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Thread: Has harmony/melody technique regressed in popular music?

  1. #16
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    I don't hear any counterpoint in the Hoagy Charmichael's Stardust. It sounds like one melody to some chords,
    which it is (I mentioned Stardust for the melody). But counterpoint isn't the only way to make sophisticated things with harmony. There's a lot of non functional harmony with extended chords that is sophisticated even without having many lines together. There's Bach and there's Ravel if I can put it this way.
    Last edited by norman bates; May-18-2020 at 20:05.
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  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by youngcapone View Post
    I guess my question is, do modern producers look to advance harmony/melody techniques or is more time spent on developing sounds or maybe something else?
    Many pop music producers are self-taught, so they have limited understanding of "advanced" music theory techniques, but... have good idea about what Western public wants to hear (which is not complexity in melody, harmony or counterpoint - the last one is a sure a way to empty the dancefloor and music is mostly about dancing these days.)
    (I think most work done these days is by mixing engineers who have to create nice sounding media, given simplistic pieces, performed in a mechanical fashion. And its their job to apply effects like pitch correction and reverbration - for example old time producers would have just recorded in a big hall with natural echo.)

    Look into Japanese popular music, if you are looking for more compositional sophistication.

  3. #18
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    Many pop music producers are self-taught, so they have limited understanding of "advanced" music theory techniques, but... have good idea about what Western public wants to hear (which is not complexity in melody, harmony or counterpoint - the last one is a sure a way to empty the dancefloor and music is mostly about dancing these days.)
    Is it really like that though?
    I mean, people in the past have been into sophisticated music. There's been a period when classical composers where successful. There's been a period where jazz musicians were successful. Even in pop music there were guys like Jobim, and bossa nova was considered very light music to the point of being used as elevator music and in commercial while being sophisticated music harmonically.
    I think it's a bit like a snake biting its tail: at some point certain producers decided that simple music was what people wanted to hear, and people hearing just that and nothing else become used to it and felt that something different or more complex was strange and uncool.
    I'm someone who has developed through the years a huge appreciation for harmony, and I remember that at first (I started listening music with some quite bad pop music) when I casually listened to something harmonically sophisticated I had exactly that kind of reaction. Like something unnecessarily complex and with a sort of weird aural effect.
    Frank Zappa said it perfectly:

    Last edited by norman bates; May-22-2020 at 16:28.
    What time is the next swan?

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    Senior Member apricissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    Is it really like that though?
    I mean, people in the past have been into sophisticated music. There's been a period when classical composers where successful. There's been a period where jazz musicians were successful. Even in pop music there were guys like Jobim, and bossa nova was considered very light music to the point of being used as elevator music and in commercial while being sophisticated music harmonically.
    I think it's a bit like a snake biting its tail: at some point certain producers decided that simple music was what people wanted to hear, and people hearing just that and nothing else become used to it and felt that something different or more complex was strange and uncool.
    I'm someone who has developed through the years a huge appreciation for harmony, and I remember that at first (I started listening music with some quite bad pop music) when I casually listened to something harmonically sophisticated I had exactly that kind of reaction. Like something unnecessarily complex and with a sort of weird aural effect.
    Frank Zappa said it perfectly:
    Could it be that music doesn't have to be melodically or harmonically complex to be sophisticated?

    I'm honestly not much into pop music myself, but in addition to rhythmic aspects, it seems to me that's there's an appreciation for a kind of timbral complexity in today's pop music that has been increasingly important over the past couple of decades.

    Maybe not my cup of tea, but it's not something I'm steeped in (no pun intended), so my lack of appreciation for it doesn't necessarily mean much.
    Last edited by apricissimus; May-22-2020 at 19:10.

  5. #20
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
    Could it be that music doesn't have to be melodically or harmonically complex to be sophisticated?
    of course, don't get me wrong, even with my "fetish" for harmony I know that music can be sophisticated in many ways even appearing very simple. And it could be good even without great sophistication. There's a lot of popular music where harmonic simplicity is something that improves its effectiveness.
    But that's not the point of the thread I guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
    I'm honestly not much into pop music myself, but in addition to rhythmic aspects, it seems to me that's there's an appreciation for a kind of timbral complexity in today's pop music that has been increasingly important over the past couple of decades.
    I agree, and actually I'd say the period goes back much more than a couple decades. Actually that's true for classical music too during all the century, sound and timbre has almost replaced in terms of importance melody and harmony.
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  6. #21
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    Rhythm>Melody>Harmony>Counterpoint - It is ironic that music theory deals mainly with harmony and to some extent counterpoint. People learn how to create decent rhythms and melody from existing compositions and by improvising on their own. There is no systematic way to learn rhythm (too many options even in commonly used meters) and melody (which is often times quite simple in pop music, so you don't need to be some kind of genius to come with something singable); and there are no real rules.

    Any music that is not for solo instrument relies on different timbres, I don't know how it can be a focus of composition. Maybe you mean something like orchestration/arrangements with lots of different instruments to avoid monotony (which is probably a more valid way to create audible variation than changing the harmony for example)?

    If the music is going to be just a background, harmony is probably the most import element.

    About polyphonic music- it is the most sophisticated form of music, but: people can't really concentrate equally on several melodic lines; is associated with religious rituals, which is a big turn off for most young people; and few people listen to music for its own sake - music is mainly used as a mood regulator or background, or for dancing.

  7. #22
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    Any music that is not for solo instrument relies on different timbres, I don't know how it can be a focus of composition. Maybe you mean something like orchestration/arrangements with lots of different instruments to avoid monotony (which is probably a more valid way to create audible variation than changing the harmony for example)?
    not only that. In popular music the manipulation of sound happens in many ways. Electronic instruments, post-production, effects, mixing... guitarists usually have a lot of effects in rock music.

    To make an example, this is the work of Fennesz, who uses guitar and electronics in his music:



    or My Bloody Valentine, a band famous for their guitar sound. The guitarist Kevin Shields spent a lot of time to achieve this kind of timbres. Again like for Fennesz the tunes in terms of harmony, ryhthm or melody are not that developed, but the sound is the most interesting thing of their music

    Last edited by norman bates; May-23-2020 at 08:04.
    What time is the next swan?

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