Songwriting and listening reference materials

Here’s a collection of the most useful songwriting and analytical listening resources from around the web. See also the PWYM video collection.

Listening for song forms and structures

Check out the video series on analyzing “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel.

Ethan Hein’s posts on song structure and production:

Brad Swanson considers different methods for labeling song sections.

The Wikipedia article on song structure in popular music is a good one. Their vast collection of song forms is useful too.

Jeremy Steinkoler explains commonly-used song forms.

The Infinite Jukebox, powered by the folks over at The EchoNest, is a really fun interactive way to explore the structure of any song through visualization of its repeated elements. Learn from legendary music hacker and programmer Paul Lamere about why and how he created Infinite Jukebox and how you can “tune” Infinite Jukebox to literally play with your music.

Listening for beats

Useful posts from Dave Conservatoire:

If you need to determine the tempo of a song, the Tap Tool for Beats per Minute web app is useful. The Echo Nest BPM Explorer is a good one too.

Funklet is an interactive in-browser drum machine loaded with various famous funk beats.

Musical texture

More good stuff from Dave Conservatoire:

Songwriting and production

The Sound On Sound “Classic Tracks” series talks about the production of famous songs in great depth, including insights into the songwriting and arranging.

NYU Songwriting professor Phil Galdston on songwriting and producing.

Music Radar has an extremely cynical but illuminating article on pop song structure.

This lengthy, hilarious essay by the KLF on pop songwriting and production is dated from a technical standpoint but is creatively quite relevant.

Dispatch From A Guy Unsuccessfully Trying To Sell A Song In Nashville has some more comments on why song structures work the way they do.

The demands of electronic dance music are a bit different from conventional pop songs. Here’s a handy post on how to write an uplifting trance song.

Timbre and space

The always brilliant Brian Eno contemplates the connection between musical timbre and scent.

UMass Lowell Sound Recording Technology Professor William Moylan shares his analysis of both the stereo and surround sound recordings of The Beatles‘ classic track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Moylan’s classic text on critical listening, recording analysis, and audio production processes, Understanding and Crafting the Mix: The Art of Record Production, was the inspiration for a lot of this course.

Listening more broadly

Evelyn Glennie’s TED Talk: How to truly listen

Aaron Copland’s “What to Listen For in Music” is a classic.

Greg Wilson has some more perspectives on how you listen to music.

This video series by Joseph Hollings goes through the orchestra by instrument groups. It’s aimed at fifth graders but is really useful for anyone.

Music theory

Our Play With Your Music Theory videos are designed to get complete musical novices started with pitches and rhythms.

Learn more about music theory for music production over at the Soundation Music Theory group.

Michael Hewitt’s book Music Theory for Computer Musicians is a fresh take on theory, written with the needs of pop and dance producers in mind.


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