Category Archives: arpeggios

RECORDING: RapidComposer 3

I played a big part in developing and popularizing this cool MIDI-based software, that allows you to quickly do a lot of cool MIDI stuff. I last talked about it a few years ago, as there was a big update to version 2.5. Now, RC has been updated to version 3.1, with a new user interface, and many more features. I invite all of you (especially those of you who love MIDI composition) to check out the demo. It’s worth your time.

http://musicdevelopments.com

A little history:

RapidComposer was created by Attila Mezei, a Hungarian software developer. When RapidComposer began, it had a very rough start, because it crashed so much. But I discovered it, and saw its potential, so I emailed Attila, and offered to help him work a lot of the bugs out, and do a tutorial series on it, as well as help him develop phrases and new soundfonts which I created from scratch. I did all of this for version 2.5, and in exchange, Attila gave me a license for the full version of the software. RC 3.0 was released in spring 2016, and offered a lot more than 2.5.

Six years after RC debuted, its fanbase grew exponentially, and I am really happy for Mr. Mezei. He truly has created something amazing that no other software developer has done yet, and with so many features.

Check out some of the videos created by a very helpful member named “Yellukhan”:

 

 

Now, this guy uses RapidComposer, but with realistic virtual instruments from Kontakt and such… the built-in sounds when you download RapidComposer are soundfonts (created by Attila, and myself). They may not be very realistic, as you get the best sounds when RapidComposer is controlling virtual instruments such as Omnisphere, EZKeys, or any realistic Kontakt library (found in Native Instruments’ “KOMPLETE” series). But it’s pretty impressive, what RapidComposer can do… if you take the time with it. So again, check it out and let me know what you think! Comment below… especially if you’re a MIDI geek!

 

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SONGWRITING: Left-hand piano patterns

Something that everyone who plays piano should work on improving is their left hand, especially when it comes to songwriting and pop accompaniment.

This page has a handful of great exercises to help people with pattern improvisation. Well worth a look, whether you read sheet music or not… if you don’t, just listen to the audio examples…. but it’s really helpful if you read music, though.

I’ve been so busy, so I apologize for not updating this blog as much as I used to… more good stuff coming soon…

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/great-lefthand-accompaniment-patterns-for-the-pian.html

 

SONGWRITING: Variety Tips

I had a lesson with one of my students Zoe, who is exceptionally talented, intelligent, and cool. She’s been writing songs as long as she can remember, and asked me how to vary her latest song, as she wanted to get out of the rut she was in. So I wrote down a few things for her and demonstrated each thing… and then I photocopied the page, because I knew what I wrote down was pretty helpful.

Here it is:

1. Chord Substitution with complimentary chords

if you have a progression with Am, try FM7 instead, on the second pass (all of the notes from Am, plus F)

2. Chord substitution with out-of-key chords

If you have a progression with Am, try A or even B7, instead

3. “Walk-ups” or “walk-downs”

C, to G/B, to Am (think Landslide by Fleetwood Mac) or G, D/F#, Em

4. Chords higher up on the neck

Think triads, or open chords beyond fret 12

5. Repeated motif over the chord progression

You’ll need recording software for this… or a 2nd person. Have the 2nd person/track just arpeggiate a complimentary triad over your chord sequence. Easiest way to add texture to a song, and give it an extra boost of cool.

6. Changing the chords more frequently

This was Elliott Smith’s go-to thing, especially if it’s “much more frequently.” Almost all of his songs have a chord change every two beats, and sometimes even every beat, or every other word. Difficult to develop, but can really add sophistication to a song.

7. Adding a well-placed “gross” chord

Such as diminished, augmented, m7b5, or something completely unrelated (or hell, even just a simple dominant 7, if you avoid them in 99% of your songs).

8. Stay on a chord longer, but keep the same progression

Say your progression is Am / F / C / G. And each chord plays for a bar. Try staying on the Am for three bars, and then change to F / C / G on each beat of the 4th bar, and staying on G for an extra bar or something). This is a great technique.

9. Play the progression as triads, instead of open chords

Simple, but could be exactly what the song needs.

10. On the third line of your chorus, make an entirely different progression

Again, say your chorus is Am / F / C / G…. maybe on the 3rd line, use this progression instead: FM7 / FM7 / Cadd9 / Em7

Go write! And something I don’t say enough (or practice enough) that was coined by my good friend Mike “Wolf” Benson– “STAY CREATIVE AS ALWAYS!”

an experimental hip-hop album Mike and I released in 2013 (I did all the music/production… Mike is the vocalist/lyricist):

SONGWRITING: The Gambler (fun.) Case Study

This is probably my favorite piano-pop/drumless song of all-time. I did a substitute bass lesson for a 10-year old three years ago and he introduced me to the song (two years before anyone gave a damn about the band, who are now pop superstars). He’s like “Show me the bassline of the Gambler by Fun!” I was like “who?”

So let’s point out the things that immediately stand out:

1. There are no drums or percussion at all.

2. The song is either in 12/8 time, or (more likely) 6/8 time.

3. It begins with basic triad arpeggios (most in root position, some as inversions).

4. There are places in the song which leave “space” (verse 2), where there’s no piano arpeggio… just strings added to held piano chords (strings which remain through the rest of the song, and become the busiest when the piano chills out.

5. The song is extremely well-written, lyrically. It tells the story (at least from my understanding) of a lifelong love/marriage/family… and a man’s wife who is either very sick, or terminally ill. It moves along at the absolute perfect pace…

6. The melody phrases (vocal) are consistent throughout each verse, but with just enough “lift” to keep the song from becoming stagnant. Nate R. of fun. sure knows how to write melodies. I mean, this guy is seriously fucking top-notch. Every male singer should strive for vocal melodies this interesting. But I honestly think they just come to him…. in the same way very interesting vocal melodies often come to pop/indie female singer/songwriters (some that come to mind including A Fine Frenzy, Gregory and the Hawk, Ingrid Michaelson, etc). The melody is ALWAYS the thing that makes someone love a song FIRST (and forever). Always remember that.

7. In the 2nd verse, we hear a quarter-note triplet on the “collective hearts” line.

8. The lyrics have a lot of internal rhyme– rhymes in the MIDDLE of lines, not just at the end.

lyrics:

Slow down, we’ve got time left to be lazy
All the kids have bloomed from babies into flowers in our eyes
We’ve got fifty good years left to spend out in the garden
I don’t care to beg your pardon, we should live until we die

We were barely eighteen when we crossed collective hearts
It was cold, but it got warm when you barely crossed my eye
And then you turned, put out your hand, and you asked me to dance
I knew nothing of romance, but it was love at second sight

I swear when I grow up I won’t just buy you a rose
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely
For even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’til it’s our time
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side

It was the winter of ’86, all the fields had frozen over
So we moved to Arizona to save our only son
And now he’s turned into a man, though he thinks just like his mother
He believes we’re all just lovers, he sees hope in everyone

And even though she moved away, we always get calls from our daughter
She has eyes just like her father’s, they are blue when skies are gray
And just like him she never stops, never takes the day for granted
Works for everything that’s handed to her, never once complains

You think that I nearly lost you when the doctors tried to take you away
Like the night you took my hand beside the fire thirty years ago to this day,
You swore you’d be here ’til we decide that it’s our time
But it’s not time, you never quit in all your life
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side
You’re the love of my life, you know that I will never leave your side

You come home from work, and you kiss me on the eye
You curse the dog, you say that I should never feed them what is ours
So we move out to the garden, look at everything we’ve grown
And the kids are coming home so I’ll set the table…. you can make the fire.

This is how timeless songs are written, ladies and gentlemen. Play this song for your loved one on Christmas Day, or whatever holiday you may celebrate (and of course, play it for them on their birthday).

Happy holidays!

P.S. I dedicate this lovely song to Hanna from Hungary (even though she never reads this blog as she is an incredible artist, but not a musician, she means the world to me, and makes me think of this song).