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#1
As an aspiring songwriter I am quite often told to listen to songs and think specifically what it is I like about them. Here's a song I like

Now, as for what I like about it: The melody is simple and catchy, the lyrics are fitting and uplifting which (to me) subtly inspires a hopeful and almost triumphant feeling. That GOD DAMN SEXY BASS LINE and how it interacts with the melody. The structure is repetitive enough to give the song definitive form without but avoids being boring.

What does this tell me? Write catchy melodies with suitable lyrics, ensure the bass interacts with the melody well and maintain a good structure.....all of which seem to be no-brainers. This tells me nothing. So am I dissecting songs incorrectly or am I just expecting too much from reading into the music I like?
#2
No ... it's telling you that structure (phrasing) is important to connecting with listeners. Equally, doing the opposite can lose listeners ... so you can apply that to what you want to accomplish with your writing.

Check the phrasing more closely, and observe the ryhthms being employed, and where they start and stop; also what melody notes start and stop a phrase. Does a melody note at the end of one phrase cause dissonance and get resolved at the start or end of the next phrase? Check where the notes that stand out to you appear in the rhythm ... on strong beats? on off-beats? High notes or low notes? What duration? How many skips appear?

There's a long list of things that contribute ... haven't even mentioned harmony yet!!
#3
^Yep. Try and think more specifically OP, take it to the next level.

What makes the melody catchy?

Why are the lyrics suitable?

How does the bass interact with the melody?

Why is the structure good?

More goes into it than just the bigger adjectives. There are equally catchy/interact-y/structure-y things that sound literally nothing like your link.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#4
Damn, JP just said (pretty much) everything I was going to say.

IOW, ignore how you feel about the song. That's a given. Forget your feelings and be clinical. Get out that surgeon's scalpel and start dissecting. Pick small elements that stand our for you -what's the catchiest hook? How is that achieved?

There's no magic here, remember. It's all skill. A song is a machine, put together by a clever engineer. (Sorry, mixed metaphor.... put the scalpel down and get out the spanner and screwdriver...)

...

TIP: with this particular song, the charm of that intro is down to (a) major pentatonic scale, (b) notes on the beat (no syncopation), (c) clean sounds, (d) simple repetition, (e) understated drum pattern... (f) the vocal echoes the intro riff exactly, (g) chords are simple, with familiar changes... All contributes to the "pretty", "upbeat" mood of the song (not to mention the fast-but-not-too-fast tempo).
Personally I don't hear a "god damn sexy bass line" anywhere, btw. Sure this is the right song?
Last edited by jongtr at Jul 20, 2015,
#5
Quote by jongtr
Personally I don't hear a "god damn sexy bass line" anywhere, btw. Sure this is the right song?


It's sort of drowned out by the melody, but I meant the bass guitar bit. I.e. if you listen very closely you can hear the bass bit which isn't much on its own but works really well with the melody. It's basically all quarter notes, becomes much more noticeable if you tap the beat cause its all on beat. IDK if bass line was the right terminology but basically I like how they integrated the bass guitar into it.
#6
The bassline is exceedingly ordinary. Agreed with the other advice stated above. Instead of sticking on one uttered sentence, work on synthesizing the entire body of feedback.
#7
Quote by NeoMvsEu
The bassline is exceedingly ordinary. Agreed with the other advice stated above. Instead of sticking on one uttered sentence, work on synthesizing the entire body of feedback.


Things can be ordinary and still work well. I did not say it was something incredibly new, I said it worked well with the melody. And I'm not ignoring everything else he said, I just didn't have anything to add.
Last edited by Serotonite at Jul 20, 2015,
#8
Also was going to say what JP said.

You are very vague with your descriptions of what you like about the song. Be more specific.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that you should ignore how you feel about the song. I wouldn't advise you to forget your feelings. You definitely need to get out the surgeon's scalpel but your feelings should be telling you where to start cutting.

Writing down your feelings will help you capture and understand the specifics better and the effect they have on you as a listener. This is an art after all, not a cold science. The feelings are vitally important. But you should be specific about your feelings. Describe in detail with no limits on what the result should be other than to try to put into words what you feel about the song.

The melody is catchy? What makes it catchy? What does it sound like? Does it remind you of anything? Is it uplifting, is it mournful etc. What makes it that way? is it the pace of the melody, the repetition, the shape, the jump between notes, the smoothness of the lines, the easy way it's sung...etc etc etc. What do those things remind you of if anything?

the bassline is sexy? What does that mean? What is sexy about it specifically? is it the timbre, is it the pulse, is it the soothness or the thickness, what does it have in common with sex or other things that are sexy?

I tend to start with the first thing. I try to listen with fresh ears (which can be hard if you've hard it a million times but I try) and listen for the most obvious or most appealing thing I can find and start making a list. I use feelings, imagery, and metaphors to try to describe what I'm hearing and then start to drill down further and further until eventually I'm picking parts of the song apart note by note.

You have to pay attention to the full depth of the song from surface all the way through. But always being specific and avoiding general statements.

Words like "catchy melody" is a vague start. In your own words describe how that melody makes you feel, describe what effect it has, then think about what makes it have that feeling or effect, get more and more detailed as you pick it apart focusing in on the various mechanics of the melody that make it not just "catchy" but producing a specific feeling. Anything you notice is fair game.

As you start to describe the specific mechanics of what make it interesting try to mimic those mechanics changing other aspects of the song to create something new that uses the same ideas you liked then see if it works. Try and try and try again, just play around with each idea.
Si
#9
Your analysis is kind of like. "How do we win soccer games? well, I see that when we scored more goals than we allow, we win, so let's just do that."

Which is correct, but not entirely useful for going about doing that. However, I don't think there is any real way to analyze to do what you want.

You could look at the players in a sport, and have a good general understanding of what is good practice, like a coach can do, but you can't look at the best players in the world and do what they do from watching them. Their minds are adapting to specific situations, and coming up with specific solutions, and that can't really be properly emulated.

