Music tips

Score Read and Analyse

Score reading is exactly that: reading a (musical) score. Just like we can read a poem written on paper, we can read music written on the staff. You can do this while listening to the music and you can do it without. Either way, this is one of the most underestimated activities today even though it’s one of the most valuable. When you read a score ask yourself what makes this music work the way it does. Why is it so good (or bad perhaps?). What is interesting about it? How does it progress? If you’re studying a particular topic, how does the music make use of it? If it doesn’t, what’s the effect of its absence? The beautiful thing about musical analysis is that it’s so rich in lessons. When you come back to a score the second, third and more times, there are new lessons for you there.

The beautiful thing about musical analysis is that it’s so rich in lessons.” 

The first few times I heard and read Beethoven’s 5th symphony, I simply followed that “dun dun dun dunnn” motif all throughout. When I came back to the same symphony later, I noticed the dynamics and what a big impact they have on the overall effect. When I studied sonata form, I noticed the key scheme. When I studied orchestration, I noticed how the woodwinds worked with the strings (and I especially noticed the oboe solo in the first movement). And on and on, there are hundreds of lessons in every piece. It all depends on what you’re focusing on.

Listen (even if you don’t like it)

The first few points in this article are all about nurturing your musical instincts and the most basic activity to do so is to listen. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It should be rather obvious that to get to know music, we simply need to listen to it. It’s a lot like how children learn their first language simply by immersion. Now you’re probably thinking “But Matt, I listen to music all day long… is that all it takes?” Of course this is not all. Hear me out: You should listen to all sorts of music by all kinds of artists of all types of styles. Listen to ancient music, contemporary music and everything in between. Listen to the music of other cultures as well as to your own. Listen to instrumental music, choral music, electronic music and any other you can think of. Why do I emphasize listening to such a variety of music? Because through this variety you will experience how other musicians thought about music. There are only so many notes (and sounds) available to us and yet, millions of musicians, composers and songwriters have found – and continue to find – something new to do with them. And each one of their creations has something to say about what music can be.

Each one of their creations has something to say about what music can be.” 

Yes, you will run into music that you don’t like and that’s good news. We all have our preferences – being a musician doesn’t mean liking everything that’s out there. But do take it as an opportunity to be curious. Listen with an open but critical ear:

  • What is it that you don’t like about it?
  • Why don’t you like it?
  • What would you change?
  • What could you adapt from it to make it your own? This kind of critical listening is essential to a budding composer.

Access History in A Jiffy

Just yesterday I was listening to a soothing track by Peter Sandberg. Today, while I wanted to give it a re-run, I couldn’t recollect either the song or the artist. The history tab of Spotify acted as the saviour. And the best thing is that it’s quite easy to access — just tap on the queue icon and click on History.

Recover a Playlist

Delete for Playlist doesn’t come with a confirmation box and so it’s easy to remove a playlist quite accidentally. But rest assured, it’s quite simple to recover a randomly deleted playlist. Head over to the Account Overview and click on Restore Playlist. See, there’s no reason to panic.

Find the ‘Other’ Version

Spotify doesn’t censor music, rather it makes the songs available in whatever form they were given to Spotify. Many a time, few songs have two versions — clean and explicit. Good news is you can listen to both the versions i.e. if you are comfortable. Scroll to the bottom of the album and tap on ‘1 more release’. However, please note that not all songs have the ‘other’ version available.

Discover the Gaming Songs

As an avid gamer, I know the significance of songs that feature in games like Fifa or World of Warcraft. And it’s very rare to find the full soundtrack under a single platform. Spotify solves this by featuring a Game mode. This mode, available under the Genres and Moods, features soundtracks of most of the popular games like Farcry, Fifa or World of Warcraft and even soundtracks of retro games. Similarly, discover the perfect tracks for the gym in the running category.

Tweak the Crossfade Settings

If you are one who likes tiniest of gaps between songs, then a lower crossfade value will help you achieve your dream. This features beautifully blends the ending of the current song to the next song. Head over to the Advanced settings and drag the toggle down to the minimum. Or if you like to have a bit of space to absorb the soulful lyrics, then increase the crossfade value and you are all set.

Drag and Drop Song Links Anywhere

Found a cool song to share it with your buddy? Just long-press on the song and drag it towards any of open windows and the link will be automatically generated by Spotify. Quite hassle free, if you ask me.

Create a Folder for Playlist

They say organizing stuff helps in increasing productivity. So why not extend the same mantra into Spotify as well? How? Well, organizing the playlists into folders of course! All you have to do is create neat folders specifying the type and drag the playlist to the folders and you are done.

Practice (aka The ‘Just Write Something’ Principle)

No amount of listening, score reading, learning music theory, playing and singing will make you into a composer if you don’t actually compose! The question is: what can you compose if you’re only just starting out? It doesn’t really matter… just write something! Write a tune for solo flute, a 16-bar waltz for piano, an acoustic 1 minute song for guitar and voice… at this point it doesn’t matter what it is, as much as that you’re actually doing it. Also keep in mind that what you’re writing might suck at first and that’s all the more reason to keep doing it. Studies have shown that at the beginner’s stage, the quantity is important. To learn something from scratch we must do it over and over again for hundreds of times. It is this persistence that will eventually lead to quality works. Slowly but surely, your creations will suck less and less until you’re actually proud of them and happy to share them with the world. Whatever your dreams are, you get there with practice.

Whatever your dreams are, you get there with practice.”