As part of my music training, I’m going back to basics and have been re-entering the world of musical theory. It makes a lot more sense to me nowadays than it did as a six year old but it still makes my brain tired after an hour or two.
Part of my reason to step back to the core and learn music all over again from the ground up is my desire to break out of the box. It’s so frustrating when you hear music in your head but it comes out in basic form and you just want to add that layer of fill to take it from good to great.
It’s much like anything you want to master whether it’s music, cooking, writing, your work etc – it’s one thing to know fundamentals and create a good core product; it’s another to then break the rules and use ‘talent’ and skill to take that core product and turn it into a mind blowing masterpiece.
Much to my music teacher’s displeasure, he spoke passionately about how meaningless pop music is (and always has been) mainly due to how songs are composed. In his opinion, most pop music is driven by the chords and not the melody thus restricting any motive, meaning or purpose to a limited state. It’s this way because chords are easy to learn because they’re logic based while writing melodies takes abstract thought and focus.
To write music that hooks and leads the way, the key is to write the melody, express the emotion and energy and support it with the logical feeling of the chords. In short, write with the heart and trust the head to be there.
Without purpose, meaning and motive, the song is just notes. Sure it might be catchy but it’s often why it falls into oblivion in a few years. It’s always the classics we remember because they mean something. It’s music that makes us feel something. They strike a chord – oh dear I went there…
You see, you can write a cool riff or a nice beat with some chords but you often need a lead guitar or piano to really put down a unique melody that makes the song come to life. It’s the hook that people will sing to; the catchy bit that makes people go from nodding their head to the beat to breaking out into a smile and have them close their eyes.
Core values, a strong foundation and a nice set of roots is a great place to start and it can set the beat – but it’s just a start. To give texture, meaning, emotion, colour and a sense of progression, you need to write the melody and trust the logical core values to have your back.
Your core values are instilled in you from a young age and you will spend a lifetime questioning them, evaluating them, testing them, modifying them and sticking by them.
It’s important to have your fundamentals but don’t forget the importance of also writing a melody for your life. Have the courage to cry, to laugh, to feel emotion, to trust, to love and to be hurt.
Let your heart lead the way and trust your brain to back you up. If you don’t, it’s possible your life will end up as just a pop song in time rather than an anthem of a lifetime.