So, sure, you could look at that song, and find lots of facts about it, and those would be right, but unless you want to write that song, but slightly different, that's not really all that helpful. Except for some general things. But we know a lot of those. Like you said. Good melodies, complementary parts, good lyrics, nothing overpowering or encroaching on anything else. But there are millions of ways to achieve that. Thousands of great songs all great in different ways and for different reasons. And anything you take from them as analysis can all be qualities that poor music has also.
#11
^I just said what you said but in my own words

Quote by fingrpikingood
However, I don't think there is any real way to analyze to do what you want...

...So, sure, you could look at that song, and find lots of facts about it, and those would be right, but unless you want to write that song, but slightly different, that's not really all that helpful.
I have to disagree quite strongly. Maybe you let the analogy lead you to some false conclusions? idk

A good analysis is extremely helpful. Taking an idea you like and learning to isolate it and apply it to different contexts to create a desired effect is golden. If you are genuinely applying the idea to different contexts then you won't be creating the same but slightly different song either.

For example, say I look at a John Lennon song and said - wow I love how he presents this idea lyrically and it turns out to be a bad idea. And at the same time he initially presents the idea there is a strong dissonant chord right that falls on a key word. The music jars and tells us that it's a bad idea before he realizes it lyrically. The dissonance lets the listener know 'hey there's something now quite right about this idea I'm thinking about'.

Then I decide that in my song I'm going to talk about some bad idea like, I don't know, telling my ex girlfriend I'm still in love with her. On the word "tell" I might introduce a jarring dissonance to let the listener know that this is "telling" my ex this is a very bad idea.

Or I might decide that a bad idea is not just something I would regret but might be a very dark idea. Maybe I want to try to explore this idea and attempt to develop it further. Maybe in my song I'm briefly contemplating smothering my girlfriend with a pillow while she sleeps. I might use some dissonant chords to convey the dark murderous fantasies and contrast them some sweet consonant harmonies while I talk about how beautiful she looks as she lay there.

Maybe I take this idea and try to explore it further by asking - what happens if I do the opposite. What happens if I have a bad idea or a dark idea and contrast it with sweet sounding harmonies and bubbly melody?

It's about recognizing the mechanics of what works in the song and learning to apply explore and ask questions about different contexts and ways you might use those ideas.

Your song won't necessarily sound anything like the original, you might be the only person that even knows the two songs are related because they are quite unique in every other way.

Maybe you like the way the melody in a certain song jumps and leaps around and try to do something similar in one of your own songs to create a similar "feeling". Maybe it's not even the same feeling but a mellower version of the same feeling so you slow it down a bit and put it in halftime. The end result could be quite different but you've taken an idea you liked and are learning through observation and experimentation how to use and manipulate that idea as a creative tool to achieve new and interesting results.
Si
#12
Found the sheet music: https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.sheetmusicdirect.com/images/web/smd_126688_bombay_bicycle_club_ivy__gold_web.png

Here is my messy dissection of it (I have decided to isolate the guitar part cause i kept getting confused).

So it's in D major. When the melody actually begins it does not begin on the tonic but the dominant (A) harmonised with the mediant (F#) but I'm going to ignore the harmonies cause that's wayyy out of my depth ATM. The first phrase ends on the tonic while the second phrase begins again on the supertonic. This creates....something....idk.... The first two bars of the second phrase repeat the first two bars of the first phrase which creates a sense of familiarity rather than a lost, meandering one. In this way, the melody reminds the listener of regularly returning home, never venturing far from the familiar. There is however some variation with the third and fourth bars - most notably with the fourth bar, in which a complex and eventful rhythm is replaced with a neat semibreve to give a sense of completion, this is emphasised by the harmony between the tonic and the mediant.

^^I DON'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT I JUST SAID. DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL?
#13
20T that's great

It's not about taking their note for note ideas, it's about taking the though process, like:

"Oh wow, that's a really cool use of Vm7! I'm going to use that device and apply it to my own playing" etc.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#14
Glad you appreciated it

Quote by Serotonite
Found the sheet music: https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.sheetmusicdirect.com/images/web/smd_126688_bombay_bicycle_club_ivy__gold_web.png

Here is my messy dissection of it (I have decided to isolate the guitar part cause i kept getting confused).

So it's in D major. When the melody actually begins it does not begin on the tonic but the dominant (A) harmonised with the mediant (F#) but I'm going to ignore the harmonies cause that's wayyy out of my depth ATM. The first phrase ends on the tonic while the second phrase begins again on the supertonic. This creates....something....idk.... The first two bars of the second phrase repeat the first two bars of the first phrase which creates a sense of familiarity rather than a lost, meandering one. In this way, the melody reminds the listener of regularly returning home, never venturing far from the familiar. There is however some variation with the third and fourth bars - most notably with the fourth bar, in which a complex and eventful rhythm is replaced with a neat semibreve to give a sense of completion, this is emphasised by the harmony between the tonic and the mediant.

^^I DON'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT I JUST SAID. DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL?
you've got the scalpel out but if you don't have a clue what you just said then you're on the wrong track. You have to identify what about the song turns you on.

The jargon you used certainly sounds impressive though and is enough to make anyone not familiar with such terms dizzy. I applaud the attempt. It might work well in an academic setting, but usefulness is what you're after...

What turns you on most about this song? Name the first thing that jumps out at you the most. It might be a specific moment in the song or a specific element of the song - but just name what in this song makes you go "damn that was cool"

By the way there is no right or wrong answer. To that question, don't overthink it.
Si
#15
oh shit. I really wanted to walk you through and take you all the way with this, but I didn't realize the time. I have to get up for work in two hours and haven't slept yet. -oops. sorry
Si
#16
Quote by Serotonite
Found the sheet music: https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.sheetmusicdirect.com/images/web/smd_126688_bombay_bicycle_club_ivy__gold_web.png

Here is my messy dissection of it (I have decided to isolate the guitar part cause i kept getting confused).

