#1
I really like math rock and old-school ("true") emo (American Football, anyone?). I've been trying to write something musically complex as a challenge to myself, but I really can't seem to figure out a non-awkward way to transition between segments of a song. I can write a section in one key in 4/4 time, and a section in the dominant or relative minor of the original key, let's say in 3/4 or 6/8, and so on. But I can never make the transition smooth. The closest I've gotten is holding a common chord (between the two keys) for several measures, and then just starting the next section in the other time signature. This strategy is both awkward-sounding and lazy.
I have a similar problem writing transitions between softer, melodic bits of my songs and the punk-infused, eighth-note heavy parts that I'd like to balance them with. Again I rely on a lazy strategy of playing the melodic bit's rhythm, then doubling it over and over until it's at the speed of the "heavy" part. As in:

|Melodic Bit|
(quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) |
(quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) (quarter note) |
|Full-on Punk Bit|
(eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!) (eighth note!)|

What strategies have you tried, or heard in the music you listen to? Any idea on where I can find advice on writing art rock/emo/math rock?
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#2
A common way to change tempo is to for example change a 8th note in the previous tempo to a dotted 8th note in the new tempo.

A good example of this is Killing in the Name by RATM.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWXazVhlyxQ

The instruments play quarter note triplets before the tempo change. When the tempo changes (0:40), the quarter note triplets become normal quarter notes (which is the same thing as normal 8ths becoming dotted 8ths).

Another thing would be slowing down the tempo gradually. (And of course what you mentioned - ie, playing a long sustained chord before changing to the new tempo. But as you said, this can sound a bit awkward.)

But why your ideas may not fit together that well is not all about the tempo. Maybe the ideas just are too different. Even if they were in the same tempo and the same key, they would not necessarily work that well together.
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#3
A lot of times, the key is in the drum fill. You can go easily from one to another if the drummer sets up the next phrase with the correct timing and feel. This is used a lot in jazz.
#4
The secret is learning how time signatures work so that you can create the transition.

Each time signature has a principle beat and a background unit. The beat is the pulse that gets counted (in 4/4 -- it's the 1, 2, 3, 4). The background unit is the note value the represents the largest division of that beat. In 4/4, that unit would be the 1/8th note because the largest division of the beat is to cut it in half. Beats are typically accented, background units are not.

Time signatures like 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 are called "Simple Time Signatures" because the principle beat is divided in half: 1+2+3+4+.

Time signatures like 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 are called "Compound Time Signatures" because the principle beat is divided into groups of 3 instead of 2. In other words, even though we count 6 beats in 6/8 we feel the accents in groups of 2: 1+a, 2+a.

When you feel comfortable "feeling" the accents of each of the time signatures you want to use, you can use syncopation in the last measure or two of the first section to begin matching the accents in the new time signature of the next section.

Listening to your favorite artists with a transcription of the song is critical. you need to listen to how they do it, but you need to know what you're listening to. Specifically, when do they change time signatures, and how do they do it?

If you need help, hit me up.

Good Luck!
#5
I don't know why I talked about tempo changes in my first reply... I guess I misread your post. Maybe I was tired, I don't know...

But whatever... I think you may be trying to do too many things at the same time. You are trying to glue two separate ideas together that are in different keys and time signatures. Figure out how to make a smooth transition between two ideas. Figure out how to modulate smoothly. Figure out how to change the time signature smoothly. After you can do all of them separately, combine them. Playing ii-V of the new key before modulation is not always smooth. You can make it sound smooth but you can also make it sound out of place. Modulation is not about simply playing the ii-V of the next key before changing key. That's what many times ends up happening, but that's not the only thing that you need to do to make it sound smooth. Listen to songs that have key changes. Same with time signature changes. Listen to songs and analyze them.

Also, as I said in my earlier post, key/time signature change may not be the only reason why the transition doesn't sound smooth. Maybe the ideas just don't fit together well. Not all ideas work together. You can't just glue two random ideas together and expect it to work, even if they share a common chord or are in the same tempo or whatever. Again, just listen to and analyze songs and figure out how they make the transitions work.
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
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 11, 2016,
#6
Quote by Mayge

What strategies have you tried, or heard in the music you listen to? Any idea on where I can find advice on writing art rock/emo/math rock?

