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365 Beats, 365 Days. 1 Beat a Day for a Whole Year!

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, and I’m trying to get back into it.  I’m a little older, a little wiser (arguably), and lots of things have changed since I last wrote.  However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the music is still very much alive, and we’ve released and will continue to release material regularly. =]  I’m still working on my Phase 4 – Take the Lead album, which has four (and a bonus) songs done currently, and Trifecta has four songs towards that album as well.

My birthday had just passed on September 7, and I made the decision earlier that week (those who follow me on Twitter @moon_shyne already knew) to make a beat a day, every day, for 365 days.  I am also doing 1 song a month.  Now these numbers are minimums, and if i can churn out more than 1 beat a day, and more than 1 song a month, all the power to me. =]

I’m five days in so far, and I’ve done five beats.  Every Saturday, I will release a quick mix of all seven beats from that week, and I want the public to let me know which of the seven they feel was the best for the week.  Now since this isn’t my usual “I’ll make the music when I’m inspired” style, I’m a little worried about how great everything will be.  However, after five days so far, the beats I’ve designated as the beats for those days have all been good.  Are any of them great?  Maybe.  You all can be the judges for that.

Interestingly enough, there’s almost a commentary for the day embedded in each of these beats.  I’m starting to draw inspiration more frequently and using any event or atypical object or person for inspiration.  I’ll give you mini-commentaries for each of the first 5 beats:

  1. Simple Technique (2013.09.07): There’s a song called Binibini, a Filipino song by a group called the Rainmakers.  I’m Filipino myself, and I’ve used Filipino samples in the past (queue Miss Universe by HotDog).  While driving, my wife had played this song, and from there, I drew the inspiration from the intro.  This became the sample that is the core of this beat.
  2. Double Blitz (2013.09.08): While at home, my wife and I flipped through the channels and watched a portion of Step Up: Revolution.  I wanted to convey a battle type of energy, and I drew from that.
  3. In Style (2013.09.09) : Not much to this one, I started from scratch and this is what came out.
  4. Storyteller (2013.09.10): A portion of this can be attributed to Holy Grail with the pianos.  I was always fascinated with progressions with pianos where chords are played with the right hand and only the left hand changes for the bass notes.  I’m playing a constant Bm the whole way, with only bass drops using my left.  I liked the sounds of using 3rds of the chords for the violins, and the rest is history.
  5. Looking Back (2013.09.11): Being what day it was, I wanted to make something a little bit more reflective.  I tried to go more for an older R&B vibe, going with a 2-5-1 in Bbm with an electric piano.  I’ve never used an electric piano in a beat, so I felt good about that.  Same as the day before, I was feeling the usage of the 3rds and 5ths as the basis for the melodies of the violin and organ, so I kept it going.

On Saturday, you’ll get to know these beats a little bit better.  To make 365 beats in a year to me almost sounds impossible.  I’ll take my chances though.  So far so good!

More coming soon!   Stay with us!


How to Quickly Make a Minor 7 Flat 5 (a.k.a. Half Diminished Seventh) Chord

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

First off, I would like to say thanks to Stephen Pale of the Neverends for this hint. Stephen Pale is an excellent guitarist, and has a great handle on music theory. His band is starting to get some gigs in the New Milford, New Jersey area, and you might want to check them out. =]

The Minor 7 Flat 5 (m7b5) chord, also known as the Half Diminished Seventh chord is a chord frequently used in jazz, mostly as the ii portion for the ii-V7-i progression in a minor scale, serving as a predominant of sorts.

Now for those who do not know what a Minor 7 Flat 5 looks like, it’s a diminished chord plus a minor seventh.  A diminished chord is a minor chord, with the fifth of the triad flatted.  For example, C minor is formed by CEbG.  A C diminished chord is formed by CEbGb, instead of a G.  The minor seventh is the same seventh you would play on a Cm7, which is the Bb.

The quickest way to form the chord would be as such.  We will use Cm7b5 as the example.

1. Start with a C.
2. Use the next note as if you were forming the minor chord triad.  In this case, an Eb, as a Cm triad is CEbG.
3. Starting with the note in step 2 (Eb for this example), create its minor chord triad.  Ebm would be formed as EbGbBb.
4. Voila, your Cm7b5 chord is CEbGbBb.

Personally, I feel this makes it easier to think of the chord on the fly when playing piano.  Your left hand would play the first note, then your right hand would play the minor chord in step 3.  A Cm7b5 is the equivalent of Ebm/C, which may make it easier for some folks to visualize.  A Bm7b5 would be Dm/B.  An Am7b5 would be a Cm/A, etc.

So hopefully this makes for a good mnemonic device.   It should help you make those minor scale 2-5-1’s a little quicker. =]

More to come.



