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Song Structure Questions (Meaning of Coda, Tag, Etc)

Shiny McShine

Member
Messages
9,490
OK, I've read up on the terms but lets take an example, Heartbreaker by LZ. What do you call the riff that starts it and then is played in between each verse? I'm think maybe Codette but since it's not really a tail but the hook of the song, is it really a chorus?

The one I'm trying to chart is sort of blues tune called Make Your Move by Third Day. It has a Peter Gunn sort of opening and then they do the Peter Gunn riff in between verses and in the middle of the chorus for effect.

What do you call the riff?
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,064
I'd just call it a riff. :D
As a section, maybe "vamp" is a suitable term, because it acts as an interlude between other sections, and is of extendable length.
Of course, at the beginning it would be the "intro" ;)

"Coda" is only used for the ending section of a tune. It means literally "tail".

I haven't checked out the Third Day song, so I might come back on that.
 
Messages
727
Can't really hum the whole thing in my head - it's been a while...

Do you know what a link is?

AFAIK Jazz is the only American popular music of the 20th century to be codified to the same extent as ancient European music - and I suspect that code only holds true for institutional jazz.

Rock music is right in the center of the cause/symptom cultural circle of modernity, so I imagine attempts to enforce denotations of descriptive words are going to be met with the full force of relativism.

In my travels I've found that you get agreement on formal terminology regionally by genre. E.g. head means at least 3 different things here in Kansas City, but it means the same thing to all local blues players. Oh yeah and jazz players everywhere seem to agree pretty much on form - a head is what you read out of the Real Book.

Oh yeah and it changes between generations, too. One time I got a call to play with a reeeeeal old-timey country band, where I knew they all played acoustic instruments. Bandleader told me he wanted me to play lead, so I think okay they're going to have me doing lots of backfill and solos. Nope - to him lead meant an electric guitar. Oh yeah and to him an electric guitar was an archtop with a pickup. One of them loaned me an antique Epiphone that sounded amazing but the action was beyond uncomfortable.

Okay so that's lots of discouragement; here's some useful info if you are interested in getting more informed on form. Get Rikky Rooksby's [sp?] Songwriting Sourcebook and work through it. That will give you at least a vocabulary of formal elements. Then start working through the pop/rock ouvre starting with the first Beatles' stuff. I'm no rock historian, but I know that a lot of contemporary formal elements really took shape [groan - sorry] during the first decade that the Beatles were popular. Their early songs were pretty much verse/refrain, but by the end their stuff still sounds very much of-this-age.

Godspeed, pilgrim.
 

Shiny McShine

Member
Messages
9,490
Cut out the middle man. 9 letters WIKIPEDIA
I did that first. While the definitions are there, they don't translate well into popular music forms. Besides, I'd rather ask our group of talented musicians of which some may be experts in notation.

FYI, Wikipedia is not a resource that is considered peer reviewed.
 

Seraphine

Member
Messages
3,600
I did that first. While the definitions are there, they don't translate well into popular music forms. Besides, I'd rather ask our group of talented musicians of which some may be experts in notation.

FYI, Wikipedia is not a resource that is considered peer reviewed.
As Sensible Musician pointed out, it's relative... Think prelude.. reprise.. coda.. Much of the language is jargon as well as "terminology"... Then there's tacit language..

If I say Chinese note... what ya think.. context? A tune is being jammed on and someone threw in a Chinese note... makes sense? What about a long song that ends with the music swirling through an orchestra warming up and a Conductor taps his Wand... meaning the music is about to start? Wonder what that ending would be called....?


hmmmm you got me thinking! lol
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,064
As Sensible Musician pointed out, it's relative... Think prelude.. reprise.. coda.. Much of the language is jargon as well as "terminology"...
How would you describe the difference?