So it's in D major.
Db to be precise, but I presume they were tuned down. No matter, you can treat it as D. (The actual key doesn't matter, it's the relationships of the notes and chord to the key that matters.)
Quote by Serotonite

When the melody actually begins it does not begin on the tonic but the dominant (A) harmonised with the mediant (F#) but I'm going to ignore the harmonies cause that's wayyy out of my depth ATM.
OK. The harmonies do matter, but no need to name scale degrees. Just think about notes relative to chords (so it helps if you can play both melody and chords on your instrument).
Quote by Serotonite

The first phrase ends on the tonic while the second phrase begins again on the supertonic. This creates....something....idk.... The first two bars of the second phrase repeat the first two bars of the first phrase which creates a sense of familiarity rather than a lost, meandering one. In this way, the melody reminds the listener of regularly returning home, never venturing far from the familiar. There is however some variation with the third and fourth bars - most notably with the fourth bar, in which a complex and eventful rhythm is replaced with a neat semibreve to give a sense of completion, this is emphasised by the harmony between the tonic and the mediant.

^^I DON'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT I JUST SAID. DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL?
It does, but it's kind of missing the point (slightly). IOW, you've dismantled the machine and laid out the various pieces (labelling them correctly) and are now scratching your head as to what to look for next....

IMO, what makes these phrases appealing is their relationship to the chords, or rather the relationship of the accented notes to the chords. Which notes are chord tones, and which not? And what's the effect of those harmonic relationships?

Eg, the fact the 2nd phrase begins on the supertonic is not as important as the fact that it's the 6th of the chord. There's a particular sweetness achieved there by the fact the first 3 notes are on the 6-maj7-6 of the chord (going on to the 5-3-2). They could have harmonised that phrase with almost any other chord in the key (it would have fitted OK), but it wouldn't have had quite such a sweet effect as using the IV chord. The 6th and maj7th are classic "sweet notes" (as is the 9th, btw). The 6th is "warm", the maj7 is "nostalgic" or "wistful" (my characterisation, but feel free to coin your own).

I suggest you trying playing those phrases (maybe the 1st and the 2nd in turn) against different chords in the key. See how it feels to accent different chord tones - or non-chord tones. This is about testing - is the nice effect destroyed by changing the chords? Or turned into other useful effects?
(If you want another risky metaphor, it's like a photographer shooting the same scene, but lighting it in a few different ways.)
How about changing the shape or rhythm of the melodic phrase (keeping the same notes)? Or keep the rhythm and change a note or two?

Your observation on the structure is good: the way repetition provides reassuring familiarity; the "3-times" trick, followed by a variation; and then 3 more repetitions followed by a single long note, like a period on the sentence.
The first 4 bars end on the II chord (lack of resolution, telling you more is coming), while the second 4 bars tie it up with a cadence to the tonic (D-A7-D).
Again, you could test this structure by changing it in some way.
What would happen if you repeated that phrase more times? What if you didn't end on the tonic, but on the IV or vi? (both of which harmonise the tonic note)

This is in fact a nice beginner example of songwriting structure - very plain and transparent. Good choice in that respect! (as well as being a song you like.)

Looking at songs in this way should become a habit. Start to listen out for similar effects in other songs. Pick another song you like, and compare it (melody against chords; repetition; bar structure; etc).

You may not always be lucky enough to find sheet music (so much more useful than tab!), so you will need to use your ear more (and maybe a slowdowner).
Last edited by jongtr at Jul 20, 2015,
#17
Quote by 20Tigers
^I just said what you said but in my own words

I have to disagree quite strongly. Maybe you let the analogy lead you to some false conclusions? idk

A good analysis is extremely helpful. Taking an idea you like and learning to isolate it and apply it to different contexts to create a desired effect is golden. If you are genuinely applying the idea to different contexts then you won't be creating the same but slightly different song either.

For example, say I look at a John Lennon song and said - wow I love how he presents this idea lyrically and it turns out to be a bad idea. And at the same time he initially presents the idea there is a strong dissonant chord right that falls on a key word. The music jars and tells us that it's a bad idea before he realizes it lyrically. The dissonance lets the listener know 'hey there's something now quite right about this idea I'm thinking about'.

Then I decide that in my song I'm going to talk about some bad idea like, I don't know, telling my ex girlfriend I'm still in love with her. On the word "tell" I might introduce a jarring dissonance to let the listener know that this is "telling" my ex this is a very bad idea.

Or I might decide that a bad idea is not just something I would regret but might be a very dark idea. Maybe I want to try to explore this idea and attempt to develop it further. Maybe in my song I'm briefly contemplating smothering my girlfriend with a pillow while she sleeps. I might use some dissonant chords to convey the dark murderous fantasies and contrast them some sweet consonant harmonies while I talk about how beautiful she looks as she lay there.

Maybe I take this idea and try to explore it further by asking - what happens if I do the opposite. What happens if I have a bad idea or a dark idea and contrast it with sweet sounding harmonies and bubbly melody?

It's about recognizing the mechanics of what works in the song and learning to apply explore and ask questions about different contexts and ways you might use those ideas.

Your song won't necessarily sound anything like the original, you might be the only person that even knows the two songs are related because they are quite unique in every other way.

Maybe you like the way the melody in a certain song jumps and leaps around and try to do something similar in one of your own songs to create a similar "feeling". Maybe it's not even the same feeling but a mellower version of the same feeling so you slow it down a bit and put it in halftime. The end result could be quite different but you've taken an idea you liked and are learning through observation and experimentation how to use and manipulate that idea as a creative tool to achieve new and interesting results.


I never said analysis was not helpful. I said no matter how much analysis you do, that won't make you able to create great music.

You could study beethoven until you are blue in the face, most people could, but that would not make them beethoven. They would probably end up being just sort of a cheap knockoff.

