Music Fundamentals: Explore & Create Your Unique Sound | Jacob Collier | Skillshare

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Music Fundamentals: Explore & Create Your Unique Sound

teacher avatar Jacob Collier, Producer, Singer, Multi-instrumentalist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What Do You Like?


    • 3.

      Explore the Axes of Sound


    • 4.

      Create a Melody


    • 5.

      Play with Harmony


    • 6.

      Combine Melody & Harmony


    • 7.

      Explore Time & Rhythm


    • 8.

      Explore Lyrics


    • 9.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Unleash your unique sound through the language of music with Grammy Award-winning musician Jacob Collier! 

Ever since Jacob Collier can remember, he’s expressed himself through music. Growing up with a classically trained violinist as a mother, many of Jacob’s musical milestones—from playing his first piano to producing award-winning albums—happened right in his family’s music room. His unique, curiosity-first exploration of music helped transform him into one of the most innovative musicians of his generation. Now with over 2.5 million fans across YouTube, Instagram, and Tiktok, Jacob shares behind-the-scenes glimpses of his music composition with dynamic duets, covers, and original works. 

In this exclusive class, Jacob dives deep into all of the different components that make up sound. From how to form a story with melody to coloring it with harmony, Jacob will walk you through every step of creating a sound completely unique to you.

With hands-on lessons, you’ll learn to see the world through the lens of music by: 

  • Discovering what you like in order to inspire your exploration 
  • Learning the building blocks of melody and harmony
  • Playing with rhythm to create a timeless sound
  • Explore the process of writing song lyrics to express yourself

Plus, Jacob creates an exclusive new sound that you can download, build on to, and make your own! 

Part invitation and part hands-on practice, Jacob’s approach will change your understanding of the music you make and the songs you love. By the end, you’ll understand how to tell your story using melody, rhythm, and harmony, and unlock all the tools you need to take the next step on your journey toward true creative expression. 

This class is designed for musicians who already have a general understanding of music theory. Jacob will cover the fundamental building blocks of music in a new light, designed to take your practice to the next level. That said, complete beginners can also draw inspiration from his approach to composition. While Jacob’s playing the piano, you can follow along using your instrument of choice. 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Jacob Collier

Producer, Singer, Multi-instrumentalist


It’s not often one encounters an imagination with the depth and prolificacy of Jacob Collier’s. The London-based 28-year-old is dubbed by many as one of the most innovative musicians of his

generation. In 2012, Jacob's self-made YouTube videos achieved legendary status in the music world, attracting the praise of such luminaries as Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones, who manages Jacob to this day. Jacob’s debut album, In My Room, crafted entirely in his room at home, went on to win two Grammys. His success has led to musical collaborators and fans including the likes of Coldplay, John Mayer, Ty Dolla $ign, Tori Kelly, Daniel Caesar, Charlie Puth, Jessie Reyez, T-Pain, and SZA (to name a few).