Words like "prelude, reprise, coda" are certainly not "relative - they are well-defined things.
Then there's tacit language..
"tacit" means "silent" or "implied". Knowledge or information can be implied; language can't. So "tacit language" is a contradiction in terms.
I'm being pedantic, because I know what you mean ;). But we're defining conventional theory terms here. Why bring ambiguity into it unnecessarily?
If I say Chinese note... what ya think.. context?
I'd need to ask what a "Chinese note" is first. I think I know, but it's not a standard theory term, like "prelude, reprise" and all the rest.
I'm guessing a conventional term for "chinese note" would be chromaticism. Any reason why you don't like the correct word? Or does "chinese note" mean something else? See, these are the kind of irritating distractions that occur when you use non-standard terms.
You might think that there are things in music which can't be defined in conventional terms. There may be some, somewhere, but probably much fewer than you think.
People often invent their own theory terms simply because they don't know the conventional ones. That might suit them, but doesn't really help anyone else.
A tune is being jammed on and someone threw in a Chinese note... makes sense?
What does that have to do with defining structural terms?
What about a long song that ends with the music swirling through an orchestra warming up and a Conductor taps his Wand... meaning the music is about to start? Wonder what that ending would be called....?
If it's a distinct ending section, it would be called a "coda".
A coda doesn't have to contain a "perfect cadence" - you can still end a song on a question mark, as it were, without resolution, eg, with something that sounds like a beginning. Doesn't change the meaning of the word "coda". A "coda" is what comes at the end, regardless of what it sounds like.

And btw, "prelude" means a whole piece of music, not part of a piece - although it can be part of a "suite" of tunes, and would be the first one played. It's normally a short piece preceding a longer composition.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prelude_(music)

"Reprise" means a restatement of an earlier theme, often in incomplete or altered form (eg with different lyrics or tempo).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reprise

(Shiny McShine is quite right that wiki is not 100% reliable, but it's quite good enough in this case.)
 

Seraphine

Member
Messages
3,600
Words like "prelude, reprise, coda" are certainly not "relative - they are well-defined things.
"tacit" means "silent" or "implied". Knowledge or information can be implied; language can't. So "tacit language" is a contradiction in terms.
I'm being pedantic, because I know what you mean ;). But we're defining conventional theory terms here. Why bring ambiguity into it unnecessarily?
Looking up definitions in Wikipedia has been done by the OP.

I'd need to ask what a "Chinese note" is first. I think I know, but it's not a standard theory term, like "prelude, reprise" and all the rest.
I'm guessing a conventional term for "chinese note" would be chromaticism. Any reason why you don't like the correct word? Or does "chinese note" mean something else? See, these are the kind of irritating distractions that occur when you use non-standard terms.
Chinese Note
*******
Chinese Note is what Bob Weir ( Guitarist in The Grateful Dead ) calls a sharp or flat that colors a scale or chords etc...

EX:

|---|------|------|------|
|---|------|------|------|
|--7|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|--7|--9--7|--9--7|-10--7|
|--7|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|-0-|-0--0-|-0--0-|-0--0-|

|------|------|------|
|------|------|------|
|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|--9--7|--9--7|-10--7|
|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|-0--0-|-0--0-|-0--0-|

|------|-----|
|------|-----|
|--9--7|--11-|
|--9--7|--12-|
|--9--7|--11-|
|-0--0-|-0---|

In this example the C ( tenth fret 4th string ) is the Chinese note.

...If you're playing with the same guys for years, you get an intuitive sense of where they're headed in any given situation, and they get an intuitive sense of where you're headed and we try to be there with a little surprise for each other. So I might have a Chinese note here or there - he's going to bounce off of that... or he might be there with a Chinese note, and that'll set me off.

What do you mean by a Chinese note?

Weir: You know, a flat or sharp - it just colors the scale a little bit. Our sax player, who's got the most facility with that kind of stuff, will just go crazy on that, and he can introduce that Chinese note.

