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Music Composition

Compositional Tips w/ Spitfire Audio’s ‘Chamber Strings’ – Part 2

Welcome back to another series of compositional tips and tricks using instruments by Spitfire Audio, this time ‘Chamber Strings’. We’ve previously looked at the Orchestral Swarm instrument pack, notably used by Hanz Zimmer for the Blue Planet 2 score, as well as the Chamber Evolutions pack, created with famed Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds. Now, our resident compositional wizard Kevin Kerrigan turns his attention to ‘Chamber Strings’. The focus this time is more immediately concerned with teaching ways of composing with tools such as this, as opposed to a tour of a new instrument. Music composition forms an integral part of our music production courses, including our flagship BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering, quality assured by Middlesex University.

In the second part of the series, Kevin turns his attention to adding inversions to a chord sequence. To demonstrate this he invites us to observe a mystery score he’s been working on, built with a large reliance on minor chords. As he’s stressed before, playing these chords in their root forms sounds slightly stunted, so open voicings, adding different mics and adding inverted harmonies are all drawn upon to widen the scope of what’s made here.

As well as the aforementioned degree course in music production and sound engineering, we have also developed a new BA in Music Production and DJ Practice, again quality-assured by Middlesex University, which launches its first term next September. If you’d like to examine some shorter courses in London you can find the full list here. Or, if you’re not based in the UK, why not check out our production courses in Los Angeles or onlineGet in touch if you have any more questions.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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Compositional Tips w/ Spitfire Audio’s ‘Chamber Strings’ – Part 1

Welcome back to another series of compositional tips and tricks using instruments by Spitfire Audio, this time ‘Chamber Strings’. We’ve previously looked at the Orchestral Swarm instrument pack, notably used by Hanz Zimmer for the Blue Planet 2 score, as well as the Chamber Evolutions pack, created with famed Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds. Now, our resident compositional wizard Kevin Kerrigan turns his attention to ‘Chamber Strings’. The focus this time is more immediately concerned with teaching ways of composing with tools such as this, as opposed to a tour of a new instrument. Music composition forms an integral part of our music production courses, including our flagship BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering, quality assured by Middlesex University.

For part 1 of this new series, Kevin is interested in getting us started as quickly as possible and so runs through a number of ways he likes to get started on projects. This leads on to the main focus of the video, which are the ways you can choose articulations and vary the voicing of chords to enhance a project’s musicality. We love a lot of what Spitfire Audio have to offer and Chamber Strings is no different. Try following some of these suggestions made in the video and you should hopefully add another couple of strings to your bow (ahem) as composers. Don’t forget to check back for part 2 next week.

As well as the aforementioned degree course in music production and sound engineering, we have also developed a new BA in Music Production and DJ Practice, again quality-assured by Middlesex University, which launches its first term next September. If you’d like to examine some shorter courses in London you can find the full list here. Or, if you’re not based in the UK, why not check out our production courses in Los Angeles or online. Get in touch if you have any more questions.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

LONDON W OUTLINE

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Watch our Full Vlog Series w/ DJ Ravine as he Studies at Point Blank London

Now that his time with us in London has come to an end, its time to look back over DJ Ravine’s studies with us. Over three months, we followed him on his journey with three modules: Intro to Music Production, Music Composition and Sound Engineering, each an element that, as Ravine will tell you, have combined to improve his production significantly. Check out all ten of his video blogs below, don’t forget to check out our London courses for yourself.

When Ravine first got started with us, he confessed that his opinion of his own production prowess was less than stellar. So he picked the three modules that he thought would allow him to improve most quickly, all of which form part of our BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering degree course. Intro to Production, to augment the modest knowledge he already had and to sweep up any essential techniques he may have missed, Music Composition, to give his tracks more direction, and Sound Engineering, which he actually selected accidentally… more on that later.

Throughout his studies, he brought us along for the ride and interviewed instructors and classmates for a special insight into the classroom. Anthony Chapman, his Sound Engineering instructor, takes very little time to convince him of the benefits of a little sound-engineering knowledge too, as his group record an original cover of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’. Linton Bennett supplied constant nuggets of composition tips and mantras, and Tom Glendenning took him through all things Ableton.

Everyone here at Point Blank has enjoyed these videos immensely, so we’d like to say a big thanks to DJ Ravine for putting them together. For all that we try, there’s no way of showing how good our courses are without being there, but these videos give as good a taster as we can achieve. We hope you enjoy learning about the various extra-curricular activities that are constantly going down in and around the school too.

