Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

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Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:11 am UTC

I do like these series on Youtube "How music works" (not allowed to create a link, but a user called Timegrinder posted them), but each time the presenter gives an example (where I'm supposed to obviously hear a difference which I don't) I'd rather see what the notes look like on a oscilloscope, why one chord is minor in a FFT graph and what it looks like if it's major or a moving graph showing what exactly Philip Glass does when he shifts "accents". Something like how Numberphile explains math.

Does anyone know of such a series?

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:57 pm UTC

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Sun Mar 03, 2013 1:55 am UTC

Yes, thank you!

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:23 am UTC

That was a very nice series. But I do want to learn more things. Concepts in music that I know exist (I'll go on about "modulation"), but even better: concepts that I never heard of (can't think of an example right now).

Anyway, the thing called "modulation". I got to understand 101: "as the guitar is telling us: we'll now be singing a little bit higher because the lyrics are also getting more exciting". (the fact that it's called "modulation" needs an expert as well, try googling it without knowing the word. It's like explaining a color to google.) After that, I look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modulation_%28music%29 . "Common chord modulation (also known as diatonic pivot chord modulation) moves from the original key to the destination key (usually a closely related key) by way of a chord both keys share." There are at least 4 words in this sentence I need to look up, all explained at a level I simply cannot reach because each and every page on music is explained at this same level. As if learning Chinese was taught using Chinese. (no problem for infants, but it is for me)

I want to learn at the intermediate level with simple videos etc. Another example, this page http://www.thegearpage.net/board/archiv ... 32040.html lists "excellent examples of modulation". Please, could someone post a video that doesn't show the lyrics but: "now listen, here's the modulation in 3.. 2.. 1.. there it is. Look at the piano again: it was a D first [ding ding ding] but now it's an A [dong dong dong]." "Let's take modulation a bit further. This is how Stevie Wonder does a trick. You hear ploing ploing. Now you think you'd be hearing "deng deng" but he doesn't, listen... He does "bong bong". What happened? What's his trick? Well, if he would have played "deng deng", it would sound boring but he was so clever to do "bong bong" which noone ever thought of before. Why would you expect "deng deng" in the first place? It was because the C followed an A and since the 15th century you are supposed to sing D then because it's pi divided by 16 at every sixth note. But here you see graph in which you can see that Stevie Wonder started a whole new kind of music. Within 5 years every artist was like Pi Schmy and started ..." Etc.

I really would like music explained to me in that matter. I would like that song by song, classical piece by classical piece, until I can explain it myself. Very much like algebra.

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby poxic » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:32 am UTC

So ... you want a first- or second-year university music education?
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:57 pm UTC

I'm afraid what you're trying to do is a bit like trying to skip arithmetic and algebra and go straight into calculus. Music theory is hard, friend, and you're trying to come in at a fairly advanced level.

There are some close readings of classical pieces floating around the internet, but not many, and they tend to assume you know at least a bit of music theory. I don't have much else to suggest, aside from buying yourself a theory textbook and some piano lessons.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Adam H » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:14 pm UTC

You're interested in learning about chord progressions. Modulation is just a subset of that topic, and you won't understand it without first understanding chord progressions.

What other specific elements of music theory are you interested in? I might actually dink around and make some videos for you sometime.

I agree with ahammel that calculus is a good analogy, but you can explain concepts from calculus to people that aren't mathy. Everyone has a grasp of position, velocity, and acceleration.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Adam H » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:37 pm UTC

Eh, I was going to do something quick for you, but there are a bunch of youtube videos that do it better than I could do.

This one, for example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp_zqRP9PMk

This is a bit drier/advanced and involves more music theory:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-eTWwFkIl4
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby poxic » Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:17 am UTC

This link is floating around the webs today. You might find it interesting.

Analysis of the chords for 1300 songs: A Summary: http://www.hooktheory.com/blog/chord-progression-search-patterns-and-trends/
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Adam H » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:30 am UTC

After actually listening to some of those other links I gave and seeing that they are pretty rubbish, I decided to make a video just for you. :) It's significantly shorter and hopefully more helpful than the other stuff I could find. Here you go.

That hooktheory website is fantastic, by the way.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby poxic » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:56 am UTC

Adam H wrote:Here you go.

