Pop Music Theory

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2: Practicing Songwriting

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Lesson 2: Practicing Songwriting

This lesson offers a plan for growing your songwriting/composing skills (no actual "music theory" in this one).

Songwriters seem to use two basic approaches to growing their skills:
  • Intuitive Approach
  • Analytical Approach

Intuitive Approach


In an intuitive approach, you just write what "comes naturally". You don't analyze music or do "exercises". Most composers (myself included) probably started this way, and plenty of composers use only this approach.

If you're happy with an intuitive approach, that's great. But if:
  • You're in a rut (you feel like you only have a few different musical ideas);
  • You hear music and think "how can I write something like that?";
... then an analytical approach can help.

Analytical Approach


In an analytical approach, you study why good music sounds good (which is just what "music theory" is). And you can combine theory with a structured practice plan which helps you actually use the theory when you write.


A Structured Practice Plan


Your own personal practice plan can take many forms. Here's an example you can use as-is or for inspiration:

Major activities:
Divide your practice time among these 3 major activities:
  • Writing
  • Analyzing
  • Exercises

Writing:
To grow your writing skills, you have to write (of course).

Analyzing:
This means, study good music and figure out why it sounds good, how it's using music theory concepts, "how it works". This is what these Pop Music Theory lessons are all about.

Exercises:
Finally, to connect analyzing and writing, do "writing exercises" to practice actually using the theory concepts you learn. These lessons suggest some exercises, but you can also invent your own.

Next: The "real theory" starts with Lesson 3: Pitch Names.

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Lessons

1: Introduction
2: Practicing Songwriting
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps
7: Whole-Steps
8: Steps Game
9: Scales
10: Major Scale 1-2-3
11: Major 1-2-3 Games
12: Major Scale 1-5
13: Major 1-5 Games
14: Chords: Major Triads
15: Major Triad Games
16: Minor Triads
17: Minor Triad Games
18: Major Scale 1-8
19: Major Scale Games
20: Keys
21: Roman Numeral Chords
22: Scales Above 8
23: Diatonic Triads
24: Using Diatonics
25: Tonic Function
26: Subdominant & Dominant
27: Diatonic Function Analysis
28: Natural Minor Scale
29: Natural Minor Games
30: Minor Key Triads
31: 7th Chords
32: 7ths Games
33: Melody: Chord Tones
34: Treble Staff
35: Treble Staff Game
36: Time: Beats & Measures
37: Note Lengths
38: Tied & Dotted Notes
39: Rhythm: Rests
40: Non-Root-Bass Chords
41: Major Pentatonic Scale
42: Embellishing Tones
43: Melody Rhythm: Rolling Stone
44: Pitch & Frequency

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