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Aug 22, 2020
Melody 1: C E♭ G F G
Melody 2: C E♭ G F G C G F C
Chords: C7 C7 C7 C7 C7 F7 F7 C7 C7 G7 F7 C7 C7
Bass synchronizes with measure after 3 repetitions (4 measures) by resting 2 8th notes.
Bass variation: CCF_C_CCC_ used once on measure 10
Hi hat: 8 open 2 open 1 closed 5 open
I’ve been trying to figure out music for a while. Youtube video after youtube video, practice, and writing software has not led me to anything that sounds very interesting and music-like. Why would that be? I took a 6 week Intro to Music Theory course from BerkleeX and found myself still at a loss. My final project for that course is Think 一緒に (free download), something quite music-like, but missing a lot of the nuance you might find in a song. So I’ve made incredible progress over the summer. But I’m still not there yet. This blog is about some of the struggles I’ve had and why I think that maybe, just maybe it’s possible for me to write a song.
The professor gave us a backing track and asked us to do a C minor pentatonic melody that plays for 2 measures, waits 2 measures, repeats, waits, and then a second melody that complements the first. I tried my best to do that, but I failed to figure out how to play with the backing track. What went wrong with that? Well, a lot of things. I didn’t give it a lot of effort, so that could explain it, but my guess is that latency was just high enough that I could never get on rhythm. Along the same lines, I couldn’t figure out what any of the other instruments in the band were doing. I was able to single out the drum (hard not to), chords, but not the bass. My nice headphones had just broken, so I was dealing with my speakers which have almost no bass. I turned up the volume louder and louder and louder and louder and still couldn’t get any bass. Now listening to it, I can hear the bass just fine. It turns out that headphones and cheap speakers output different sounds.
So I made my own backing track in Rosegarden using Fluidsynth and FluidR3 GM2-2.SF2. You can see that the percussion is very simple, the bassline is probably too simple, and the chord progression is just playing what the professor told me. The melody I played on keyboard to the backing track. It took a few tries and a few hours to get it right, but once it was good, I felt happy about it. The title screen/cover art shows a bit about how to play the song if you ever get the urge. The video shows the actually nuts and bolts of everything.
If you think about it, Think 一緒に is 4 measures of melody, a generic backing track, and a bit of fiddling with velocity of the backing track. So it’s not a very good song. And yet.. there’s something musical to it, right? In my opinion there’s something musical about the backing track without the melody. Do you want to hear what I mean? Sure you do. Think 一緒に backing track.
Why don’t I use a DAW? Well, you see.. I want a DAW but I don’t want to get an expensive DAW (I am on Linux, so Ableton, FL Studio, and similar are non-starters) and then find myself with a sunk cost when they move to a subscription model. The irony is not lost on me that I am now in the same situation with Rosegarden which is Open Source.
Why is the song name not in a single language? I suppose I just want to watch the world burn.
Anything else worth putting into a blog post about this? One of my main limitations seems like it’s my unwillingness to take any inspiration from other songs. You see what happens when someone asks me specifically to use their backing track.
So would I recommend BerkleeX’s OHARM 100x to someone? For a free course that takes a few hours per week, it’s pretty valuable. If you are hoping to gain great insight into music, I have bad news for you: it’s an introductory course, so no insights unless you don’t know music theory. After watching perhaps a dozen youtube videos on music theory, the only things that came as a surprise to me were: the blues progression, the minor pentatonic scale, and… that youtube actually provided a half-decent education in music theory.
This last one deserves a pretty long discussion, but it’s pretty clear I can’t provide that here. Months of watching youtube tutorials on music have left me thinking that everyone knows something that I don’t know. What is it? Is it something that they’re unwilling to talk about? Is it natural talent? Is it years of survivor bias? Is it money? Is it a conspiracy? These questions will eventually be answered. But I am gonna have to leave you with a pretty clear: I don’t know.
Oh and if you’re wondering about this track. I was unhappy when I wrote it. I was watching the violence in Portland (specifically between Patriot Prayer (the nazis) and the police brutality protesters) and it sickened me. It makes me think that this country is going to fall apart worse than it already has. And I’m not blaming the protesters. When violence is perpetrated against you, you are the victim. No one who perpetrates violence against others gets to claim that distinction. This excuse of self-defense is contradicted by the evidence that I watched.
Defund the SPD.
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