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How to write great music

Writing great songs are not as difficult as most people think. Use this easy to follow guide do learn how to write great music.

What makes good music? It s a very subjective question because there are so many different kinds of people in the world and as many different types of music.

But it isn t necessary to have a degree in Music Theory to write a satisfying song. You only need to have some inspiration and a strong feeling you want to share with others.

Outstanding songs have several components that make them superior and memorable. The lyrics should be filled with truth, sometimes hard truths and sometimes joyful truths. To accomplish truth in lyrics it s important for the artist to zero in on a certain feeling: joy, despair, love, sadness or even lust.

However it is equally important to keep the central idea of the song simple. Great songs convey very straightforward ideas or emotions in a fresh way.

The second factor of a good song is something more elusive. It s called the hook . The only way to learn about the hook is to locate it in other songs. A hook is usually a catch phrase of words that sum up a commonly recognized emotion, set to a rhythm for impact.

Examples of good hooks in lyrics:

Don t be cruel. . .

Every rose has its thorn. . .

Amazing grace how sweet the sound. . .

Raindrops keep fallin on my head. . .

Listen to songs from every genre and locate the hooks. Then listen to your favorite songs and analyze what each hook says to you. This will help you determine what kind of music that you want to write. Hint: the hook should strike a note of familiarity in you, a feeling of d??j?? vu should strike, as if: hey! I know that feeling! When that happens you ve found your hook.

Your hook will be your chorus. A chorus usually repeats a few times before going to the second and third verses.

Another extremely important element is melody. A common mistake of beginners is they write wonderful lyrics but set them to the wrong music. For example, you wouldn t write a song about newfound love and set it to a slow ballad in a minor chord. Your music s tone must match the theme of your lyrics. Lyrics about the loss or death of a lover would be ridiculous set to a jaunty tune like Happy Birthday.

There is no rule requiring lyrics to rhyme, but your syllables must fit the beat; this is extremely important. Listening to rap music is a great way to find words that fit well into unusual tempos.

Once you have a few verses written, and a chorus, don t forget to write the bridge. What is a bridge? A bridge is a part of a song that seems like a departure from the verses and chorus. Bridges are more prevalent in modern and popular music than in older music from a century ago.

Sometimes the bridge will move up a half a key and convey the song s innermost message in an even stronger way. Sometimes the bridge will issue an ultimatum to a lover, or even tell the rest of the story.

Listen to your favorite music. Locate the verse and the chorus. When the song departs from the verse and chorus you have identified the bridge. This departure from the song will be one or two lines long, sometimes four lines long, and almost will always rhyme, even if the verses and choruses do not rhyme.

These are the basic technical elements to a rewarding song, but there is one more fundamental facet left to cover.

Do not write music for anyone but yourself. Attempts at trying to commercially manufacture music that has no truth will only be a frustrating exercise in futility. Music is art, and should be respected as such. Do not try to write music aimed at a certain market with dreams of earning big money as your ultimate goal. The song itself should be the ultimate goal, and writing the best, most honest song that you can write will produce the most gratifying and powerful music.

Short Takes: Bhoopali and Deshkar

The range of expression manifest in the world's musical canvas reveals a full panoply of underlying assumptions and values. At the heart of India's Art music lies the notion of Swara, a conception more fundamental than Raga and a prerequisite to its realization. Swara is tough to pin down in words since there is no satisfactory English equivalent. It is important to emphasize that although a note (or a group of notes) constitutes the building block of Swara, the two are not synonymous. Swara encompasses a slew of melodic experiences acquired by a note. Significantly, there is also a metaphysical component involved, for Swara is imbued with 'life' and hence, with feeling. The enlightened musician does not view Swara as fungible, to be traded and consumed in the marketplace of melody. Both Indian musical thought and practice hold it as an ideal that the Swara is precious, to be accorded the same care and love that one would reserve for one's own children. The difference between the Indian and Western conception of music is deeper than the superficial melody vs. harmony dichotomy. Pitted against the sophistication of the idea and practice of Swara, the dispensation of "notes" in all Western musics is seen to be rather primitive despite their occasional complexity in formulation and technique.

The profoundly civilized approach to music conceived and developed in India has no equal on this planet (this is a statement of fact, not the exercise of braggadocio). The principal subject of this edition of Short Takes , Raga Bhoopali, stands as an exemplar of the coherence achieved when Swara is brought within the ambit of Ragadari. Throughout this excursion, M =shuddha and m =teevra madhyam.

