Critique of

Dick Weissman's

Creating Melodies: A songwriter's Guide to Understanding, Writing and Polishing Melodies

(Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, 1994)

The author's experience as a professional songwriter gives his advice relevance to novices trying to launch a career in Anglo-American popular music. Those whose goals or markets diverge from the author's comfort zone may find the focus a tad narrow.

The instrumental focus is also limited, primarily to piano and guitar, secondarily to bass guitar and drums. The songwriter who prefers to accommodate the qualities of accordion, bandoneon, banjo, harp, harmonica, or mandolin will need additional guidance.

Here we address some specific passages:

Location Author's claim (quote) Our response
p41 ¶3 "Through-composed music: . . . I keep waiting for some avant garde rock group to come up with a song that uses this form -- a sort of stream of consciousness style analogous to Pink Floyd's use of instrumental music" Doesn't Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" fit that description?

p55 ¶1 "The number of sharps or flats determine the key of a song." Although that rule applies to diatonic music, it breaks down when applied to other modes (such as Balkan folk music).

p60 ¶3 "There are three kinds of minor scales: the natural minor, the harmonic minor, and the melodic minor" Numerous minor scales are found in Byzantine-influenced regions, including the Fertile Crescent, Anatolia, Naples, and Hungary.

p64 ¶1 "The Greeks used a system related to scales called modes . . ." (Ionian, Dorian, Phyrigian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian) The names listed were assigned during medieval times as a result of an erroneous inversion of the ancient Greek modes.

p78 ¶2 "The piano is the only instrument where either hand can actually play independently of the other one. This cannot be done on the guitar, where it is impossible to use one hand without involving the other one." One-handed play is possible on the bugle, celesta, chimes, cymbalom, glockenspiel, marimba, hammer dulcimer, harmonica, harmonium, harp, harpsichord, steel drum, spinet, tuba, tympani, vibraphone, virginial, or xylophone. Passages can be played on the pipe organ with any combination of hands or feet.

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Last revised: 28 August 2016

Last edited: 31 May 2019
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