leave the nest for longer periods of time. Some species actually adopt a tough love policy, leaving the fledglings alone to develop their own flying instincts.

 

After a few weeks of practice and imitation, young birds learn more advanced flying techniques - how to use the wind for lift, how to spot rising thermals and how to make controlled landings. Eventually, all of these elements become instinctive and young birds can start families of their own. The teaching process begins anew as these birds teach their own young how to fly."

 

 

All I can say is that if you are meant to fly, you will grow wings.

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hoverX,

 

Try that music theory for dummies book. Or some other book. Go to Amazon and do a search for "music theory". You'll find some sources I'm sure.

 

But really, honestly, the best way for you to learn music theory (which includes rhythm, scales, chord 'qualities' such as major and minor) is to take actual music lessons from an actual human being. Or buy one of those books first and then follow it up with a few months of music lessons. You won't regret it.

 

Now for a little pontification...

 

For the longest time we've lived in a world where "software of the arts" is available to everyone. Music software, image editing software, even architectural design software. Everyone with the means to buy these things is buying the tools. What accompanies the tools is a whole lot of marketing hype about how you can "make professional music" or "make professional images" or "design your own house", inferring that because you have the tools you can "do it yourself". That's BS.

 

By way of your post I think you realize that you need the knowledge to be able to make music, and that's great. But in the same way that you can go to Home Depot and buy roofing materials and a book on how to fix your roof, the actual techniques involved are best demonstrated by a roofing contractor. So sure, buy a book, get a head start, but follow it up with some actual music lessons.

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".

 

 

All I can say is that if you are meant to fly, you will grow wings.

 

Or get an email informing you you qualify for free air tickets.

 

inferring that because you have the tools you can "do it yourself

 

Buy an Alto saxophone today,and you,too,can be a cataclysmic innovator like Charlie Parker!

 

HoverX, like ski says,you're gonna have to get some guidance.

There are so many potential pitfalls,there's only so much the written word can do.

Absolutely necessary,but not everything you need.

 

Ancient masters still argue over some things...ambiguity is inherent to the beast.

 

Luckily.

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hoverX, But really, honestly, the best way for you to learn music theory (which includes rhythm, scales, chord 'qualities' such as major and minor) is to take actual music lessons from an actual human being. Or buy one of those books first and then follow it up with a few months of music lessons. You won't regret it.

 

+1 on real lessons...

 

Also there's Music Composition for Dummies - which is good. The author of this book recommends the Music Theory for Dummies book first.

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Not to be an echo, but I was very pleased with the textbooks we used back in college. VERY simple and easy to follow.

 

That said, I still wouldn't have learned as much as I did if it weren't for the professor (and the lecture/seminar environment, to an extent) breaking everything down even more, coupled with the ear training classes, my private lessons on my principal instrument, and the practical application of what I learned to the ensembles I performed with.

 

Basically, I'm making a point—albeit in a wordy fashion—that a book will not be the holy grail here. You may not need to study everything I mentioned, but having someone there to convert words into fluid thoughts really works best.

 

(And I'll say no more, lest I sound too much like a teacher.)

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  • 4 weeks later...

as someone who has done a masters in composition, and and felt blessed by the mentors he's had, and is a teacher himself, I totally agree with everyone on the "human music lessons"

 

that being said,

There is something special, and totally feasible about doing it yourself.

I didn't have a good teacher until I was in university, and I taught my self theory before that step by step.

I recommend to my beginning students that they should try to find a "simple" concept in music that they don't quite grasp, and then solve it.

 

For instance, when you look at sheet music of rock stuff you'll see the chord "E5" alot.

That was my big wonder when I was a 16, guns n roses always played E5.

What does that mean? Well it took a little time and then I found out, with the help of some books and more experienced guitar players. And of course that simple exploration led to a basic understanding of how chords are built.

 

If song writing is your thing, grap some sheet music of beatles or radiohead, and then just stare at it until you see something that makes you go hhhm?

Recently I just did analysis of the song "nude" by radiohead, and it blue my mind how revealig it was into the world of melody.

 

So I guess my recommendation is "real" music, with a theory book as a reference, and a curios mind.

 

Students of mine that don't apply theory to real music and leave it as a concept out in the void never seem to have much luck with it.

 

good luck, theory is psychedelic experience.