All of Ravine’s modules are part of our flagship BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering, and you can also find them in some shorter courses too, like the Master Diploma. That was our original degree programme here and we’re proud to have a launched a second starting in September, the BA (Hons) In Music Industry Management, in which we teach you all the steps necessary to make strides in a career in music. If you have any questions, please give us a call on 020 7729 4884 or send us an email.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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DJ Ravine Studies at Point Blank – Week 10: Goodbye!

DJ Ravine is back with his final update on his progress with us here at Point Blank London. Over the past ten weeks, we’ve followed him as he studies Intro to Music Production, Music Composition and Sound Engineering. This week it’s time to say goodbye as everyone parties at the open decks night at The Stag’s Head opposite the school. It’s not all partying though, Ravine finds the time to catch up with Tom, his Ableton instructor and Anthony Chapman in Sound Engineering. On the production side, Ravine reckons the eleven-week course here is equivalent to a year and a half of teaching yourself – not a bad rate of learning! Finally, he checked in with Linton Bennett for his last composition 1-2-1, tying everything together with the revelation that, actually, everyone has the basis to learn composition already – just try singing the major scale.

These are all core modules in our BA Hons Music Production and Sound Engineering Degree. If you’ve only just discovered the series, we urge you to check out our YouTube playlist and catch up from the beginning.

One massive, final thank you to DJ Ravine, we’ve absolutely loved tagging along on his studies and we can’t wait to see where he goes from here. As always, you can check out our full list of production courses in London and Online at our website. For more info and to talk to a course advisor, call us on +44 20 7729 4884.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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DJ Ravine Studies at Point Blank – Week 9: End of Term Assignments

DJ Ravine is back with his penultimate update on his progress with us here at Point Blank London. Over the past nine weeks, we’ve followed him as he studies Intro to Music Production, Music Composition and Sound Engineering, and we’ve watched his production skills improve exponentially. This week it was time to put everything he learnt to the test and complete the projects he’s been working on for weeks. His Intro to Production assignment was submitted already, so this week he checked back for the final time on the cover of ‘Wonderwall’ he and his sound engineering team have been working on, as well as his original composition for Linton in music composition. We’re pleased to be able to announce that he nailed all of his assignments, including getting a distinction for Composition.

These are all core modules in our BA Hons Music Production and Sound Engineering Degree. If you’ve only just discovered the series, we urge you to check out our YouTube playlist and catch up from the beginning.

A big thank you and congrats to DJ Ravine for taking us along with him on this journey. We’ve got a good feeling about his production, and we’re delighted we’ll be able to say we had a hand in honing his skills. We can’t wait to see his tracks selling and shelling the dancefloor. Check back next week for his very last entry, and as always you can check out our full list of production courses in London and Online at our website. For more info and to talk to a course advisor, call us on +44 20 7729 4884.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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BA (Hons) Online Degree Programme Insight | Week 6: Creative Production & Mixing

If you’re looking to get a taste of what it’s like to learn on our innovative online platform, here’s your chance! We’ve now updated our sample courses to include a taster of our new Online BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering degree course. The course consists of eight modules included in the full online degree programme, designed to give you a flavour of what you can expect when you study online with us. This is the sixth week of eight in which we’ll be giving you a peek at what each module entails, as well as showing you one of the videos from the corresponding module’s course materials. Don’t forget, we also have a host of online courses besides our BA (Hons) degree programme covering music production, sound design and much more – head here for our full range of online courses.

Module six is the Advanced Composition module, building on the original composition module we covered here in week 2. This time the net will be cast much further to include influences from Cuba, India, Japan and more. You’ll also delve much deeper into theory, learning more about scales, chords, rhythm, harmony and arrangement. Plus students will delve into the world of early experimental electronic music. The two example pages from our sample course cover percussion and extended chords, and it is from the latter that the taster video above is taken.

To take the sample course yourself, head here, and get a flavour of the quality, style and content you can expect when studying online with Point Blank. Remember though, this is only a taster – to get the full experience complete with live interaction with tutors, forum interaction with fellow students and assignment feedback, you’ll have to enrol on a live course!

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

If you register with Point Blank, you can access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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Sample our Brand New BA (Hons) Online Degree Programme | Week 2: Music Compostion

We’ve updated our sample courses to include a taster of our Online BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering degree course. The course consists of eight modules included in the full online degree programme, designed to give you a taste of what you can expect when you study online with us. Each week for the next eight weeks we’ll be giving you a taste of what each module entails, as well as showing you one of the videos from the corresponding module’s course materials. Don’t forget, we also have a host of online courses besides our BA (Hons) degree programme – head to our online school for the full list.

