Ed Mann has recently been in touch with me regarding my post from last week on ‘Zappa and Censorship’. He has informed me that my post seems to have been totally taken out of context on some discussion forums/Facebook sites. Although I have not personally seen any of these dialogues, I want to take this opportunity to try and be as clear as possible about my own position. Firstly, I unreservedly do not condone any ‘anti Gail’ or anti Zappa Family Trust verbal attacks, especially when they are undertaking abusively. I think the paper I wrote on the Zappa Family Trust a few years ago has been misquoted as being anti ZFT – but it is certainly not – it is simply a statement of the facts as I saw them. Although I disagree completely with the notion of withholding permission to perform Zappa’s Music, I do so without holding any personal grudge. The last thing I would want is for me to be responsible in any way for painting a negative slant on Frank Zappa’s legacy. I love his music – and I am grateful to the people who deliver it to us – namely the Zappa Family Trust. Over the last decade, I have attempted to celebrate this man’s music by trying to heighten his presence in the academic community. I certainly do not want to be associated with any hate inspired abusive comments. I am therefore appealing to everyone to engage in debate, but without resorting to hate. I apologise unreservedly if anything I have posted has caused any upset. This certainly was not my intension.

My post the other week about doing a Frank Zappa talk as part of the forthcoming Frank Zappa music festival in Bangor has just taken an unexpected and very disappointing twist. The festival organisers have been told by the Zappa Family Trust, that if I or the Muffin Men partake in the festival – they will not be given permission to play his music! So – I have been told that I can’t do my talk – and I presume the Muffin Men have been informed they can’t perform! On top of a similar situation I had with the 200 Motels at the Southbank last year (where I was asked to write the programme notes for the concert) – it appears that I too, for whatever reason, am being told that I cannot discuss issues relating essentially to freedom of speech. The great irony in this is that the paper that I presume is causing the problem – is actually a tribute to a man who I consider to be one of the greatest composers of living times. Although some people have viewed it as ‘anti’ Zappa Family Trust – in actual fact it is exactly the opposite. Either way – it is a shame that anyone/body has the power to impact the creative decisions of venues and festival organisers. I for one, am pleased that my research has moved on to other areas.

I have been discussing melodic and harmonic analysis with my students over the last few weeks. As a random exercise – we thought it would be useful to consider how some of these techniques are incorporated into the top 10. Although it is difficult to closely consider the vertical aspect of a melody without an instrument (or great ears), it is relatively easily consider the horizontal.  The general conclusion was that much of the music we managed to listened to is divided into either 2 or 4 bar question/answer phases – sometimes fluctuating between the two. Is is also interesting to consider how the interest of the piece is perpetuated when the melody and harmony is seemingly predictable – the interest has to come from somewhere: arrangement, lyrics and production being the main culprits. Many of the students also noted that it was problematic to analyse music they did not ‘like’. This resulted in a discussion surround how far a musician has to compromise in order to make a living out of music!!

What I have documented below are just a few notes of that were discussed – they require far more time to result in a comprehensive analysis – so feel free to add observations.

‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson: Makes use of lots of direct repetition or rhythmic sequence for question phrase – answer phrase. The harmonic sequence is so simple there would be no need to analyse – but lots could be said about the production.

‘Thinking Out Loud’.  The opening phrase of the verse is very close to ‘direct repetition’ between question phrase and answer phrase. However the subtle change makes the classification ‘rhythmic sequence (See previous posts to understand what this means). The refrain section (2nd section of verse) doubles the length of the question phrase. It is interesting to consider how expectation is set up in the listener – we sort of know what will happen before it happens – the sign of a good pop song! Interestingly – songs like ‘Wish You Were Mine’ play around with the expectations of the listener – as it is difficult to know exactly when a particular section (the verse) is coming to an end until you are more familiar with the song.

These pieces were not closely analysed as we only had time for one listen to all ten songs – but it is clear that the same sort of melodic formulas that were used to write popular song 50 years ago – are still used today – but not all of the time! Some of the dance related tracks, which rely so heavily on repetition sometimes break some of the traditional ‘rules’. As previously stated – once my Sting book is finished – this is an area I will be investigating further – toward the end of the year.


Me and a colleague have been working with a range of interesting student entrepreneurship projects over the last few months. They range from music for media initiatives to Wedding Bands to the production of a concept album.

Here is a list of some of them here. They are work in progress – but please ‘like’ and share – I would like them disseminated as widely as possible. More will be posted soon







Polaris Productions




Jive Five





After last weeks post on Horizontal melodic analysis – here are a few thoughts I am discussing with students regarding the vertical dimension. Although there any many ways I have considered this through the years – I have condensed it down to the following

Chord Tones: (CT)short or long duration: Essentially notes in the chord

Colour Tones: (ct) ( most common 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, Sharp 11th) Usually long in duration – although what ‘long’ means depends on the tempo of the music we are listening to. For example a quarter note could be considered ‘long’ if the tempo is slow enough.