In January of 2018, Jacob began designing and creati... See full profile

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1. Introduction: [MUSIC] For me, music is a language. There are so many different ways in which you can express or explore or receive the world through the lens of music. [MUSIC] My name is Jacob Collier. I'm a musician, a producer, a multi instrumentalist, a singer, a human being currently walking the face of the earth. You may have met me or known me from You may have seen me on tour, on stage. You may have found me on Instagram or even TikTok. If there was one piece of advice I wish I'd been given earlier, it would be to trust what I liked. What you like is such a good North star. It's never too late to fall in love with what that North feels like to be led in that direction. Our task today is finding our own sound and all of the different ways in which that can express itself. We're going to be listening, playing, experimenting, which is very important. We're going to be exploring some melodic ideas, some harmonic ideas, some rhythmic ideas, some lyrical ideas, and then we're going to be seeking ways in which all of those things can converge to form a musical fabric that we can call our own. Roses can have a lot of fun because ultimately that's what music is all about. You do not need to play a musical instrument or call yourself a musician. I believe everybody is a musician in the whole wide world and walking away from this class, you might find yourself with a few more tools with which you can express things. Perhaps a little bit more permission to try stuff, and maybe more of a fundamental understanding of the basic building blocks, the forces that make up music as a language. I would just say jump right in and make yourself available to the stories that are yet to be told by you. Let's get started. 2. What Do You Like?: [MUSIC] One of the most important questions that anybody can ask themselves at any time in their life as a creative human being is, "What do you like?" Ultimately, the value of being a creative person is that your perspective and yours alone is uniquely special and important and worth sharing and worth exploring. Exploring these things over time, it takes many years. In some ways, it's just a life's work, but diagnosing what it is that we like, figuring out what it is that floats our boat, that is worth spending your time doing. Here's the best part of it. Liking something takes no effort at all. It's very easy because you already know what you like. In some ways, the most important thing you can do is to be exposed to as much as you can of the world, especially the world of music for our class today. The more music you receive, the more of a creative picture of what that North Star looks like, evolves and is created. For me when I was growing up, I listened to a ton of Stevie Wonder, Staying, Bobby McFerrin, Earth, Wind and Fire, Benjamin Britten, Bartok, Stravinsky, Beck and Bjork, and Queen, Steely Dan, so many different music. In some ways, the thing that drew them all together was not necessarily commonalities between the music, it was really what I liked and what I was drawn to. I think the other thing about liking something is it's very mysterious. There's not always a reason why you like something. I can't say I like this music because it has this coordinate or because this rhythm feels like this, or because the tempo is fast or slow or anything like that, though I can notice those things and recognize them. I find myself being drawn to things for mysterious reasons. It's an endlessly interesting task to explore and expand your idea of what you like. Another thing I'd say is that, what you like can change, which is one of the joys of music. I can think of music now which I love and absolutely fall in love with that maybe 10 years ago I wouldn't have got or I wouldn't have been excited by. In many respects when I was younger, I used to be very excited by music filled with layers and complexity and detail. Now, I find myself perhaps more thrilled by a really simple disarming, beautiful song, both in my mind are exceptionally important as different musical expressions. One thing I did lots of as a child is when I found something that I liked, I sat with it for a long time and I tried to figure out, what parts of it I could relate to or understand. Sometimes those things were melodic ideas that I loved them and stuck with me and we can explore that later. Sometimes those were chord progressions. For me as a child, chords were my number 1 crush, I spent a lot of hours, days, weeks, months, and years exploring chords and I learned how to recognize certain chords that I loved. I always loved certain chords and the way in which chords fit together. Sometimes it was something rhythmic that I liked. I was drawn to the way something felt, a swing about a song or sometimes it was something sonic like a sound. It could be something really loud or something really soft. Sometimes it was something more intentional that I was drawn to, something that took me by surprise or something that I could not expect. All these different operators we can explain and explore in due course. One of the first steps in creating music is to listen to a lot of it. To listen not just passively and let the music wash over you, which is very important, but also to listen actively and try to lean into all the different components of that music, how it fits together, and how each of those elements makes you feel. Because fundamentally, that will be a North Star that you'll be creatively chasing for the rest of your days. My hope is that throughout this class, as we discuss and unpack all the different musical elements and materials that make up music as we know it and listen to it, you'll have more of a sense of those materials, how listen to them, how to use them, and how to unpack what you already like about that you know in the music that you listen to. Now that we've discussed some of the ways in which this class is going to fit together and how we're going to approach it, let's jump right in and explore some of the available musical axes of the universe. [MUSIC] 3. Explore the Axes of Sound: [MUSIC] When we think about music, and we listen to the components of what makes it fit together, perhaps let's just discuss what those general axes are. Now, when my children and we are experimenting with music for the first time, I don't know about you, but when I first sat down at the piano, the first thing I did was this. [MUSIC] Now, that might sound like total nonsense, but actually, it's very important. Let's discuss some of those things, some of the basic forces and materials at play when it comes to music. Here's one that's very important. High or low. Here is high. [MUSIC] Here is low. [MUSIC] A high-pitch note is high in frequency, a low-pitch note is low in frequency, and it's as simple as that. Here's another one that you may have experimented with. Loud or quiet. Loud. [MUSIC] Quiet. [MUSIC] Here's another, long or short. Long being. [MUSIC] Short being. [NOISE] Duration of notes. Again, these might feel very obvious to you, but actually the whole of music is built up just from these forces themselves. Here's another one, fast or slow. Something fast, [MUSIC] or slow. [MUSIC] Like that. That's another very important one. As we get deeper into the language of music, there are more subtle ones that become available. One, for example, being maybe dense and sparse. Something that's very dense might sound like this, [MUSIC] or this, [MUSIC] and something very sparse might feel like, [MUSIC] that's a very austere cord. Something very spread out in that way. Another interesting one would be how big the range of notes is so that the distance between the highest note and the lowest note. I might say my range is from this A to this A, and all of the notes I'm playing [MUSIC] have to be within these notes [MUSIC] versus if I have a huge range, say from [MUSIC] here to here, then I can [MUSIC] use a great deal more notes. [MUSIC] All these axes are very important to explore. Now, once you've got even to the slightly more subtle ones, there are some really deep ones to be explored which I personally love. One, for example, being something that's organized or something that's chaotic. Say I play a melody like this, [MUSIC] there's something quite organized