In week two we move on to the second module: Music Composition. Take a look at our example video from the course below, which is a look at the compositional make-up of Julio Bashmore’s mammoth hit ‘Battle For Middle You’. To jump into the sample courses yourself, head here to see what’s on offer and get a flavour of the quality, style and content you can expect when studying online with Point Blank. Remember though, this is only a taster… to get the full experience complete with live interaction with tutors, forum interaction with fellow students and assignment feedback, you’ll have to enrol on a live course!

Week 2 is all about composition, the second example module in our free sample. As so many budding producers have discovered, learning your DAW and the surrounding language is just the beginning. You still have to come up with some ideas… Many people will maintain that creativity can’t be taught, and while the jury is still out on that, it’s 100% true that learning the tenets of composition will enable you to better communicate your ideas, and may well help them materialise.

So to break down the module into its relevant parts, students learn the theory behind rhythm, chords, basslines and riffs, before moving on to look at the theory of writing melody and songs as well as arrangement and, importantly, finishing tracks. For the sample course, we’ve included a lesson on chords more complicated than standard triads, an aural test as well as the exercise that accompanies the ‘Battle For Middle You’ video above.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

If you register with Point Blank, you can access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

The post Sample our Brand New BA (Hons) Online Degree Programme | Week 2: Music Compostion appeared first on Point Blank’s Online Magazine.

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Music Theory Tutorial: Tips for Better Chord Progressions

Learn the theory behind writing better chord progressions in this guideline that explores basic concepts and advice to help you make creative decisions when building chord phrases.

Chord Progressions

Students often ask how they can write better chord progressions. This simple guideline aims to help you write better chord progressions by introducing general theory and offering some basic advice to get you started down the right path.

Start with Triad Chords

In music theory, a major or minor triad chord is a chord having a root, a minor third, and a perfect fifth. At first, try keeping things simple by creating a chord progression using triad chords in whatever key you are working in. For example, C major has the notes C, E, G. The C minor chord has the notes C, Eb, G. This limitation will help you quickly make decisions about what kind of chords to use in a progression. The trick is to limit yourself which will help you make decisions easier.

C Major Chord

chord progressions

C Minor Chord

chord progressions

Begin and End with the Same Chord or Key

The key identifies the tonic note or chord and is described as a group of notes in which a scale is based on. A scale is an ordered set of notes typically used in a key. Often, popular music of the 20th century will begin and end in the same key because the notes and chords work together to create a sense of completeness when the tonic note or chord returns to resolve the progression. Using other notes and chords outside the key you’re working in creates varying degrees of tension that may sound incomplete or awkward. Resolving progressions using the same chord or key you started with will likely sound more pleasing and will transition better when looping chord progressions. However, this rule is not set in stone so feel free to experiment.

Chord Progression

Move Freely Among Diatonic Chords

Every major and minor scale has seven individual chords called diatonic triads. Diatonic chords are the chords that are derived from only the notes of a key. Each key contains seven different notes. You can think of diatonic chords as a family of chords that are all related by the notes of a key. In addition, they all harmonically work together like one big happy family.

chord progressions

Let’s explore this further using the key of A minor as an example. A natural A minor scale has the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, G. The tonic note is the root note of the scale which is A. Now that we know the key and all the notes in the scale, we can begin building the seven corresponding diatonic chords. Below are all seven diatonic triads in the key of A minor:

  • Am – A, C, E
  • Bdim – B, D, F
  • C – C, E, G
  • Dm – D, F, A
  • Em – E, G, B
  • F – F, A, C
  • G – G, B, D

Tip: You can move freely around diatonic chords in your progressions. They are harmonically compatible. You just have to find the progression that works best for the track.

Using Non-Diatonic Chords To Spice Up Your Progressions

Let’s make things interesting and break the rules a bit by using a chord outside of the diatonic triads. Is that allowed? Yes. Will it sound good? Well, that’s up to you. There is a another category of chords called non-diatonic chords. These are major or minor chords that do not have notes belonging to the specific scale you are working in. Simply put, you can start from a diatonic major chord and move to any other major chord to add some dissonant variety. Just because a note isn’t in a part of a specific scale doesn’t mean that you can’t play it. Many famous jazz solos are great examples. Improvisers frequently relied on outside harmonies to add color to their solos. However, this technique works best when used seldom. In addition, it’s important to end the series of chords on one of the diatonic chords so that the chord progression resolves smoothly. For example, if you start with diatonic major you could move to any other major chord. Any major chord could potentially sound good. The trick is to end the series of major chords on one of the three a diatonic major chords. The same goes for minor chords. Make sure to end on one of three diatonic minor chords. Below is an example of an A minor chord progression with non-diatonic chords.