Passing Tones : ( Not chord tones and Always Short). Consists of two types:

Accented Passing Tones (APT) On the Beat

Unaccented Passing Tones (UPT) Off the Beat

Like last week’s horizontal techniques – all of this provides tension and release. It is not suggested that any songwriter composes their music from ‘rules’ – but that techniques such as these are a useful starting point for understanding what established songwriters do – in addition to fine tuning music we have written which may not sound very ‘balanced’. Regarding these vertical techniques – it is apparent that Colour tones and to a lesser extent accented/unaccented passing notes provide Tension, Chord tones provide the Release. If a song has too much release it has the potential to sound boring –  and if it has too much tension it has the capacity to sound ‘uncommercial’ (notice I use the word potential).

Phillip Tagg recently hosted a conference that calls for more ‘music’ to be placed popular music studies – so the question I am asking – in what ways can we use relatively formulistic ideas such as these – to cross over to the ways in which music links to culture and society?? I am interested in any ideas.

During the course of this year we are encouraging students to ‘frame’ their musical performances in various ways – in ways in which they feel fits the music they perform. This includes actually being responsible for not only the set design – but also the video recording and editing – not to mention the playing. Here are a few examples of some of the very early work that is taking place – I will update future developments later. This is based on a belief that in the current market place – young people entering the industry need to not only get the content loaded on to social media sites such as you tube – but also to ensure that the content is not only performed well – but also looks good visually. The emphasis on this is NO Miming – so it all needs to be played live.

Amy Cross

Kyle Kimble

Ivelin Mateev


Dominic Green

Svetoslav Chemishev

Laura Jayne

This weeks musicology lecture examined  ways in which it is possible to analyse popular music melody – specifically from a horizontal perspective. I think this is an area that is under represented in popular music analysis – so here is some terminology you may find useful.

Some of the terminology is well know, although much of it are considerations of my own that I have developed over the years. To begin with – I have found the following techniques/descriptors to be useful for analysing melody.

  • Motif: The smallest self contained unit that has recognisable shape, or contour.
  • Question Phrase: A musical statement – Often 2 or 4 bars long – that usually requires completion
  • Answer Phrase: The 2nd phrase of the ‘Sentence’. Although not a ‘rule’, often sounds like it is resolving. Sometimes called the ‘answer’.
  • Sentence: This is the Answer Phrase and Question Phrase combined
  • Sections: This is when the above is grouped together to form what most of us call ‘Verses’ and ‘Choruses’

Once we are familier with what the above sound like – the next thing to consider is how repetition occurs. So for example

  • How does the ‘Answer Phrase 1’ compare to the ‘Question Phrase 1’?
  • How does ‘Answer Phase 2’ relate to ‘Question Phase 2’?
  • How does Question Phrase 1 compare to Question Phrase 2?
  • How does ‘Sentence 1’ compare to ‘Sentence 2’?
  • How Does Section 1 compare to Section 2, etc.

Techniques could include

Rhythmic Sequence:

¨Where the melody is different but the rhythm is the same. This can be between question – answer phrases or sentences. For Example

¨‘Good Stuff: Donald Fagen

¨Black Chandelier: Buffy Clyro

¨Whitney Houston ‘Run to You’ (Chorus) 1:00

Note: Sometimes these repetitions are not exact – if not – you can label ‘near’ before the name. IE ‘Near Rhythmic Sequence’.

Tonal Sequence

¨The rhythm and melody between question -answer phrases or sentences are identical to earlier material, but up or down a predetermined pitch.


¨This occurs at the level of the Sentence in –

¨Mozart: Theme from 40th Symphony!

¨Van Halen: ‘You Really Got Me’

¨Antonio Carlos Jobim ‘Girl From Ipanema’ (Chorus) 0:38

Elbow ‘One Day Like This’

Direct Repetition

¨When the melody and rhythm of an answer phrase is identical to the ‘question’, or between sentences.

¨For example the first two phrases of most Blues songs

¨‘My Man Called Me’ Big Mamma Thornton

¨‘Off The Wall’ Lee Ranaldo

Rhythmic Displacement

¨When the answering phrase is identical to the question, but commences on a different beat.

¨This is a more advanced technique and is not particularly common in popular music

¨See examples below –

¨Cannonball Adderley ‘Straight No Chaser’ and ‘Fascinating Rhythm’

Contextual Placement

¨When the melody is identical but the harmony changes.

¨For example: The First 8 bars of most blues songs –

¨‘Hound Dog’ Big Mamma Thornton

¨Antonio Carlos Jobim: ‘One Note Samba’

¨Antonia Carlos Jobim: ‘Girl From Ipanema’ (Verse)

¨Thin Lizzy ‘Whisky in the Jar’

New Material

¨Where the answering phrase consists of entirely new material

¨The Beatles: ‘Hey Jude’

¨Bobby Vinton: ‘Blue Velvet’

¨Suzanne Vega ‘Luka’

¨Take That ‘A Million Love Songs’

¨No Audio – but also –

¨Joe Cocker ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’

¨Patsy Cline ‘Crazy’

¨Feist ‘The Water’

¨Whitney Houston ‘Run to You’ (Verse)

¨Sting ‘Dead Man’s Boots’

I am interested in other examples – please post here as opposed to Facebook etc



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