about that because the order of notes is sequential, it moves in a particular part of the piano, in a particular order of notes, and the style is similar. If say I play a similar like this though, [MUSIC] which is one of my favorite melodies of all time, I just created on the spot. That melody is very disorganized, by which I mean, there is not really a pattern that it's following, it's just following its nose and constantly evolving, constantly changing as it moves from one note to the next. Another example of an axis that's worth exploring is something which is repetitive versus something that's constantly evolving. Say I play, for example, [MUSIC] that's a melody that I just came up with of the top of my head. That is quite repetitive, by which I mean there were motifs about it. [MUSIC] That motif has evolved over the course of the melody. If I were to play [MUSIC] something very spiky and strange, the rhythmic motif there is the same, but the notes are changing order. There's all sorts of ways in which things can be, say, organized and have structure, and in which things can be more chaotic and more constantly evolving and constantly moving, but both are important and interesting. Another interesting axis that I think about a lot is foreground and background. Again, these are simple axes really, you look around the world, even in this room, there are certain things that are very close to me, like this crocodile here is quite close to me but if I look far in the distance, say the windows and the ceiling is further away. When I'm playing, say over harmonic bed like this, [MUSIC] there might be certain notes which are in the foreground and certain in the background. This is our background. [MUSIC] My right hand is the foreground right now, my left hand is the background. [MUSIC] You focus on what you hear the most clearly, the loudest thing. If I change hands and this becomes the background, [MUSIC] playing with what is in front of you and what's behind you is interesting. You could even have the harmonic bed be in front, [MUSIC] and the melodies be behind. [MUSIC] When I'm sitting and I'm improvising, which is always the best way of learning things, is just by playing, experimenting with things that you half understand, it's important just to practice using all these different axes in different ways constantly. Say, for example, I'm playing, [MUSIC] and I might think, okay, well, I'll start using just the low notes [MUSIC] and I'm quiet, then I start something loud up here. [MUSIC] There is almost like a conversation going between the low notes and the high notes but only through playing with this stuff, can you really explore it. One more very important axes I'd like to mention is the idea of consonance and dissonance. We can get more into this within our harmonic lesson in a few minute's time but something which is very dissonant sounds like this, [MUSIC] crunchy notes. Something very constant might sound more like this. [MUSIC] Fifths and fourths. [MUSIC] There's no sound rubbing against each other in any strange ways, things feel very natural, things feel released, things feel like they go together. What I'd recommend doing, if you feel like it, is making a list of as many axes as you can think of. There are many that I haven't even discussed or described but everything from very simple things like loud and quiet, long and short, high and low, to things which are much more nuanced, for example, departing and arriving or heavy and light, these kinds of things, and play the way that those axes feel, and in so doing, you will find yourself not just exploring the language of music, but you'll find yourself making your own choices and come up with your own pieces of vocabulary that can guide you through all these different landscapes. It's almost like you're holding a musical paintbrush and your painting a whole landscape, and the landscape is the way that you see things. When we think about holding our musical paintbrush, it's very important to look at the world around us and to incorporate the way in which that world makes us feel. Some of these axes are very musically literal and other things are more abstract. Say, for example, I want to describe the feeling of sunlight. I can say sunlight's quite an abstract thing to describe but there are chords and feelings that you can find that reflects that. One that comes to mind is this, [MUSIC] and if I move one note in that chord, [MUSIC] pretty different. [MUSIC] This has an angular notes to it, like an element of something is changing or something wants to move. [MUSIC] That has a peacefulness to it, it's balanced, [MUSIC] but it's not altogether. [MUSIC] Home, it's perching for a period of time [MUSIC] and sunlight, if you look around, sunlight comes often from above, say, for example, sunlight comes through a window in a ***** of light, like that. I might imagine it feeling like that. If you look at the world around you and you challenge yourself to describe things that you like and that you know, often you come up with some more interesting ideas. Ultimately, with music, there's just no rules at all, you could do whatever you want to do. There's no such thing as a wrong chord, there's no such thing as a wrong note or a wrong rhythm, there's only such thing as things that feel right to you, and what you can develop is a sense of understanding the world, and a sense of exploring it by means of sound. What you end up with is certain decisions might feel stronger or more compelling than others which might feel less compelling or perhaps weaker decisions but there's no such thing as a wrong and the right code, and that's a very important thing to remember. Having explored some musical axes, our next lesson is going to be about creating a melody. [MUSIC] 4. Create a Melody: In this lesson, I would like to zone in on and concentrate on one particular component of music, which arguably is the most important of all, and that is melody. What makes a good melody? What are the building blocks of melody? How are they created? What makes them memorable? The first thing to discuss here is the idea of a melodic interval. When I say an interval, I mean a distance between two notes that happen one after the other. Here's C for example and here is the note G. These two notes are two of my favorites and the distance between them is what's called a fifth, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so fifth. Let's discuss different intervals and then perhaps think about some examples of songs which are really good and great songs that use these intervals as they're starting distance of a melodic interval, which makes somebody strong. Here we have a second, as in 1, 2. We've got a third, 1, 2, 3, and then we've got a fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh. We have an octave which is the same note, but you could say an eighth, but nobody says an eighth. There you go. See one octave higher. There you go. There are lots of different melodies within all of these intervals. I'd like to give you some examples of some of my favorite tunes that use these intervals. Here's a good example for the interval of a second tier. There's a song called Frere Jacques, and it goes like this, and then, and then, and then. That intro is like walking up the stairs. That's a second. Really nice way of beginning a melody because it's not too shocking. It's not like going a third like this. A good example of a third, there a song called Kumbaya. Didn't even know this song. It's gorgeous. That's a third, and then that's a third as well. Third's galore. The last thing about thirds is they outline triads. We'll get to triads later but a triad is just a quad, three quad-core, which was very consonant. It's very natural to us. There's a good example for a fourth, but I'm sure you know, that is Amazing Grace. It's a good tune. It's a fourth. It's lovely. A fifth, twinkle, twinkle little star is good. It's such a nice contour, isn't it? It leaps up and then falls down. The art of Christian melody is really a satisfying line or an arc that tells a story within its own right, and this is even before we think about lyrics and all of that stuff and harmony and rhythm, it's just a line of a melody out of time. How satisfying is that? There's a nice example for major sixth there. A song called My Bonnie Lies over the ocean. It's a great one. like