Sep 29

Breaking down the rhythm of ‘Pyramid Song’ by Radiohead

by in Drums, Music Production, Pads

 
What’s going on with the strange rhythm of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song?

It feels like it stops and starts, and it’s hard to place the downbeat – Is it really in 4/4?



 

What time signature is Radiohead's 'Pyramid Song?'
1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3

The key is understanding its unique 2 bar rhythm, outlined by the piano, which consists of 2 dotted quarter notes, followed by a half note which carries across the bar, followed by 2 more dotted quarter notes.

It is also a heavily swung rhythm, which is something that might not be immediately apparent by listening to the unaccompanied piano.

If you break down each bar into 8th notes – it might be a little easier to understand. You can count it 3-3-4-3-3.


 
So if your mind has been melting while trying to internalise this weird rhythm while trying to learn Pyramid song in Melodics on Drums or Pads – this will help clear things up!

Sep 29

The theory behind hip hop history’s Still D.R.E.:

by in Keys, Music Production

 
So we all know the instantly recognisable arpeggiated chords from Dr. Dre’s iconic Hip Hop classic Still D.R.E — but what is the actual music theory that underpins this catchy slice of hip-hop history?

 

Initially these chords might seem kind of strange. The first is C-E-A, followed by B-E-A, and then B-E-G.

Each chord only changes a single note from the previous one, making for a delightfully simple, yet very effective little progression.

An easy way to figure out what is going on is to look at the bassline, which alternates between A (which accompanies the first chord), and E, (which accompanies the last two chords).

 

 

Still D.R.E. minor i-v chord progression

With the bassline defining the root notes of these chords, it becomes clear that these are actually inversions. C-E-A, our first chord, is the first inversion of A minor, which means that the root note, A, has been moved up the keyboard, above the other two notes.

The next two chords (B-E-A, and B-E-G), are the second inversions of Esus4 and Eminor respectively. The second inversion means that both the root note AND the third have been moved up the keyboard, leaving the fifth, B, as the lowest note in these chords.

It’s like a minor i-v chord progression, with a suspended chord thrown in there to add a little tension and release.

 


Still D.R.E.’s 3 basic chords have left an everlasting impact on hip hop. Yet this song is a great example of how using simple chord inversions can lead to really exciting chord voicings that still don’t need you to move your fingers a large amount. 

Download Melodics for guided courses on practical applications of music theory like using chord inversions, and many, many more.


Sep 13

Guided Listening: The Art of Sampling

by in Guided Listening, Pads

Let’s talk about an essential tool in a producer’s toolkit: sampling.

Sampling is an iconic component of many different musical genres — especially in the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music, but increasingly in pop and rock. A sample can be a brief audio clip that is used as an instrument, a drum beat or “break” that provides the rhythmic foundation of a beat, or an entire audio passage that may serve as inspiration for the melodic and harmonic elements of a new song.

Sampling is ingrained in the culture of contemporary music, and our brand-new Songs catalog even contains a few excellent examples. We’ll run through a couple of iconic uses of samples, and share our guided listening playlist which compares the original side-by-side with the sample.


Here’s some examples.

Consider the song “Just a Friend” by Biz Markee. The characteristic piano melody in this late 1980s hip-hop hit, which is a sampling of Freddie Scott’s 1968 hit “(You) Got What I Need,” is instantly recognisable. Biz Markee cleverly transforms this soulful original, in which Freddie Scott sings about a woman who makes his life better, into an ironic story about his experiences with women.

Another example is “Avril 14th” (also available in our Songs catalog.) If you pay close attention to the piano melody at 1:38 when listening or practicing this piece, sped up (and pitch increased), you might recognise it as the sample used in “Blame Game” from Kanye West’s groundbreaking 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


The Art of Sampling Playlist

Check out this Spotify playlist that showcases a range of samples in popular music. Included are both the original samples, as well as the songs that sample them.

Some samples will be very obvious, and others might be a little harder to identify — see if you can spot them all!