Say you establish a pattern over eight bars ( EX: ). There's the Chinese note ( C on the fourth string, tenth fret ). You sweeten it up at the end, and then go back. The first time you introduce the Chinese note, there may be a little clash, but the next time everybody in the band is going to jump on that. Of course, in my bands everyone's listening for that kind of stuff. It's a fun approach to music, because everyone works on entertaining each other. Yes, we're trying to entertain the gentle listener out there, but really the way to do that, most aptly for us, is to entertain each other, surprise each other, excite each other, and that comes across to the audience better than any other approach I can imagine.
...from an interview by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers with Bob Weir

*******

You might think that there are things in music which can't be defined in conventional terms. There may be some, somewhere, but probably much fewer than you think.
People often invent their own theory terms simply because they don't know the conventional ones. That might suit them, but doesn't really help anyone else.
As the OP has mentioned... Researching definitions on Wikipedia and other sources was already done. He also stated .. "While the definitions are there, they don't translate well into popular music forms."


Ambiguity and confusion might be part of this process, yet so is change in musical form and convention or outright application... Which is what I see in the OP's Query.

for example;
(Shiny McShine is quite right that wiki is not 100% reliable, but it's quite good enough in this case.)
A term like IIM ( Intuitive Improvisational Music ) isn't in Wikipedia. The only thing near it is ...

Jam bands

Main article: Jam band
The 1960s saw The Grateful Dead gain popularity and bring a name to the "jam" genre. Since the 1980s, bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, moe., Umphrey's McGee, Max Creek, and The String Cheese Incident have used musical improvisation extensively; indeed, for the more devoted followers of any band, these extended improvisational segments—jams—are a large part of what makes a live show so special. The jam band scene has also seen the rise of "jamgrass" with bands like Hot Buttered Rum, Cornmeal and Yonder Mountain String Band, along with the rise of Livetronica with bands like The Disco Biscuits, Lotus, The New Deal, and STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9), most of whom feature improvisation very heavily in their music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_improvisation#Jam_bands

*******

I've been using ( Intuitive Improvisational Music ) as an approach and terminology for years, as quite a few musicians have...

You might know of some "new" introductions of terms, forms, and approaches in music Jon? Which is what I see this tread is about. In the last hundred years alone music has changed in many ways and the terminology and convention changed as well eh?

Changes in music will need academics and theory to suss it out and try to describe ...
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,064
Looking up definitions in Wikipedia has been done by the OP.
Er yes, right. I knew I shouldn't have got myself into this...
Chinese Note
*******
Chinese Note is what Bob Weir ( Guitarist in The Grateful Dead ) calls a sharp or flat that colors a scale or chords etc...

EX:

|---|------|------|------|
|---|------|------|------|
|--7|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|--7|--9--7|--9--7|-10--7|
|--7|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|-0-|-0--0-|-0--0-|-0--0-|

|------|------|------|
|------|------|------|
|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|--9--7|--9--7|-10--7|
|--9--7|--9--7|--9--7|
|-0--0-|-0--0-|-0--0-|

|------|-----|
|------|-----|
|--9--7|--11-|
|--9--7|--12-|
|--9--7|--11-|
|-0--0-|-0---|

In this example the C ( tenth fret 4th string ) is the Chinese note.

...from an interview by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers with Bob Weir
Right. So Bob Weir invented the term? Who else uses it (apart from you?)
I've not seen it anywhere else (er, except in your own previous usage of it).
[I just googled the phrase ""chinese note" music", and the only relevant hit was this very thread!]

In this case it's a b6 in what appears to be an E mixolydian line. So it's a chromaticism (as I thought) but I'm not clear whether it's a general term for a chromaticism of any kind, or just this specific kind, which is in unusual context.
(In fact it arguably defines the mode as mixolydian b6, if that's the intention.)
As the OP has mentioned... Researching definitions on Wikipedia and other sources was already done. He also stated .. "While the definitions are there, they don't translate well into popular music forms."
Many do. And many don't, because pop music doesn't use the concepts the terms describe.
The point was, he was looking for a conventional term that might apply to certain things in popular music. I'm not aware of any structural element that occurs in popular music that can't be defined in conventional (classical) terms, even though modern pop, jazz or rock terms might be preferred.
Ambiguity and confusion might be part of this process, yet so is change in musical form and convention or outright application... Which is what I see in the OP's Query.
Yes, he couldn't think of a term that might apply to the riffs he gave as examples. That doesn't mean there isn't such a term.
Eg, "ostinato" is a classical term that easily describes something like the Peter Gunn riff, and most classic rock riffs (including the riff in Make Your Move, which could arguably be a "basso ostinato" although it would need a better classical expert than me to say for sure).

