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Music is something that has caught my interest fairly recently, yet it has so much so, that I have decided to pursue a career in musical arts and a question that arises frequently is: what is music? While there are many definitions for music and surely not one definition for music, I will interpret what I believe to be a comprehensible definition for music as a whole creatively and scientifically. Another question that emerges soon after is how we can learn more about the phenomenon that is music. As previously stated, there are multiple ways of interpreting as well as learning music, from the barebones basics of treble clefs, bass clefs, and the grand staff, to more complex nuanced concepts such as harmonization, musical silence, melody, and many many other factors. Everything in between the tip of the iceberg and the depths below can be described as nearly infinite. This document will also explore the different avenues available to those who are interested in exploring music for personal satisfaction or to write songs of their own.
The simplest and well-put definition of music can be that of: a combination of sounds that may or may not intertwine together to produce a wide variety of processed, attached, or raw emotions and be an overall expression of creative outlook. We have songs that are commonly known as “bad” songs, such as The Shaggs Philosophy of the World. We hear the offbeat drums and for some the ears recoil in distress, or some may be starstruck by awe at how a song like this could be produced. However, the interesting bit of this comes from the fact that the end product is still a song, regardless of whether it may be considered bad or good. A song and music as a whole are creative expressions that exist based on the drive, ambitions, and knowledge of the creator, and what they consider to sound “good’ and “bad” or whether they simply want to make something to call a song that they can look back on and be proud of. Music can be considered a creation of art similar to that of paintings, sculpture, a novel, or even an automobile. This calls to mind Schenkerian analysis, one, if not the most complex form of musical analysis, which hints that notes and music as a whole have an underlying feel and sound below the surface. At face value this may seem like a vague overview, and that’s because it is. Schenkerian analysis goes much more in depth than this, and I highly recommend it to those who are avid music theorists. I call to the process of Schenkerian analysis because it beautifully paints how music at its core a fantastically complex gift of limitless value, entertainment, and expression, that seemingly has its own life and independent existence with fundamental rules and laws that make it what it is. Pair this with the manipulation of masterminds like Bach, Beethoven, or Bruno Mars, and you have a piece that can be catchy and fun, dark and serious, or lighthearted and progressive.
Bach and Bruno Mars may be unrelated in the framework of time periods, however the other characteristics that set them apart from each other are the genres of music they produce. Bruno Mars is well known for his catchy, feel-good pop songs, while Bach is looked after his masterfully moving classical pieces that sparked an era of its own. Music has many more genres, or roles other than what we would call “classical” or “pop”, like metal, blues, soul, electronic, country, jazz, and the growing, ever-so popular, rap music. Don’t take these at face value, as there are many other genres or “sub-genres” below this, like acid jazz or electro-swing, along with so many other “sub-genres”. The genres, as important as they may seem, are not entirely the focus here. They show us how music can adopt a set of rules to make a specific set of sounds we correlate feelings and expression, ie. seem like a specific genre, when in fact the music itself can adopt whatever role the creator themself chooses. If the creator can choose any specific way for the music to sound, or “fit” for a lack of a better term, then that would mean that we have a nearly infinite possibilities for music and it’s "genres", that can even adapt and evolve into new genres, or emerge a new genre entirely. Take the blues scale for example. The blues scale is just a normal scale with a removed 2nd & 6th scale degree, with a flat 3rd 7th and added flat 5th, but when we play it we can’t help but feel the soul clenching sorrow that is evoked by the progression of the blues scale. Which is, as you would have guessed, a genre on its very own that has it’s special feel, sounds, and rules. The “discovery” of the blues scale is merely that of exactly what I called it: a discovery. Limitless possibilities are open in the realm of music and musical expression, waiting to be discovered, stopping only at the heart of the creator themselves.
Creators of music also have to consider the “gritty” rules (besides more basic concepts such as keynote, scales, intervals, and chords) that music is comprised of. Without going too much in depth, this involves Melody, Harmony, the Structure of the song and the sounds implemented. Melody is noted as the “horizontal” progression of music, which gives us a sense of movement through a song. While the juicy part of the song, the Harmony, is the part where we have a vertical standby of pleasantness to the ears, which is usually in full utilization during the chorus. We also have to consider how the sounds can be produced in a song. Could the sounds involve drums? A guitar? A didgeridoo? Or maybe a warm-sounding synthesizer? The answer is any and all combinations of sounds from all instruments will work for most, if not, any song, because remember, as talked about earlier, there is no good and bad for a song, only a song to be contrived and the creators’ ambition, passion and creative outlook. But how can a creator formulate their creative outlook and ideas into the coherent story that is music? The answer is an obvious one: knowledge.