 

Aug 29

Get ready for songs. Your sneak peak.

by in Melodics, Music, Product Updates & Releases

Popular songs are almost here. There’s no chance of pre-gig nerves, as the community response has been huge!

Here’s your sneak peek of what’s coming to Melodics 5th September 2022. Check out the buzz from the community, check out and decide which songs are yours to tackle first from launch.

 

Don’t take it from us — people are reacting to Melodics’ songs

 

The Songs Playlist

Learn the songs you love in Melodics

You know them, you’ve heard them on Spotify, and now you can learn to play them! From launch day, you can test your talents on any song in this playlist.

Each song is lovingly deconstructed into numerous lessons, across a variety of difficulties and skill sets, for MIDI keys, pads and drums. With the full force of Melodics backing it, you can get inside the music you love so you can learn every trick of the artists you admire.

 


 

Songs -- the request line is open!

This isn’t just a “one and done”. More songs will continue to be added to our catalog regularly. 

If you want to learn to play your favourite song by your favourite artist or band, then contribute your flavour to the full alphabet of musical soup  — from Arctic Monkeys to Warren Zevon (and many more), the request line is open and awaiting your call.


Don’t forget! For current subscribers and those who subscribe before Melodics September launch – you’ll get access to songs first with a free upgrade to your plan. There’s no time like the present to knuckle down and get your skills polished off!

Otherwise, songs will also be available to new subscribers to Melodics from September as a part of a new premium subscription package.

 

Aug 17

How songs make learning music better, faster, stronger. Not harder.

by in Melodics, Product Updates & Releases

Listening to music inspired many of us to pick up an instrument in the first place. You’ve actually been practicing your whole life, just by listening to music.

The Melodics approach has always been to make sure our lessons represent the sounds of modern music, and that above all else our learners are having an experience that’s relevant. Gone are the days of learning nursery rhymes before you learn the real stuff. Still D.R.E is the new Twinkle Twinkle.

We’ve talked to people about their past experiences of music education, and a common thread we see time and time again is that they gave up because the things they were learning didn’t line up with the musical experiences they had grown up with; it wasn’t familiar, or what they wanted to actually play.

Until now our lessons and courses have been created for Melodics in-house by our music team, who in their own time are successful producers, band members and music teachers. We’ve also worked closely with artists to produce original content. But while it sounds like the music you know, it’s still not exactly the music you know.

 

So what’s the missing piece to the puzzle?

While our guided path, courses, lessons and exercises are the ideal way to build your skills as a beginner – exploring and learning popular songs takes you from instrument learner to instrument player.

Learning songs is about building your repertoire. The things you can play anytime, anywhere, and share with anyone over a lifetime.

Practice makes more sense if you’re aiming for something. With songs, there’s now something to put a target on and a goal to reach. There’s also the benchmarking of your progress that happens when you learn another song. What is a better sign that you’ve made progress, than saying “I can play that now” when it’s in the context of a song we all know and love?

At Melodics we aim to provide a learning experience that is fun, relevant and effective, and an experience of learning that makes progress consistent and easy to maintain. As a beginner we recommend the Guided Path to lay important skill foundations and let us hold your hand. As you begin to improve and your confidence grows, it’s time to start exploring and pushing your learning edge in different directions through our open catalog of lessons and courses.

Songs are the newest addition, where you can put everything you’re learning from the guided path, lessons and courses into practice.

– Benjamin Locke, Melodics’ Music Team Lead

 

Songs will be available to subscribers in Melodics from September. If you’re new to Melodics, you can start your journey now and build up your skills to get ready.

Learn more about Songs – coming soon.

Aug 02

The music you love is coming to Melodics.

by in Melodics, Product Updates & Releases

Set for official release this September; Songs is an exciting new catalog of Melodics lessons based on popular music from artists you love. With Songs, you can learn to play music you know, the songs that inspire you and grow your repertoire of real-world sounds.

Songs from artists like Green Day, Lorde, Dr Dre, Queen, System Of A Down, Beyonce, Silk Sonic, Outkast, and many more.