I mean obviously we learn from others, and can take from many people, and you should observe and take what you can. Find things you like. But at the end of the day, when you create a song, it is more than just shoving different concepts you learned together. It is very different. You may have learned a number of things, but just because everybody learns the same alphabet, it doesn't mean they say the same things.

It's what you do specifically, that matters most. But of course, everyone should learn as much as they can.

In this song, you can listen, and know one thing sounds one way and another another, and name them. Sure. But that is not what makes the song good or bad.

I would never promote ignorance. I am not saying not to study, not to name, not to look at theory. I'm not saying that at all.

What I'm saying is "what makes it good" is what is kind of impossible. You can like a chord, like a lick, like the timber of something, like some key change, or something like that. And these are good to look at and learn and internalize. All things you could look at are.

You could analyze that song, and look at everything, and name it all, and hear it, and recognize that whole sounds like that. But you can't go "this song has x y z features, therefore if I use x y z features, my song will also be good."

You know what I mean? There is a lot to learn from analysis, and it can be useful for anyone's journey as a musician.

But what makes it good, is you. It's the specific way all the parts work together. Not whether you learned and applied concept x y or z.

It's just like design. You could look at some beautiful design of a room, and thing "wow, that tile is really cool, and I like the color." And then something like that, but in another room, with a different color scheme, and different feel, but you like the drapes. You can't just take bits and pieces like that, and stick them together to end up with a nice design.

What makes the nice design, is specifically how all the parts work together.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't look at other rooms and remember other sofa's or lamps, or whatever design ideas you see. But those things you are seeing are not why the design works. The design works because of how all the parts work together as a whole.

When you analyze music, the bassline was designed for that beat, and that harmony, etcetera. But you might hear some cadence you think is cool, and learn what it is called and recognize how well it will work in another environment. But the magic is in recognizing that, and orchestrating that, and having the vision. Not in having noticed the cadence and named it, and just using it because a good song had it, and therefore it must create goodness.

Chocolate is good, and garlic is good, but I don't wanna eat chocolate covered garlic. It's the specific recipe that matters, not the individual components so much. Nearly any individual component can sound great in the right context. Obviously the whole is the sum of parts and greater, so the parts matter, but the secret to what makes a song great is not found in any isolated part. It is the sum of them together.

So, for me, as in most things, music is more reaction than action. More creating something that fits with everything else, by listening and feeling everything else, an reacting to that, than applying some concepts you picked up from analyzing songs. Most people approach things by want to know how to do, and learning what to do, and how to do stuff. But I find it is better to listen, and pay attention, and react instead.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Jul 20, 2015,
#18
^ Well, of course. But if you like concepts "x, y and z", you can always learn to use them effectively. Of course a good song doesn't need to have all of them or any of them. They are just something you like in a particular song. I don't think anybody is saying those are the only things that make a song good. They are just the things that TS likes in that particular song, and it's good to be able to recognize them. When you recognize them, you can learn to use them (and you can use them without recognizing them, but you'll more likely use them if you know what they are).

I think you could have worded your first comment a bit better. To me the last paragraph kind of said "it doesn't matter if you find out what you like in that song, because anything can be good or bad, depending on how you use it" or something like that (which is kind of true - it's more about the "how" than the "what" - a simple major scale can sound great and it can sound boring, depending on how you use it). TS asked about what makes this particular song sound good, and I don't think that was really that good advice in the context of this thread (or at least you could have worded it better - to me it kind of said "there's no point in analysis").


Of course there is no "secret formula" for a good song. Well, there is a structure that will always work, and there is a chord progression that will always work, and stuff like that, but of course that alone doesn't make a "good song". It's more about the "how" than about the "what" as I said, and I think that was also your point.

But yeah, if you recognize the "what", you can learn to apply it.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#19
Quote by MaggaraMarine
TS asked about what makes this particular song sound good, and I don't think that was really that good advice in the context of this thread (or at least you could have worded it better - to me it kind of said "there's no point in analysis").





My point is, there is nothing specific that makes it so good. I mean the core of it is the harmony and the melody, but even then, why is the progression and harmony so good? At the end of the day, "what makes it so good" Is all of the parts how they work together. Listen to it, those sounds you hear, that is why it is so good. It's not because of the progression, or the tempo, or because the bassline is always only on the quarter notes or whatever it was. It's not because of any of those things. It is because of how it all works together. I find that information useful.

You are free to your opinion, I think I was clear with what I was saying.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Jul 20, 2015,
#20
Quote by 20Tigers
oh shit. I really wanted to walk you through and take you all the way with this, but I didn't realize the time. I have to get up for work in two hours and haven't slept yet. -oops. sorry


No worries, I'll be patient. Thanks for all your help so far though
#21
Quote by fingrpikingood
My point is, there is nothing specific that makes it so good. I mean the core of it is the harmony and the melody, but even then, why is the progression and harmony so good? At the end of the day, "what makes it so good" Is all of the parts how they work together.

"there's nothing specific that makes it good, but it's good because specific parts work together in a specific way"
#22
Quote by fingrpikingood
I mean obviously we learn from others, and can take from many people, and you should observe and take what you can. Find things you like. But at the end of the day, when you create a song, it is more than just shoving different concepts you learned together. It is very different. You may have learned a number of things, but just because everybody learns the same alphabet, it doesn't mean they say the same things.


I appreciate this, I'm not exactly trying to write a song exactly like this one or I may as well just copy down the sheet music. But I don't think that is all there is. A song is like a mechanism, each part serves to make it tick and it has been designed with specific feelings in mind. It is therefore logical that there is at least something that we can get from analysis which would allow us to understand exactly why the song is good to our ears.

It's what you do specifically, that matters most. But of course, everyone should learn as much as they can.

Quote by fingrpikingood
In this song, you can listen, and know one thing sounds one way and another another, and name them. Sure. But that is not what makes the song good or bad.

I would never promote ignorance. I am not saying not to study, not to name, not to look at theory. I'm not saying that at all.