Two strategies (I'm basically just rephrasing the above advice ):

1. Listen to the music you like and want to emulate, and analyse it. In particular - in this case - effects such as time changes and key changes. How do they get them to work? (You don't have to copy examples exactly, but just get the principles they're using.)

2. Study theoretical conventions of modulation: standard ways of changing from one key to another. Again, you don't need to follow any of those "common practices" exactly, but you can use them for inspiration.

The problem - of course - is that if you do both at once, without any logical relationship or preparation for the change, it's going to sound like two totally different pieces of music jammed together. So how do you make a connection?

For time changes - as koshaughnesssy says - it's about finding a note value in common. E.g., keep the same beat value (same tempo) but split the beat differently, eg 4/4 to 12/8. Or keep the 8th or 16th note values the same, but group them differently.

For key changes - yes, a common chord is one way of doing it, but it's only one way! wiki, eg, has several more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modulation_(music)
#7
Quote by annamoor
A lot of times, the key is in the drum fill. You can go easily from one to another if the drummer sets up the next phrase with the correct timing and feel. This is used a lot in jazz.


This is good advice, but jazz doesn't really have as many time signature changes and rhythmic changes as other types of music such as jazz fusion, death metal (particularly technical death metal), progressive rock/metal, black metal, etc where major time changes and rhythm changes are completely natural throughout the song. It's an unwritten rule that tempo, rhythm (especially changes in accenting), and time signature changes are going to be expected in almost every song.

This for examples has a nice switch in time signature at about :33 and then a switch back at about 1:49:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTqeRKN3fLM

But again, the drums are often a major factor in how smooth/organic/natural the change sounds, unless the goal is to make it sound completely forced for jarring effect, which is common in death metal. In that example, the change isn't the smoothest, but I don't think that it sounds particularly forced per se.

While not actually death metal either, this one shows a few tempo changes. They are all fairly abrupt but again, not particularly jarring:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8ZqFlw6hYg

Another common concept, especially in death metal and prog, is the idea of a systematic set of time changes, often in one riff. A riff might for example have one measure of 7/8, one of 10/8 or 5/4 (depending on accenting and other stuff, though in such cases only theory nazis will really actually care to distinguish between the two), another 7/8, and an 11/7.

Now this sound tricky, but you are actually just simply adding extra notes to the end. Because of the initial odd meter of 7/8, the rhythm will already be highly syncopated and likely divided into distinct meats (perhaps 3+4), and so the added beats will follow suit (perhaps 3+4+3 and 3+4+4).

Actually. that concept of dividing measures like that (albiet without actual time changes) is a major staple of the rhythms of traditional bulgarian music, which often uses time signatures like 11/16, 15/16, 17/16, 23/16, etc. These usually have "long" and "short" beats, so a piece in 11/16 might have a rhythm as follows:

long, short, long, long, short, long, short, or 2+1+2+2+1+2+1, with the 2s being 8th notes and the 1s being 16ths.

But to get back to the concept of adding extra beats, it might be easier to start with a riff that has three measures of 4/4 and then a measure of 5/4. So let's say that you just play quarter notes on the first three beats of each measure and then play two 8th notes on the last beat. So something like 0-0-0-23 on your low E. Then for the fourth measure (the 5/4), you add another two 8th notes into the little "fill" at the end, so maybe 0-0-0-23s87 or something. It can sound pretty natural, because you're just adding an extra beat and that's it.

A good example of this is in The Rocky Road to Dublin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxBKgOyMzSc

The song is mostly in 9/8. You can count it as 1-and-a-2-and-a-3-and-a. Skip to about :23 into the song, to the part "a brand new pair of brogues, to rattle over the bogs, and frighten all the dogs, on the rocky road to Dub-a-lin, 1-2-3-4-5".

If you count those 5 measures, you get three measures of 9/8, but then add an extra 4-and-a in the fourth measure to get 12/8 and then another measure of 9/8. If you don't pay close attention, the extra beat isn't even noticeable.

I don't know if that helps at all, but maybe it does.
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Last edited by theogonia777 at Apr 11, 2016,
#8
Logical development of coherent ideas is the answer to every composition related question ever.

Listen to people who are the masters of stuff like this (cough cough classical) and you'll notice that it's never separate ideas duct taped together, but quite the opposite.

Even when stuff sounds disjointed and ADHD-y (Like Don Cab or some math rock stuff) there are still connections between sections. Abstract connections, but they still exist. It's never random.
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