First, this: #
Don’t undervalue just sitting down and listening to music, trying to figure out what parts you enjoy and thinking about how it compares to what you’ve made, what you think you should change to sound better. Along with that, it helps to look at breakdowns of music done on YouTube. I particularly recommend all of the videos from 12tone’s channel.
I’m going to be honest. I can’t read music and I don’t know scales. Why, then, would I in any way think I’m qualified to write anything about music? Well, let me stop you right there, I’m not. I make music for fun. However, I like to think that people enjoy my music and I enjoy listening to it myself as I make it, and though my experience I’ve picked up a little here and there to make sure things don’t sound awful. Furthermore, my background is primarily technical and there’s actually an insane amount of overlap with the incredibly technical and music. Fundamentally music is just doing math with frequencies after all.
Our ears are weird. They’re incredibly good at math. We hear things logarithmically, that’s why 10 watts of speaker output power is only about twice as loud as 1watt and we can tell if two notes are even slightly off a perfect ratio even if we’re not thinking about it. (If you hear one tone at 220Hz and another at 441Hz, only 1hz off of correct, you’ll probably be able to tell)
Our ears also like integer divisions of musical ratios- I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘perfect fifth’. And though our lives, our ears get accustomed to hearing and feeling things associated with chord progressions. Even someone whose never written music or tried to learn anything about music theory can pick up on how a chord with more complex ratios creates tension that begs to be resolved to something simper (Think the Duuun-uh of the Jaw’s theme).
On the other hand, perfection is boring, our ears and minds beg for stimulation, for surprise, for shock. Drums make complex sounds, that, while tuned (though not necessarily to a note on the piano), aren’t playing a constant note and we want our music to have sufficient progression, not just repeat the same sequence endlessly. A gnarly drop in some Dubstep or the cannon fire in the 1812 Overture both serve functionally a similar purpose.
In the chromatic scale there are many other, more ‘refined’ scales like Minor, Major, Pentatonic, etc. These scales may be transposed to be centered around any note (or any frequency, since notes are just agreed upon frequencies and the ratios between them)
And honestly? That’s about all you need to know. Basically, music is math and math makes music.
Oh, and the circle of fifths is a thing [TODO]
[TODO] Just V equal Temperament here is confusing
[TODO] Waitbutwhy.com – Sound
[TODO] Nanotone Synth
[TODO] Hack Music Theory’s YouTube Channel is pretty good. They do tend to present their tips as rules, but the tips are still generally pretty good.
Wrong Notes? #
Song Structure #
ABAB ABBA ABAC … #
Call and Response #
Heavy drops v dainty sections
Octave changes #
making instruments swap roles
Key Changes #
Sonic Space #
You want to make sure you’re in the right sonic space. […] It’s not so much about being louder than everyone else, it’s just, like, fitting in the right space where you can be heard - I just try to steer clear of the vocal no matter what.
Further Reading #
Microtonality can be interesting too: