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“The most useful thing that I learned was to gain the conscious awareness of human emotions, in an intentional way, when developing chord progressions. creating music. And using writing techniques like modal interchange and others to help convey those emotional states of being in your music.”
In some of the earlier works on this list, we’ve heard the theremin produce quartertones, reverberated sci-fi soundscapes, dissonance, and virtuosity. But here, it’s just plain pretty. In fact, it’s simply beautiful! The theremin holds center stage here showing yet another timbral side to the instrument: its angelic, siren, somnambulant quality and characteristics.
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Another approach that works for some players is to use the C major scale on those two strings (6th and 5th) to map out the other notes as referential to them. If your aptitude for memorization is quite high, this would be quicker.
It sounds like a massive cliché, but the best advice I’ve been given and adhere to is believing in myself, being genuine and nice. If you believe in who you are, what you want to achieve, and visualize it, you can do amazing things.
Some musicians believe that if they make great music, everything else around their career will be taken care of; and this is a huge mistake. The truth is that no one should be more concerned about the non-musical aspects of your career than you. This means paying attention to things like song royalties, licensing agreements, and the details of every contract you sign. You don’t need to be a legal expert to be a musician, but having a passive attitude about the less flashy aspects of your music career can lead to devastating consequences.
Charles Burchell is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer, educator, and diplomat from New Orleans, LA. He has studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the New England Conservatory (B.M. ’12), and most recently completed the Masters of Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Ed. M ’13). Burchell has recorded and produced albums with Wes “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Delfayo Marsalis, Ran Blake, Ciel Rouge, his band The Love Experiment (featured in Touring on a Shoestring), and has performed and given master classes at various music festivals around the world. Burchell also works as a cultural diplomat with the Next Level Program and is currently a teaching artist for Carnegie Hall’s Digital Music Production Workshop and Musical Connections Program in which he works with court involved youth and students from various boroughs throughout New York City. Burchell continues to perform regularly around the U.S. and internationally as a DJ, drummer, and bandleader.
And while this is a solid piece of advice for any type of composer, it’s especially important here. If you can adequately identify the audience for whom you’re writing, you can make them feel nostalgic by using the scale degrees and instruments that they would have heard when they were younger. We’ll get back to this in a moment.
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A woman composer of the 18th century? Blasphemy! Maria Teresa Agnesi was born in Milan in 1720 to Pietro Agnesi, a man of modest nobility. She received a wonderful liberal arts education with her sister, who became a lecturing mathematician, while Maria Teresa turned out to be a talented harpsichordist and singer.
However, throughout the entire song, there isn’t a single E♭ chord. This creates a consistent sense that the song is being pushed forward, because we never land on the safe and comfy resolution our ears expect.
The thing about Top 40 music is that it has to be easily digestible to be successful. Usually, it can’t be anything too complex — simple, singable melodies, accompanied by very logical chord changes. As it turns out, this makes pop a great place to start learning about theory and expand your harmonic knowledge.
The ancient Greeks figured out that if you have a bunch of strings, it sounds really good if you tune them according to the frequency ratios you get from the natural overtone series. In such tuning systems, you get all your notes by picking a starting frequency, and then multiplying or dividing it by whole numbers. The good-sounding (to Western people) note combinations are the ones derived from the lowest harmonics — the ones that have you multiplying or dividing by the smallest prime factors: two, three, and five.
If we want to take this a step further and become experimenting with even more unusual sounds, we can build modes on the two other Minor scales: The Harmonic and Melodic Minor scales. The resulting modes would be the following: