#1May 26th, 2009 · 01:15 AM
102 threads / 59 songs
204 posts
Lesson 6: Texture and Arranging
Texture and Arranging

Alright, so I'm going to take a short break from the strict theory and just have a light discussion about how all this may affect your writing.

Now so far we've discussed a whole lot of jargon but we haven't really gotten to the point. What is a song?

Well... for our purposes we're going to look at it like this.

Where music is concerned we're developing songs that have a melody, maybe a harmony, and a series of chords that we hear under the melody that support the whole thing. On top of all this we might have rhythms and percussion tracks to worry about as well. So let's introduce a few concepts.

When we talk about musical textures we often like to describe a song structure in one of three ways (though this is not an exhaustive list by any means and the styles can be combined).

We have monophony. Meaning one sound. Monophonic songs have only one voice at a time. This might be an unaccompanied singer or a solo guitar piece. This is the simplest musical texture.

If we add another voice on to a monophony we get a polyphony, meaning many sounds. Generally when we talk about these sorts of textures we're talking about two voices that sound together but are independent. Independent parts usually have different rhythms and move in different directions so that each remains distinct and interesting. In essence what we are doing is playing two different melodies at the same time.

Now comes the texture we're all probably most familiar with. It's the homophony. The word is Greek and means same sound. Homophonic textures are ones where there are multiple parts but they are not independent. So playing a melody and then playing the same one simultaneously a third above would be a homophonic texture. In modern music, we often have a sung melodic line and then chords that support that melody in a homophonic texture.

So how do we use this? How do we use chords?

We've already said that we use chords to support melodies. The specifics of how this is done is what we're going to start discussing (hopefully), but it'll take a while. In the meantime consider it like a puzzle with lots of solutions. Given a melody we can write a number chords progressions that will sound alright with that melody. This process is called arranging. At the very basic level what we are trying to do is match notes in the melody to chords that contain those notes and are within the key of our song. Let's look at an example:

Come Together

The melody at the verse looks like this:

He wore no shoe-shine, he got
F    F     F    F     D     C   D

Toe jam foot-ball, he got
 F    D     F    D   C   D 

Mon-key fing-er,  he shoot
 F     D    F   D   C   D

Co - ca   co  - la,   he say
 F    D    F     D   C   D

I know you, you know me
E  E     E     E    E      E

One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
 F      F    F F    F    F  F   F  F   F   F   F

So we can see this is a pretty simple melody. Let's look at some chord arrangements.

The song is in D minor. Since Dm is the triad DFA, let's use this chord for the verse until the "he got".
If you're sitting by a guitar try singing the melody playing the chords like this:

Dm                     C
Co - ca   co  - la,   he say
E                E7
I know you, you know me
F                                         A
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

Now I know these aren't the chords the Beatles use but they'll work, and they'll produce some interesting harmony. How about another?

Dm C       G                          
Co    - ca   co  - la,   he say
A                A#dim
I know you, you know me
Bdim7               A                 F            G        
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

If you're playing this, you can get a feel for how much we can change the tone of a song without changing the melody. Let's look at one more. The first two are pretty mellow, the second being much darker than the first. Let's try rearranging it and making the whole thing sunnier. We're going to change the key to F major:

F                           C
Co - ca   co  - la,   he say
I know you, you know me
Bb                       Bbmaj7              C             
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

Play and sing these. It's the only way any of this will mean anything.

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