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Discussion in 'Bar' started by ArnaudM, Jun 17, 2011.
Dude, totally looking forward to that!
It is going to be a multi parts post.
Ijust finish part I, dealing with the "harmony laws" concept and the counterpoint techniques. It's has been really cool to write, and I have had a good times selecting the sound samples to show some examples. I'll post it tonight (I'm currently working).
Tell me : do you know a way to put mp3 files on a player that could be inserted on a post ? I would like the people to be able to push play directly on the message.
This forum has a soundcloud embed option, I think it's the best option and does exactly what you need
Great band and great posts Arnaud, I look forward to reading what else you have to say. This forum has some really amazing contributors.
Really awesome songs!
I'm not a Black Metal listener, but I enjoy Emperor/Ihsahn a lot.
While his influence on your songs is noticeable, you certainly have your own thing going on. Top stuff for sure! Can't wait to listen to the new songs.
Very interesting posts about the writing process, too! Keep them coming!
OK. Here's the first part of my songwritting essay
In the next ones, I'll insert some sound samples. I'll try to remain very simple and will illustrate every statement with a sound clip.
I'm going to deal with the concept of "laws" and "rules" in musical composition, as our subject is : applying classical and, i.e., "learned" music, to rock and metal songwritting.
First of all, I'm not so much of a specialist in the matter I'm writing about here. Consider it more as thoughts based on my song writing experience than theoric truth. There are plenty of very intelligent treaties about the science of orchestration and harmony : a lot of far more talented and gifted musicians than me have shared their precious knowledge, and I suggest the people interested in getting learned to read them, and not just me.
So... Let's go !
There are laws in harmony and orchestration, and even if a lot of metal and rock musicians, i.e. people who perform and create popular music, are angry with that idea, you can't do without it.
Let's explain. I often work with musicians (in my studio) who tell me there is no other law except Inspiration in music. For me, it is one of the most common (and stupid) superstition. Forgetting the laws on purpose is still dealing with them.
It is just a question of the effect you want to create. Some years ago, I read an interview of Yngwee Malmsteen. He said SLAYER were a bunch of loosers because their guitar soli were not in the right tune, and because they did not respect the laws of classical harmony. Bullshit. Everybody here knows SLAYER do it intentionally.
Every mean you employ, and their absence is still a process, have consequences in terms of effect.
Basically, avoiding classical rules of harmony produces two types of effects :
- the music shows a primal energy and a straight-in-your-face feeling, people usually call freshness or immediate color.
- to take our last example, it can add a very gloomy character to the music. SLAYER, by using the dissonant soli, tritones everywhere, strange modes, parrallel minor thirds, etc, are a band able to express a very intense brutality and this tomb atmosphere is something very few were able to create.
So, the first step is : know what you do and why you do it or not. Be aware of your effects.
This is the only solution to improve your abilities in the limits of your own genre, the one you have chosen.
Second, and paradoxically: as the instrumentation is very different, most of the classical rules of harmony don't apply to rock music.
Let's talk a bit more of those «*rules*». I said they have changed a lot through times, mainly because the music gears have changed a lot. The roots of music are the tones. If they change, the music itself changes so much !
Why rules ? Because the Great Masters, thanks to a lot of experience, selected techniques able to express in the best way what they wanted to express, also because some of those note arrangements sounded better than others with the involved instruments. For example, classical music forbid parrallel quints (i.e. the famous power chords).
Why ? Just play «*Smell like teen spirit*» on a piano and you'll know why ! With an electric guitar, the fondamental (C, for example) will be underlined by the added quint (G): there is a tonal hierarchy you can hear very clearly. On the contrary, on a piano, the two tones seem absolutely equal, and playing a succession of power chords this way can sound very disturbing and barbaric. And even if you find it cool, it doesn't sound the way it sounds on an electric guitar. Another example : have you ever tried to play power chords on a bass ?
So, as a conclusion, I would say I always compose with a clear idea of the "material" aspect of the tone, since, in the end, it decides what soundds great and what sounds crap.
Second part tomorrow. I'll talk about counterpoint technique.
Arnaud, I honestly couldn't agree more, 100% my thoughts on studying music and people who are afraid they're creativity's gonna die if they actually learn how things work. You are my new best friend.
Often, people saying that are just overproud. They don't want to face the gaps in their knowledge, and are satisfied with the Romantic idea of being cursed and misunderstood genius.
There is also the lazyness factor...
PART II :
Let's read wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpoint) article and then forget it, because we are playing rock and roll.
Basicaly, I use counterpoint when I want to avoid the very static effect created by the use of parrallel harmony (listen to the Maiden twin guitars). Here are two incredible example of counterpoint guitar riffs : the opening riff of «*Inno a Satana*» by Emperor and this part of «*Night's Blood*» by Dissection.
Listen this one from 3:04 to 4:17
When you have two guitarist in a band, I find it a bit shameful not the exploit this possibility and we are too few to use it !
The simplify it to the extreme, counterpoint consists in writing two (or more) different melodies that stick with each others,without being parralel.
Here are two sound clips I recorded. It is very poor counterpoint (coming from a period I was less experienced), taken from the last Alkemyst's album.
Enter the Carnival outro, gr 1
Enter the carnival outro, gr 2
Enter the carnival, both
The Grand Illusion, gr 1
The Grand Illusion, gr 2
The Grand Illusion, both.