That is a rather fine non-rubbish explanation. About the only way you could improve that would be to mic the guitar a bit better. :)

Also, I learned something. (Haven't got far enough in my theory workbook to hit pivot chords yet.)
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:25 pm UTC

Wow this is amazing! Thanks everyone for the answers and links. And of of course even more thanks to Adam for making a video especially for me!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modulation_%28music%29 tells me:

Any chord with the same root note and chord quality can be used as the "pivot chord." However, chords that are not generally found in the style of the piece (for example, major VII chords in a Bach-style chorale) are also not likely to be chosen as the pivot chord. The most common pivot chords are the predominant chords (ii and IV) in the new key. When analyzing a piece that uses this style of modulation, the common chord is labeled with its function in both the original and the destination keys, as it can be seen either way.

Right. This is how the "pivot chord" is introduced, and it's not even clickable. When reading it I didn't strike me as something that might be of any importance. Compare that to a 3 minute, 32 second video that doesn't go into detail about Bach-style chorales but just says:

Your brain wouldn't accept a key change just like that. It would sound just wrong. So, enter the "pivot chord", which sounds rather funky and is chosen...

Now that's EXACTLY my level! Now I know how modulation works (in general, at least) AND I understand why the "funky note" is there, it's comforting my brain!

The big difference between skipping arithmic and entering a course on calculus, and music, is that I can look at a blackboard full of formulas and see nothing wrong where a first year mathematician would cringe at the mere sight of it. For music my brain would probably think: "wait a minute, something is missing here. this song sounds awkward". My ears have been looking at blackboards full of notes all my life and would recognize the error (sometimes). I knew the funky note was there, I would hum it, but I never really realized it existed.

So this video is doing precisely what Numberphile is doing for mathematics. Take a subject the viewer at best vaguely heard of, explain it at a level any n00b understands, throw in some free extra information that is very relevant, and have it presented by someone who explains it the way a good friend would do instead of a professor. So, thanks again Adam! I hope you'll be making more of this kind of videos!

Edit: my original question was: as the guitar is telling us: we'll now be singing a little bit higher because the lyrics are also getting more exciting. I guess "as the guitar is telling us" was my n00b word for "pivot chord".

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Dthen » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:08 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:After actually listening to some of those other links I gave and seeing that they are pretty rubbish, I decided to make a video just for you. :) It's significantly shorter and hopefully more helpful than the other stuff I could find. Here you go.

That hooktheory website is fantastic, by the way.


Wow. Good explanation. If you feel like making more videos (which is something you should do, by the way, that one was well executed), you should try to make yourself & your guitar more audible, though, as both were rather quiet.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:36 am UTC

@Adam,

In highschool my "music lessons" were literally about which people were member of which band. That was possibly a retarded 80s way of creating a "level playing field" between the kids who had piano lessons and kids like me who didn't. That must have been one of the bigger wastes of my time. My mentor had to warn me that I could get a retention if I flunked on those stupid tests.

If you would like to make more videos I wouldn't know what to ask for. The word "modulation" is not something I learned in highschool but had to learn from a roommate. I would be very interested in more musical inventions or "tricks" (not just in rock music but also classical music) that anyone would recognize immediately. But anything you learned thinking "damn, this is actually something most people don't not know about but they really should because actually it's.. interesting" would probably make a great video!

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Adam H » Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:19 pm UTC

Cool, thanks for the encouragement and tips (yeah, gotta fix the audio). :)

I have a few ideas for a more topics: suspended chords, leading tones, modes... I'll put the links here as I do them.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby CLD » Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:02 pm UTC

I followed your link to your soundcloud. I really like Attic and am in the middle of listening to all your songs. Sorry for the thread derail but I thought there was the best chance you'd see it here.
Spoiler:
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:31 am UTC

I'll just quietly delete this post.

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:59 pm UTC

This may not be as detailed as you wanted, but here's Stephen Fry explaining the concept of harmonic suspension.

What it lacks in detail it makes up for in Stephen Fry.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Adam H » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:37 pm UTC

arjan wrote:I'll just quietly delete this post.

Hehe I looked at the video over the weekend and was planning on sort of answering your question when I had time today, but I guess I won't. :P
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:23 pm UTC

No no! Please do! Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffqHmbwjHi8 I reread my question and I could see I got carried away too much..

