Jan 21

Wrapping Up

The first semester is coming to a close and I have begun the process of wrapping up my project. I have created a melody with a chord progression similar to ones found in both American and Chinese pop music while my prechorus and bridge incorporate mainly American pop elements. However, I plan to have an introduction with an instrumental segue to start the song. Hopefully, I will be able to finish up the nitty-gritty of actually composing the piece and start to record using different instruments.

That’s all for now!

Jan 10

Winter Break Progress

Due to no homework over the break, I had an abundance of time to brainstorm ideas and create melodies for my final project. As stated in the first post on this blog, my final project is to create an original song/melody that incorporates everything I’ve learned over the course of this semester.

In early December, I reached a sort of stalling point. I wasn’t able to find many American pop songs that had many of the characteristics I was looking for. Although I did find characteristics in songs such as and ABABCAB format in songs and a standard four chord structure, I struggled to draw any inspiration from said songs due to a lack of special characteristics and embellishments in the songs. Moreover, I confronted another challenge when creating a melody for my song. When I was younger, I explored my creative side with ease, improvising and creating my own melodies on the violin. Unfortunately, I’ve struggled mightily to create a melody, much less one that combines aspects of both types of music.

During one of the most unlikely times over winter break, I came up with a backbeat/backup voice part that could set the tone nicely for me to build upon. Moreover, I discovered I had taken a voice memo of another melody I had created years ago that may help me create this song. In addition to creating the song, I believe I will have a document or perhaps a script explaining the different concepts I learned and highlight how I incorporate them into my composition.


Dec 05

American Music #2

Hello all! I have spent the last few weeks researching American pop music. Because I usually exclusively listen to American music it has been both a blessing and a curse. Thus far, I have hundreds of songs I know and have listened to countless times but very few actually follow an interesting chord progression/have any special characteristics to them. As a result, contrary to what I encountered investigating Chinese pop music, I currently have an overflow of rather unhelpful information with too many songs but not enough variety.

I was hoping any of you readers could suggest some Ameican pop songs I could listen to as I am certain the playlists I have been looking through are very limited in scope/lack variety. That being said even though no one commented on my previous post, I would really appreciate any song suggestions anyone may have! I am looking for American pop songs with either a memorable melody or something interesting that occurs either in the bridge or in the introduction of the song! Preferably not a rap or a techno-heavy song.

Thus, although I didn’t exactly hit a wall looking into American pop music, I have turned my attention towards planning my final project. I am hoping to record an original song or an original piece that will incorporate some of the characteristics of both types of music. I have been spending the majority of my time at a piano brainstorming different melodies and their respective chord progressions but I am beginning to realize the difficulty of composing an original song. As of now, I have a melody but it isn’t one that I am particularly happy with. I hope to meet with Mr. Meyer to brainstorm ideas with him and hopefully create a melody that I can build off of!


Till next time.

Nov 15

American Music #1

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay! I am back with a ton of important information I am excited to share. I have officially completed all my early college applications but that is beside the point. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been listening and constantly updating my playlist of Chinese songs. In addition to the Chinese KTV Hits playlist, I have met with Ms. Wang who has kindly given me suggestions for new songs. As a result, I have now finalized a list of Chinese songs on a google doc. Please reply on this blog post if anyone has any questions about the additional information section on the document! One very interesting thing I noticed was the introduction to every single song I chose. Coincidentally, each began with an instrumental interlude of at least 20 seconds long, with the section most nearly resembling the first verse of the song. Feel free to listen to the songs and try to hear the modulation or anything interesting about the songs.

I am now transitioning to listening to American music in order to identify and compare the two genres of music as a whole. That being said, if anyone has suggestions for English pop songs that they would like me to listen to, please suggest them to me! I have merely a few songs selected so any contributions will be greatly appreciated!

Moving forward, I will begin to dedicate most E periods to this independent study. I will probably be in Ms. Wang’s room this time so if you would like to talk to me directly please do so!

Oct 20

Chinese Music Research #2

What a week. I have made some more nice progress on the google doc. It has been quite the struggle though as instead of just going online and finding the chord progression and key of the song, many of the websites seem to have the wrong chords. As a result, even this seemingly preliminary piece of information has proved difficult to identify as many a time I have needed to go to a piano to determine the chords.