Bhoopali and Deshkar - The Basics

Bhoopali (also known as "Bhoop") and Deshkar are both auDav-jAti (pentatonic) Ragas with an identical swara-set: S R G P D. The corresponding Carnatic Raga is known as Mohanam. This simplicity of scale belies the finespun gestures with which these Ragas - Bhoopali especially - are instantiated and consequently the unsually wide compass for vistAr (elaboration) they permit. Considerable musical maturity and ingenuity must be marshalled to exploit and realize their full range of potential.

A fair amount of muddleheaded prattle is frequently heard apropos of these two Ragas in the ranks of both the innocent and the initiated. The cant typically proceeds from their common Aroha-avaroha, the vAdi-samvAdi flip-flop, and ends with the citation of their respective poorvAnga-uttarAnga regimes. In the following causerie, aided and abetted by Jha-sahab's trenchant commentaries, I propose to dust off some of those cobwebs and pave the way for a fuller understanding of the Bhoopali-Deshkar dichotomy. A few allied Ragas are also addressed.

Bhoopali is a Kalyan-anga Raga whereas Deshkar is a Bilawal-anga Raga; their respective characteristics can be inferred from this proposition. It must be underscored that this is a statement not of historical chronology but of the relevance of specific melodic groupings ("Ragangas," in our terminology) attending the orthogenesis of Ragas and of their continual presence in the Indian musical imagination.

Let us first examine Bhoopali. The definitive tonal sentences are:

S, S (S)D' S R G, G R S (S)D' S

The nyAsa on G and the grace of

S (G)R G, G R P G, P R G, S R, R G R, S R S (S)' S

The tonal activity is centred on G. Another important nyAsa swara is R.

G R G P, P G D P (P)G, G P R G, G R, S R S (S)D' S

The G-D coupling and the Arohi nyAsa on P are illustrated.

G P (S")D, (S")D, S", S" (S")D S" R", R" S"

This represents a typical uttarAnga launch.

To summarize, the nyAsa locations in Bhoopali are S, R, G and P. Tonal activity revolves around G. The G-D coupling and Arohi nyAsa on P are points of note. The Raga swaroopa unravels in the poorvAnga region. Tonal clusters such as S R S (S)D' S or S R (S)D' S serve as delimiters during elaboration. It should now be obvious that Bhoopali's simple Aroha-avarohana masks its non-linearity. The perceptive mind will also see in Bhoopali the shadow of Raganga Kalyan. The nyAsa swaras and formulation of tonal contours derive from Kalyan minus the madhyam and nishAd, which is why some vidwAns refer to Bhoopali as "Bhoop Kalyan" or "Ma-Ni-varjit-Kalyan." En passant, the P-G and the S-D arcs may occasionally create an AbhAsa of m and

Let us turn to Deshkar. The definitive tonal sentences are:

P, P G P D, D, P, P D G P

This is an uttarAnga-pradhAna Raga. The tonal activity is concentrated on D. The avarohi nyAsa on D-G coupling attending Deshkar are gestures obverse of those plied in Bhoopali.

P D G P (S")D, (S")D, S", D R" S", (S")D, D, P, P D G P

Another rAgAnga-vAchaka sangati.

P D G P G R S R (S)D' S, S G P D, D, P

The rishab is alpa; some musicians render it langhan (i.e. skip it) during AlApi, others acknowledge its presence without rendering it deergha. Whereas in Bhoopali

To summarize, the nyAsa locations in Deshkar are P, D and S" (tAr shaDaj). The D-G coupling and avarohi nyAsa on P are points of note. The Raga swaroopa unravels in the uttarAnga region. A little reflection reveals the hand of Raganga Bilawal lurking below the Deshkar surface; the dominant D-G sangati may be laid at Bilawal's door.

The behaviours of Bhoopali and Deshkar are, as established above, driven by entirely different genetic imperatives despite their sharing a common scale, a striking illustration of the conceptual power of Raga. The prescription of two different thATs to them also points to Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande's insight into the nature of Raga. Incidently, it is sometimes amusing to read knee-jerk criticism of the thAT system peddled by toddlers in this field. Mind you, I am not talking about the ethnopimps spread over Canada, America and Western Europe. It is infra dignitatem to even think of the droppings of ethnopimps in any discussion of music, serious or otherwise. (Glossary: ethnopimps call themselves "ethnomusicologists" and are found loitering in Western universities.)

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