In depth post #2: Chord structures

No matter what the genre may be, every song has a chord structure to be played off of. Chord structures are the most essential part o making a song, without them the song would be hollow and have no shape. A chord structure is either the first or second part of a song to take shape, the other option for the first would be the melody.  A chord structure is essentially the order and length of how a series of chords are played. These chord structures often follow patterns, which can be easy or hard to identify. Once the chord structure is in place, it dictates what can be played over top of it. Only certain notes can be played over top of each chord, so the melody must fit the chord structure, or the opposite way around.

Writing a chord structure can often be a difficult task, especially if you do not know many of the common patterns. However, this can be made much easier by doing exercises such as writing out the chord structure from other songs, and learning the patterns that other artists use. This is what I have been working on with my mentor. He assigned me a song called All of Me, and my task is to write out the melody and chords. This may seem relatively useless to some, but the trick is that after having done this for many songs, I ill be able to easily identify patterns that can be put to use in my own songs. Writing out the chord structure and melody just from hearing a song is also beneficial due to the fact that it forces you to play the notes of the song just by having heard them, which greatly improves your playing abilities, and also allows you to write out your own melodies in the future with ease.

So far the hardest part of writing out these chords has been identifying which chord variation it is. For example, a C chord would be the base of the chord, the simplest version. You can also add the seventh note of the C scale, which would change how the chord sounds and make it a dominant C7 chord. The can also drop the seventh by one half step on the scale, which would make it a regular C7 chord. You can also drop the 3rd note one half step, which would make it a C minor chord. These combinations are vast, and for me they have been hard to identify. One of the hardest parts of it has been telling the difference between a raised or lowered 7 in a chord variation, since they both sound very similar. However, with some work I will eventually be able to tell the difference very quickly.

Working with my mentor, I have found that we disagree very rarely. I have seen him play at professional concerts, and he knows what he’s doing, so I don’t often question him on his teaching strategies. No matter how tedious they may seem, i have seen a great improvement on my playing abilities through the use of his teachings, so I do not often question him. The only time i may disagree with him would be things like identifying a chord, where sometimes I may believe it is a different chord than him. However, in the end,  he is usually able to prove me wrong, which is not surprising due to his decades of experience transcribing and playing songs. Even then, our discussions usually fit more into the differ category rather than blatantly disagreeing, since I know that his point of view is almost always extremely valuable.

Some of the things that I agree the most with him have been his transcribing exercises to improve my song writing abilities. It is clear to see for me how it is beneficial to be looking at how other artists write their songs. Painters will look at other artists to see what techniques they use, so it seems obvious that it would be beneficial for me to be doing the same.  However we still do have our differences. The most prominent example is how much effort I am able to put into some of his assignments. He plays professionally, so he puts a large amount of effort into his music.  However, i am very busy with school and sports, so I am not always able to put as much effort as eh would like into my music studies. Although this may slow down the process by a bit, we are still able to work around the time constraints by spacing out lessons so that i have enough time to complete any assignments he may give me. To do this, we discuss during our lessons what timeline could work bet for both of us, so that we can make it work around our schedules.

Challenges Questions


-How do you deal best with tension in a stressful situation?

In a stressful situation, I fin the best way to deal with any stress is to not try to argue people’s ideas. If someone were to come up with an idea that you found to be a bad idea, generally I would just let it slide for the time being until the stress was gone, then I would attempt to talk to the person about ways to improve upon it. If you try to collaborate when everyone is under stress, arguments will break out and the environment becomes more destructive rather than productive. It is usually better to try to aid others when everyone is calm and focused.


– What should you do when you find yourself following a leader who is ineffective? How do you continue to add value?

If you encounter a leader who is relatively ineffective, the first option is usually to contribute to his ideas so that they can be more effective, however sometimes the leader could be ineffective and stubborn as well. If this is the case, I would usually try to collaborate more with those on the same level as me, rather than attempt to change the ways of the leader. Ideally the leader is open to suggestions, and those who he/she is leading will have an equal say in the ideas produced.


-List the different “hats” that you are currently required to wear?

