I’ve hit an impasse in my music theory studies and have spent these last few weeks focusing on just trying to make a piece of music everyday. A big part of it was not yet being able to find a simple all-in-one resource for it all. Everything is scattered, and even the topics themselves have to be discovered as prerequisites to other, more relevant topics. For this post, I decided to try and rein the interest in music theory back in, and try to define some of the concepts used in my first ‘Rapper’s Journey’ post along with some other helpful material. Thoughts and improvements on my own music-making process will be noted near the end.
One thing I’ve learned about is what an “envelope” is. In its most basic definition, it consists of 3 parts — attack, sustain, and decay. These components are usually expressed as a knob along with a graphical user interface to show you how the sound wave looks like.
The attack is a value that indicates how long a sound should take to fade into its max volume. The sustain show’s how long the sound should remain at its max volume. The decay is how long it should take to fade into silence from the sound’s peak volume. These intervals can be extended or shortened making the any subsequent phase also start later or earlier by consequence.
Another definition I’ve learned is the function of a ‘high-pass and low-pass filter’. A high pass filter reduces the amplitude of frequencies in a sound below a specified frequency. As you can imagine, a low-pass filter does the opposite (reduces the amplitude of frequencies higher than the specified frequency. This definition might not be the greatest since they reference other technical terms such as ‘frequency’ and ‘amplitude’ — which from my very limited background of physics/and chemistry are terms related to ‘waves’. For me to explain all these terms relative to music might take more time, as I don’t completely understand all the underlying theory and bridge to the sciences.
Luckily, two other terms on my list ‘cutoff’ and ‘res or resonance’ both directly relate to the concepts of ‘high-pass and low-pass filters’. The ‘cutoff’ is the aforementioned ‘specified frequency’, and the ‘res(onance)’ is the process of amplifying a certain range of frequencies around the cutoff. Apparently older mechanical filters used to do this (possibly unintentionally), and new digital filter software has kept the anomaly in as a feature to make more interesting sounds. These definitions came straight from the image-line (the people who make FL Studio) website, and had pretty straightforward, awesome definitions. Check it out to see what else you can learn from there: https://www.image-line.com/support/FLHelp/html/glossary_cutres.htm
A ‘walk’ is when you play all notes in a scale. Something I’ve been using a lot lately is an arpeggio, or as defined by Google, “the notes of a chord played in succession, either ascending or descending.” As I’ve said in my previous post, it’s a trap beat fundamental. The drums usually come naturally to me, or I can simply copy a drum line from a song I want to take inspiration from. If you listen closely to any of the drumlines heard on the radio, you’ll notice that many are the same. This kind of comes in the vain of the quote “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Not every drumline has to be invented, or hand-crafted. Chances are, any handcrafted drumline you make has been used before, so why not focus on the piece in it’s entirety?
Last but not least, I’ve decided to attach a song per the request of my number one fan, and only reader. Check it out!