Appropriate Ranges for Singing Voices: (SATB) Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I’m currently in my Music Theory II class, and I’m hoping to use some of the techniques and pointers I’ve been learning in the class into my music.  For reference, here are the appropriate ranges for singing voices as outlined in class:

Soprano: C4 – G5
Alto: G3 – D5
Tenor: D3 – G4
Bass: C2 – C4

These ranges are a little flexible, as I’ve seen other sources have these ranges expanded, at the most, by a full step in one or both directions.  You can use these ranges to determine whether or not the key that you are writing in will fit with a particular singer if you know their range.

More stuff to come soon!


Following the Bridge to Bryan Adams’s “Everything I Do” with Cadences

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I was at my company’s national sales meeting in Florida this past week, and there was so much going on it was hard to even blink. As days progressed, the IT group had less and less to do, and since there were multiple pianos throughout the resort and were most of the time open, during breaks I had time to mess around.

I was thinking of good piano songs, and I remembered a ballad from Bryan Adams called “Everything I Do (I Do It For You,” which is a great love song that came out during the early 90′s for the Robin Hood soundtrack. The song itself is in Db Major for the most part, until it reaches the bridge (“There’s no love, like your love”), and everything takes an interesting turn.

I like analyzing these interesting chord changes because it deviates from what you’re used to hearing, plus the different tensions in the progression makes it very pleasing to the ear when done correctly.

Ready for some theory?

Just as a reminder, the roman numerals signify what note degree of the scale you are on. In C Major, a I is a C, a ii is a D and so forth.  Capital roman numerals signify a major chord should be played when using this particular note as a root, and lowercase numerals signify a minor chord.  For the vii-0, the “-o” signifies a diminished chord.

It’s interesting how this song moves along with cadences along roots, perfect IV’s and V’s, across a few different scales then makes its way back to the Db Major it started out in.

For those who don’t know what a cadence is, it’s basically a two chord progression.  The most common are authentic cadences with are V-I progressions (V gives you the feeling like you need to resolve and I resolves it nicely, like the song or verse can end here), half cadences which are cadences that end in a V (sounds suspended, unresolved and needs to continue to progress due to an unresolved V chord), and plagal cadences also known as the “amen” cadence because it sounds like that’s where the “Amen” should go in church.  A plagal cadence is a IV-I progression, and it sounds resolved but not as smooth as an authentic cadence.

Here’s a clip of the song, 4 bars in, which is just a Db Major, Ab Major, then Db Major (authentic cadence) for 2 bars:

and the chord progression so you can follow along:

Cb(B) Fb(E)
There’s no love like your love
Cb(B) Gb(F#)
And no other, could give more love
Db(C#) Ab(G#)
There’s nowhere, unless you’re there
Eb(D#) Ab(G#)
All the time, all the way

The instrumental then hits where the first chord is a Gb, then to a Db, and we’re back to the Db Major scale for the rest of the song.

First move they make, is using a Cb (B) Major first, a full step below the I chord, and it wouldn’t normally have a place in a typical major scale. The 7th note in a major scale is a half step and not a whole step below, and so the chord that would fit a major scale using that 7th note as the root would be a vii-0 (a diminished chord). In the case of Db Major, the 7th note would be a C and the chord would be a C diminished chord ((7) C, (2) Eb, (4) Gb).

If you know the song Heaven, also by Bryan Adams (in C Major, Sammy’s version is a D Major), it has a similar drop in the middle of the verse. In the middle of the verse, he would use a Bb Major then go into an F Major and then a G Major (“.. but that’s over now, you keep me coming back for more”).

It sounds very pleasing to the ear, and these aren’t the only cases that they use this technique. On The Beatles “Let it Be,” during the descending chord progression before the instrumental, you can hear Paul play a Bb Major for the same effect.

But why does it work?Let’s take a look at the two scales (the original for this song, Db Major, and the change in the bridge to B (Cb, for clarity) Major) side by side:

Db Major: (I) Db, (ii) Eb, (iii) F, (IV) Gb, (V) Ab, (vi) Bb, (vii-0) C, Db

Cb (B) Major: (I) Cb, (ii) Db, (iii) Eb, (IV) Fb, (V) Gb, (vi) Ab, (vii-0) Bb, Cb

And for those who ask why it’s in Db and not C#, it’s easier to write in Db than C# because you deal with 5 flats in a Db, and 7 sharps in a C#. Less complicated. Since a B Major is written in sharps, I opted to write it in Cb Major so you can see the similarities in flats easier.

Cb(B) Fb(E)
There’s no love like your love

When the bridge comes in, it hangs on an Eb note, which the two scales have in common, so a Cb Major chord can work here, before resolving to an E.  The road then takes an interesting turn.

