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We’re suckers for a great charity project, and Project Sonata is using its Kickstarter campaign to create a collaborative album for and with supporters to mark its one year anniversary. The organization also pledges to donate leftover funds after costs to NAfME (The National Association for Music Education), one of our favorite charities!

Alright, this one is another melody you’ve definitely heard before, whether you think you have or not. Francis Lai’s theme song to the film Love Story actually opens with two notes ascending a minor sixth, but if you skip ahead to 0:24, just after a short horn fanfare, those two notes reverse briefly before entering the meat of the run. Either way you play those two notes back, it’s a minor sixth interval, but train your ears to hear it as a descending melody to recognize the gap as such.

As we just saw, one musical principle that has reverberated throughout time and across continents and cultures is theme and variation. To revisit that classic example, here’s the theme from Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” and the first variation of it, displayed in Ableton Live’s piano roll. The simple shifting of the notes downward is very effective.

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“It was, for a generation raised on Time-Life’s canon of Music’s Greatest Masterpieces, a symbol of an unfathomable past filled with difficult musical mountains — each a challenge to be conquered with the guidance of academic Sherpas dispensing ‘music appreciation.’ Mythically, it had found its role. It was the Monad that contained within it the secret formulas for all musical creation to follow, the musical equivalent of Kubrick’s black monolith or of Stonehenge.”

Say what you want about rap metal, Rage Against the Machine brought it. They brought their supreme rhythmic tightness and their politically leaning message, which is more pertinent now than ever. In the mid-’90s, they were blowing up, and they were asked to play SNL. (I can only guess that after this incident, whoever asked them to play was fired.)

+ This article comes directly from Soundfly’s brand new mentored online course, Songwriting for Producers. If you’re producing music at home, you need to check out this course to learn the techniques and strategies of pro songwriters, master an efficient and productive workflow, and bone up on how simple music theory can improve your storytelling arc. Free preview here.

Modes and Key Signatures have a variety of different characteristics and are great for outside-the-box songwriting. Here’s a cheat sheet to remember them!

The short answer is: I don’t. I grade for effort, in a very coarse-grained way. If the student completes the project, following all the guidelines and requirements, they get full credit, regardless of the quality of the resulting music. (My assignment guidelines are always technical in nature; I don’t put any restrictions on musical style.) If students don’t follow the guidelines and requirements, or hand the assignment in late, or obviously half-ass it, I deduct points accordingly. I don’t give any consideration to the music itself when grading because then I’d just be grading on how closely the student’s musical taste is to mine, which would be arbitrary and unfair.

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Other examples of horizontal hemiola, particularly in classical music, act as momentary, unwritten changes in time signature. If you have a piece written in a 3/4 time signature, having half notes play over two bars can create an interesting effect that will draw in the listener.

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza. He is the instructor of the free Soundfly course series called Theory for Producers. He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog, and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.

Kaija Saariaho does not mess around. She creates powerful concert music and opera which often combines acoustic instrumentation and electronics to express her textural, spectral inspired compositions. Having spent her formative years studying in Helsinki, Saariaho’s earlier output was set within the strict confines of serialism, only moving to a spectral approach following a period of research at IRCAM. Saariaho’s complex, highly polyphonic, and richly textured music has been admired and recognized throughout the music community for many years, achieving some of the highest possible accolades including a Grammy Award for Best Opera in 2011, a Polar Music Prize in 2013 and most recently a BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Contemporary Music.

If you are a guitarist writing songs and keen to shape your tone like the unforgettable sounds of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, and even Mazzy Star, here are the key pedals that can get you there! Who says you need three boards with 20 or more pedals like the original shoegazer Kevin Shields? Save your money and go buy a better amp stack or a cooler guitar! Or, if you’re in a pedalboard trimming phase, and looking to lighten your tour load with a digital pedalboard, check out this brand new free course with Kaki King exploring why and how she now only uses Apple’s MainStage 3 digital pedalboard, a MIDI controller and expression pedal on the road… and why she’ll never go back.

If you play two notes at a time, they will be connected by an orange line. If you play three or more notes at a time, they will form an orange shape. These geometric visualizations are meant to support and complement your aural understanding of intervals and chords, the way that they do with rhythms on the Groove Pizza.