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Adam H » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:04 pm UTC

arjan wrote:No no! Please do! Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffqHmbwjHi8 I reread my question and I could see I got carried away too much..
Three things that stick out at me (I don't really remember your question, just the gist of it):

1) The flute (which yes can only play single notes not chords) plays the fifth of the new key (twice, an octave apart) right before switching keys. So I guess you could call it a pivot note instead of a pivot chord. It does sound silly, and I think it's because the moment you hear it your brain expects the song to continue. Sort of like when you sing "the song that never ends", after about the 2nd or 3rd time, everyone laughs when you reach "forever just because it is the song..." It's just a silly song that never ends, and the confirmation that the song isn't ending makes you smile. I dunno though, there might be more to it.

2) The two main instruments I hear are flute and tuba - high vs. low. Extremes are funny. (e.g. the comedic duo where one is short/fat and one is tall/skinny... makes me laugh just thinking about it. :D ) Also, there's just the one tuba player, and his tone is intentionally not perfect at times (IIRC) so it sounds a little... drunk or something.

3) The pitch going up makes it sound more frenetic and climactic, as you might expect. This is fairly typical in music: higher pitch = higher emotion/energy/etc.

Other than that, I'm not sure there's anything mysterious going on. If this were me writing the piece, I would have dinked around on a piano until I hit on something that sounded funny, rather than engineering a song based on theory. But that's probably the difference between an amateur hobbyist and a professional composer.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:21 pm UTC

Thanks!

1) Ha, I knew it was the "pivot note"! Though I didn't realize that a flute of course can't do a chord and called it a chord.. :oops: This now one-eyed man in the land of modulation was king two days ago :) I can't hear that the song should continue, but that maybe that's because the lyrics tell me there's a natural ending here "You really shouldn't have". (The joke in the lyrics is that that sentence is said first in a figurative way, like "I know how much trouble it has taken you to find me this present, it is almost to good to accept" but towards the ends it shifts to the literal meaning "I really wish you hadn't done that") I didn't know "the song that never ends", thanks.

2) The extremes: that was also semi-conscious. Any funny music seems to have a tuba in it. The tuba intentionally not being to tune: I can't hear it even now I know.. I thought the speeds was also going up all the way but actually that's not true is it?

3) The higher emotion I knew because any 4 year old knows that, but consciously because of this comedian (unfortunately Dutch again, most silly English songs and comedy don't reach European mainland) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... HcU#t=432s who "wants to win a song contest" and is using his public to find the right level of emotion that he should use. During the song he explains things that the next verse won't be that much more emotional, "just halve a note". At 9:05 he decides it's emotional enough.

Do professional composers always use theory? I guessed they always started out with dinking around on the piano, turning a children's song into a symphony, etc. This song is a copy of Scaffold's Thank you very much, which, without the help of YouTube and Google not much of the public would have known. It could be nice to have fun-facts like that presented by Google Glasses in the near future for anything you see, hear or read. Or may be not. It would be a bit like explainxkcd.com.

I have to lookup words and grammar and hope not to write "its" where it should be "it's", but when writing in Dutch I don't. Doesn't a composer "just hear" the errors or "this should be funnier" when writing it down, similar to reading aloud a letter to yourself ?

Anyway, you are not really a hobbyist are you? Did you compose songs yourself?

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:41 pm UTC

arjan wrote:Do professional composers always use theory? I guessed they always started out with dinking around on the piano, turning a children's song into a symphony, etc.
I guess they do in the sense that athletes always use physics. Composers probably vary quite a bit in the degree to which they consciously think about using theory vs. using their intuition. Somebody like J.S. Bach probably spent quite a lot of thought on the theoretical aspects, while Tchaikovsky probably used intuition a bit more.

A lot of symphonic music is very highly structured; it's usually nothing like an extended improvisation on the composer's part (although composers started to become less enamoured of the traditional structures starting around the late 19th century). The annotations in this video to a good job of explaining the structure of Mendelssohn's violin concerto.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:45 pm UTC

Wow, thanks Alex!

I also remember this program from a long time ago, but probably need to find a proxy in the UK to listen to it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00fk9r1 Brahms Violin Concerto is by far my most favorite piece of classical music.

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Re: where be How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:38 am UTC

Ok, in this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjnkmNyArNg "Thank you very much", the pivot chord is not actually a chord saying "watch out, something weird is going to happen", but there's a weird flute saying "watch out" at the same time the modulation already took place. Right? (apart from the strange replacements this forum makes)

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:52 am UTC

I see what you did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DshO3Nki_VM there. :) Never even heard of suspension but I do recognize it. More! More!