Currently, I have a relatively wide variety of hats. First i have my school work hat, which requires me to be ore focused than usual. I then have my “work” hat, which I use at my job, where I must act much friendlier to customers, and always be putting in large amounts of effort to get tasks completed. I also have my “music” hat, which allows me to be more relaxed and creative. I also have my “relaxing” hat, which allows me to tune out to the world, without having to worry about tasks that I need to have completed. This hat is only used AFTER I’ve completed everything that I needed to get done.


– What ideas, products, or services provided by your committee/quad are so important that you would allow someone else to take credit for them even though you contributed?

Last year in the food committee, there are a few jobs that I helped out in that I would not take any credit for. First off was scheduling and planning the shopping trips, since although I gave my two cents the bulk of it was completed by the co chairs and chair. The next one would be planning out the meals, since although I gave suggestions for foods to eat, I was not part of creating the ingredients lists.


-In the past have you put your team above your own personal success?

This one is 50/50 for me. When the task is a large one that the whole group is involved in, I will put the success of the team in front of my personal success, since I realize that I could not complete the task at hand if I were alone. However, when it comes to completing a group of small tasks, I will put my personal success in front of others, since all the tasks can be completed easily on your own, and do not require a group to complete. In this case, everyone should hopefully be able to complete the tasks on their own, without the assistance of group members. This is only the case when the tasks are small and very easily, since usually committee work involves large tasks that should be done as a team.


-What would you rather do: see your own vision put into action and come to fruition, or help others fulfill theirs? Explain.

I’m also 50/50 on this one. I think that there should be a balance between the two. This is because if you are always focused on assisting others in completing their ideas, you can never have any of you own. That means that there’s a large amount of unused knowledge that could create incredible ideas, but it is never put to use. I think that everyone should try to balance between working on their own projects, as well as helping others complete theirs.


-In what  ways have you experienced the influence challenge?

I found that the biggest challenge I’ve had with the influence challenge is people who are leading you that are biased. For example, the person leading may have two people below them: one close friend and one person that they just consider an acquaintance. It is very likely that the leader will give more benefits to the close friend, and leave the coworker with the harder work and less benefits. This is difficult because if you are below them, you have a lower influence and cannot change how they are treating the two people. I have found this to be a very common issue when you have a low level of influence.

Leading Myth Questions:

Myth One:

-Do people need to possess the top title to achieve results and help others be productive?

Simply put, no. The top title person at the top of the ladder may often get the credit, but they’re only as strong as those who support them from below. Any common worker can achieve results, for example a low paid mechanic could think of the next biggest breakthrough in Eco friendly transportation, or perhaps their knowledge could assist someone else in finding ideas for their own project.

Myth Two:

-How do you become the person you desire to be?

In order to morph yourself into the person you want to be, sacrifices need to be made. If you want to get fit, you might have to cut out some TV watching time from your night in order to go to the gym. You also need the motivation to change your ways. Old habits are hard to break, and it takes a lot of effort to change them so that you may achieve the goals that you are looking for.

Myth Three:

-Do you automatically follow you “boss”, or do you sometimes question his or her direction? Have you ever supported someone who did not have an official leadership title?

If you blindly follow your boss everywhere he goes you’re bound to fail at some point. No leader is perfect, and all leaders should learn to take suggestions from people working for them. For example, my own boss is an incredible bike mechanic, however when it comes to technology I can blow him out of the water. When it comes to fixing bikes I would almost never question his ways, but when it comes to maintaining his website I almost always suggest ways to improve or simplify his ideas. Because of this, the end result has had two people working on it, and is much more polished. It is also important to support those who are on the same level as you. For example, one of the other employees at the shop I work at is great with customer service and finances, so I often end up taking his side when there’s a dispute between him and the boss about what they should do about a situation.

Myth Four:

-What prompts you to consider another person’s opinion?

I’ll almost always take into consideration someone’s opinion if it’s something fresh that I haven’t thought of yet. If it’s an idea that I’ve already run by in my head, or I already know that it can’t work, I’ll usually pay it no mind. However, if the idea is a creative one that I had not thought of before, it is important to consider it in case they have noticed something that i may have missed. This way, we can create a much cleaner end product when multiple minds are working to catch all of the details.