A Min | F Maj | D Min | Bb Min (Non-Diatonic) | Eb Min (Non-Diatonic) | D Min (Diatonic) 

chord progressions

Cadence Chords

We know that chord progressions resolve best when the last chord is the same as the first chord, but what about the second to last chord? This chord is very important because it helps the music lead into the last chord and signify the end of the progression is coming. This is called a cadence. What’s the difference between a progression and a cadence? Well, progressions happen when one chord changes to another chord, and cadences are a type of progression used to signify that a section or phrase is coming to an end. Cadencing chords are also essential for releasing musical tension. In music, cadences are divided into four types according to their harmonic progression: authentic, plagal, half, and deceptive.

  • Authentic Cadence: This is the most common and basic type of cadence. An authentic cadence comes in two varieties: a Perfect Authentic Cadence (PAC) and an Imperfect Authentic Cadence (IAC). An authentic cadence is one that moves from a dominant chord to the tonic chord.
  • Plagal Cadence: This is often called an “Amen” cadence because it’s commonly used to end many traditional hymns. It is described as being generally weaker than an authentic cadence. There is less tension and more of a feeling of relaxation.
  • Half Cadence: This cadence is described as giving a feeling of pause and rest. There is also a feeling of incompleteness. The half cadence suggests that more needs to be said, either as a continuation or an answering phrase.
  • Deceptive Cadence: This is considered a weak cadence because of the hanging or suspended feel it invokes. The effect of the deceptive cadence can be quite dramatic depending on what chord you actually land on. A tamer deceptive cadence will move to a chord that is still closely related to the tonic. A more dramatic shift will come from moving to a more distantly related chord.

Below is an example of an authentic cadence in C major.

  • Cadence 1 progresses from a D minor to G major chord (IAC).
  • Cadence 2 progresses from a G major to C major chord (PAC).

Cadence 1

chord progressions

Cadence 2

chord progressions

Test Drive the Root Notes of Your Progressions

One way to feel out the vibe of your progressions is by taking the root notes of all of the chords and playing them like a singable melody. If they sound good, then you probably have a great chord progression on your hands. Many people often like to start with this step to build a pattern and then go back and build up the chords.

A Min | E Min | D Min | C Maj | Eb Maj | G Maj | D Min | G Min | D Min | E Min | A Min

Chord Progressions

Conclusion

These basic guidelines are tried-and-true approaches for writing great chord progressions you can you as the main feature in a song or as the underlying force for all of the other melodic tracks. The next step is to learn how to bend them and discover new possibilities that will help define your own sound – that’s the fun part!

 


EDU Summer Sessions

Music Foundations Program

Unravel electronic music’s origins, build your chops, learn musical language and theory, and make and play music the way you want. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the roots and lineage of a variety of electronic and dance music genres, strengthen their keyboard skills, and learn valuable music theory, deepening their creative practice and facilitating effective collaborations with musical partners.

Click here to view the embedded video.

About This Program

The best producers, DJs, and musicians in the world strive to be well-rounded. So should you. In Dubspot’s Music Foundations Program, you’ll explore three major aspects of music: rhythmic theory, melodic theory, and critical listening.

Most pioneering early electronic musicians had years of conservatory training in theory and performance but had access to very limited technologies. In today’s musical world, it’s the opposite: we have a powerful and versatile array of electronic music making tools at our fingertips, but often fall short in our theoretical understanding of how electronic music works.

Our Music Foundations program is designed to fill this gap and provide training in fundamental skills and concepts with the electronic musician, DJ, and producer in mind. In this course, you’ll build your chops and learn the basics of musical language and theory so that you can make and play the music you want. You will also develop a deeper understanding of the roots and lineage of a variety of electronic and dance music genres, and explore compositional techniques and song structure. The weekly homework lessons for all three courses have been designed using Ableton Live, and along the way you’ll also learn the basics of Ableton and how to use it as a powerful tool to improve your musicianship in a variety of ways.

What’s Included

  • Music Foundations Level 1: Pads & Rhythmic Theory
  • Music Foundations Level 2: Keys & Melodic Theory
  • Music Foundations Level 3: Critical Listening

Additional Information

Visit the Music Foundations course page for detailed information on this program here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

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