that. Memorably enough, that is a sixth. It's quite a large distance to climb, but it gives you space to fall. That's cool. Arguably one of the greatest one of all time is a song called Somewhere over the rainbow. But you know that song, and that one is a full octave so lovely. It really draws a rainbow, if you think about it, it goes, like that, and then it goes really artful, that melody. Within every melody that you know and every melody that you are still yet to write as a musician, you will basically find mostly these intervals. There are permutations of variations of each of these. There's a second, but you're going to have a minor second smaller. It's a major third and a minor third. A perfect fourth, that's an augmented fourth, which is slightly bigger. Perfect fifth. There's a major sixth like my boy, lies over the ocean is also a minor sixth, and then there's a seventh, minor seventh and a major seventh, and of course the octave. Then that continues. You can have a compound second or third or fourth or fifth. Double compound. There's really anything that's possible. All of the greatest melodies are built up from these basic building blocks, so understanding intervals is a super place to stop. I find myself coming back to somewhere over the rainbow very often because that as a melody it's so beautiful and so sound and contains a lot of these intervals. We start with an octave, and then we've got lots of step-wise movement, a third and seconds, and then we jump a sixth and move down and then we do another sixth, and we got step-wise motion together. It's really interesting contrast between large distances and smaller distances like. I love that melody because it has both sides of the extremes of intervals, and then in the bridge section you got and that's so lovely because it's supposed to repetitive and sequential. That interval, stay in your head like that really keeps that melody in your heart. Then it evolves by repeating goes, and that's takes you to a new harmonic place, but without the melody losing its identity. A melody with a strong identity is something that's very important to aim for. Repetition is also just mentioned, is also very important, and so many of the greatest songs of all time have motifs or elements or intervals which are repeated time and time again so that they stay in your heart and stay in your mind. Somewhere over the rainbow, if we take that as example, the structure of that song as you've got A A B A, basically, you've got and you got again when you go to bridge and then, and then again. That's such a journey because it takes you on high arcs and low arcs and small intervals and large intervals. There's some contrast, there's some harmonic change. We'll get into harmonic later on. But overarching, I think that melody is such a good example of something that has brilliant contour, repetition form, contrasting intervals. Yet all using notes that go together, and there's nothing too surprising, but it's not without surprise either, and I find that melody to be just a perfect form. One thing I've found myself sitting and doing many a time in my musical life is sitting maybe at the piano or the guitar, and with these intervals and with this information, these tunes, these melodies in my mind and I'm trying to create my own. A good melody is understated in a way, it can be cryptically hard to create a very good one, and so let's give it a shot right now. I have not planned any melodies here, but let's try to come up with a melody that feels nice to us and I'm going to do it. I think I'm going to do it in the key of F. This is Meet F-major. It's one of the best keys there is. Let's see if we're going to start a melody. Rather than thinking about it too cerebrally, and too much in our minds, let us just sing something and let something come out. In fact, I'll quickly share with you a lesson that I was taught about melody from a very dear friend and teacher of mine. His name is Mike Walker. He is a guitar player from England. I once asked Mike, how do you write a good melody Mike? Because I wanted to know. He said, well, the first thing to do is just to play me a melody, so I played him a melody. I'll play you one right now. There you go, it's not too bad. I played him a melody. He said, "Okay, that makes sense." Without judging then he said, "Okay, now sing the melody." I said, "Okay. I'll sing you a melody right now." My melody goes. That's my melody for today, improvised. He said, "Okay, that's all good." He said, "Now, listen carefully in your imagination and listen to somebody it could be a friend of yours or somebody in your family or a girl or whatever, let that person sing you a melody in your mind and then I want you to think that melody back to me." I listened carefully, then a melody came to me, and this is just a melody that's coming to me right now. But if I go Like that feels to me quite nice, so I sang this melody to Mike and he said, "See how that melody feels right. It just feels right. There's form to it, there's shape to it, there's structure to it." More so than when I was newly on the piano. That really feels complete, and he said, "That's the end of the lesson. That's it. That's all you need to know. I was quite confounded and blown away by this lesson. But it's very important with melody to let it come to you. Rather than sitting and thinking, gosh, I need to make sure I incorporate third or fourth, and fifth and sixth, and seventh, those melodies don't feel good. They might sound good, they might be good on paper, but they don't feel good. It's important just to follow your notes. Normally, for example, had a bit like somewhere the rainbow mixture of smaller intervals and larger intervals. Logic Apps and it also contained repetition, so say for example, we looked at melody in. An answering phrase might be and to complete the form and then say we repeat the whole melody, and then back home. That to me feels like something I can work with. Has a sense of home. It belongs in the key. It's not too organized, it's not too chaotic, and so that to me, feels okay, and ultimately, I would encourage you to write a melody that feels to you like it has a line that you are drawing that feels correct, that feels whole, feels like a steady out on a journey and it feels like it's departing from somewhere and then there's also arriving somewhere. Perhaps what we can do over the course of the next few lessons is to explore where something like that melody can take us in terms of telling musical story and going on a musical journey. Having explored a few of the melodic themes and ideas that exist in the world, I'm very much looking forward to our next lesson, which is to explore the wonderful and rich world of musical harmony. See you there. 5. Play with Harmony: To me, by firm and you can quote me on this, the most exciting part of music in exploring it is exploring chords and musical harmony. Now, if we look at the world around us and listen to the world around us, it becomes apparent that harmony exists in the world, exists everywhere we look and everywhere we listen. To show you this, I'd like to show you what's called the harmonic series. The harmonic series exists in many notes in the world. In fact, in everyone's voice there is what's called the harmonic series. In almost every tonal sound, you have this series of overtones which define a note textually, sonically, and harmonically. What I'm going to do now is I'm going to use my cellular device here, and I'm going to record a note and then I'm going to show you what that note looks like on a spectrum analyzer, which shows you all of the frequencies at play. Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to AirDrop that file to my laptop computer here. Here we go. This is what the sound sounds like on my computer. Good stuff. Let's drop that into an application. This is an application by iZotope called RX 9, which I highly recommend exploring. Now, see here, we're in halfway. This here is the note that I sang, which is very low but because I was singing it, oh, if I highlight some other overtones, like this one for example. That's the next overtone up. Then there's this one. Then there's this one. This one et cetera. You may be thinking, how is it that in all of those notes, all of those notes are within the note that I sang. If I play all of those overtones at once, it sounds like this. That's just the first 10 overtones. The first five overtones that we hear, what you hear is actually a major chord. Do you hear that? That's been flat but that's what it is. That is so amazing. If I go, so on and so forth, harmony is inherent to all the notes. That feeling of being a major chord is something that literally exist in the universe. This major chord sound, is such an important thing to explore. Let's start there and see where we end up. Given that musical harmony is inherent in basically all sounds, I think the question that we need to ask ourselves is, how do we use it, what is it, and how does it work? The answer to that comes essentially from understanding that harmony is what happens when we add more than one melody together at the same time. It's building on melody and creating these vertical structures of chords and words, and sequencing those together to create emotional spaces and storytelling moods. It's such a thrilling experience to try and explore this. That's one I've spent a lot of time with. Those first five overtones in the harmonic series of the universe. [MUSIC] A major chord. This is a very good place to start. Now, this major chord can be simplified into something, what's called a triad, which is a three note chord. Here in the key of F major, we have F, we have A, and we have C. To the ear, this sounds very constant, very released, very lovely. Understandable to the ears. Now, on the piano, what we find here are 12 different notes. There's all the notes that are available to us on the piano. There are actually infinite notes, but don't tell anybody I said that. For all intensive purposes today, just 12. Each of these notes can be combined in so many different ways. If we take this triad, [MUSIC] this major triad, every one of these notes has a triad that you can build on top of it. That's a very cool experience. What happens when we think about triads is that certain triads want to move in certain directions and certain triads are friends with other triads in the locality of certain triads. A very good way of understanding this is using something called the circle of fifths. Now, what I like to do for you is to draw this circle for you on a piece of paper, and to help you try to understand how important this is as a structure, and maybe to talk to you a bit of how I feel like this impacts my understanding of musical harmony. How best can we visualize all of these 12 keys? Well, luckily for us, there is an extremely eloquent way of explaining all of this, and I'm going to move to this notepad here to do so. Look at this. I'm going to draw around this circle. So handy that we have a circular object to hand. Now, we're going to move around the circle and we're going to move in the interval of a fifth. Obviously, you know what a fifth is now because you took the melody class just now. C, G, that's on the fifth, D, A, E, B, F sharp. Then we're going to go run the other way from C. We're going to go CF, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat, D-flat, and actually F-sharp is the same as G-flat. I'm just going to put G-flat in here. Because you can see that as either F-sharp or D-flat, you can say it's either. Now, that's all 12 notes. That's all the keys that are available to us on the piano. That's a very very useful thing to look at. Let's think about this very quickly in terms of harmony. If I take this note C, it's one of the best notes, and I go around five degrees, I go C, G, D, A, and E, that is the C pentatonic scale. That sound is across the world seen as a very unbiased and natural form of what a major sound is. I'm in the key of C major, what notes might I want to use? Within these first five notes are, of course, the triad of C major, [MUSIC] C, G, and E. Then there's also D and A. If we keep on moving in this direction, there are other more and more colorful notes to choose from. We're very very colorful and vibrate at this point. If I go around the other direction, I go C, [MUSIC] and F, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat, D-flat, what feels like it's darkening. In one direction, this direction here, clockwise, we are brightening. [MUSIC] In the other direction, we're darkening. I can take notes from this, I'm using the clockwise and anticlockwise motion. I can move between keys and I can also color in chords that exist in both vertical and horizontal motion. Let's think about vertical first of all. See I'm in the vertical world of C, [MUSIC] the key of C major. That means I can use any of these notes, G, D, A, E, B. The spirit of fifths moving upwards, all of these notes, they all work within that harmony. If I'm in the key of C minor, you could say, then the notes from the other side are the notes that I might draw to to color things in, like this B-flat here, and the F, but also the A flat, and then D flat and C flat. It gets gradually darker and darker. Very exciting predicament. Take a look once again at this lovely circle of fifths that we have here. We've got C, and the two keys on either side of C are G and F. Now, most songs that exist in the whole world use these three chords as a basis. [MUSIC] In different keys, but say we're in the key of C, F to one side, and G to the other side. C major, F major, and G major. That is really, really important to understand. [MUSIC] If you complete these three chords, you can actually play most music that you know. You can actually extend beyond those things if you really want to get interesting. Say for example, we are in C and we're getting a move from G to C. This is what's called a cadence, like an arrival point. G to C. But if I were to go even further, I could do D, [MUSIC] D major, G, C, like that. There are ways in which you can move around. In fact, you could do many, many degrees of arrival. Say for example, I want to go all the way from F sharp to C. [MUSIC] Like that. You can do that. F sharp, B, E, A, D, G, C. That's all good. On the other side, if I'm in C and I go, that's what's called a plagal cadence. G to C is a perfect cadence, then F to C is a plagal cadence. I love plagal cadences. Just a reminder, there are no rules here whatsoever. You can literally do whatever you like. [MUSIC] You can do what's called invert this chord. Now when you have a chord inversion, [MUSIC] you change the order of the notes in the chord to change the feeling of the chord. This is C major in its most unbiased form. Just like that. Now if I invert it one time, it's called first inversion, we move the C to the top. [MUSIC] This is first inversion, so it's got the third, which is the E at the bottom. Second inversion is when we put the E at the top. We've got C major, but G in the bass. [MUSIC] We've got root position, first inversion, and second inversion. Then going back to our axes lesson earlier on, there are different ways in which you can play even one chord. This is C major in a very small way but then you can also play C major in a very grand wide way. Exploring different ways in which you can do this is important. That's obviously before you start adding other extensions and another notes besides. Say for example, we combine some of this triadic motion with some of our circle of fifths color palette based things. Then we've got C major to F major. We can color that in. C, that's picked like a B, and an A, and an F sharp, to color it in. Then F, let's take, say, an E, a B, and a G. Suddenly we have this really flavors some chords. They're based in triads, which are based in the harmonic series, which is the universe but we're also combining brightness and darkness to apply to those triads that we take from the circle of fifths and just from using our ears as well. Some of my favorite chords are actually multiple chords at once. You can call them poly chords. Like binary or tertiary stacked chords. Say, for example, we have a chord of C and a chord of G at the same time. Isn't that lovely? [MUSIC] Just for good measure, let's add a chord of D as well. That's D, that's G, that's C. What a colorful sound. Just so happens that if you take three triads next to each other in the circle of fifths and you play all of them at same time, you have a full-scale. If I took F, C, and G, I have the C major scale. This really is like the keys to the castle. It just adds so many tools to our toolbox where we think about being a