Semester B Project

Second Track – Cool Relax

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2017 by James Woodliffe

Over the last I have tried composing more material in a pop music style using different instruments. My typical go to instrument is a guitar, but for this project I’ve tried to move away from this and move towards VSTs and alternate instruments. For this song I wrote it on ukelele, using a fairly simple structure of: Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge/Chorus. The following link is a demo of the first take. I typically use demos to remind me of stylistic things I will add later on. Such as: the slightly distorted vocal effect throughout, the palm muting no chords at 2:40 will be bass drum claps and larger vocal section. The slight changes in vocal melodies to mix it up etc.

For this song I have tried very hard to follow Ryan Tedder & Max Martin’s approaches. For instance, making the verse and chorus similar enough melodically but having changes underneath. I will separate the sections out more with added instrumentation. I will focus heavily on the vocal tracks, add claps (“because, Church” – Ryan Tedder, 2014), bass drum, a bass line and potentially some keyboards.

The song’s tempo is roughly 95 bpm, sticking to the boundaries of the most popular danceable pop music (78-140bpm) This is a characteristic I have aimed to achieve as pop music is more successful if it is danceable. The song also features a cut off ending as Ryan Tedder suggests.

Song Composition – Ryan Tedder

Posted in Song Research on March 7, 2017 by James Woodliffe

For research into pop music composition for this project I have been reading about the techniques of contemporary writer/producers. Ryan Tedder (sing of One Republic) is one of the most prolific writers in the current pop music market. He has written hits with Adele, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran etc.

“When you’re sitting at dinner with a bunch of people, and someone says: “What was that song from ninth grade?” they’ll always sing something like “da da daa-da, da da daaaa“. They don’t remember what the lyric is, but they remember the melody. What was the song? Solsbury Hill.” – Ryan Tedder, 2014

Interesting for me because lyrical content has always been as strong as melody with my own music. Obviously pop music relies heavily on the vocal melody, and not scrutinising lyrics as heavily will be a different experience for me. I will put more time into composing stronger melodies, which will most definitely be beneficial for me throughout this project.

“Hand claps, always. Why? Church.” – Ryan Tedder, 2014

Hand claps feature throughout most pop music and always will be a staple.

“In the modern era, you need a natural conclusion. The way people digest music now, they want a beginning, middle and an end. It’s hard to explain – maybe it’s Fast Food Nation, they just want it in a neat little package.”

An interesting philosophy for myself, but after listening to my listening list at the start of the project I am struggling to find a song that fades out. This music be a current thread amongst my music for this project.

First Track – Jungle Fever

Posted in Written Tracks on March 1, 2017 by James Woodliffe

The first track for this project that I have pieced together is currently called “Jungle Fever”. It uses characteristics that Max Martin has suggested in pop music writing.

The track uses very few instruments that are looped together. The track was loosely based off of Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Shape of You’ which uses a similar sounding pipes sound There is currently no vocal track, but that will be recorded and performed over the top now the structure is arranged. As the vocal is the most important aspect of a pop song it will take precedence over the instrumentals in terms of production.



Song Composition – Max Martin

Posted in Song Research on February 24, 2017 by James Woodliffe

This week I have researched about Max Martin and how he constructs pop music. Max Martin is currently the songwriter with the 3rd most #1s on the US Billboard – behind Paul McCartney & John Lennon. He is also currently the producer with the 2nd most #1s – behind George Martin.

During an interiew with NME, Max Martin revealed what he considered to be important information when writing pop music. His general rules are listed in full below – but he sticks to 3 main principles. Don’t overwhelm the listener, make the most familiar and most importantly, the vocal is what is important. These are teachings that I will apply to my own compositions in writing familiar pop music.

“Another theory is that you can also sing the chorus melody as a verse. For instance, take ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ with Prince. The verse and chorus of that song are exactly the same. But as a listener, you don’t really notice since the energy of the chorus is completely different compared to the verse” – (Max Martin, 2017)

Singing involves a great deal of psychology. If the artist isn’t having a great day or finds it all boring, my role becomes that of a coach. Getting the very best out of the artist. Helping them perform at their very best when it’s game time. One way to get them there is to bring them out of their comfort zones. To coach them a little, get them to try new stuff” (Max Martin, 2017)

“If you’ve got a verse with a lot of rhythm, you want to pair it with something that doesn’t. Longer notes. Something that might not start at the same beat. As I say this, I’m afraid it might sound like I’ve got a whole concept figured out…But it’s not like that. The most crucial thing is always how it feels. But the theories are great to have on hand when you get stuck. ’We can’t think of anything, is there anything we could do?’ In those cases, you can bring it in as a tool. If you listen to ‘Shake It Off’ with Taylor Swift (he hums the verse melody). After that segment, you need a few longer notes in order to take it all in, otherwise it’s simply too much information. If there would have been as many rhythm elements in the part right before the chorus.” (Max Martin, 2017)

“The level of attention he puts into the song, no stone unturned and really finds the best lyric, melody etc. He puts a lot of focus on the vocal – he treats it as an instrument. If the melody is great, he focuses on the melody as well. I call him earworms. He’s amazing at making earworms.” (Justin Timberlake, 2016)

Pop Music Characteristics – Tempo

Posted in Pop Music Analysis on February 17, 2017 by James Woodliffe

Pop Music is a genre of music that is popular and not appealing to the sub-genres of music culture. Pop music tends to use many many styles and themes borrowed from other genres. The main medium of pop music is the song, often between two and a half and three and a half minutes in length. The songs usually have a strong rhythmic and/or melodic element to them that the listener can grab on to straight away. Common variants include verse-chorus structure in a 32 bar form that has contrasting elements within the verse and chorus separated by catchy vocal hooks. The beats and instruments tend to be very simple with the focus on the vocal pattern. Production tends to focus on the vocals first and everything else after due to the vocal being the selling point.

The graph below is research into the Top 100 Billboard tracks of 2015 and mapping where they lie in terms of tempo. 120 bpm is the most common bpm of 2015, appearing the most times (6), the median value was also 120. I found this quite interesting that both Pro Tools and Logic open sessions at 120 bpm as a default. However, there is no correlation between song tempo and placement within the chart. As pop music focuses around the vocal, the tempo is not irrelevant, just not as important. However factors such as song tempo will bring a familiarity with the listener, which is important for pop music’s success. Interestingly, there is a direct comparison between a song’s tempo, its danceability and its commercial success. The more danceable songs were between 78 and 140 bpm. The top 9 most popular songs were between 108 and 150 bpm.

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