The main thing to keep in mind is to avoid parallel structures (progressions like C G then D-A have to be avoided). There are plenty of other tips, but I suggest you to take a real counterpoint lesson if you want to make it perfectly.
Here what can do the real masters :
Remember : respecting some basic rules is only useful if you think they can bring you to a next level of creativity. If you think your track needs a parrallel structure (basical third doubling for example), don't hesitate and do it ! By writing this, I just mean improving your knowledge in writing techniques offers more expression possibilities.
Two other counterpoint examples, taken from "Seraphic Requiem" :
Bridge, guitar 1
Bridge, Guitar 2
Middlepart, Guitar 1
Middlepart, Gr 2
Hope to read your comments and reactions !
Really well explained! Exactly the kind of things i was missing. Audio example are great too.
Thank you Arnaud!
You're welcome ! It also gives me the possibility to clarify my views on the subject. Sharing some tips is often the best way to improve. The Bach soundclip is just supernatural...
I like this. When I studied Theory in college, Bach composition was our main focal point. There was something our professor always called us out on when composing and that was "try not to use parallel fifths". As it's slightly predictable, I think that's what you are saying here.
Thanks for your examples. They sound great!
yeah bach is a genious,
the other baroque stuff is pretty boring though, bach is so much better than the usual suspects like haendel or vivaldi
thank you for sharing your knowledge arnaud
i think i just realized something
i usually go about songwriting by starting with a chord structure and then write the melodies and other stuff on top of it
with counterpoint its probably better to do it the other way round, to start with a motive and don't worry about the chords
edit: didn't read the wikipedia article before, it all stands in there
French Baroque music is great, also. You should try to listen to Marin Marais, Charpentier, or even this one Bach admired a lot... Couperin.
Difference between counterpoint and harmony lays more your writing point of view. Example : when I compose two harmonized lines, I'm more into their melodic developpment, and I, finaly, write them on an "horizontal" point of view.
On the last DCS song I'm finishing, I wanted to write something close to a fugue, with 4 harmonized guitar tracks. I tried to compose them in the counterpoint perpective, and them I had to change it. I threw my guitar away, opened a midi map, and wrote step by step on the midi roll, using the GM piano, the whole part, on an harmonic perspective. I wrote a succession of chords instead of to evolving melodies. Harmony and counterpoint are the same thing, but from different points of view.
Great examples, both yours and the other ones! The Bach one is unbelievable.
Do you have any guidelines/tips/starting points you normally do when trying to write some counterpoint riffs that actually sound good? Or do you just start rambling about until it sounds nice?
I usualy try to start with a Quint, or a third, and then try to interlace the two lines. Two methods I use :
- inverted movement.
- Thematic quoting : A part of the theme of the first guitar is used for the second one (I transpose it if it needs) This way, you have the feeling the whole melody turns around itself.
But the second solution you mentionned is also very often used, because, well, we talk about music, and I'm far from being Bach.
Well : it's time to present the third part.
III- Exploiting themes.
In a basic rock song, the themes are following each others, in an horizontal way : intro -verse -bridge chorus etc.
Romantic composers, when they began to practice symphonic poem (descriptive or narrative music, here you can read the wiki link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphonic_poem) used to work themes in a very vertical manner (one theme and another in the same time), and make the themes evolve on the timeline.
In the end, you always here the same main ideas, taking every possible form, a bit like a dialogue with the same characters you can immediately recognize the voice of, each of them developping their own discourse at the same time.
I think it is something really interesting to apply to metal, and I began working on it some months ago, with both of my bands. It open another dimension to songwritting and unites horizontal (time) and vertical (harmony) perspectives.
To explain it simply, you should listen to it.
It is the « Sorcerer's apprentice », by Paul Dukas. It has been inspired by a well known Goethe text. I put the Disney "Fantasia" link here, because it is easier to figure out which theme is about which scene. I suggest you to listen to the whole and try to recognize all the themes and the way there are used.
The first theme you can hear is the « Spell theme ». When the master cast his spell, the tone is dreamy and balanced.
When the pupil cast this spell, the tone is... well, listen to it, from 1:50 to 2:00.
And, at 5:36, the theme is exactly the same, but orchestrated and performed in a totally different way.
Listen to the « sweaper theme », 2:13
Now, listen cautiously : at , both sweaper and spell casting themes are played together. Guess why. 7:25 to 7:55
And, finally, at, you'll hear the glorious final spell, from 7:56 to 8:10.
Understood the concept ? You see here a perfectly developped piece, in which you never have the feeling that the music is overrepetitive; although everything is done with three or four evolving themes.
Next time, I'll try to put online one stupid theme played on a piano, and I'll make it evolve, depending from the effect I want to create.
Thanx for staying tuned.
As it takes some time to do and developp, I would like to know if some of you are still interested in that boring lesson.
Shall I carry on bothering you with unrock stuff and idle thoughts ?
Need feedback please :Smokedev:
I don't know how I lost this post.
I'm finding it very interesting. I've been playing nearly 20 years and no music theory has taken my interest. I really like the way you are explaining the concepts. It's really cool that you add examples since it's sometimes difficult to underestand things just by reading them when you have no knowledge about it.
Thanks for your posts. They're not boring at all!