Songs will be available to subscribers in Melodics from September. For current subscribers and those who subscribe before launch – you’ll get access first with a free upgrade to your plan.


Songs give practice new meaning

While Melodics’ Guided learning content and lessons are the best place for building your skills, exploring Songs help you benchmark your ability in a real-world context and give you something to aim for.

Until now, we’ve heard users say they have been unable to really know how their skills translate into the real world. Songs make all that practice worthwhile when you have a target in mind.

Read more about how Songs fit into the bigger picture of your learning experience.

Songs -- the request line is open!

Popular songs are the number one request from users. We’re designing our diverse catalog with the community feedback in our minds. 

The request line is open, and we’re excited to hear more of what drummers, keys players and finger drummers want to play.

Let us know what you want to play in the Melodics Facebook community.


Pitch-perfect renditions of your favorite jams

Our covers are lovingly produced by our in-house music team with a focus on high-quality sound.

With such a strong focus on the audio quality, you can close your eyes and project yourself into the studio at Abbey Road, or the stage at Coachella. 

Open up the updated Melodics app and listen to a sample of what’s coming.

The same powerful learning tools

Songs come with all the power of Melodics behind them. Songs meet you at your level of ability with versions appropriate at all skill levels. 

Practice tools and real-time feedback will help you quickly improve your playing. Trophies, records, levels and rewards help you track progress and motivate you towards your goals.


Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the official launch date, as well as a sneak peek of what’s coming.

Start your journey now and build up your skills to get ready:  Download Melodics.

Jul 13

Your all-new Progress Overview

by in Melodics, Product Updates & Releases

 

Melodics has laid some new foundations in the Progress section of the app.

The new Progress Overview tab is a single resource to help you start or continue making more progress with your learning.

Melodics’ measures of progress simplify how “practice makes perfect.” We heard from users that Stars, Levels, Records and Trophies needed a clean way to make better sense of them; what they mean, how to get them in the first place, and what you need to do to get more.


What’s changed?

Your progress tab won’t only show you what you’ve done. The Progress Overview shows you what you can do next to take that progress even further. With goals defined, you have something to aim for — so what better way to show progress than with a progress bar? 😆

The new UI in the Progress Overview section

In the Overview tab, you’ll see all the familiar indicators of your progress at a high level: your Level, Stars and Records collected, as well as how much time and effort you’ve put in through Streaks, Trophies and Daily Goals achieved.

Check out the new way to keep track of your progress in your all-new Progress Overview – just restart Melodics to update to the latest version 2.1.8044, or download it here.

 


Jun 13

The 3 Universal Components of Finger Drumming

by in Fundamentals, Pads

The ability to finger drum transforms a pad controller into an incredibly versatile instrument.

Instead of being limited to step sequencing or programming, the accomplished finger drummer unlocks the full range and expression available to musicians. The result is creative possibility shifting back into the producer’s hands.

Pads are such a unique and diverse instrument it can be overwhelming, and hard to know where to begin. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way!

First and foremost, let’s master the basics.


The 3 Universal Components of Finger Drumming

With MIDI pads, there are always three distinct components which all interact and amount to how you can play. Consider these when approaching your practice and performance on pads:

 

Component #1: Your controller’s layout (aka The Foundation)

Your layout is the physical arrangement of the pads and the selected samples assigned to each. The layout chosen will define the style of your performance.

The examples in this article will use a 4 x 4 pad, but there is a multitude of other pad arrangements available too. You can find smaller ones, such as 4 x 2 or even much larger arrangements as big as 8 x 8.

MIDI pad layouts

 

Component #2: The track’s rhythm (aka The Method)

The rhythmic information informs how to interact with your pads layout, in order to perform the desired sequence of beats and samples.

Further on in this article, we’ll run through some examples on how a 4 x 4 arrangement can have different samples assigned to the pads, depending on what you want to rhythmically play in a song.