Learning is something that differs widely from person to person. Learning can be done mainly through listening and then further implicating what is heard into your studies. Learning can also be done through visual information, using what you see as a diving board to delve further into the subject that most interests you, or you can even use sensory information, such as through feeling and touching; although this is a bit of a niche. With these “primary” methods of learning, we also should take note of the "secondary" methods of learning which involve solitary learning, where you spend time learning at your own discretion and move at your own pace and discover the information that is needed to further your knowledge of the given subject area. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have social learning, similar to that of teachers placing students in class in study groups -- to learn alongside each other. But which method is the best? With so many different methods, you’d expect there to be a method considered most efficient, however something all of these methods have in common is that they are different. Sure there will be some similarities in the way certain people learn, but there are a wide variety of combinations of learning styles possible, each unique to the specific individual. Using this sort of logic in the world of learning music would see that everyone has a different style of music and/or songs that they will like. The reason we must consider songs that people like are so that they can learn music with them!
Cannonballing into my claim, is that the best way for us for us as people to learn music is to take whatever songs and/or kind of music that we like best, and listen to it, transcribe it, analyze each piece of it and make it something like that of an experience. By selecting a song you like to listen to, you will have more fun analyzing and discovering more about which parts you like the most, from discovering there may be a hidden diminished chord you like the sound of, or maybe the resolution fits into the piece in a way that resonates with you. Regardless of the song and what it may sound like, if the individual picks the songs and music that they like the most, they will without a doubt be more immersed in the learning experience, and have a lot of fun doing it! However, the benefits with this kind of mindset don't stop there. By seeing what pieces in a song make it so great, you can not only take that knowledge and apply it to other songs, but you can see the previous concept you learned present in another song that you may not have seen before, resulted in more enjoyment from the piece, which effectively expands your musical vocabulary and broadens your musical horizons. For example, I personally recall not particularly enjoying the guitar, I thought it was just an overrated piano, but after having looked more into music and what it's really all about, I now see how not just the guitar, but each and every instrument from a kazoo to a trumpet are similar to a piano and have the same notes, and most importantly, the same overall idea that music contributes to: creative expression.
We can’t stop learning music at just songs. The most important piece of music stands in our technological instruments that produce the sounds and riffs we hold so near and dear. But which instrument can help us with learning the most? As demanding as this may sound, I would argue it to be the piano or the organ. I like to hold a position of objectivity towards everything in regards to music, however, I can’t disregard the fact that the piano has so many sounds dispensable at the simple push of a key, or even multiple keys, which can already lead us towards chords, chord progressions and inversions. While yes, admittedly using a guitar, saxophone, or xylophone may produce the same effect, none have the simple demands required by that of a piano. With the guitar, saxophone, or most other instruments, they require a specific technique, be it a strumming pattern or blowing method that must first be mastered in order to first play the instrument and produce the desired notes effectively. However, we can’t toss aside the fact that if these are the instruments that you want to learn, along with music theory, that this is a surefire way you should go. But in the eyes of discovering music at it’s core, with diminished chords, augmented chords, scales, and other rules, the piano (or organ) is simply the most effective and simplest way to go, resulting from the ease of simply pushing a key (similar the way I’m writing this paper right now) and getting the sounds you want to hear. From a child to Beethoven, both can produce the sound of a C, as soon as they take their seat at the bench.
I’ve had a lot of enjoyment and learned some new information about myself and even music from writing this paper, and for that I’d like to thank those at Audio Reputation for giving me this opportunity, despite it ultimately being for monetary gain. There are a lot of pieces in music that make me love it so much, from the fact of it being simple vibrations that can produce powerful emotions, feelings, and memories, to music being an intrinsically complex being of unlimited potential. Also, to reiterate what I said earlier, the greatest stepping stone in learning music will be through listening and analyzing songs that you like, and an instrument that is vital to many musicians and beginning musicians is understanding and using the piano to your advantage in discovering chords, key, scales, and many other concepts in music. A final question I pose to the reader is: have we discovered all that music has to offer? Or are we still on the verge to finding a greater, meaningful dispatch for the beauty that is music?