Show me how music works.
September 24, 2012 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Show me blogs, books, and podcasts that analyze songs and break them down using music theory.

I got myself a guitar teacher a couple months ago. There are a lot of good things about having a music teacher, but one of my favorite activities to do with him is to take one of my favorite songs and break it down. In addition to revealing how the song works in terms of music theory, he can tell me about the conventions that the songwriter is following, the rules they're breaking, and the historical context around the song that justifies the artist's decisions.

I'd like more of this. Can you point me toward blogs, books, podcasts, or other media that deconstructs songs on a case-by-case basis in this way?
posted by svolix to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Alan Pollack is the master - I was awed by his musical and lyrical breakdowns of all the Beatles' songs.

Another band that has a lot of this type of writing done about them is Steely Dan.
posted by Miko at 9:03 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

This Is Your Brain On Music would be right up your alley. It's not exclusively focused on this sort of analysis, but it's got plenty of examples.
posted by asterix at 9:34 PM on September 24, 2012

Just a one-off but here's an interview with a musicologist about Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know".
posted by gingerest at 9:37 PM on September 24, 2012

The excellent site Money Chords does this in a roundabout way, by identifying various common progressions and providing examples of songs that use them. If you can forgive the 90s design sensibility (hosted on Angelfire!) it's a rather practically useful resource.
posted by Lorin at 10:02 PM on September 24, 2012

This is a little bit peripheral to exactly what you're asking about, but if you're familiar with Talking Heads songs, David Byrne's brand-new book, How Music Works, has some of this kind of detail when it comes to Byrne's own songs and may be worth a look. Unfortunately for your purposes, it's more macro than micro. He writes quite a bit about how historical context informs styles of music, though not so much about individual songs.
posted by Mothlight at 10:28 AM on September 25, 2012

You could try the compositional analysis section on the fix your mix blog.
posted by piyushnz at 1:26 PM on September 25, 2012

Many of Bear McCreary's posts about composing music for Battlestar Galactica go into music theory - or so I think, knowing little about music theory... much of it is over my head, but fascinating to learn about. They're also quite spoilery. Examples here, here, here, and so on; see the Battlestar Galactica category for all of them.
posted by Addlepated at 6:53 PM on September 25, 2012

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