Music Theory – 0024

I’ve talked about stealing music and making it your own in a recent article. Let’s see if I can steal one of those classic I – vi – IV – V songs and change it enough so it no longer can be blatantly mistaken for the original, and do it with NotePad. First, listen to the song and even notice how there is no “Chorus” in that the chord changes are consistent throughout and, ironically, a real chorus of voices comes in for a different feel and simulates a different section of music. Listen to the song:

First let’s steal the bass line by transposing it from the key of F Major to C Major:


This is the gist of what the bass player is doing during the verse of the song, while the background singers are singing the words “Duke of Earl”.  The bass line changes when the background singers are holding long notes in chords but the chords themselves remain the same and change each measure throughout the entire song.

I already changed it some, making it more consistent. Notice how the notes transition from the first to second measure, bridging the gap between the C notes and the A notes, moving C – B – A. The same thing happens at the end of the second measure where the notes walk down from A to F, A – G – F. I do something funny at the end of the third measure using F# (F sharp) to move between F and G because they are already next to each other in the scale; I moved chromatically which always magically works. I could have also jumped past one scale note and came back, writing the notes F – A – G instead.

This chord progression is meant to be played repeatedly and the bass line I provide will do just that. If you like you can enter it and even try my alternative at the end of the third measure, using the note A instead of F#. After you enter it you should add some measures so you can copy and paste those four measures and hear it work a few times in a row. Music is very much about repetition.

Of special note is how melodically stagnant the bass line is, essentially only playing the root of the chord in each measure. Instead of moving around the chord or scale, the bass player instead uses rhythm while staying on the same note. This is something I personally don’t like to do but it is often a matter of style and taste, and also looking at the whole piece and playing a subordinate role in this case. I’m sure the bass player could play more varied notes if he wanted to.

What we are looking at today is a different sort of bass line. The song was in the key of F Major and I transposed it to C Major. The original bass notes were essentially F – D – Bb (B flat) – C. I also made slight alterations to make the bass notes more consistent in each measure without really changing the essence or feel. I would also like you to take special note of the quality of the vocal performance and how much better musicians can perform than a freeware music processor; even if we entered all the parts exactly as in the recording it would not sound nearly as good.

Next time I will add an acoustic guitar sound to start changing the feel of things. I do wish NotePad would allow adding instruments and more staves for them as you find you need to add them instead of having to know ahead of time exactly what you will need. Do enter this bass line using the

Plucked Strings -> Acoustic Bass

instrument instead of piano. For this exercise I hope to use several instruments and try to make something that sounds fairly good. We’ll see. I haven’t worked it out yet. An idea isn’t worth very much unless you can manage to breathe life into it.

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