Here is a shorlist of the few songs that I have selected to focus on as there is not nearly enough time to go through the 264 songs of the playlist in detail. Here are a few of the songs I have chosen so far:

天后-Andrew Tan

Kiss Goodbye- 王力宏

晴天- Jay Chou

There are a couple takeaways so far. A few of the songs modulate after bridge which is interesting because in my recent memory, very few of the most popular American songs modulate. Moreover, I am stoked to start to listen to American pop songs because I am almost certain I should be able to categorize a song based on its chord progression and beat. I can’t get too ahead of myself, however, as I still need to finalize a list before I move onto listening to American pop songs.

For next week:

I should be meeting with Ms. Wang before I leave for Florida on Wednesday morning.


Oct 09

Chinese Music Research #1

I have learned quite a bit over the course of this last week. I have listened to about one-third of the Chinese pop songs on the Spotify playlist titled “Chinese KTV Hits.” I have done some more background research about Chinese music in general and I found a few interesting things.

First and completely unrelated to the musical aspects of this independent study, while many US pop songs focus on love in a more subjective and physical sense, a lot of Chinese pop music I have listened to seems to focus on more of the emotional side of the artists’ feelings.

Second, the tonality of Chinese music is very important. Much of Chinese music is pentatonic, meaning songs use five notes to create the melody and they base the harmonies off of the same notes. Sometimes, songs can be based off an extended heptatonic (7 tone) structure. However, from what I have been listening to so far, I haven’t been able to distinguish popular songs with this sort of tonal structure which leads me to believe that perhaps this structure may apply to more traditional music rather than the songs I’m listening to right now.

Third, the rhythm of Chinese music is very important as well. While the GREAT majority of the most recent pop songs are composed in 4/4 time signature (meaning 4 beats per measure where a quarter note receives one beat), many traditional songs are composed in 2/2 time signature. The biggest difference between the two is the stress each beat receives. In a 4/4 time signature, the first and the third beats are considered the more important beats (Strong-weak-medium-weak). In a 2/2 time signature, however, there are only two beats and thus the first beat is accentuated so the main difference is that one can hear more of a (Strong-weak, Strong-weak) pattern.

Moving forward:

1. I will be meeting with Ms. Wang this coming Friday

2. I will begin to shift my focus over to American pop music in around two weeks after I find a few defining characteristics of Chinese music





Oct 01

Getting Started #2

Hey everyone!

Tomorrow I will be meeting with my faculty advisor, Ms. Wang to brainstorm and create a list/repertoire of Chinese pop songs that I will begin to listen to. I will hyperlink the playlist I plan to create on Spotify on this blog and I will also make a google doc noting several key aspects of each song I listen to as I go through each one. It will most likely take me a day or perhaps even longer to go through each song thoroughly listening for a few main things: Chord progression, key, potential key changes, chord structure, and as I go through a plethora of songs, I will attempt to draw a few main conclusions regarding the musicality aspect of the songs. Majority of my work shall be done in this google doc which I will also hyperlink soon.


Questions to ponder:

  1. How will I compile a list of American pop songs to listen to? Specific artists, albums? Use a poll for song suggestions?
  2. Will lyrics of the Chinese songs play a large role in my research? If so, how will I understand the lyrics and phrasing of the songs?

Sep 11

Getting Started!

Hello everyone and welcome to my first post. I will be investigating the differences between American and Chinese music and more specifically, try to interpret and explain the differences in mood, melody, key, song structure and tone between the two. I have been surrounded by music ever since I was a young chimichanga. Thus, I’m extremely stoked to be able to express my feelings and share my love for music with you all. It has been two long weeks of research, majority of it less than useful but I have spent a large majority of my time reading over a paper titled “Towards the Representation of Chinese Traditional Music: A State of the Art Review of Music Metadata Standards.” In the near future, my focus will be on exploring Chinese music (mostly pop music).
I have a few takeaways right off the bat. Firstly, Chinese music has a vast and rich history of music dating back to ~960 CE during the Song Dynasty in China. Considered by many as a time of cultural brilliance, much of the surviving music and its influence is from that time period. American pop music, on the other hand, flourished near the end of the 1960’s. Though blues and rock existed long before pop music, pop music was a completely distinct genre of music that the American public did not value for its musical value, rather, the performance aspects of this genre of music. However, I would argue that pop music as a genre has evolved dramatically and its musicality has undoubtedly become much more apparent.
As a tentative plan:
I will be meeting with my faculty advisor soon and ask for her help in narrowing my search for a Chinese pop song so I can begin to listen to some of them.
Although some of my background research has been completed, there will be a lot more to come when I dive into the musical aspect of these songs.