By Chris Glyde
I’ve heard it time and time again. “Everything has already been done”, or “all the good songs have been written”, or even “there are no new genres that can be created”. Realistically, though, this is far from the truth. Most people who believe this line of thought just fail to understand the near-infinite permutations and combinations of sounds that are possible.
Most of the time when people who either lack proper music training or are just casual fans attempt unique musical expression, they do so through timbre. For those unfamiliar with the term, timbre means the attack or sound of a particular instrument. It’s how you tell the difference between a trumpet, guitar and violin. They’re all playing a C, but it sounds different. Most people who believe everything has been done, when thinking about how to create something new, go first to timbre. This is the problem. Timbre is only 1 of 7 elements of music that can be modified to create something unique. There are six other elements that are just as significant. Those elements are Rhythm, Form, Melody, Harmony, Dynamics, and Texture. When you hear bands or artists that have their own unique sound, but still fit within the genre of rock, classical, pop, etc. chances are they’ve probably manipulated some of these other elements.
The question then becomes “how do we combine these elements to create more interesting music for ourselves?” My advice for this particular group of people is two-fold: 1) begin by understanding the seven elements of music and how they affect the sounds of the genre you’re playing in. This requires analysis. Sit down analyze a song and make sure you understand what you love and why you love it. How have the seven elements of music been used to create the sound that you like so much? 2) Once you get comfortable with each of the elements, understand how to evolve your own style through restrictions. It can be intimidating to try and create music from a clean slate. So do yourself a favor and give yourself a musical mold to shape into something great. Pick four things you’d like to do with the seven musical elements in the song you’re working on that will best represent the emotional context of that song. When you have those four concepts, begin mixing them. You can mix them by writing down on paper what you’re going to do and then by grabbing your instrument and putting the pieces together. Alternatively, you can pick up your instrument right away and begin mixing the ideas to form new concepts.
It’s the combination of these concepts that will give you something different. It may not be a different timbre (or maybe it is!) but learning how to mix these seven elements will give you a personality edge that can’t be faked by one more pedal or odd instruments you found in your basement.
About the author:Chris Glyde is a vocal coach, guitar player and songwriting based in Rochester New York. If you’re looking to improve your voice than check out Voice Lessons in Rochester. Edited by Adam McKay