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Music Computer Tutorial

:: Creative Variations

Up till now, our song is a fairly plain rendition of Frere Jacques, played once through. If we were to 'loop' this same song, it would get old really fast. If you listen to most popular music, you will hear that there are usually variations to the music to keep it interesting. There are many ways of doing this; I can think of a few:

Changing instruments: different instruments will alternate performing the melody (taking the lead).

Varying the melody: make slight variations to the musical composition or to the verse/refrain pattern.

Changing the key: changing the key has a dramatic effect on any song. It is widely recognized that major keys usually give an optimistic feeling to melodies, while minor keys have the opposite effect.

Changing tempo: significative tempo changes will impact notably the character of the song. Tempo can be changed in a stable way along the entire song or can be differently changed in certain parts of the song. Tempo is measured in beats per minute.

Changing style: this is, adapting the song to one of the many existent music styles. How would the song sound in a rock & roll style, in an electronic music style of in a folk music style?

Do a quick review of the Music Theory section that is in the next chapter if you are unfamiliar with these topics. There you will find basic information about the musical concepts that I will refer to in this section, such as scales, keys and chords.

There are some sample variations below. Load them in your sequencer and see how the tracks have been altered to change the sound. This first example consists of a key change. The song that we previously finished was written in the key of "C major", so now we will change it to a minor key, which will be "C minor". How would you play this song in a minor key? The recipe for a minor key is to flat the third (E), fifth (G) and seventh (B) notes in the scale. So if you open the song and make those changes to all E, G and B notes, it completely changes the feel of the song. In this sound clip, the tempo is slowed down, and there is a church organ playing the melody and chords. The drums alternate between bass and cowbell. I envision the rhythm of a grave being dug by hand. Kinda creepy...

Key change fj_minor.mid ~ fj_minor.mp3

In this second example, there is a variation on the melody and the lead instrument is a fuzzy guitar. The 1/4 notes are broken into 1/16 note trills, but the melody is still recognizable.

Lead variation fj_leadvary.mid ~ fj_leadvary.mp3

In this third example, you will recognize the first eight measures as the completed song. The second eight measures contain the same melody, but with chord changes: measure 9 drops down to "G", so the melody, bass and chords are played in "G"; measure 10 is back up to "C", and so on along the song, in a chord pattern which is G-C-G-C-F-C-G-C. Each time the chord changes, the original melody is simply raised or lowered to that key. There are several ways to compose the second section. One way is, of course, to do it from scratch, but certainly some copy and paste in the piano roll grid will speed things along. Remember to do the changes for each instrument, with the exception of drums, obviously. Also if you listen close, you may hear some variations in the bass as it "walks" or leads you into some of the chord changes.

Chords change fj_changechords.mid ~ fj_changechords.mp3

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