musician and what it means to explore, explain, and express ourselves. If I were to recommend one experiment for you, I would say sit out an instrument. I'd recommend the piano because there's so many notes available. Pick one note, you can say, for example, say C, [MUSIC] and explore triads. All the triads that work with the note C and beyond. Play lots of notes and see which notes make you feel different kinds of ways. Without further ado, I would now like to move on to our next lesson, which is very exciting indeed. That is the lesson in which we are going to combine the world of melody with the world of harmony. I'll see you there. [MUSIC] 6. Combine Melody & Harmony: Now that we've explored some of the basic building blocks of melodies and some of the theory of harmony, I'd love to try and combine those two wells. So much of the best part of music-making comes when we combine the art of melody with the art of harmony. Our melody from earlier on, if I recall correctly, goes something like this. This melody appears to be in the key of F major. That's it's local area. If we think about F major we think about what are the closest chords to the chord of F major? Which affirm this as a harmonic space. What are our neighbors? Well, our neighbors are B flat and C on either side of F in the circle of fifths, those are our key collaborators. I would say that naturally you would start by trying to think, well, how many of those chords could fit essentially with that melody? We got, which is actually nice, it works like that. You've got chord one, you say F major, and you've got chord five which is C major. We should also be probably visiting chord four, B flat major at some point too. There's something also within the world of harmony called the relative minor. The relative minor is it belongs to every major chords. If I take F major, for example, the relative minor of F major is D minor, because it's the closest minor chord to F major for only one note is moving. Every major chord has a relative minor, and so if we include those chords as well within our harmonic palette for this melody we've got F major, B flat major, and C major. We also have D minor, A minor, and G minor. Suddenly there's so many tools at our disposal. That's that. What are the basic benchmarks of harmony? What are the basic moments of change? Well, we start in my mind with this code F major that feels like home, and then this second phrase, feels like it's moving somewhere else. We could perhaps get a G minor, and if you move the base to G minor to see what's going to see SAS chord, and that's such a nice chord. An important thing to remember when it comes to chords is that every chord has a corresponding base note. But actually there's so many base pairs that are possible. I can play the chord of F major, but I can have B flat in the bass, or E flat in the bass, or A, or G, or C. Once I've realized that, then harmonizing a melody like this can become really fun because you get to combine different melodies in the bass part with also many on the top part and filling that gap with the chords. If I think about this as a two-part composition, and then say I go, and then go to D, that to me feels good. Let's start there. F major, G minor, C major, F major, D minor, G minor to C, feels like a logical arc, a responsible way of using chords and melody. Then the question becomes, well, in combining melody with harmony often the best way of doing that is to incorporate what's called passing notes. Passing notes are notes that move within the chord that feel like they move with or against the melody to give some conversations, some contexts. Rather than just having chord melody, let's think, what's this melody doing? Well, it's moving say down a third and then up in seconds if you think back to our intervals. What if we had F major in the middle? But we took the bass part here and that moved in parallel with the melody like this. Just see, I'm using notes in the F major scale. Those are all good notes to find, and if you remember back to the circular fest, that means it's the notes from F and the note from B flat, and then notes from C. All those nodes, that's the F major scale. If I take this melody, and I mirror these intervals in the F major scale but starting down, a compound third lower, it's quite classical sounding, it sounds really nice. I can keep going. That's one approach, more rested if I count melody and parallel motion and inner parts. I can also think just purely harmonically about ways in which to move around F. Say for example, I have this chord here, and I want to get to G minor and over that, what chord can I use as a stepping stone to get from one place to the other? There's loads of examples of this. One example would be to go to D minor because that D goes to G. Bass notes like to move in fifth, and then to G. That works pretty well. We can also do something slightly more outrageous. D7, D major chord with a dominant, because that actually is quite a satisfying resolution. Suddenly I can't help myself but adding a bit of spice, and some of the best opportunities for adding spice to chord is when you're on a dominant chord, which is a triad with the seventh. There's so many different dominant chords, and I'd like to just quickly talk about that before we re-incorporate that back to the melody thing. If I wanted to get to F, and I am a C7 chord there are lots of extensions that I can add to this chord. Extensions are just basically upper notes that add color a bit like from the circle of fifths, but dominant chords can operate within their own rules. This is C major, and I can say, for example, add an F-sharp. I think that's really spicy. But actually it's not that spicy, because that note just wants to rise there. That note wants to sink. That note wants to rise as well, and so the thing with extensions or extra notes and chords, as they move is making sure that they all have a destination to get to. That's quite juicy, isn't it? That's quite a hard chord to understand you might say, but actually it's quite simple, it's C7. I've also got another triad here, which is a tritone away, which is a nice stop interval. Sometimes called the devil's interval, and that triad there works really well with C7. It's not funny, and just a quick fire round of other triads that work with C7. F sharp, A major's good. We've got, let's see, F sharp minor. It's a spicy one. We have the E flat minor. It's austere, and you got B flat major. It's more gentle. Obviously C major works fine. F major [inaudible] chord. There's so many different ways of doing this. E flat major, E major, B major, there's tons. Basically all the options are open. When we return back to our melody, he wrote a D7 chord, a ton of notes, whatever notes feel good to you. Once again, I'm [inaudible], with random notes. We got a D. Well, how do we get from F to D minor? Well, when we get to D minor's to go to a cool chord, A7, sum up quite nice. G major, A flat seven. For me, when I'm painting these pictures using harmony, using melody there's so much fun to have a melody to work with and stretch as far as you can. In its very simplest form to its most complicated form. The most complicated form of this is to harmonize every single individual note in the melody with a different chord, which is wacko and really good fun. That might sound something like this. This is endless stuff to do. Sounds weird. Those journeys that's where the real storytelling happens with harmony. That's where it happens with the chords. Say for example, somewhere over the rainbow, I've played that to you in so many times and every time I play it, it comes out different. I would recommend sitting with a song like that one or one of your own and finding every possible combination of chords that goes with that melody, just to see what you like. Because ultimately, as with all these things what really matters is what you respond to, what you like and what feels right to you. With all that in mind, let's move on to the next lesson, which is a very exciting one, and this lesson is exploring time and rhythm. See you there. 