Oct 05

Son Clave: The Rhythm that Conquered the World

by in Guided Listening, Music

👏👏👏…👏👏
This isn’t a slow clap, this is an iconic rhythm you’ve definitely heard before.

Today we’re going to talk about the Son Clave rhythm and what makes it so cool.

It’s a lopsided 5-beat rhythm but still feels completely natural and danceable in regular 4/4 – and its uniquely winding and hypnotic pulse has helped it conquer the world of contemporary music far beyond its Afro-Cuban roots.

The last 70 years of modern music has so ingrained the Son Clave beat into the sound on radio waves around the world, that it’s unlikely that many musicians who use it today would even realise its origin or wonder why they might have been drawn to using it. It has permeated everything from old school Rock’n’Roll like Bo Diddley, or Dr. John, to present day Hip Hop Snoop Dog, to R’n’B Beyoncé, Drake and so much more.

A Son Clave back beat is incredibly versatile in lots of different musical styles yet always gives a track a groove that stands out. If you feel you just can’t seem to break out of defaulting to four to the floor beats when you’re making music, then this odd numbered hypnotic 5-beat rhythm will freshen up the feel of your 4/4 beats.
 

 

So what is the Son Clave?

How to play the Son Clave afro-cuban latin rhythm

If you divide up two bars of 4/4 into its beats (“1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and…” and repeat this twice), only five of these notes are ever played or emphasized in a Son Clave beat – 3 long beats in the first bar, and 2 fast beats in the second bar.

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and | 1 and 2 and 3 and 4

Try count it, and clap the Son Clave over the top. (PRO-TIP:It can help to think of it as three slow, two fast beats: “slowwwww, slowwwww, slowwwww, fast-fast”)


Practice the Son Clave

learn the shuffle rhythm of Rosanna, with afro-cuban kick rhythm

Get started on learning this rhythm with Melodics’ lesson “Kala” (available for Pads or Drums) which uses the Son Clave as a perfect introduction to basic syncopation.

To see how versatile the Son Clave can be in modern musical contexts, listen to the kick drum, bass and piano rhythm in the iconic hit “Rosanna” by Toto. Frequently referenced as a prime example of a halftime or “purdie” shuffle it’s surprising to hear a Son Clave in there too!

You could even head in to Melodics to learn to play this song on Keys, Drums or Pads to get inspired with some fresh new rhythms you could use in your own music.


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 23

Your key to unlocking music

by in Fundamentals, Music

Do I need to read music?

Music theory is a way of describing the things in music that different people, in different cultural contexts have found to sound good to them. We believe that music doesn’t flow from theory – theory flows from music.

From traditional and folk styles of music right up to the contemporary — none have ever required theory. Notation does not necessitate beautiful music creation (and nor does it prevent you from learning to play the popular music you love) — but it can still facilitate it in certain circumstances if needed.


wrecking crew

So why was sheet music a thing?

Before recorded music or digital technologies, sheet music was a standardised way to precisely describe, and communicate complex musical ideas from a composer’s mind, to the musicians who would be able to play it exactly as it was imagined. Without notation, the world’s most acclaimed classical composers — Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and everyone else — would have had no voice, and their music would have died with them.

Notation in a way, was the precursor to recorded music as we know it. Common use of sheet notation in the music industry progressed into 20th century pop with famous session bands like the Wrecking Crew smash out hit-after-Motown-hit; being able to rapidly learn several new songs every session and execute a top of the pops hit on the spot with minimal practice. This made fluency in site-reading notation a real skill to have.


When isn’t sheet music really needed in contemporary times?

For every Wrecking Crew session muso in 1960s , there are thousands more musicians around the world making music without ever needing to read the stave. Elton John himself learned by ear first, long before he ever went on to study theory. Legends like Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Prince and even Dave Brubeck never learned how to read music at all. From Vanessa Carlton’s “Thousand Miles”, Outkast’s “Roses”, Alicia Keys “Fallin’” to Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” — it would be unreal to think they were composed and learned with sheet notation.

You can learn all the music from artists like these you admire with Melodics’ song-based learning approach. All without sheet notation, and play it any time, anywhere, with anyone you like.


When might you still need notation?

You might need to read music if you ever think you’ll be doing a “reading gig” — that is if you need to play music exactly as it has been composed, where it is too complex or lengthy to memorise. This is of course ever-present in Classical, and also in some Jazz, Musical Theatre and Cinema settings.

Although understanding the background principles of how to read music is fairly straightforward — It’s a lot of work to be able to read music fluently and at a professional level. For many, the hard slog to get the degree of fluency required for this might put you off, but many musicians are instead adept at being able to figure out, and play by ear, and confident enough to add impromptu creative flair when playing and recording.


Summary:

your key to unlocking music

Do you need to read music? No. But you might wish to really be fluent site reading in some particular instances. It depends what your musical goals are, but it’s important to remember that one of the reasons most people don’t succeed with an instrument is because they don’t practice – not their grasp of theory!

You can absolutely learn theory by playing – and it will make so much more sense when you learn it from a real-life playing context, rather than it being a key that unlocks certain music for you. When an audience is listening, they can’t tell your site-reading ability, but they can hear your skill and confidence – so get out there, have fun and play!

 

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.