There are also some Latin music terms such as "montuno" or "gaujeo" that describe repeated riffs, although these are usually fairly specific: describing arpeggio-like patterns, rather than melodic riffs.
for example;
A term like IIM ( Intuitive Improvisational Music ) isn't in Wikipedia.
Well, that's a very vague, broad term that seems off topic to me. The OP was asking about specific elements of a tune, not about a whole genre or style of music.
Of course, new terms will be invented to cover new ways of making music, when necessary. The kinds of riffs used in rock music are not new in that sense; they're simply a new version of an age-old practice.

As for "IIM", free improvisation has been part of avant garde jazz since the 1960s. The rock version of jamming is rather narrower. "Intuitive Improvisational Music" seems rather a mouthful when "jam" seems good enough to me. And if the genre is jazz, then "free jazz" or "free improv" covers it. The central idea being (I take it) that the musicians don't start off with an existing composition, but just set up some kind of groove - or maybe not even that, just some random sounds that the other musicians then respond to and build on.

BTW, wiki does have this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intuitive_music
;)
These might also be relevant:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Bailey_(guitarist)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Improvisation-Its-Nature-Practice-Music/dp/0306805286

You might know of some "new" introductions of terms, forms, and approaches in music Jon? Which is what I see this tread is about. In the last hundred years alone music has changed in many ways and the terminology and convention changed as well eh?
Not when it doesn't need to. A "new" kind of introduction is still an "introduction". A "new" kind of coda is still a coda. These terms are not tied to any particular period or style of music, they're simple descriptive terms of formal elements which are common to all periods of western music.
If you don't like "coda", use "ending". That's all that "coda" means anyway.
"Ostinato" only means something that repeats (related to the english word "obstinate"). "Riff" is better only because it's shorter and more familiar to the musicians who are likely to be playing one.
IOW, the fact that a classical term might exist for an element in a rock song doesn't mean that term is "correct" or better than the term a rock musician might use. It's like the difference between the common name for a plant or animal and its Latin name.
Changes in music will need academics and theory to suss it out and try to describe ...
Sure. But they won't invent new terms as long as the old ones serve.
I mean, I'm not saying everything you hear in modern music can be described perfectly well in classical terms. Eg, such things as effects used in rock music - the sounds produced by electronics which were of course unknown back then - have no theoretical framework. The various kinds of distortion, eg, have no generally accepted naming system, just colloquial analogies, or manufacturers' terms. Rock guitarists choose types of distortion which as much care and understanding as they choose more traditional elements such as scales and chords; but we don't have a "theory" of distortion. (Electronics engineers do, of course, with jargon to go with it, but it's more like scientific theory than music theory.)
 
Last edited:

Seraphine

Member
Messages
3,600
Er yes, right. I knew I shouldn't have got myself into this...
Just trying to help the OP find music which truly require "new" terminology... I figure you know some examples for him. That seems to be the query..
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,064
Just trying to help the OP find music which truly require "new" terminology... I figure you know some examples for him. That seems to be the query..
Not the way I read it. He was simply asking about a couple of riffs in tunes he knew. He wanted to know if any classical terms applied.
But he may be interested in opening the thread out....

I'm not sure I do know any suitable examples, because my knowledge of classical theory is far from complete. So I wouldn't know if a specific piece of music required new terminology. (Except of course, as I said, in describing any aspect of the music which theory has not yet caught up with, which - AFAIK - would include electronic effects.)