What I'm saying is "what makes it good" is what is kind of impossible. You can like a chord, like a lick, like the timber of something, like some key change, or something like that. And these are good to look at and learn and internalize. All things you could look at are.


I'm not so sure, at the end of the day a song is a load of sounds arranged in a way that conveys a certain message. Therefore it makes sense that common concepts can be used to make a good song. Of course, 'good' is subjective, but that hardly matters as I'm not about to write music with the intent of disliking it. What I find 'good' is pretty specific to me, so if I want to write music that I enjoy, it makes sense that I use the concepts found in other songs. Like, this song uses a harmony between these two tones of a certain chord in this way, maybe if I do the same with a range of other chords it will achieve the same affect.

Dissecting a song is not an entirely scientific endeavor but that is not to say that there is not a whole lot of dry mechanics behind the pleasing nature of any song. It's like a person - sure, the mind and conscience are currently beyond common scientific knowledge and is mainly speculation, but that doesn't mean that it is not helpful to understand human biology if we want to unravel such mysteries.
#23
Quote by fingrpikingood
I never said analysis was not helpful. I said no matter how much analysis you do, that won't make you able to create great music.

You could study beethoven until you are blue in the face, most people could, but that would not make them beethoven. They would probably end up being just sort of a cheap knockoff.

I mean obviously we learn from others, and can take from many people, and you should observe and take what you can. Find things you like. But at the end of the day, when you create a song, it is more than just shoving different concepts you learned together. It is very different. You may have learned a number of things, but just because everybody learns the same alphabet, it doesn't mean they say the same things.

It's what you do specifically, that matters most. But of course, everyone should learn as much as they can.

In this song, you can listen, and know one thing sounds one way and another another, and name them. Sure. But that is not what makes the song good or bad.

I would never promote ignorance. I am not saying not to study, not to name, not to look at theory. I'm not saying that at all.

What I'm saying is "what makes it good" is what is kind of impossible. You can like a chord, like a lick, like the timber of something, like some key change, or something like that. And these are good to look at and learn and internalize. All things you could look at are.

You could analyze that song, and look at everything, and name it all, and hear it, and recognize that whole sounds like that. But you can't go "this song has x y z features, therefore if I use x y z features, my song will also be good."

You know what I mean? There is a lot to learn from analysis, and it can be useful for anyone's journey as a musician.

But what makes it good, is you. It's the specific way all the parts work together. Not whether you learned and applied concept x y or z.

It's just like design. You could look at some beautiful design of a room, and thing "wow, that tile is really cool, and I like the color." And then something like that, but in another room, with a different color scheme, and different feel, but you like the drapes. You can't just take bits and pieces like that, and stick them together to end up with a nice design.

What makes the nice design, is specifically how all the parts work together.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't look at other rooms and remember other sofa's or lamps, or whatever design ideas you see. But those things you are seeing are not why the design works. The design works because of how all the parts work together as a whole.

When you analyze music, the bassline was designed for that beat, and that harmony, etcetera. But you might hear some cadence you think is cool, and learn what it is called and recognize how well it will work in another environment. But the magic is in recognizing that, and orchestrating that, and having the vision. Not in having noticed the cadence and named it, and just using it because a good song had it, and therefore it must create goodness.

Chocolate is good, and garlic is good, but I don't wanna eat chocolate covered garlic. It's the specific recipe that matters, not the individual components so much. Nearly any individual component can sound great in the right context. Obviously the whole is the sum of parts and greater, so the parts matter, but the secret to what makes a song great is not found in any isolated part. It is the sum of them together.

So, for me, as in most things, music is more reaction than action. More creating something that fits with everything else, by listening and feeling everything else, an reacting to that, than applying some concepts you picked up from analyzing songs. Most people approach things by want to know how to do, and learning what to do, and how to do stuff. But I find it is better to listen, and pay attention, and react instead.


Designers will often keep a visual diary. In that they will often keep notes, pictures, and drawings of things that inspire them or caught their eye. Usually they will not put the entire picture or whole room in their diary but the element that they found interesting.

The individual elements are important. The individual elements are not all equal. Often it is the presence of one or two elements that someone really likes.

No one suggested context was unimportant. Designers will also pay attention to how a room works together and look for strategies that can be applied to ensure a room or picture is cohesive.

It's all important. But I feel that looking only at the sum of the parts together is a more certain way to end up with a cheap imitation of a song. Isolating the parts that work, noticing and practicing incorporating ideas in various contexts, and figuring out how they all work together is what will make you a good songwriter.

At the end of the day it is just taking a bunch of ideas and putting them together.

It's not rocket science.

Some people may not see the bigger picture and focus too much on the individual elements rather than how they fit together. But it is through studying and understanding those elements that will help you figure out how they fit together.

This is all getting fairly abstract thought to be honest.

The idea is to analyse the song in a way that is useful and will help you with ideas for songwriting.

Start with the first thing about the song that grabs you. The surface layer, whatever that may be. As you dig deeper into the song you might actually discover that what really makes the song special is something deeper, but you have to start somewhere. So you start at the beginning. There's no point trying to do everything at once. Break it into it's parts, understand those parts and then look at how all those parts come together to make a whole.

-There's a very clear methodology.

The thing that I don't like about analysis is that it is often too concerned with jargon and labelling than it is with understanding. An analysis should be an attempt to understand, not just to label parts of a song. What is the effect, how do they achieve that, etc. As much as possible it should be in your own natural language. There will come a need to describe and label specifics in order to describe the mechanics but that is not the starting point of an analysis. Look for patterns, contrast, and big picture stuff first.
Si
#24
If there was a way to say what makes a song good. That book would exist, and that program would have been written. Computers would be writing hit songs. But it doesn't happen, because it is not simple like that.

That's why good songwriters are sought after. Because they can create great songs. But they can't write down how to do it.

It is sensible to look at music and name everything you can name, and practice and all that. I do that every single day. Every day I'm learning new stuff.

