Artwork from the book - Popular Music Appreciation by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -
I'm a writer, scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am advisor to the President of Shenkar College. In the evening I write children's books, satire, and "how to" manuals ("Mel's ten tips). I'm co-founder of Ourboox and married to Ourboox CEO Shuli Sapir-Nevo.
Oct 2013
Member Since
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Popular Music Appreciation

by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג

Let’s start by listening to a few sixties tunes!!!!!!!!!!!!


Appreciating a Song:

We can use the following questions to try to help us understand why we like a song or not:

How are the lyrics? Is there a universal story? A personal story? A good story? A moving story?

Similar to other songs we know and like, familiar and yet different’


Does the music fit the lyrics?

Is there a Hook


Fits the listening situation/mood

Makes us feel like everyone else -OR-

Makes us feel part of a special group of people


Simple and easy to sing along (short words, long vowels, convenient range, repetition) -OR-

Complicated (lyrics, chords, range, structure, modulation, etc.)



The singer(s)’ performance

Quality of voice and type of singing – timbre, range, speechiness, etc.





Instruments and instrumentation – familiar, different

Pitch, Melody and Phrasing (see opposite)

Vocal harmony, instruments, arrangement



Musical principles taught during the course: 

2-4 and 4-4 time

AABA (32 bars)

Waltz (one two three time)

Rhythm Changes (e.g. Flintstones)

Stand By Me chords (The Fifties Progression)

Major, minor and pentatonic scales

The octave and notes on the scale

Musical hooks (anything that hooks you)

Blues (we talked about the standard 12 bar variety)



Relativity of music (playing songs in different keys)



More on analyzing a popular song:

According to David Brackett and his predecessors, we can analyze songs in terms of the

a. norms – mainstream conventions since 1900

b. sub-norms – particular era, say the 60s

c. style – e.g., teenybop, tin pan alley, British, Motown etc.

d. idiolect – style traits

e. works and performances – the particular recording or show


But professors sometimes parse and theorize too much. For example, he writes “The advantage of Stefani’s model over either a purely structuralist emphasis on codes which ignores their reception or a Chomskyian notion of linguistic competence which posits a trans-cultural human “nature” notion of context.“ This is a sentence only academics can understand. If at all.


After all, if researchers could analyze why certain songs succeed while others fail, wouldn’t computers be really good at composing the best popular songs of ever?

And to what extent does the actual recording influence its success?


Just how intricate the arrangement can be! A great video for musicians especially.


Let’s now add to our repertoire of musical understanding of popular songs: pitch, melody and phrasing, as described in the book on the opposite page. Don’t forget to listen to the two mysterious melodies at the end of the book!


Let’s listen to this big hit by Gilbert O’Sullivan from the early seventies. Alone Again, Naturally. It’s a highly successful song, even though (perhaps because?) it is many chords!


Artwork from the book - Popular Music Appreciation by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -




And Diana Krall cover:


Homework: Listen to at least three of the songs chosen by Paul or Diana and try to answer why they covered them, using the checklist above.


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