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Complete Track Analysis

Complete Track Analysis

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Published by Milton Mermikides
A guide to understanding elements of structure, harmony, melody and their interaction.
A guide to understanding elements of structure, harmony, melody and their interaction.

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Published by: Milton Mermikides on Mar 09, 2011
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09/10/2014

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©2011 Milton Mermikides Complete Track Analysis1
Complete Track Analysis
©2011 m.mermikides@surrey.co.ukWith the important elements of harmony in place, it’s time to integrate theseaspects into a complete picture of a track
1
. Here’s a very brief but pertinentchecklist of various musical features that when taken together can helpfurther musical understanding and in turn enhance creativity.These concepts and questions are all worth considering when approaching atrack analysis. In this course we’re looking mainly at the pure harmonicmechanics, rather than lyrical interpretation and song structure, but we mustremember that the impact of a track is multi-faceted, so understanding theseother important elements will give a more nuanced – and more applicable –understanding of popular music harmony.Many of these concepts may be addressed to the score of the track.However it is very important that an analysis is conducted through the
receptive
 
listening
of music. The musical practice is about the listening andcreative process, and although notation is an extremely useful way tocommunicate, consider and conceptualise a track, it is only a tool in order toenhance, and not replace, the musical experience.
The Basics
 Style – Genre(s) - Instrumentation - ProductionTempo – Time Signature - Groove – Rhythmic Subdivision - FeelLyrical content – Impact – Vibe - ’Meaning’Do any of the above change during the course of the track?1 We’ll use the term ‘track’ to denote any relevant composition be it popsong, metal instrumental, jazz standard or folk tune. ‘Piece’ or ‘work’ is a tadpretentious, ‘song’ is an odd term for instrumental music and ‘tune’ is a bitambiguous. So, for convenience, ‘track’ it is. We needn’t get distractedfurther with semantics, or get overly fussy with terms, so that said, let’s justget on with it.
 
©2011 Milton Mermikides Complete Track Analysis2
Structure
 Can the track be divided into logical sections using such terms asIntro, Verse, Prechorus, Chorus, Instrumental Solo, Bridge or ‘Middle 8’,Instrumental Interlude and Outro? Can you provide a simple map of thesections? Can that map be further simplified using repeats, DS, DC, Coda,Fine etc?When sections occur more than once, how are they varied, truncated,extended, reinterpreted, transposed or otherwise reinterpreted?Do any of the sections share features? For example does the guitar solo havethe same chords as the verse?Sketch, or write out the basic form. Here’s an example, it doesn’t have to beexactly like this, any way that communicates the whole structure as simplyand clearly as possible.
 
©2011 Milton Mermikides Complete Track Analysis3
Key and Harmony 
 What is the key area, mode or tonic note of the track?Does it change through modulation?If modulations occur are they simply shifting previous material to a new keyor does new material accompany the shift?Are the key modulations closely related to the original key (eg. F to Aminor)or a parallel shift (Cmajor to Db major)?Is the modulation ‘pivotal’ (by using chords that are related to both keys) or isit ‘direct’ and ‘unprepared’?Once a modulation occurs, does the track end in this new key, return to theoriginal, or continue to another –maybe similar – modulation?Does the chord progressions fit into any of the harmonic devices covered inthis course? (E.g. Diatonicism, parallel major/minor/borrowing, inversions,secondary dominants, Blues chords, parallelism, pedal tones etc.)Can the progression be generalized and quickly absorbed using romannumeral (or similar) analysis (e.g. i – iv – i - V7).Harmony is of course, is the main content of this course so we needn’trepeat it here. However it’s important to remember that:a) As noted before, harmony is just one of several important musical aspectsand it its interaction with other features that creates musical impact.b) All the harmonic concepts presented in the course are only importantbecause they are
used 
and can be
reapplied effectively.
Harmonic analysis isnot an intellectual diversion like sudoko, it has direct musical relevance.
Melody 
 There will be supporting material for the study of melody but here are somesalient points that will help understand how to approach the analysis andcreation of melodies.Listen (and look) at the entirety of the melody. Can it be broken into logicalphrases? Often this can be done at a few levels:1)
 
The entire melody2)
 
The melody at each of the structural sections (see
Structure
)3)
 
Phrase groups within each section4)
 
Commonly used intervals/motifs within phrases.For each of the above it can be useful to explore:

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