But, imo, it is fruitless to wonder "what makes this song good?" because you won't be able to capture that with theory or analysis. A lot of people try, a lot of people write articles saying they know what makes whatever song good, but imo, it's all nonsense.

You could look at a thousand songs that way, and "what makes it good" would be some different conclusion you come to every time.

I don't think you can use logic to find what makes something good. You can't use it to design great music. You have to use how the music speaks to you, how it feels. It is a reaction to me.

That's why computers can't write hit songs, and that's why there isn't a book everybody knows and everyone has read with all the secrets of what makes music good.

That's my belief. That's the advice I would give anybody studying music.

It's fine with me if people disagree. All of the world could disagree if they want to.

But if you ask me, what makes a song good? as a written concept rather than complete production? The person that wrote it. Nothing more, and nothing less. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't analyze and look at what people did. It means you should listen and name. Not try and find the secret of what makes a song good. You will never find it.

You could name me any single thing that you believe makes a song good, and I'll write you a shit song with those features.

But like I said, everyone else is free to think otherwise. That's just the advice I would give to those that wish to take it.
#25
^Well sure, but why you gotta be super black and white about it?
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#26
Quote by fingrpikingood
If there was a way to say what makes a song good. That book would exist, and that program would have been written. Computers would be writing hit songs. But it doesn't happen, because it is not simple like that.

That's why good songwriters are sought after. Because they can create great songs. But they can't write down how to do it.

It is sensible to look at music and name everything you can name, and practice and all that. I do that every single day. Every day I'm learning new stuff.

But, imo, it is fruitless to wonder "what makes this song good?" because you won't be able to capture that with theory or analysis. A lot of people try, a lot of people write articles saying they know what makes whatever song good, but imo, it's all nonsense.

You could look at a thousand songs that way, and "what makes it good" would be some different conclusion you come to every time.

I don't think you can use logic to find what makes something good. You can't use it to design great music. You have to use how the music speaks to you, how it feels. It is a reaction to me.

That's why computers can't write hit songs, and that's why there isn't a book everybody knows and everyone has read with all the secrets of what makes music good.

That's my belief. That's the advice I would give anybody studying music.

It's fine with me if people disagree. All of the world could disagree if they want to.

But if you ask me, what makes a song good? as a written concept rather than complete production? The person that wrote it. Nothing more, and nothing less. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't analyze and look at what people did. It means you should listen and name. Not try and find the secret of what makes a song good. You will never find it.

You could name me any single thing that you believe makes a song good, and I'll write you a shit song with those features.

But like I said, everyone else is free to think otherwise. That's just the advice I would give to those that wish to take it.


There is a way to say what makes a song good. Good is subjective. So what makes it good is that you like it. The reason you like it could be many things.

The reason that there is no computer programme that is written or how to book that tells you some secret that will always result in a great song is that it is different for each individual song.

No one has ever suggested that every good song ever made has the same list of things that make it a good song. That's absurd. The threadstarter never asked for such a list but asked for help analyzing a specific song to figure out what makes that song tick.

Throughout this thread it has always been suggested that we look at individual songs and the person that likes the song should think about and decide for themselves what THEY like about it. When they identify what they like about it they can isolate that thing and try to see if it works in other contexts to achieve a similar effect.

You've created this entire strawman argument that analysing a song that the threadstarter likes will result in a list of principles that can be used to create a good song everytime. No one has ever come close to suggestion such a thing so I can only conclude that you have completely missed the boat in regards to what is being said and the benefits of analysing a song.
Si
#27
Again, 20T puts my last post in his own words in a fantastically better way
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#28
Quote by 20Tigers
There is a way to say what makes a song good. Good is subjective. It's an opinion. The reason that there is no computer programme that is written or how to book that tells you some secret is that it is different for each individual song.

No one has every suggested that all songs have the same list or principles that make a song good. That's absurd. Throughout this thread it has always been suggested that we look at each individual song and the person that likes the song should think about and decide for themselves what THEY like about it.

Having said that many people do find the same things appealing, and even if they don't find the same songs appealing they can still appreciate or understand how some of those tricks work to create a certain effect.

You have completely missed the point.

I don't know where you're getting these ideas that it has in anyway been implied or suggested that there is some concept or idea that will work in every situation and will result in a great song every time.

You have to identify the tricks, then learn how to make them fit different contexts.

It's not a matter of listening to a song figuring out what makes it tick and then you suddenly have the tools to make a hit song everytime just by using those same techniques. That's absurd and no one has suggested anything of the sort and it certainly doesn't seem to be what the TS was expecting.

You are arguing against a strawman of your own creation.


Ok, well you have your opinion, and I have mine.
#29
Quote by Jet Penguin
^Well sure, but why you gotta be super black and white about it?


I'm just giving my advice to OP, that I don't think it makes sense to analyze a song in order to figure out why it is so good. It is so good, because it sounds like that. You can hear why it is good.

It sounds that way because of the specifics of how the pitches and rhythms work together. I don't think there is anything you can look at analytically and say "a-ha this song is good because it does xyz." I don't think music works that way.

It's my opinion, and it works for me. I think it is a waste of time to look for why a song is good by using analysis. Analyze songs you like, and explore things in it, but why it is good is the specific combination of all the parts. Not any single thing you could pull from an analysis.

I'm just sharing that opinion. Op or anyone else can do whatever they want. That's just my view.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Jul 20, 2015,
#30
^I agree with you.

But that's not what I mean. You're splitting hairs about ' the X factor that makes the song good' vs. 'elements of the song that please my brain'
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#31
Quote by fingrpikingood
I'm just giving my advice to OP, that I don't think it makes sense to analyze a song in order to figure out why it is so good. It is so good, because it sounds like that. You can hear why it is good.
As song is good because it sounds like that.
What does it sound like?
What makes it sound like that?
What is it that you hear?
What are the mechanics in the music that create what result in what you hear?