I frequently hear music (and not always very strange or new music) where I don't know the theoretical term for some aspect of it. I try not to care too much :).
 

Seraphine

Member
Messages
3,600
well.. one thing this Thread has done is make me pull my last project out and listen to the first track "Prelude To More" lol..... Sometimes we get shown the Light in the strangest of places if we look at it right!

This one is rather of some endurance though, being 9:35 and filled with a few themes...

well.... On to the next Thread!
 
Messages
727
Its all the same, guys. Dont try to be rock guitar players, aim to be musicians. The difference? being able to understand other types of music.
Amen. That's what it's all about.

If we go back to see the roots of western harmony, it was developed from speaking and few pitched instruments to drone/chant music, through polyphony, through counterpoint...
We musicians don't have any idea how ancient music developed because we can't hear it. All we have is written descriptions. My suspicion is that the stuff that translates very easily to notation was probably conceived as much theoretically as musically. The recorded history of music proper goes back to wax cylinders - no further.

Take an extreme example: the music of Plato and Aristotle's time: philosophers complained about the improper use of music for pleasure - LOL! We get our record of what music was like from the pensive sourpusses who sat and reflected and wrote about things all day, not from the rabble rousers who were almost certainly making better music. Even if someone had put down their wooden goblet of grog, wiped his hand on his toga, and put quill to paper to record one of these rowdy songs, there would still be a lot missing. Do we really imagine that polyphony first happened in monasteries - the worldwide center of writing things down - and finally came to the masses in the Renaissance? C'mon...

Re: speech-to-music, what do you do with Mithen and Levitin?

Musicology is a branch of anthropology, not music. Music theory as espoused by the academy explains more about notation than music.

Its all ties together, and I, as a modernist composer, can jam with your band because I learned how to break down musical form to the extent where I can see the similarities in the blues and process music.
When you jam with a band, it's because you have enough common "vocabulary" to audiate what is happening and respond [musically] meaningfully. The study of form undoubtedly helps you get there, but when you are immersed in audiation there isn't a lot of bandwidth left over for proper cognition. If you did your homework - theory and all - you don't ever think, okay that was the second chorus, now comes bridge - you just feel it.

Sounds like you are like me, reading obsessively on paramusical topics. Have you read anything regarding the research of Edwin Gordon? Check out Learning Sequences in Music. Gordon's a terrible writer, but his research is sound and his findings revolutionary (for the academy, anyway LOL). A lot of people come away from the book thinking that it is a presecription for a particular method, but he actually never mentions anything of the sort. If you end up wondering what to do with his findings, the next step is Eric Bluestine's How Children Learn Music, which documents how the author applies Gordon's axioms to his own methodology in his elementary classrooms.

A couple of books set me toward developing my picture of how the musical academy came to be so far off base. One is Music Matters by David Elliot, which in turn referred me to both Gordon and The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works by Lydia Goehr. If they convince you of nothing, they will get your blood boiling and sharpen your arguments LOL

BTW how did we get to this great, pan-musical discussion? I love it. Wish were sitting having great coffee/beer with this.

Regarding the importance of notating music - espeically form - I offer an example for discussion:


I hear conventional form - maybe the exact form of the original with the solo section as a second bridge? How much do you imagine they discussed form? On top of being monstrous jazz/"fusion" players, these guys are obviously huge R&B nerds; and a lot of the R&B guys I know rely heavily on the the word change to talk about form - meaning you have a the first full section at the beginning, then another section that is different, the change.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,064
Take an extreme example: the music of Plato and Aristotle's time: philosophers complained about the improper use of music for pleasure - LOL! We get our record of what music was like from the pensive sourpusses who sat and reflected and wrote about things all day, not from the rabble rousers who were almost certainly making better music. Even if someone had put down their wooden goblet of grog, wiped his hand on his toga, and put quill to paper to record one of these rowdy songs, there would still be a lot missing. Do we really imagine that polyphony first happened in monasteries - the worldwide center of writing things down - and finally came to the masses in the Renaissance? C'mon...
Good point(s).