From a Cb(B) Major, we go to an E Major chord. The notes being played are an Eb to an E. The progression works as an authentic cadence, which for those who don’t know, is a two chord progression, V-I, B Major to an E Major for the E Major scale. It’s a common way to feel resolution.  Since we’re going to an E, we’ll write the Cb Major scale as a B Major scale so we can use sharps in the comparison:

B Major: (I) B [Cb], (ii) C# [Db], (iii) D# [Eb], (IV) E [Fb], (V) F# [Gb], (vi) G# [Ab], (vii-0) A# [Bb], B [Cb]

E Major: (I) E, (ii) F#, (iii) G#, (IV) A, (V) B, (vi) C#, (vii-0) D#, E

From the E Major, we go to a B Major, which is a half cadence, I-V (any cadence finishing on a V is a half cadence), and it sounds normal with that suspended feeling in the E Major scale; or is it a plagal cadence, IV-I, for the B Major scale? Either way, it seems fine, but we would have to continue on to see where it goes from here.

Cb(B) Gb(F#)
And no other, could give more love

From the B Major, we go to an F# Major. That doesn’t work in an E Major scale, it should be an f# minor (ii). It works however for the B Major scale, since the F# Major is a V chord, and since it feels suspended, the B-F# becomes a I-V half cadence.

B Major: (I) B [Cb], (ii) C# [Db], (iii) D# [Eb], (IV) E [Fb], (V) F# [Gb], (vi) G# [Ab], (vii-0) A# [Bb], B [Cb]

Db(C#) Ab(G#)
There’s nowhere, unless you’re there

From the F# (Gb) Major chord, we go back to the Db Major scale by playing a Db Major chord to start the fifth bar (plagal cadence, IV-I). The next chord is an Ab Major, which works as a I-V half cadence in Db Major. So far, so good!

Eb(D#) Ab(G#)
All the time, all the way

But then it goes to a Eb Major chord! It doesn’t work with a Db Major scale, so we must be in the Ab Major scale since that’s the preceding chord. That gives us a half cadence, I-V, in Ab Major.

Db Major: (I) Db, (ii) Eb, (iii) F, (IV) Gb, (V) Ab, (vi) Bb, (vii-o) C, Db

Ab Major: (I) Ab, (ii) Bb, (iii) C, (IV) Db, (V) Eb, (vi) F, (vii-o) G, Ab

It then ends on an Ab Major, V-I, authentic cadence.

To start the instrumental, it goes to a Gb Major, which would help us move back to a Db Major scale via a plagal cadence (IV-I).

Db Major: (I) Db, (ii) Eb, (iii) F, (IV) Gb, (V) Ab, (vi) Bb, (vii-0) C, Db

Things could have been much simpler had the writers kept things to key, but where’s the glory in that?  The end result was a nice flowing, moving piece that sounded great to the ear.

More to come later this week with two songs due out by this weekend!  Make sure you stay tuned for that!


Let the beat roll…

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Just a few notes from me re: my perception of dynamics.

You may or may not relate to this in the genre sense but you should be able to understand the “feeling” of it.

Without going into specifics and without thinking about it too much, think of any song that at one time or another made you feel euphoric. Take that to mean what you want – elated, energized, relaxed and happy, high… whatever. It also shouldn’t matter what song it was, what genre, how old it was, or how old were. Have you picked a song yet? Don’t try to zero in on any specific song that makes you feel good, try to focus on a time you felt good because of a song. Hope you have a song in mind because now the thinking begins.

For the next part try to separate any emotional attachment your song may have stirred up in you. This isn’t about how a song makes you feel, but rather that a song makes you feel good because of the essence of the song and not because XYZ happened while that song was playing. Understand? What was it about the song that made you feel the way you did? Was it the drum beat? Or perhaps it was some guitar riff? To some people it may be (more…)

Lady Gaga Revisited: Paparazzi and Tetrachords

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

So Speaks [Harmony] sent me back to the drawing board, telling me that my first attempt at Gaga sounded too circus like [a la Britney Spears].  She wanted something more like Paparazzi and less like Bad Romance [though she likes both songs].

I have to admit, I like the song Paparazzi a lot.  It’s mostly the melody though of the chorus.

I’ve heard the song played many times, and I always had deemed the song to be in C minor (relative major being Eb Major).  Usually I have a decent ear when it comes to chords, and I dismissed the whole song to be in C minor, and the chorus probably followed suit.  When the chorus comes in:

“I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, Pappa, Papparazzi”

The sound of it seems to obviously be a very pop typical I-V-vi, or possibly a I-V(with the 3rd in the bass position)-6, in it’s relative major.