Quote by fingrpikingood
It sounds that way because of the specifics of how the pitches and rhythms work together. I don't think there is anything you can look at analytically and say "a-ha this song is good because it does xyz." I don't think music works that way.
Is there anything you can point to and say this is the reason the song sounds this way. This particular passage is very interesting and adds depth to the song. This particular trick has this specific effect on me when I listen to it. The rhythm in this part of the song creates this kind of feel.

In other words you can point to X in the song and describe the effect that X has on you as a listener. More often many listeners will share the same experience and even if they don't like the song can appreciate the effect X has.

You can look at a song and say parts T U and V are pretty ordinary, but they usually aren't paired with X Y and Z as they are in this song and that creates this specific effect.

In other words you CAN say this song is good because X Y Z. Music does work that way whether it is your opinion or not. All this is saying is that I think this song is good. I thin XYZ is what makes it good therefore this song is good because XYZ. It doesn't mean everyone in the world will like the song or even agree that X Y Z is what makes that song good.

[EDIT]
It just means XYZ creates a certain effect in this song. I like that effect. It is one of the reasons that this song appeals to me. What's more, now that I know that, I'm going to experiment with XYZ and try to apply it to different contexts to learn how to create a similar effect in my own songs.

XYZ will be one of many tools that I will incorporate into my songwriting because I have heard it in this song, identified it as something I like and figured out how it works and practiced applying it in different contexts.
[/EDIT]

It doesn't mean that by analyzing a song you will have an instant formula for creating a great song every time. It just means you have identified a tool that you can learn to apply to different situations. It's like a painter that learns a new brushstroke. Using that brushstroke won't guarantee a great painting. But if he learns to use that brushstroke in the right context then it may be what he needs to elevate an ordinary painting into a masterpiece.
Si
#32
Nailed it.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#33
Quote by fingrpikingood

It sounds that way because of the specifics of how the pitches and rhythms work together. I don't think there is anything you can look at analytically and say "a-ha this song is good because it does xyz." I don't think music works that way.

I usually like certain more "original" things in songs (or they may not even be that "original" - they are just something that you may not expect to happen). For example the modulation in the end of "Living on a Prayer". The 3/4 measure before the modulation and the modulation from Em to Gm - that's not something that you hear all the time and it just makes the last chorus sound awesome. I can name the exact part that made it sound awesome. Of course there's more to that song, but that's one of the "cool" things in that song.

Another example is the bVII chord in the end of "Dreams" by Van Halen. Not something I expected and it just sounded awesome. I could name the exact part and the exact thing that made it sound awesome. Of course not every bVII chord or 3/4 measure or modulation from Em to Gm is going to sound awesome. It has more to it than that. But it is possible (and not even that hard) to name the things that make something sound awesome.

Those are just two examples off the top of my head.

Now I know some things that made those songs sound good. I can name the sounds, and I have internalized their sound. This means it's easier to use them in my own songwriting. And you can experiment with those ideas. The end result may not sound anything like the song you took it from (and in the end, when you are writing an actual song, it may not even be conscious "borrowing"). It may just have one element from a song that you like.


Oh, and I watched a documentary about Duran Duran's album "Rio" pretty recently. The bassist said that he was inspired by the basslines the bassist in Chic played, so he took the syncopated rhythm inspired by Chic basslines and made it fit the chords of the song, and it became the bassline of "Rio". That was just a real life example of what we are talking about in this thread. The bassist of Duran Duran found the thing that made him like a song - it was the syncopated bassline - and used it in his own song. And I think "Rio" has an awesome bassline. It sounds nothing like Chic. It's just one element that the bassist liked and applied it to his own style.

In a similar way TS could find the things he likes in the song (and of course other songs too) we are talking about in this thread, and start experimenting with the ideas.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#34
Yeah, 20T is right, again. There are no good songs. The song that I put in the original post is not a good song, it is a song that I happen to like. I don't expect everyone to like it, but I do and I want to know why. The fact of the matter is is that that song is just a series of sounds organised in a way that makes it pleasing to my ears. So dissecting that series of sounds to find out what I like about it is useful so I can use similar methods later on.

Speaking of, this debate is very interesting, but can we please return to the song in question? Thanks

So we've established that XYZ about this song makes me like it, but I still don't know what XYZ is
#36
Quote by Jehannum
Think about why you dislike the songs you dislike, and avoid doing those things.


That's not so easy, considering I don't make a habit of listening to songs that I dislike
#37
Quote by Jet Penguin
^I agree with you.

But that's not what I mean. You're splitting hairs about ' the X factor that makes the song good' vs. 'elements of the song that please my brain'


I'm just saying there is a difference between an element of a song you think is cool, and why the song is good. Everything affects everything else and it all works together. It's not like every element has a character of "good" and if you put a lot of "good" stuff together you will get a good song in the end. None of the elements of a song are making it good.

It's how it all works together that makes it good. So, you won't able to label what makes the "goodness".

Like my food example. You might eat a nice shawarma with garlic sauce, and think "what makes this good? Oh, I know, it's the garlic for sure."

But you can't go and take garlic and stick it in your chocolate after, because garlic makes things good. Garlic is just an element of the whole. It is the way the other flavours work with it that make it good.


It is sensible to recognize "there is garlic in this" and then taste the garlic and know what that is. Because then you could react when making something with "You know what would work well here? Garlic."

But no single element is responsible for what is good. You could dissect the mona lisa stroke for stroke, but you will never find the stroke that makes it good.

Just the same as it makes no sense to ask "what are the good sounding chords?" The good sounding chord is the one that sounds great in the progression you are writing. Could just be a major chord.

It's all relative. So, for me, it is a mistake to have the philosophy of trying to find what makes a song good. It is better to listen to all of it, and look how everything works together. You can kind of do that with analysis, but it gets too complicated, and as a sort of, piece of theory, it would become too complex, and only really useful for recreating the same song, essentially.

So, for me, forget trying to find what makes something good. Just listen, and look at some of the basic structure so you can name some parts, and listen. What you're hearing is why it is good. The combination of it all together.