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What does music theory have to do with writing a good song?

 

I guess at its basic form, a musician will use music theory without realizing it is being used. So learning it doesn't matter at this stage.

 

For example, a Dufus picks up a guitar and fumbles around until he plays a basic G chord. He plays it and is elated to hear that he just 'played the guitar.' After stumbling upon two more chords (C and D) he plays a pattern and writes some lyrics. This young person has just composed his first song. Ta Da. He plays it for his friends and family and it is received with great reviews.

 

So he decides to ask around for money to record this new song and things happen, it becomes a top 100 hit and life is good.

 

Unable to write any more 'good songs,' Dufus decides to write a book about writing 'good songs' and sells it on the Internet. Shortly afterwards, Dufus is making deals with the presidents of local songwriters groups to appear and sell his book. Naturally, untalented wannabe songwriters eat this sort of thing right up and buy the book because Dufus had a top 100 hit and knows all about how to write a good song.

 

Some of the worlds greatest songwriters claim the song came from some sort of divine revelation, while others practice the art of writing, re-writing, and re-writing. In the end, you will or will not have written a 'good song.'

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I don't think that reading any book can help one become a good artist. Writing music is an art. That being said, many artists have to work on their craft to perfect it. If you feel like you are a true musician and have artistic ability start practicing. Write as much as you possibly can. Don't expect the first song to be great, just write for practice. Each song will get better and better.
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Chords. Understand Chords. Read books, and try to listen to evrything that is being said. What do you hear happening when playing a G7 chord and then play a C chord? Listen to the difference between G7 and Gmaj7. For starters.

 

I just deleted 90 % of this post. Short: play many songs, grasp their structure. Shorter still: the Beatles.

 

And another thing: it is still possible to write beautiful songs with three chords only. Be more careful with four chord songs, we had the Cranberries already.

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One of the popular theory textbooks these days is Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music, Robert Gauldin, published by Norton. There's a workbook and, if I remember correctly, a CD you can get that are companions to the text.

 

Your question suggests you didn't study formally -- neither did I -- so if you're just starting out, you might like Scales Intervals Keys Triads Rhythm and Meter, John Clough & Joyce Conley, also from Norton. It's a workbook designed for self-study. It covers all the basics you'll need if you want to study harmony and counterpoint and so on. Most good books on those subjects assume you have the basic down.

 

The Gauldin book covers the basics too, but it blows past it them pretty quick.

 

Studying theory on your own is tough, at least it is for me, and you might look around for courses offered somewhere near you. It's the kind of thing where a teacher, even a mediocre teacher, can really help you get started.

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Not to be an echo, but I was very pleased with the textbooks we used back in college. VERY simple and easy to follow.

 

Since we're still on this, we used Bruce Benward's Music in Theory and Practice (Volumes I and II), though in looking at it on Amazon, I see there's a newer edition out now, so now I feel old. Thanks a lot, guys.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Music-Theory-Practice-Vol-Anthology/dp/0072950684

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While there are those among us who have an intuitive grasp of the elements of music and just don't seem to have any need to learn about Neopolitan 6ths and so on, I've benefitted a great deal from the little bit of theory I've tried to learn.

 

Theory doesn't make good music any more than a really nice guitar makes a good player. But it seems to me theory is a great tool to have in your toolbox -- ideally, right next to a bag full of talent. Theory can help solve problems. It can inspire ideas. And for me, it made a surprising difference in my ability hear music.

 

Theory isn't just form, of course. It's chord structure and substitutions, scales, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, keys, modes, style, and all the rest. It's the craft of music and learning some if it can increase our appreciation and enjoyment, but also help us create the part we call art. I think that's a beautiful thing.

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The beauty of books is you can hitch a lift on the shoulders of giants.

 

May I quote you? That's beautiful.

 

Mark his words, people. You're getting great advice there.

 

And Bailhe, while I agree with a lot of what you said, here's a statement I don't understand...

 

While there are those among us who have an intuitive grasp of the elements of music and just don't seem to have any need to learn about Neopolitan 6ths...

 

My question is: "And why not?"

 

If you don't know music theory to begin with, how can you then decide ahead of time that you don't need to know about a particular element of it?