 

Component #3: Your coordination (aka The Delivery)

This is the dexterous use of one’s hands and fingers and how they physically play the rhythm onto a layout.

This will determine if it will be best to use your right or left hand, as well as finger allocation for any given beat. It’s especially important to consider you coordination when you start incorporating multiple samples/using more pads in your performance.

The most important thing with coordination is to plan ahead. Your positioning may change depending on the pad layout so work out which pads you need throughout a song, and position yourself comfortably so that each pad is easily within reach.

Let’s explore the interrelationship between these three core components to see how more complex layouts can unlock more rhythmical possibilities for you, but may also require more advanced coordination techniques and dexterity.

If we show you an example of how to play the same song five different ways, you might better understand how you could too can approach learning to play pads, and increase your skill and coordination along the way.


 

First Performance

First Performance

This first performance shows all of the three finger drumming components presented in their most basic form: There is one sample (i.e. the whole track), so the layout assigned this to just one pad, played on the first beat with one finger.


 

Second Performance

Second performance

Making it a little more complicated — we’ve chopped the first performance track into four.

The layout assigns four samples, over four different pads, with each sample being played over a half note. In terms of coordination, this layout and rhythm is simple enough that as few as one index finger can still play all the samples in succession.


 

Third Performance

Third Performance

Let’s increase the complexity of the coordination, and bring in some more fingers to play the drum groove over a backing! We’ve separated the kick and the snare rhythm for the groove, from the melody/bassline/hi-hats backing. One pad triggers that melody/bassline/hi-hats backing track; and one pad is assigned each for kick and snare samples.

As the backing track plays the full duration, the separately played kick and snare drums need to do the job of keeping the percussive rhythm in time with the hi-hat subdivisions. Index fingers on alternating hands play the kick and snare pattern; with the backing track being triggered by the middle finger on the first beat (along with the kick), and playing the full length of the track.

Separating the backing from the beat components lets you focus on and experiment with variations on the beat. Having a more complex layout (assigning more samples to different pads, for instance with additional drum samples) gives you more options rhythmically, but by the same virtue requires you to be more confident with keeping time. This third performance further illustrates this flexibility, by showing a slightly different drum beat than the first and second performances.


 

Fourth Performance

Fourth Performance

We’ve now broken out the full drum kit (kick, snare and the hi-hat) to their own assigned pads; and chopped the baseline + melody backing into four additional samples (assigned to four different pads to trigger).

This means that we have to trigger the backing track samples every second beat; whilst also playing every component of the drum beat. Note from the video how the finger used to trigger the kick starts with the thumb, but plays the last three beats instead with the middle finger.

This performance shows you that chopping the backing tracks differently whilst still playing the drum beats on time can lend a syncopated air if done right.


 

Fifth Performance

Fifth performance

This is the most complex performance layout chosen for this exercise – although unlike the fourth performance, we will only be using the index and middle fingers of each hand, with no switching fingers for different beats.

We’ve broken out the kick, snare and hi-hats for the drum beats; and similarly separated the backing track’s melody from its bass track, in three different samples.

Each pad sample needs to be triggered on different beats in the measure, with different frequency depending on the sample – Note how the layout helps with this, by focusing on playing ergonomics for both the left and right hands.

The interplay between the melody backing, and bassline creates a new challenge to play in conjunction with a separate drum groove. Nevertheless, the degree of coordination required to play the rhythm does allow you far greater rhythmic and melodic freedom in your performance – once your skill-level is there.

This layout approach would be ideal for exploring sample chopping, and mix-matching different backing sections to compose new tracks with in the future as you get more confident in your playing ability.


 

Conclusion

These performances show you five different ways to perform the same song live, using a different layout for each. Each performance gradually increases from fundamental to a more complex layout, with the rhythm and coordination skill required becoming more advanced.

When you’re approaching finger drumming, samples and layouts, consider how much rhythmical freedom you require in your performance, and your confidence in layout-making and coordination. You can adapt any or all of these three areas accordingly in your own playing, or use Melodics step-by-step structure and multi-difficulty lessons to gradually increase this complexity for you.