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:34 pm UTC

Also, whistling Sweet Caroline, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhFnTjia_I (I just tested) everyone whistles the song AND background ("Sweet Caroline".. "pah dah tah dahm.."). The "pah dah tah dahm" could as well be sung with lyrics ("you're so sweet" or whatever). Are songs designed especially to do that? It seems some songs do this while others don't.

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby poxic » Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:58 am UTC

Only thing that comes to mind is "sometimes the singer needs a rest, so put something else melodic in there".
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:11 pm UTC

arjan wrote:The "pah dah tah dahm" could as well be sung with lyrics ("you're so sweet" or whatever). Are songs designed especially to do that? It seems some songs do this while others don't.
The "pah" in the "pah dah tah dahm" starts before the last note in the vocal line finishes. You could crowd "you're so sweet" in there somewhere, but Diamond presumably wanted to keep the different parts distinct.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:56 am UTC

Writing music as text is hard, I mean the "pah dah tah dahm" at 1:07 in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhFnTjia_I. The "pah" only starts after the last note I guess? He closes his mouth and looks aside as if he tells the trumpets to finish "his" job?
But if I sing it like "Sweet Caroline, you're so sweet, Good times never seemed so good" the "Good times" come in just before I finished a long "sweet".

Anyway, for most songs I whistle, I whistle the vocal part, but this song and for instance Yesterday make me whistle some of the other parts as well.

This cover http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzWQV5OiQQQ begs to whistle along, but just with the vocal part. I admit I'm only mentioning this example because I like the song and it allows for testing your own musical skills using a knife and two cups. (Obviously, I failed miserably)

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:25 am UTC

arjan wrote:Writing music as text is hard, I mean the "pah dah tah dahm" at 1:07 in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhFnTjia_I. The "pah" only starts after the last note I guess? He closes his mouth and looks aside as if he tells the trumpets to finish "his" job?
Right you are. I could have sworn the brass had another note.

Regardless, the brass riff is still a separate "part" (defined above). It's relatively rare for a solo voice to sing two parts, as a) it tends to sound forced and uncomfortable, b) it forces the composer to write non-overlapping "parts", which is restrictive, and c) you need to put breaths in there somewhere.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Adam H » Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:25 pm UTC

The brass section plays notes that the voice hits before and after. If the voice replaced the brass, there would be too much sameness. As it is, the brass emphasizes the vocal hook ("sweet caroline") rather than overpowering it. (You may think it overpowers, but "BAH BAH BAH" doesn't have near the recognizability and cultural impact as "Sweet caroline, BAH BAH BAH".)

Also, "BAH BAH BAH" just has more weight behind it than the soft consonents in "you're so sweet", and the sentiment of "you're so sweet" has already been expressed so the singer would just be repeating himself unnecessarily.

That's my meager analysis, anyways.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:06 pm UTC

I've also just noticed that singing "you're so sweet" would require a slightly awkward leap of a major 7th from the singer.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Sat Oct 26, 2013 11:15 pm UTC

Just knowing about the pivot chord thing is really enlightening. I now know what sorcery is going on at 2:29 here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15lksTcG5ZY and really I like to have that knowledge. "I know what you did there".

When I was 6 I learned that to get orange paint you can just mix yellow and red. Since then, when I see a painting with an orange sun I think: ha! yellow and red! It took me 35 years extra to finally learn about the pivot chord. I didn't miss it a year ago, but in retrospect I do.

Are there more examples of this kind of "trickery" musicians use in songs that I hear daily, thinking it's just some funny notes in a song?

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby arjan » Sat Oct 26, 2013 11:27 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:I've also just noticed that singing "you're so sweet" would require a slightly awkward leap of a major 7th from the singer.


While I don't understand the technicalities, after trying to sing it I understand the awkardness.

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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby ahammel » Sat Oct 26, 2013 11:41 pm UTC

arjan wrote:
ahammel wrote:I've also just noticed that singing "you're so sweet" would require a slightly awkward leap of a major 7th from the singer.


While I don't understand the technicalities, after trying to sing it I understand the awkardness.

Neither do I. Some intervals are just more difficult to sing than others.
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Re: Where's How Music Works for non-musical nerds?

Postby Quercus » Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:58 am UTC

I know I'm posting into an old thread - but I had to share this link for anyone who stumbles across this. It's what it made it all "make sense" for me

Harmony Explained: Progress Towards A Scientific Theory of Music


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