Notation had a tremendous effect on the development of music, but it wasn't all good, and (obviously) it only affected the music that was played by literate, educated people (a tiny, privileged minority until relatively recently).

The difference with "folk" music (if I can use that word for any music that is learned largely by ear, with or without minimal written assistance), is that folk music progresses in a largely haphazard and limited way. One could argue, in fact, that it doesn't "progress" at all, it just changes from generation to generation in an organic way, according to how its users (players and listeners) want it to be.
That's not a bad thing, of course. Folk music is always exactly the way it should be, no better and no worse. (If it wasn't, people would change it - as they do, all the time.)
And it may be pretty complex, depending on the skills of the performers and how much they can hold in their heads; IOW, it's limited by the latter, although that might not mean a serious limitation. (Another common limitation is the demands of the audience: which can be impressed by instrumental skill, but also want to dance most of the time.)

But with notation, you get the idea of the "composer" as someone who could be different from the "performer". Before notation, there were leaders and arrangers - some quite well known - but not composers as we understand the term, because how could they compose? What would they write down? They would teach by ear, and sketch out neumes, or whatever. But it was little removed from "folk" music in terms of complexity.
With accurate notation - good enough to enable a musician to play something he's not heard before - the idea of music as an "artform" arises: pieces can attain far greater complexity and density (and length) than were previous possible.

Without notation, the performer's input and imaginative skill is crucial; improvisation would be not only accepted but probably a fundamental part of performance. Fixed structures and principles would be well understood (ways of doing things, common performance practices), but would need to be relatively simple. Many details would be subject to improvisation, although the more experienced performers would act as leaders.

With notation, improvisation is no longer necessary. (It can still be welcomed and admired, but it's not necessary.) Musicians can be reduced to mere functionaries, like factory workers. The composer becomes the boss, even the dictator.
Of course, notation doesn't show everything, so there is still some room for variation in performance: things like tempo, dynamics and expression are indicated on notation but are more like suggestions than strictly quantified instructions (in the way pitch and duration are).

It's European classical culture, of course, that has sought to persuade us that the music written by the likes of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, et al, is not only a pinnacle of human achievement (which it is), but is the best that music can get - which it is patently not, as any intelligent jazz or rock fan bored with the classics will attest. (Let alone a native of India, Africa or China, each with their own long-standing and highly sophisticated music traditions.)
The "best" music is simply the best music we can subjectively imagine at any point in time. It will change from person to person, and from moment to moment for each person.

The insidious effect of notation is that it purports to "preserve" music, to contain the essence of a piece of music on paper. If we're not playing the dots, we're not "getting it right". As sound, music is ephemeral - it only exists while it's being played, while we are hearing it. Notation, therefore, can seem superior, in that it's frozen, we can study it at our leisure; we can change it, create new "music" just with a pen (or computer software of course). In comparison, the performance of it can seem unsatisfactory: "no, that's not quite what's written; that's not what I (composer) heard in my head. Do it again, and get it right!"

Notation is information, that's all. It isn't music. And even as information, it's sketchy and incomplete. Still, it retains a dictatorial air, a spurious authority. Something about the western music tradition - in which notation is central - is poisonous.

The "classical" music of India makes an interesting comparison with the west, as Indian music is not written but taught by ear. Fully "audiated", in Gordon's useful term.
Raga can get extremely complex in some aspects, while remaining very simple in others. It has complicated rhythmic forms (tal), and subtle nuances in scales and melodic phrasing, and in motivic development. Improvisation is fundamental, according to well understood principles. But there is no harmony to speak of, and instrumentation is simple and limited. And yet it's not "crude" in any way.
All of this is a result of the "audiation" process, and what it permits and encourages, and what it makes difficult. (There are cultural forces too, of course, as there are in western music, dictating the uses of music rather more than its formal elements.)
 




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