So many artists get mad at us when we reject their submissions, and so few are even aware that there’s a MAJOR rule in creating songs that everyone in the industry abides by. Remember this: EVERY SINGLE SONG YOU HEAR ON THE RADIO AND THAT YOU LIKE, HAS APPLIED THIS TO THEIR SONG. So again, NO EXCEPTIONS! Proceed to read this article if you want to find out what you’d only learn at a sound engineering school.
Let’s assume you don’t know anything about music theory and that you just grab YouTube beats and freestyle over them. So we’re going to make this very easy to understand. First and foremost, all hit songs are ON PITCH. That means the totality of instruments making up that beat you like, respect the notes of a certain scale (also called key signature). Yes, those familiar with basic music theory already know this, but the big majority of new artists, do not have a clue about it. So this info, while taken for granted by instrumentists, is oblivious at the same time to many solo artists. This means that BOTH the voice and the beat strictly obey the scale. Take a look at Charlie’s Puth Attention song in E flat minor.
The blue is the piano and the green is the voice. Even though many keys apart, they are actually the SAME NOTES. Let’s take a look at the E flat minor scale:
If you play the video, you will see all green and blue notes fall on the same E♭, F, G♭, A♭, B♭, C♭, and D♭ notes. Or if you really wanna make it simple: all black notes plus the 1st white note and 4th white note from the bigger group of 3 black notes (there are 2 groups on your keyboard, groups of 2 black notes and groups of 3 black notes). I will not explain in this article all the theory behind scales BUT, it is imperative you know they exist and they are the foundation of every single song that makes it to the TOP. Even that kid at home with a computer instead of a keyboard, still has to compose songs that abide scales. One can NOT randomly hit some notes and call it a day. That’s why some songs from underground artists HURT your ears! Because they’re singing, writing, and composing in the dark. If you take, as many of you like to say, a raw-recorded song that does not respect the key signature of the beat, and then have a second version made by an engineer who will fix those notes to hit the scale instead, I PROMISE YOU PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS CHOOSE THE SECOND VERSION over your raw one. If you wonder WHY… Let’s break it down.
If you ask around, no one is going to say that it is engraved in stone that one should follow scales BUT that is what everyone else is doing on the radio and universally, THAT is what people have become very accustomed to, thus considering THAT the RIGHT way and no-rules music – the WRONG way. You can go ahead and disergard what I am teaching you in this article but do not cry when people say your song sucks and is not catchy. THIS IS WHY SOME SONGS JUST SOUND RIGHT AND OTHERS SOUND OFF. When you want to talk to someone in Arabic, you learn Arabic and proceed to use words that are understood by Arabic speaking countries. So when you want to attract people who have been exposed for decades to songs abiding the scales, you are going to have to use the language THEY UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT: respect the scale. This is also why bad singers use autotune. This is why Melodyne exists. This is how judges on talent shows differentiate between being on pitch and being off pitch. People work FOR YEARS to be able to sing on pitch and even then, very few manage to sound pitch-perfect. Here’s an insider secret: all sound engineers fix the singer’s voice to fit the scale they’re supposed to be in and the artist doesn’t even know it. So make sure both your voice and your instrumental fit the scale. Anything off scale, and you’ll be disrupting the auditory experience of the listener. And YES, even Tekashi 6ix9ine respects the scales in his songs.
So often rappers are all in their feelings saying ”but this is spoken word, rap is not about being on pitch!!!” – WRONG. Even those screams and spoken words are later on adjusted to fit the scale by the sound engineer.
I will end this article with a snippet from Wiki on scales: ”Often, especially in the context of the common practice period, most or all of the melody and harmony of a musical work is built using the notes of a single scale, which can be conveniently represented on a staff with a standard key signature. Due to the principle of octave equivalence, scales are generally considered to span a single octave, with higher or lower octaves simply repeating the pattern.”
Now you know what is THE main difference between rookies and pros: rookies don’t know scales exist, or if they do, they don’t respect them, while people making a whole lot of money in this business will always stay within the scale notes. And you also know what means to be ON or OFF pitch: when you stick to the scale and when you fall off the scale.