Songwriting, Theory & Composition

Content related to songwriting, musical theory, composition and other more technical aspects of writing music.

How Music Works Video Series

Music is an interesting art form no matter if we're talking about rock and roll or the works of Mozart. There are underlining threads that tie just about every musical style, genre and artist together at the most basic of levels. The concept of notes melody, harmony and rhythms... not necessarily the same set of notes, divisions, rhythms or types of harmony, but the concepts are always there in all forms of music. Some of these concepts, like the concept of rhythm, come quite naturally as rhythm is all around us all the time and just about anything can be used to create rhythm.

Rock and Roll Experimentation: 10 of the Strangest Musical Compositions Part 2, The Present

This is part two of an article dedicated to looking at the more experimental side of rock and roll. The first half all consisted of songs that were recorded long before my time (aka the past). This half is focused more on how that tradition has continued in the times after my birth (aka the present).

As with all lists, there are always far too many songs to choose from and each person will have their own personal preferences. These 5 are just a few of mine.

6: Radiohead "Like Spinning Plates" from Amnesiac

Rock and Roll Experimentation: 10 of the Strangest Musical Compositions Part 1, The Past

Rock and roll was originally a blend of styles like country, jazz, blues, R & B and other styles so experimentation is part of the game. Over the years, musicians have pushed the boundaries to expand the genre beyond what probably anyone thought possible. There are lots of great songs along the way through rock and roll history, but every so often you hear a track that is a little avant garde when compared to some of the others of it's time. Maybe avant garde is not the correct term, but more experimental, something beyond the reaches of what typically defines a musical composition...

Thoughts on Dissonance in Musical Composition

My passion for music really got started back when I started playing music myself. Since that time, many years and many instruments ago, my ideas about what makes great music have changed drastically. When you start out learning about music, you find that there are lots of rules to stay within in order to make music that sounds "pleasing to the ear". That's all well and good to start out with. Working within a framework like that allows even beginners to create satisfying music without too much of a learning curve.

A Brief Tribute to the Merv Griffin: Game Show Pioneer, Composer and So Much More

Although this is not necessarily a music related post depending on your viewpoint, I felt it was necessary to acknowledge and pay tribute to Merv Griffin, who passed away yesterday from prostate cancer at the age of 82. Many of us younger folks might recognize this name merely the man behind Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, not knowing about his previous 20 year stint with The Merv Griffin Show and his time before that as a actor, host, vocalist and radio singer.

A Look at Song and Lyric Writing part 2: 10 Personal Lyrical Favorites 6-10

This is part two in a study of song lyrics, featuring the last 5 songs I chose for examples of lyrics that have stuck in my mind and spoken to me.

You can read part one here: A Look at Song and Lyric Writing Part 1: 10 Personal Lyrical Favorites 1-5

6. "Outlaw Blues" - Bob Dylan

A Look at Song and Lyric Writing Part 1: 10 Personal Lyrical Favorites 1-5

Are great lyrics a necessity to a really great song? Some people would claim yes, and for some songs that may be true. I don't make this claim though because often time there is too much emphasis put on the lyrics and not enough put on the originality of the music, style or feel. Instead, I think amazing lyrical lines can be a great part of a song, but it is really the sum of the whole that makes the song good or bad. That doesn't make song lyrics completely beyond study though...

Guitarist Series: 6 Things That are the Mark of a Great Guitar Lead or Solo

I think there is a little part of just about every guitarist that wants to be the in the spotlight wrenching out that perfect guitar lead to a massive crowd of adoring fans. Maybe it's only a small part in some, while it consumes every aspect of some other people's lives, but I think it just comes with the instrument and with the territory. Still, creating a great guitar lead part is not all that easy, especially if you're like me and prefer improvising.

What exactly goes into making the perfect guitar lead?

1: Creativity

Subtle Social Comment Through Storytelling: The Lyrics of the Velvet Underground

Songwriting is one of those personal explorations that just about everyone attempts. Thousands of people have tried to put their pen to paper and craft the perfect expression of their own tortured soul through song lyrics or its sister format, poetry, but capturing the perfect feel, words and style is something that even the most accomplished writers may never achieve.

Yet some people though just hit it perfectly, with subtlety, style and power.

The Pro/Anti Shred Debate: Advanced Guitar and Music Theory in Rock and Roll

Recently (well since the grunge era) there has been a bit of an anti-shredding (shredding: rapid paced guitar playing typically involving lots of advanced scales) movement in the guitar community where high technical skill is actually looked down upon if it doesn't have emotional value and actually take the song somewhere. I can't entirely agree with this as it tends to be more anti advanced playing than anything else. I do agree that there tends to be a lack of emotion in some guitar shredding, but don't think we should turn our back on advanced techniques all together.

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