I created this PowerPoint for HUM 125: Popular Music in America. It covers Chapter 9 in Michael Campbell’s textbook entitled Popular Music in America: The Beat Goes On. It contains links to listening examples and covers rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, the search for the first rock ‘n’ roll record.
I created these slides for HUM 125, a humanities course at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media. It focuses on popular music since 1950 in America. These slides go with the book by Michael Campbell entitled “Popular Music In America: The Beat Goes On”. There are listening links to all examples and much more. This particular set of slides covers chapter 1 in the book, which discusses style elements and active listening using Maybellene by Chuck Berry.
Composing a melody by singing is a method that has been used by many of the greatest melodists. The reasons are obvious:
By singing it’s more likely that your melody will be generated from the deepest and most personal well of creativity within you. If you simply work out a melody with your fingers at the piano, you are less likely to be connecting with that innermost musical place.
Singing your melody helps you to better understand its structure (contour, climax etc.) in terms of the primal melodic instrument: the human voice.
Singing engages your body, and the body is the primal rhythm instrument. As a result, your melody is likely to be more rhythmically effective and interesting.
Melodies and even simple figures or motives that can be easily sung are more likely to be accessible to the average Joe and Jane. (This may be one reason why vocal forms are ubiquitous in both folk and popular music.) It’s especially useful to sing when composing a vocal melody.
Many (if not most) of the great composers did not write at an instrument. We may not know whether they sang their melodies as they composed, but it’s a good bet that they were “virtually” singing them by mentally hearing them.
The same is also true of many if not most of the great popular songwriters. For example, musical theater composer Richard Rodgers, one of the greatest melodists of the 20th century, wrote his songs by singing the melody while playing chords on the piano. John Lennon and Paul McCartney composed their tunes by singing them while playing their guitars.
Many of the greatest jazz pianists, such as Bud Powell and Keith Jarrett, vocalize while improvising (same principle).
Convinced it’s worth a try? Follow these steps, one at a time, to engage your virtual or actual voice when composing a melody:
First try hearing your melody inside your head (without actually singing it) and notate it without playing it on your instrument, if you can. This requires a pretty good musical ear, but that is easy enough to develop. By the way, don’t worry about the chords at first. It’s generally better – at least from a melodic perspective – to let the melody dictate the harmony rather than allowing harmonic demands to interfere with the organic nature of the melody.
If the above feels too challenging, sing your melody out loud and notate it without playing it on your instrument.
Finally, easiest – but last, because it’s tempting to get lost in your established compositional habits – sing your melody, then learn to play it on your instrument, then notate it.
Here’s an interesting new composition. It’s a piece I wrote for Vocal Essence, “one of the world’s premier choral music organizations” according to their website. They host an annual choral music competition. The guidelines called for a Christmas carol featuring Scandinavia violin and chorus. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline.
I finished the piece of course, and it was selected by the Southeastern Composers League for their annual concert series. And I must say, the Campbell University Chorus conducted by Dr. Phillip Morrow featuring Lucy Greenleaf-Carter on violin did a wonderful!
This piece is a setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells”. The fast moving violin part creates a feeling of nervous energy. It’s intended to sound like snowflakes swirling in the air on a cold Christmas night in the dead of winter. The chorus mimics the sound of bells ringing at the stroke of midnight across a frozen city scape.
In January and February of 2016, the College Music Society Monthly Discussion Forum focused on music and technology. The survey questions were designed by Dr. David Mitchell and a summary of the results is now available on the College Music Society website. Click on the link below to have a look.
The purpose of this survey was to learn how many schools currently offer music and technology degrees and how many schools make technology part of their degree program. The results were very interesting…
On February 18th, 2016, I presented at the College Music Society regional conference at Birmingham Southern College. My topic was How to Designing a Music and Technology Degree. I covered NASM requirements and issues to consider when designing a Music and Technology degree.
In today’s digital entertainment industry, it is more important than ever for music graduates to master digital recording techniques, in addition to their instrument. After all, digital media is the medium through which our music is most often created, found and heard. Students with the right skills can distribute their music to a global audience for commercial applications, streaming, licensing and much more. In fact, the opportunities for today’s musicians are limited only by their imagination and ability to take advantage of digital music opportunities online.
In my opinion, M and T will be the preferred degree for 21st century musicians.
Dr. David Mitchell is scheduled to present at the College Music Society Southern Conference on Designing Music and Technology Courses on February 18, 2016.
Attendees will learn about and discuss the trend away from traditional instrumental performance degrees and toward music and technology degrees that better prepare graduates for today’s job market. The discussion will include paradigm shifts in the music industry, including online streaming, digital downloads and multimedia production.