 

In general... A Neopolitan 6th chord, in C minor, is a Db chord. Try this little exercise, playing each chord for 1 measure (slow tempo):

 

C minor, Db major, Ab major/Eb, Eb major

(repeat)

 

It's a nice little cycle, yes? It has a restless quality, never actually resolving to anything. The wrap-around from Eb major to C minor is haunting, moody. If you play that cycle 4x and you want to resolve it, you have lots of choices too. Having a knowledge of music theory can help you quickly narrow down the choices as to what could work, including, of course, C minor.

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So based on all of this, the one hit wonder was lucky and theory made no difference, where as an emotional score from a box office hit movie had a great deal of theory behind it.

 

You're such a pot-stirrer. So then let's be Zen about it:

 

It all makes a difference, and none of it makes a difference.

 

Music theory can only help broaden one's creativity. You can learn it and use it, or learn it and then rebel against what you've learned. Or you can stay ignorant of it and draw on the wellspring of one's own creativity. Or maybe something in-between (no one has to achieve a doctorate in music theory to be a composer or songwriter). But regardless of how schooled you are in this stuff or not, none of it guarantees that any of your music will be worth listening to.

 

Or maybe it will be.

 

Who knows.

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You're such a Blah, Blah, Blah ....

Who knows.

 

You're right, however, your point is beside the point.

 

" ... Learning how to use a DAW and all the gadgets that go along with it are one thing. How does someone learn how to write a good song? Can someone recommend a good book on music theory?"

 

We can eliminate the first part of the OPs question/statement.

The second part is about learning to write a 'good' song.

The third part is asking for a recommendation about a music theory book.

 

This person is obviously confused and isn't sure about what they really want in life.

 

There are great books on music theory and there are good books on music theory. To what level this person wishes to learn is unknown other than good. So learning theory and applying the theory are directly relevant to each other. In its basic form, music theory is applied whether the player actually actively studied theory. The fact remains that the theory is being applied. In other words, playing a C chord on the piano is evidence that theory is applied. The fact that the player positioned his hands in such a manner as to play a C chord is applied theory.

 

So theory in this sense has nothing to do with writing a good song other than it is being applied.

 

What is a 'good' song, I ask you? Is it theoretically correct in the musical sense? No, it cannot be a 'good' song until someone has declared it to be!

If Charles Berry plays a song about some guy named Johnny and the listener declares that the song is good, then the song about Johnny, inevitably has to be good. :lol:

 

So there you have it.

 

Simply play (music theory is applied with or without your knowledge) and if the song is good, then someone will tell you.

 

This is not to be confused with the audience politely applauding your effort to perform in public at an open mic.

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You're right,

 

Thanks.

 

however...

 

Blah. You missed my point, but that's besides the point.

 

What is a 'good' song, I ask you? Is it theoretically correct in the musical sense? No, it cannot be a 'good' song until someone has declared it to be!

 

There are standards. I'm sure there are. I'll have a look for them one of these days.

 

;)

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Ski asks a really good question and since usually he's the man with the really good answers, THIS is interesting! He asked:

 

"If you don't know music theory to begin with, how can you then decide ahead of time that you don't need to know about a particular element of it?"

 

Nice little Zen Koan, and here's the answer.

 

In my years playing with bands in bars, some guy would sit in and just fly to the stars on a tune. At the break, I'd ask, "So...Uhh, like, how'd you do that? What chord was that?" And these guys, time and again, would shrug and say, "I dunno. Did you see that honey in the front row?" or something equally illuminating. I envied them then and I do now. I've just run into these savants that can reel off substitutions I've never imagined, take a melody into a thousand variations, inverted, blast off from VI of III, and gracefully land home like they were reading from some master arranger's chart.

 

Now I grant that most of them knew a little something, but when pressed,many of them couldn't begin to figure out what chord they'd just played and didn't seem to give a damn. They'd say, "Yeah, well, it's got this E down here, but I get my pinky on this D, see?" I'd just stand there in awe, plunking away some really inventive I-V's on my bass.

 

Old Pappa Bach had some theory, but if you've ever taken a crack at analyzing any of his Harmonized Chorales in that Riemenschneider book, you've probably had the same jaw dropping experience I've had. The theory's great, but the imagination is...well....What can you say?

 

I've seen the mountain top and it's plain I need all the help I can get: theory, voodoo, really fancy picks? I'm in.

 

Now I'm gonna try out Ski's chord progression.

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