By splitting the backing track(s) out from the percussion tracks, you can see that there is more rhythmical freedom for your playing.

Putting backing tracks to one side, if you would like to focus on upskilling your drum groove playing, we highly recommend you start with the Melodics’ course on Mirrored Layout for pads.

This will help you master the art of finger drumming, and you will be much more confident to explore the advanced world of playing with backings, sample chopping, and layout-making.

Dec 13

Melodics Trophies

by in Uncategorized

One of the core beliefs here at Melodics is that focused, consistent and regular practice — even if it is just 5 minutes a day — is hugely beneficial to your growth as a musician.


We believe that putting aside time for regular practice in small increments is a better approach for gaining lasting skills and knowledge when compared to long, unfocused or infrequent practice sessions. As such, in Melodics we have included mechanics that emphasise aiming for 5 minutes practice per day — and give rewards that celebrate the frequency with which you achieve that 5 minute daily goal.

Melodics Streaks & Trophies

 

One of those mechanics that we have used to reward regular practice is Streaks, which tracks how many days in a row a user has reached that 5 minute daily goal in Melodics. This has functioned as a great motivator for a lot of you – seeing that Streak number keep ticking up is a fantastic way to keep you on your practice journey every day.

However – even the most dedicated musicians need days off sometimes!


This is why we are introducing Trophies.

Trophies, like Streaks, reward you for putting in that 5 minutes a day, but instead of starting back at square one when you miss a day, you are rewarded for your cumulative practice efforts.

Every practice session brings you closer to your goals as a musician, so you will receive Trophies for reaching milestones such as 7 days of practice, or 50 days, 100 days, or even more. You will be awarded these Trophies whenever you reach those milestones, whether it takes 100 days or 150. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill – but they didn’t say you had to do those 10,000 hours all in one go!

Melodics Streaks
But for those dedicated Streakers, don’t worry, Streaks aren’t going anywhere.

You can still see your current Streak and your highest ever Streak right there in the progress screen where you have always been able to see it.

The calendar still keeps track of your sessions in Melodics so you can see how regularly you have been practicing. We still encourage trying to practice every day you can, because that’s the quickest way to improve.

However, for those that struggle to make time every day to practice on Melodics, losing a Streak can be a bit of a demotivator, so we want to include something in Melodics that celebrates all of the effort that you are still putting in.

“One night at midnight, I realised that I had forgotten to practice that day. I was so bummed that I didn’t practice for a month! Then I realized that while a streak is amazing, it’s more about putting in the work and enjoying the process. I quickly got back on track again.”

Gretchen King, My 300-day Streak

Any day of practice in Melodics is another step in your journey towards becoming the musician you dream of being, and Trophies are our way of recognising your progress.

Keep it up!

Jun 15

Falling back in love with music

by in Melodics

Compare how it felt listening to music before you ever learned an instrument, to how it feels now. Different?

Personally, I’ve found that after learning about music, how I observed it entirely changed. When I was younger, enjoyment of music for me was essentially pure unabashed appreciation for what I heard — I didn’t think about why I might like it, I just knew whether I did or not. But now that I’m familiar with playing and composing music, I can’t help but engage with it more; deconstruct the song, analyse the musicianship, critically listen to the instrumentation or compare it to my own ability.

You see, experiencing music changes for people if or as their musical journey progresses. Sometimes it’s good to remember what it was like before — how fresh and exciting it all sounded — and just enjoy music again as innocently as with the ears of a child, unadulterated by knowledge.

If you’re feeling burnt out on learning, here are some suggestions of other ways to engage with music that don’t involve actually practicing or playing – that could help you tap back into the aspiration and grit needed to keep you on your musical trajectory.