That's my philosophy.
#38
Quote by MaggaraMarine
I usually like certain more "original" things in songs (or they may not even be that "original" - they are just something that you may not expect to happen). For example the modulation in the end of "Living on a Prayer". The 3/4 measure before the modulation and the modulation from Em to Gm - that's not something that you hear all the time and it just makes the last chorus sound awesome. I can name the exact part that made it sound awesome. Of course there's more to that song, but that's one of the "cool" things in that song.
Sure. But that didn't make the song good. This is consistent with my philosophy also.

Another example is the bVII chord in the end of "Dreams" by Van Halen. Not something I expected and it just sounded awesome. I could name the exact part and the exact thing that made it sound awesome. Of course not every bVII chord or 3/4 measure or modulation from Em to Gm is going to sound awesome. It has more to it than that. But it is possible (and not even that hard) to name the things that make something sound awesome.
I'm not saying you can't find specific things that sound cool. I'm saying you can find specific things that make a song good. If you think something sounds cool, name it. But that is very different from asking a forum "what makes this song good?"


Oh, and I watched a documentary about Duran Duran's album "Rio" pretty recently. The bassist said that he was inspired by the basslines the bassist in Chic played, so he took the syncopated rhythm inspired by Chic basslines and made it fit the chords of the song, and it became the bassline of "Rio". That was just a real life example of what we are talking about in this thread. The bassist of Duran Duran found the thing that made him like a song - it was the syncopated bassline - and used it in his own song. And I think "Rio" has an awesome bassline. It sounds nothing like Chic. It's just one element that the bassist liked and applied it to his own style.
Sure. Of course you can do that. But that bassline wasn't "what makes songs good" He studied a bassist and learned some stuff, and REACTED, by noticing that would work.

The difference is a bit subtle, but I think it is important. Again. I'm not saying don't analyze songs. I am not saying don't hear things you like and learn to name them. I am not promoting ignorance. I do all of those things you are talking about. Maybe not to the extent of the bassline thing, but I am not saying anything that is a contradiction to what you're saying.

I'm saying, you can analyze and study a song all day, and you won't find what makes it good. You can find cool elements for sure, and those contribute to making it good for sure. None of them are what makes the song good. It is how it all works together that makes it good. The parts work well for the other parts. THAT's what is important. THAT's what makes a song good. Not element x or y or z, as cool as you might think they are, as useful as they may be to learn, they are not responsible for making the song good. What is responsible for making the song good, is how the songwriter put the elements together. Which elements they chose to fit with which elements. The way pitch and harmony and rhythm work together.

I'm not saying don't analyze music, and I'm not saying you can't learn cool stuff from analysis, and I'm not saying you can't hear something cool someone did and learn it. Of course you can. Musicians learn off of other musicians all of the time. But none of those things make a song good. They are ingredients. It is how you combine the ingredients that makes a song good.

In a similar way TS could find the things he likes in the song (and of course other songs too) we are talking about in this thread, and start experimenting with the ideas.


Of course. But he doesn't need us for that. He just needs to hear what he thinks is cool, and name it. Perhaps he doesn't know the name or how to name it, but if that's the case, he could ask "what is the progression at part x?" or something like that. This would be a question I could answer.

"What makes this song good?" Idk, I can't answer that. If you can answer that, then by all means go right ahead. I don't know. With my philosophy, it doesn't work that way.

So, my answer is to explain that. You don't have to agree with me. If you have an answer as to why the song is good, then you can answer with that. I don't have an answer to that, and to me the question doesn't make much sense.

But that doesn't mean that I don't listen attentively to music, and observe all the parts and how they work together. It just means that I don't expect to find "why a song is good" In any analysis I make. I also would never write with that philosophy. I don't use theory to write. I use listening and feel. That goes for arrangements also. I will listen and have an idea, and try it, and listen, and just try to get everything to work together. I'm never trying to make "a good bassline" according to what my observations have discovered a good bassline is. I try to make the bassline for that piece. The bassline that piece wants it to be. That's my philosophy. That's why there is no point in trying to find what makes a song good to me.

You can disagree, but, ok. I mean what do you want me to say? You disagree and think you can find what makes a song good. That's fine with me.

My philosophy is different, and the advice I would give is not to try and hunt for that, but instead try to think of it as a whole, and that each part needs to be designed for that specific whole. Imo you could just change the sort of drum beat that song has, and you will completely change the feel of it. All the parts matter and none of them are responsible for making it good, imo.

That said, the melody is the most important part, and then the harmony, imo. But even if you want to dissect those and discover what makes a good melody, you will be in a bind, because that's tough also. Idk what makes one good. I know that how the specific rhythm and pitch of a melody works together, and how the phrasing follows is important. But there are a million ways to write good ones. I don't think there is a way to be able to analyze and say what makes a melody good either. Just listen to it. That's why it is good, because it sounds like that. That's what I'm saying. If you want to hunt for what makes a song good, be my guest. I wouldn't do it, I wouldn't recommend it, but whatever anyone else wants to do is fine by me.
#39
^ Yes, of course, but I think you are misunderstanding the whole point of the thread. We aren't trying to find the "secret formula" of a "good song" (as I said, there is no such thing). We are trying to find the things that TS likes in the song. Of course you need to see the big picture. I don't think anybody is saying otherwise.

And TS clearly needed help. He didn't know how to approach it. But now people have posted some advice on how to start with analyzing a song. It's not something to take for granted. If you don't know what to listen to/how to listen to the song, you can't really do any kind of analysis. TS needs to learn that.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#40
Quote by fingrpikingood
Of course. But he doesn't need us for that. He just needs to hear what he thinks is cool, and name it. Perhaps he doesn't know the name or how to name it, but if that's the case, he could ask "what is the progression at part x?" or something like that. This would be a question I could answer.


This is only half-true. Nobody else can tell me what it is that I like about this song. However, I certainly do need the input of others to understand how to dissect the song in order to find exactly what it is that I like about it though.
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