Myth Five:

-To whom to the chairs in a committee answer?

The chairs answer to the product managers, the teachers, and everyone in their committee. Although committee members may not get final say, they should still be considered equal to the chairs. The chairs are just “facilitators”, who organize the group and plan out events. All or the ideas that they get should have contribution from other members, meaning they are no more important than the others. They may have more influence over ideas, however to be a good leader they should not try to elevate themselves over other members of the committee. To me being a chair would mean helping organize the ideas of others, rather than attempting to make every decision by yourself.

Myth Six:

-What am I capable of achieving? What would reaching your potential look like.

Alone, I cannot achieve a whole lot. I can’t run a business with no employees, and I can’t become an Olympian without the help of a trainer or coach. Alone I could work an average paying job, with a two floor house and a family of four. However, if people collaborate, they can create a million dollar company, and have more money than they know what to do with. A great example is Bill Gates, he founded miscrosoft along side other programmers, and it was their collaborative effort that founded what is now one of the world’s biggest companies.

Myth Seven:

-What are the prospects for your getting to the top of your committee, of someday becoming the leader/chair? what is your motivation for reaching the top?

I personally want to become a chair so that I may I have more of a voice when contributing ideas. This is not because I want my decision to be final, but rather because last  year I noticed many small details that were overlooked, which could greatly improve everyone’s experience on the Adventure Trip. However, as a member I was only able to contribute to certain aspects, and I was not part of the smaller groups that worked on each aspect of the committee. I would like to become a chair/co-chair so that I can help out with more aspects of the trip, so that the details that I noticed can be put into play, rather than just sitting in the back of my head.

In Depth 2015 Intro Post

For this year’s in-depth project, I decided to look for a project that would utilise skills that I already have. I came up with a few ideas that wouldn’t be too difficult, and a few that I couldn’t do due to finances. However, I was able to settle on an idea in the end. My plan is to do music arranging, which utilises skills I already have for playing bass, guitar, and some piano. Another upside to this is that it will be a great help to me in the future. If I do pursue any form of music, having experience with arranging songs will help me in all aspects. I’ll have more knowledge in chord structures, scales, solos, melodies, and rhythms. Essentially, learning how to compose songs will assist me in every aspect of my musical career.

The greatest part is that this will cost nearly nothing. I already own an upright bass, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and a piano. The only issue would be recording equipment, but that’s a concern for the future. For the time being all I really need to focus on is getting to know the basics.

I already have some ground to work off of; during lessons for upright bass, I was assigned to make an arrangement for a song of my choice, using only the bass. This was about a month ago, and I completed it in a few weeks. This gives me some knowledge that I can build off of, since it was the simplest form of arranging a song. Because it was only on bass, I didn’t have to worry about layering instruments, transposing for different instruments, or writing a melody. All I had to do was add an intro, learn the existing melody, and do a solo. All on an instrument that I was already comfortable with. For the in-depth, I will have to learn more about guitar, re-learn the piano, and possibly even get a few friends from Jazz band to play parts. If I were to get other people to assist me, I would have to write out even more parts, and transpose them to fit the key of each instrument.

I will also have to learn how to record and layer music, since in the project I did on bass, it was played live rather than recording. This wouldn’t work with more instruments if I was planning on playing more than one, or have a melody at the same time as a rhythm section. This means that I will also have to study recording music, which adds a whole new element to the project.

Although it may be a bit daunting to me right now, I’m really looking forward to this year’s in-depth. With any luck, I’ll actually be able to come up with some ‘good’ music to present. I’m not planning on just doing original songs or remixes, but rather my plan right now is to make a few original songs, and also do a few remixes of popular modern songs. I’m taking inspiration from a group called “Post Modern Jukebox”; they take modern day electronic and pop songs, and turn them into old style music. Whether it’s 1930’s jazz or barnyard bluegrass, they’re able to take a song that frankly makes me want to implode my own eardrums, and turn them into something that I can actually enjoy. With any luck, I’ll be able to do something even fractionally as impressive.