7. Explore Time & Rhythm: Now it's time to explore the concept of time. Now, the first thing to say is that there doesn't need to be regular time for something to be meaningful and have substance. This is important to remember because a lot of time in music we think about regular divisions of time, subdivisions, beats on a bar, lengths of a bar and time is always here. It doesn't. Time could be completely abstract. In fact, some of the most interesting uses of time are where different kinds of time are combined. You might have time like this. There's not really structured time, there's a sense of movement but it's not that, it could just be a swimming pool. You can obviously also have regular forms of time. What I'd like to do in this lesson is to talk a bit about different ways in which we can consciously divide time if we choose to do so. In terms of rhythm, once you establish anything that's regular, that becomes almost like a home. Say this is our regular home in terms of time. We haven't yet decided how many beats are in each bar. We haven't yet decided how many subdivisions are within each beat. All we know is that this is our pulse , this is our sense of time. It lives here. We can say this is almost like andante, this is at a walking pace. Say just for the sake of our argument, we're going to divide this into four beats in a bar. We've got 1, 2, 3, 4, 1. Then suddenly that has a shape and there's a downbeat, an upbeat, and a downbeat. We can now make tension against this structure. Let me give you some examples. If I go, that's not creating much tension. If I go, that's creating a bit of tension because, is you can say going against the pulse, but, is with the pulse. Something like that would be a little journey, tension and release. You can divide space into however many numbers, letters, figments of imagination you'd like to, but say we stay in 4, 4, it's important to remember that you can divide each of these beats into different amounts of space. Say I have, that means 1, 2, 3, 4, but it also means 1234, 2234, 334 so is like a four within a four. That make sense. But you needn't have four within a four. You could have, say three within a four, which is 123, 223, 4, that's a completely different feeling. But it's still 44, actually 44, four beats in the bar. You could say divide that into fives, which is really fun. Which is like, they are strange. It's not four or three or even six, which is a multiple of three, is five. That can be quite confounding in every delicious, nutritious way. What we can do is we can create what's called a swing. A swing is almost like a gravitational change within the beat to give it a bit of spice and to give it a bit of momentum. Rather than having, we can, instead of, and that can be as extreme as you like. It could be, or, really subtle. I think something that is important to have some amount of control over is how people are going to feel moving to the music. If you're in a space without regular time then you would have people who are waiting and listening and wondering what happens next. Now what might happen is your melody presents the time, but the background, we should go back to the foreground and the background. Maybe the background is out of time, but the foreground is in time, these are all interesting things to play with. If I go now wait there for a beat. Wait for a beat. What we find here is time speeds up and slows down that there are these contours in the same way that there are with the chords and the melody is you got these arcs. Something will rise and something will fall. Something will create tension and then it will resolve tension. Rhythmically you could do exactly the same thing. You can say, I'm going to stretch the time and have it wait and then need to move fast and to move slow, it's going to move fast and it's going to move slower and this is, again, it's brushstrokes. Is how stories are told. If you just do you can feel a little bit square. Whilst that's a perfectly reasonable decision to make if you want to, it's important to remember that there are always other options. Having time, is regular and irregular and going between these two things can be super fun. One I practiced a lot when I was a child and I'm still practicing now is when I'm playing the piano, practice being a drummer. Say I'm playing the chords that I have in my song, which are F and B flat and C and I want to play these in time, this is the thing it might sound like. You can perceive the whole time within that. Sometimes my tongue is, because time comes from your body. If you speak a time, as the Indians would often say to and especially within their drumming community. If you learn how to speak all of the syllables of your time, it can be really helpful. But the idea of just letting the rhythm come out and not being too precious about the notes, I think as with other things, it's important to understand the options. There are options to go fast, to go slower to divide into 4, 3, 2, 5, 7, 11, etc. Let's rewind a little bit back to our melody that we created earlier on, which I believe goes like this. Let's discuss and explore different ways in which we can put this mainly in time because there's a few that come to mind for me that are worth exploring. Let's start with having the melody and the right hand in time but having what's beneath it, the accompaniment, the background of the image more abstract and out of time. Let's start with an abstract out of time world. I'm using notes here from the F pentatonic scale, which is the first five degrees of the circle of fifths from F. You can do no wrong here. Our melody goes. Similarly as form beneath it is just a simmering abstract world. That's one example. Another example is having the accompaniment in time, what I've done here. But the melody in the right hand is the beat that's out of time, and that would sound like this. The right hand is a lower unto itself. The left hand holds it down. I've spent so many hours doing exactly this, just following my left hand through all these different chords, changing keys, going to different places and the right hand is chasing the clouds and out of time. Now let's see what it sounds like when both hands are in time and in the same time, so unified in time. The most obvious example of this would sound like this, etc. That's fine. It's not that interesting. What if we kept ourselves in time but rather than adding abstract time, we add beats so we add space within our regular time and that might sound like this waiting, waiting some more, waiting. We've changed there to a different chord. Now we're out of time and back. Based in the fact that we can pick whatever we want from all these different techniques, why don't we commit to one for the sake of the argument? Let's start out of time and then let's fall into time and wait here for four beats, 3, 4 2, 3, 4, keep going, wait. That might be a nice punctuation mark for the song to continue. That uses some out of time, some in time, some waiting within time, that can also be stretched faster and slower if need be. I love stretching these songs and so I would say explore as hard and as fast as you can into all these different worlds and rhythmically see how far you can set yourself free. What we're going to do now is we're going to move on to exploring the final of our main themes and this of course is words and lyrics. See you there. 