Has it already been 3 posts? Time has really flown by since In-Depth and Adventure Trip planning has started. Anyways, I met with Jacky once again last Saturday. I showed him the short piece that I composed for last week’s blog post, and then asked if he had any feedback I could potentially use in my next song.

A chart that shows some more interesting chord progressions (taken from Google Images)

He said that he liked the overall simplicity of the piece, and also complimented on the electric bass line, and thought that it provided a pretty good foundation. Some constructive criticism he provided was to change my chord progression, as even from just listening he could tell I used only 3 chords over and over again. He told me that although the (I-IV-V-I) chord progression “can get the job done”, it’s been heard so many times before that it quickly gets bland. I definitely agreed with what he said here, and I explained that I only used this chord progression because I wanted to first get used to the composition program I was using.

Some additional feedback he gave was that although the composition itself was simple, he thought I tried to do so much with the oboe. He felt that the same arrangement of the piece for piano solo or just piano and percussion would have sounded better. This was some pretty important information for me, as composing for just one instrument can not only save time, but also improve the overall quality of the piece.

After he vastly improved my song in a matter of minutes, we then got to the teaching portion of the meeting. The first thing that he talked about was new chord progressions I could consider using. He showed me a whole bunch of chords, and asked me to play around with them and see which ones I thought went together well. This way, I wouldn’t be using generic chord progressions like I did in my last song. After this, he

A diagram showing some basic rootless chords. Notice that all these chords start on notes other than their roots. (Taken from Google Images)

discussed chords in general with me, and he taught me a new concept known as “rootless voicing”. These are chords that don’t have their root notes, and they’re often used in jazz music. I thought this was pretty surprising, because I’ve always been taught that the root is the most important part of the chord. He showed me a couple rootless chords, and then suggested that I consider using them in my next piece to keep things interested.

I thought this meeting with Jacky was invaluable. It was incredible how much I got out with such a quick meeting with an expert. I think his advice is really going to help me make my next piece much better than my first one.

Now, to answer some of the questions:

  • What has been my most difficult mentoring challenge so far? Why?
    Honestly, I think things overall have been going really well with Jacky and I. However, something that’s been difficult is finding appropriate times to meet. Jacky is really busy on the weekends, and sometimes something pops up into his schedule that he wasn’t aware about so we have to reschedule. In a mentoring relationship, it’s really important to meet as often as possible so this has been a setback.
  • What is working well? Why?
    Whenever we are both talking, we always have a lot to say. We’re both really interested in music, and so naturally we’d talk more about things we’re interested in. This is quite different from last year, when my mentor was doing most of the talking. I feel like I’m having effective conversations that I can get a lot out of instead of just listening, which is a huge bonus.
  • What could be working better? How can you make sure this happens?
    I think the way the meetings are “run” could be better. To elaborate, sometimes Jacky isn’t sure exactly what to teach me, and so we have to spend valuable time choosing topics. This is not his fault at all, as I should be coming into the meetings with topics I’m eager to discuss. To make sure I improve on this, I should definitely start generating topics off interest and questions days in advance.

In terms of my progress, after I completed my last musical composition, I immediately began to brainstorm ideas for a new piece. I knew that the brainstorming part of musical composition is the hardest (in my opinion), because I’ve experienced many times where I’ve been trying to develop a melody and the longer I try to make it, the more it begins to sound like a song I’ve heard before.

To try and combat this problem, I tried just sitting down at my piano and just improvising and playing. Surprisingly, I actually found a chord progression that I’m pretty happy with. I was going to upload a video of me playing the chord progression but unfortunately it wouldn’t upload :(  As compensation, you can listen to this man talk about the same chord..

I use the minor 4th chord, and it has a certain melancholy feel to it. It’s also really good at concluding songs in a more emotional way, if that makes any sense (it’s hard to articulate how music sounds in my ears). I use this chord throughout the piece, so I think that makes it more interesting than a simple I-IV-V progression.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an actual piece to share today, as the piece I’m currently working on will definitely take more development than the last one. However, I’ll still provide audio snippets of progress I’m making, and I’ll hopefully get the piece done as soon as possible!

In summary, I’ve really been enjoying composition/songwriting so far. I feel like it’s definitely a lot more rewarding to play a song you’ve composed yourself, especially if it’s one that you think sounds good. Thank you for reading my 4th post! :)