Musical Contrast

Posted by Mike Schuck

When someone says they don’t like music, there are two things that usually come next. One is whether or not you should talk to them about it, and if so, what kind of conversation you should have. The other is why they didn’t like it, and how that applies to you as an individual.

Some people just never learn anything new. They spend their lives in familiar environments surrounded by people who look and act similarly, so changing something would be too difficult for them. This is totally normal!

For others, though, developing relationships takes time. It requires investing in conversations that may not always go well, but can teach you things about people, yourself, and life.

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We all have different tastes in music, which is okay! You don’t need to share the same songs as your friends, or even know many songs off-by-heart. What matters most is whether a song makes you feel something – whether it’s joy, sadness, anger, hope, or something else.

This article will focus on one type of musical contrast: How listening to different genres can help you find more depth in personal relationships.

The contrast between fast and slow

musical contrast

A good way to learn how to sing is by doing! What I mean by that is, when you feel like singing, then go ahead and do it!

Singing is really about control, so if you are not sure what to add or take away from your song, try leaving out a part or speeding up a part until you feel comfortable with it.

It sounds very cliché, but practice makes perfect. By practicing every day, your voice will get better over time.

There are many ways to learn how to sing including music theory, technique lessons, taking vocal classes, and listening to music and improving what you can improve.

The contrast between loud and soft

musical contrast

A lot of music features strong melodies that get louder, and weaker lyrics that become quieter. This is what makes songs interesting!

Using silence as a part of your song can be very powerful. There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorite tricks is using an arpeggio (a bass note followed by a higher tone) as a transition into or out of a new melody or phrase.

An example of this would be if the main theme of your song was “The sun will rise”. You could start with the first two notes of the chord (A-G), then add the B-flat leading up to the word SUN, and finally a G at the end. That equals an arpesto for the whole verse!

Music theory teaches us that chords create moods, so using silence in a way that changes the surrounding context is integral to creating impactful songs.

The contrast between heavy and light

musical contrast

A good example of this is the song “Closing Time” by New Zealand band Shihad. In it, there is a repeated line that goes like, "I want to drink myself into oblivion."

The lyrics are very direct and clear, but what makes the song powerful is how the music accompanies these words.

There is a steady rhythm in place throughout most of the song, accompanied by an uptempo bassline. This groove creates a sense of inevitability, as if you cannot help yourself when all of the parts come together.

Then, at around 2 minutes and 20 seconds in, the drums drop out and everything else comes to a halt. It is then replaced with strings and flute, which create a beautiful tone.

These musical breaks add depth to the song because they emphasize different components. Strings can be very emotional, while the flute has a more peaceful quality.

The contrast between smooth and rough

musical contrast

A song with lots of rhythmic and harmonic changes is its own form of musical expression. These changes can be in tempo, intensity, rhythm, or harmony.

Rhythm is how something comes down (or falls) as it notes are repeated either consistently or intermittently. For example, if there were five steps up and then three steps back, that would have one part of the music that was more stressed than the other parts.

Intensity refers to the strength of an element such as volume or tone. In this case, the intensity is increased for some elements over others.

Harmony is when two or more sounds harmonize together, making a pleasant whole. Two chords that sound good together are called a diatonic chord, while a tritone (also known as a devil’s interval) is a less desirable sounding chord that creates a dissonant effect.

The contrast between strong and weak

musical contrast

A good comic will always have you laughing one minute, then suddenly throwing up your hands in frustration or anger. This creates an interesting dynamic that keeps you engaged.

A good song will do the same thing. You'll be singing along, enjoying the lyrics and melody, when all of a sudden there's this powerful line or riff that makes you stop what you're doing and focus completely on it. It may make you sigh or even boo! but for at least a second you feel something deep inside.

That feeling is tension. Tension between yourself and the person who wrote the music, tension with yourself to see if you can hold onto that feeling longer than you normally would, and tension with whatever situation they've inserted that riff into.

It's like a mini-breakup poem, where someone writes a really beautiful love poem that breaks your heart. And then they write another one just as emotional, making you want to punch them.

The contrast between happy and sad

musical contrast

Many artists use music to convey a sense of happiness, sadness, or both. These songs typically feature a melody that is very beautiful, and a lyrics that appeal to the heart.

Many musicians use this style of music to emphasize an emotion. For example, when someone hears mournful music, they may feel somber themselves. When people listen to songs with powerful melodies, they may feel inspired or motivated.

Music can motivate you to do things – whether it’s taking care of yourself by doing yoga after listening to calm music, going shopping after listening to fun music, or working harder at work after listening to energetic music.

There are many ways to learn how to identify what emotions your favorite songs make you feel. You don’t need to look far! Most every person has their own personal collection of songs that contain emotional content.

Take some time to explore yours. What emotions does each song make you feel? Is there one song that makes you feel more passionate than others? Why not try writing down all the different feelings a particular song gives you and see if you can find any connections.

This article will talk about two types of contrasts in musical styles.

The contrast between energetic and calm

musical contrast

A strong sense of rhythm comes from mixing different types of sounds together in time. This is what defines music!
Music is made up of notes, which are sounds that can be spoken or not depending on whether you’re singing or speaking tone.

A note is typically one whole beat (or measure) long, but some songs have shorter or longer notes. These other parts of the song are called fragments or accents.

It is very important to know how to recognize a note! You will learn this as part of your musical literacy when we talk about fundamental concepts like intervals and scales.

Intervals are two adjacent notes; for example, an octave is a half-note and a major third is a full-note separated by a short interval. There are eight common intervals in music: octave, minor second, perfect fourth, diminished fifth, augmented sixth, tritone, major seventh, and harmonic ninth.

The harmonic ninth is also known as “devil” ninth because it is similar to the tritone, only with three instead of five tones.

You will encounter all these intervals in various songs! For instance, the chord G is built using the exact same notes as the starting scale B natural. So, if you start counting at the tonic note of a scale, then go down through each successive lower number tone, add a harmonized devil ninth to get back to the initial note.

The contrast between colorful and monotone

For example, if you love to listen to classical music then why not get some new clothes that represent your passion?

Classical musicians often use bright colors like red, orange, blue, and purple in their clothing. These are called “color schemes” because of the way they combine different shades of those colors together.

Pop artists also use color for inspiration. They will mix all sorts of colors together and sometimes it is hard to tell what materials (for instance leather or plastic) they used to make something.

This effect is called chromium look which gives off a very shiny feeling.

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