Listen to music (just, really listen)

Engaging with recorded music increasingly reads as consumption, rather than something to do with pleasure or leisure, or invigorating our own creativity. Reconnecting with music as a source of nourishment and inspiration can help jaded learners fall back in love with music and stay in the game. Here are a few ideas for how you can recalibrate your relationship with music through the way you listen:

  • Practice active listening as much as you can. So often, listening to music is a passive activity – especially now that algorithms are so finessed at serving stuff up. Dial down the distractions, and give yourself a moment with some tasty tunes where you actually shut your eyes and hone in on the way a song’s been constructed: what’s really going on in there, and why does it make you feel so good – or not? Here are some suggestions of what to listen for, from Ableton.
  • Create a playlist of songs you’d love to play live, and close-listen to the tracks. Imagine how your body would need to move if you were playing along, on your instrument of choice. What would your breath be doing? Your muscles? How would you centre yourself and lock into the groove? Great performers inhabit their music, and vice versa – their instrument, and the sounds they make with it, seem to be an extension of them. A lot of that boils down to psychology and being fully in the zone, not necessarily playing in a way that’s technically perfect. So, go on, spend some time with music thinking about how it makes you feel, and how you’d create that same sort of energy if you were the one performing.
  • If you need a little more hand-holding than that, we’re here for you! Check out this playlist of tunes the Melodics team is listening to, over on Spotify.
  • How much does the way we listen affect the impact music has on us? Australian composer and sound artist Lawrence English is a firm proponent that listening to music is a creative act in and of itself. Catch his Loop 2018 talk on the topic here.

We’ve also put together some Guided Listening blog posts, to help you identify an area of interest, and really dive in. Explore them here.


Get to know your heroes

Listening to podcasts is a great way to absorb inspirational insights into the career trajectories of your musical heroes: hear war stories; find out how their songs were put together; demystify their enigma (or have it reinforced); and learn where different artists sit in the wider cultural landscape. These are some of our go-to’s, which never fail to get us psyched about playing music ourselves:

Questlove Supreme
    • Questlove Supreme is a fun, irreverent and educational weekly podcast that digs deep into the stories of musical legends and cultural icons in a way that only Questlove can deliver. Not your typical interview show, this is about legends and legends in the making bringing their legacy to life in their own words. Look out for eps with the likes of Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch, Chaka Khan, Weird Al, Biz Markie, and Babyface.

Song Exploder
    • Song Exploder sees artists dissect one of their strongest songs over the course of an episode and, piece by piece, tell the story of how it was made. Isolating the individual tracks that comprise the final recording, host Hrishikesh Hirway asks artists to delve into the specific decisions that went into creating their hit. Over 200 episodes have been created so far, featuring the likes of The Roots, Yo-Yo Ma, Jon Hopkins, Fleetwood Mac, Billie Eilish, Metallica, FKA Twigs, Arlo Parks, and Robyn. Also clock the Netflix version.

Broken Records
    • Broken Record sees Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell, and former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam take turns interviewing some of the biggest names in music. Rubin’s episodes are of particular note – hearing the legendary producer chew the fat with the likes of Brian Eno, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and David Byrne is pretty special stuff, and a great reminder of how magical music can make you feel.

Switched on Pop
    • Switched On Pop is a podcast about the making and meaning of popular music hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, produced by Rock Ridge Productions, Vox Media Podcast Network and New York Magazine. The hosts chat with leading artists, songwriters and producers to break down hit pop tunes to figure out what gives them their x-factor, and the role cultural context plays.

What had happened was
    • What had happened was sees Open Mike Eagle sit down with legendary hip hop artists for an in-depth look at their life, impact, and legacy over the course of one season. Season one covers DJ Prince Paul (De La Soul, Handsome Boy Modeling School). Season two covers El-P (Company Flow, Run the Jewels).


Zoom out

There’s more to music than playing live! Developing your understanding of things like sound design, production and composition can help you to find the fire for music creation and performance again. Here are some great resources that take you behind-the-scenes of music making:

Sound design, production and composition tips
Music theory
Take a free online course

 

Want more? Check out this post on why people quit their instruments, and how you can avoid falling into the same trap.