But I was wrong, and maybe next time I should actually learn a song first before judging it!  Being primarily a rap producer, you don’t go further than 2 or maybe 4 chords.  I play instruments for other genres though, and for the most part there aren’t that many key changes in the songs I play, but I usually call them when I play.  Having never played the song before, I found out, as always, assumption is the mother of all… you know the rest.

Ready for a little music theory?


Now before we proceed, I think we need a small review of major and minor chords.  If you’re good with basic major and minor scales, then you can move past this section.

The roman numerals above denote the chords in a particular scale, starting from the root upward.  Major chords are in capital letters and minor chords are in lowercase.  For example, assuming that the entire song was in C minor, the i chord would be C minor, the ii-o chord would be a D diminished, the v chord would be a G minor, and the VI chord would be an Ab Major.  The relative major of C minor is Eb Major  [To find the relative major of a minor, it’s the iii chord in the minor scale; to find the relative minor in a major, it’s the vi chord in the major scale].  So the I chord would be an Eb major, the V chord would be a Bb major (1st inversion, with the D in the bass instead of the Bb), and then the vi chord would be the C minor.

Sound confusing?

Here are the scales:

Eb Major Scale: Eb(I), F(ii), G(iii), Ab(IV), Bb(V), C(vi), D(vii-o), Eb(I)

C minor scale: C(i), D(ii-0), Eb(III), F(iv), G(v), Ab(VI), Bb(VII), C(i)

If you play the Eb Major scale, it will sound like a nice do-re-mi progression.  The C Minor, not so much, though that’s a conversation for another post.  As is, the C Minor scale looks exactly like the Eb Major scale if you started on C instead of Eb.  All Major and Minor (natural) scales work the same way, with their relatives.  To mix it up, composers will go between both relative scales (with some little added things) to make things sound extra good to the ear.

A lot of pop songs have a progression of I-V-vi.  Let It Be by the Beatles is a good example.   It’s in C Major, and the chord progression is C Major, G Major, Am (I,V,vi) in the first half of the progression of the verses.


Going back to Gaga, I assumed that the chords for the chorus would be Eb Major, Bb Major, then C Minor.

When I analyzed it, I found out it isn’t.  It’s still a I-V-vi, but not in that scale.  It’s actually in Ab Major.

But how does that work?

I’m glad you asked!  I owe it to my Music Theory I teacher who gave me this insight a few semesters back.

Here’s a clip of the song, second half of the first verse, into the chorus:

Let’s go over the chords of the song.

The intro is a C minor chord repeating.

The verses go: Cm, Ab, Cm, then Cm, Ab, Fm, leading into chorus.  It’s in C Minor Scale. (i, VI, i, i VI, iv)

The chorus goes: Ab, Eb, Fm, Db and repeats.  It’s in Ab Major. (I, V, vi, IV)

Let’s take a look at the two major scales involved here, the Eb Major (relative of C minor) and Ab Major:

Eb Major Scale: Eb(I), F(ii), G(iii), Ab(IV) | Bb(V), C(vi), D(vii-o), Eb(I)

Ab Major Scale: Ab(I), Bb(ii), C(iii), Db(IV) | Eb(V), F(vi), G(vii-o), Ab(I)

If you’ve noticed, I’ve split each scale in half, four notes on each side.  Each set of four notes is what music theorists call a tetrachord. Notice how the first half of the Eb Major scale closely resembles the Ab Major scale’s second half.

So how does this work?  Basically, if you play around in the first half of the Eb major scale, you can move to an Ab major scale progression and it will sound nice and peachy; especially if you use a G to lead into the Ab.

The composers of Paparazzi did so by using the F minor in the end, pausing the music while Gaga sings the last note, and Gaga’s last note is a hanging G note.

Why are these three things important?

  1. The use of the F minor, is almost foreshadowing.  If you take a look at the Ab Major scale, what’s the relative minor?  (remember the notes above, look for the 6th, which is an F, and a minor at that).  It makes the move even more comfortable since both the Eb Major and Ab Major scales have that chord in common.
  2. The G serves as a leading tone to the Ab Major.  It gives your ear the tension to want to move to the Ab Major chord because it sounds incomplete.  Try playing C,D,E,F,G,A,B in succession (a C Major scale, without going back to C).  Your ear will want to play that C because things don’t sound right without doing so.
  3. Then the pause.  Why the pause?  To make the G sound even better when it leads into the Ab Major.

Play the clip above, and listen for these key things, and you’ll hear how it was done.  Pretty nifty, if you ask me.  I’m sure that this isn’t the first time the technique was used, as I’m sure it was used many times.  However, this is something current that uses it, and for composers who want to know how to move in scales, well here’s one good way to do it. =]

That does it for today’s music theory lesson.  More music coming your way, very soon!





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