8. Explore Lyrics: Now, it's important to remember when it comes to words. Once again, that there is no one formula for writing good lyrics. A good lyric is the thing that moves you and feels accurate to your perception of the world. What we're going to do now is we're going to reverse engineer a lyrical world out of all of this form, and we're going to find something that just feels ultimately satisfying and honest and cool. Our first step, I think, is just to listen to the world that we've created, which sounds like this this is the spirit of the world. Now, I suppose one question to start with, how does this feel? How's it feel? I would go so far as to say this does not feel particularly dark. It feels quite light, but I wouldn't say it feels bright, I'd say it feels warm, maybe like summertime but in the evening. We got a summer evening. We can work with that What we do throughout this whole escapade is because we're moving around almost in a circle so we could talk about a circle maybe. I suppose fundamentally one of the things I find myself doing harmonically and rhythmically and melodically it's almost like finding a way home, going on a journey, setting out, departing and then finding a way back home. Let's make a note of those things. At least we've got summer evening, we have circles, and then we had what was it? We had departing and arriving, which is circles because it's like it goes around and then it comes back around. That's nice. Then we had the idea of home, I think as well. Home in a summer evening. Now I suppose you think, who is this song for? Who is it about? One thing that a dear friend and teacher of mine, who's Pete Churchill once told me was, you're thinking about writing lyrics. Imagine two people, there could be that one person is alone and thinking of another person from far away. Or it might be that one person has left the other person and the other person is describing maybe a set of feelings around that. It might be that one person, another person who are complete strangers, have no idea that they're both moving in parallel and then they meet. Or it might be one person imagining a person who does not yet exist. Or it might be two different iterations of the same person as someone who's old and someone who's young, but actually they're the same person, one who is an older version of the other. There are many ways in which you can approach this. Say for example, in this song, our summer evening is F-major banger, we have two people, what could those two people be doing? Well, I like the idea of potentially starting with one person's perspective and then maybe even moving to the other person's perspective, if you could say so. Perception modulation and you start one patient and you move to another, almost like moving in a circle. My aim with this, is to write just the first four lines of this and to present at the start of a song, the ultimate goal I think for you after this will be to continue this song. Let's see how we can make a start We have our summer evening F-major, a simmering world of joy and delight , and our melody which goes. One thing that comes to mind for me now is we could do something like that. You do breathing, breathing up and down like circles or tenures You could do that. Which is nice because it feels like that's the moment where it departs. But it's also on its way back home in a circle. Everything is a circle. I find. Let's work with that. We've got one thing I like to do when I'm writing lyrics, it's just to mumble and mumbling is underrated. You can even record your mumbles and you get vowel sounds I'd say that It can be like a wide-awake. Wide- awake that's quite nice, or lying awake. It's cool and now a new thing. Maybe something about the other person You see, you say that you know, I'm feeling well, I know you're feeling, maybe I know you're feeling is nice. It's like I'm perceiving you, I'm perceiving the other. Lying awake on a summer evening or hiding. I'm going to write some of this down. We've got, lying awake summer, evening, hiding in circles, I know your feeling. Then we've got one more for it. We've got one more line to write. It could be waiting for something to take you home, or it could be if you picture a summer evening, one exercise that I like to do is once you've got your core image for now, it's the summer evening. What are all the things you can find in a summer evening? Let's make a list. Let's see. We've got light, gold, bird, tree, grass, moon, sun. Just going to see if we can find one of these to find our final line. Light, gold, bird, tree, grass, moon and sun. I like gold. It could be gold in the light of the sun to take me home. Let's try that. Gold, or let's say, of a sun that takes me home. I'm going to sing through what we've got just here and maybe we can improve it just slightly, but it's a start which has all that matters. Here we go, here's our world. We got. I don't mind that. It's pretty good. One thing I like about it is that, I know you're feeling gold. It's ambiguous what that means, it could be that you're feeling gold like gold is the feeling that you have. Or it could be, I know you're feeling calmer, gold in the light of the sun. In poetry, we call this an enjambement. I think you pronounce it. It's a really interesting way of treating your new line. It's like one word at the beginning of a line could be the end of the previous line, or it could be the start of a new line, or it could be both. With lyrics, those techniques and things really thrill me as a listener and people, because I think there's a myriad of perspectives that you can explore through that technique. Let's do that one more time. But this time let's reincorporate some of those rhythmic ideas that we had about pausing for a moment and see how it feels. Here we go and now it's going to continue and off. Now it's your job. But one thing I'd like to do now I've got the words, is to think a little bit about painting them in using some other techniques. Say for example with harmony, gold, for example, is interesting word because gold takes you by surprise. It's very bright and it has a scene and it's majestic. That is a feeling that based on my harmonic experiments of the many years I've been a experimenting, that's something I can depict with a chord. This is my favorite part, is when you've got your melody and your words, then you paint all around. We're using all of the materials that you know, just to make those words come to life that in the best possible way. I'm not going to say circle of this. I'm not going to say it. Now that note is an A, now an interesting thing about the note A, is it doesn't just live in F-major, it also lives in D-major. That is gold that feels gold to me. That is interesting, is no rival. But we don't have to stay there for long. It could be it's like someone opens a window into a new world, but then it swiftly shut, or you push through the window and then you turn around and come back home. All these images for me, harmonically, it's so vivid and so visceral of feeling of these things That's an option for us. Another thing we could do if we want to move slightly further away from F, or keep F, in the first couple of lines in the lyric hiding, because hiding feels like it's avoiding the key a little bit, or it's avoiding the space that you've created. One thing we could do there this note here, this begins to give me ideas for other spaces too, it could be something really drastic, like F-sharp major which is really far away, or something less drastic E-flat major, which I really like actually because that is located on the spaces. It's not too far from F, it's just two spaces. But it does exit our world of F, B-flat and C that we've been safe in it's just stretching in the darker direction because you're hiding. This painting is really enjoyable and really deep when you get into it. Perhaps one thing we can just quickly do to finish this, just to listen one more time to what we ended up with together, and that goes like this. That's what we have so far. Your job is to continue this song, to finish the song. What is the next stanza? What happens after that stanza? Do we go somewhere new? How do you feel about a summer evening? How do you interpret that using all of these techniques and methods and different flavors from this palette that we've explored today? I'm so excited and curious to hear what your ears come up with specifically for you. It's going to thrill me to hear all of those results. I think we've made a good start. We'll see where we get to from here. 9. Final Thoughts: [MUSIC] Friends, congratulations. You made it to the end of the class. I'm so proud of you. This has been a really good time. We've covered so much ground. We talked about musical axes, we spoke about melody and intervals, we spoke about harmony and chords, we spoke about rhythm and time, and we also spoke about lyrics and words. All of these elements and skills, they all translate to many instruments such as [MUSIC] the guitar and others. What we ended up with today was a song that I actually quite like at the beginning of the song, it's a sweet intro. Your job, as you know, is to continue this song and to see it through to the very end. We've got the first section covered. What sections follow, it's completely up to you. I'm so excited to see what you do with it and what you hear. Please leave your submissions or ideas in the project gallery. I'm going to send you on your way [MUSIC] with an F major rendition of our song on the guitar and it goes like this. [MUSIC] Have fun. Adios. See you soon. Cheers.