Semester B Project

Archive for February, 2017

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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Learning Outcomes / Aims & Objectives

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2017 by James Woodliffe

Learning Outcomes:
To have furthered my knowledge of contemporary pop music composition.
To deepen my understanding of VST usage within pop music composition alongside traditional instruments.
To further understand the roles of pop music composers within the contemporary music industry.
To enhance my pop music mixing skills within a DAW.

Aims & Objectives:
Produce a cohesive EP of contemporary vocal pop music
Compose appropriate material to facilitate contemporary pop production approaches.
Employ a hybrid approach of real instruments and VSTs.
Mix the tracks to the technical standards of appropriate benchmark material.
Mix the tracks to the aesthetic/stylistic conventions of appropriate reference material.