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How commercials have changed the form of music .... for the worse


Dave Horne

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The first time I noticed how the form of the music was altered to fit the time limitation of a TV commercial was the I Like Short Shorts commercial back in the 1970's. They took what appeared to be a 12 bar blues tune and condensed it to six bars. Anyone remember that commercial?

 

I'm sure there must be other examples where the music was shortened to fit time limitations. I hate when they take a well know tune and chop off two bars just to save time. As long as they keep the form an even number of bars I guess the majority of the listeners takes no notice of the crime being committed.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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A couple years back there was a commercial here N the USA that took a James Brown tune (surely the essence of rhythmic regularity) & actually edited out a partial measure so that it was so lopsided as to make one twitch when hearing it.
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That is not a rare situation. They do it ALL the time in commercials, esp. pulling out bars between verses to get more verses (words) in before the commercial time runs out.

 

That being said, as annoying as it may be, I think few are going to stand up and say that commercials should be concerned with maintaining musical integrity. The sole purpose of a commercial is to sell - at almost any cost (here, at the expensive of the original recording).

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Originally posted by The Real MC:

I hear ya. When kids hear jazz, they call it "weather channel music".

Tell it to stop being so damn boring!

 

 

Honestly though, don't blame the commercial people. I mean, they're bastards, but they didn't write the songs. Blame the artists that you love and support that need to sell out your favorite song and destroy all emotional attachment to it for a buck.

"...Keytar in a heavy metal band is nothing more than window dressing" - Sven Golly

 

Cursed Eternity - My Band

Dick Ward - My Me

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I notice this all the time, but I don't see what the problem is. I'm sure this kind of thing has been happening since practically the dawn of television. The purpose of the music in these advertising situations is to serve the visual aspect, not the other way around. It's not just in commercials either. Whole sections of songs are frequently chopped in television shows and movies to fit the "flow" of what's going on onscreen. As long as they don't make a painfully bad splice (as in I & I mjrn's example), I don't see what the issue is here.
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What's even worse is working with some choreographers or shows. Last year I had to write/produce music for an act here. They were two...shit I don't even know what to call 'em...I guess "quick change artists." They dance around to the music and in a blink of an eye they're in another different outrageous costume. They were from Russia, which made it even a little more difficult. Circus folks. The act was maybe 15 mins long, lots of hits and a different music style every min or so. You watch a qt of their act and write all the stuff and then once you're done...they wanna change their act a little. Add a count of 8 here..lose 5 beats there, change the tempos, no regard at all to your composition, etc., and they're looking over your shoulder while your writing in the new bars and blocking their moves as you play back the seq. This music business is a tough one, I guess. I can't even remember how any of it sounded. I remember the guys name was Nick....
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If I remember right, the shorts were VERY short on those girls in that commercial. The quality of the music in that particular commercial was just fine by me, my focus was elsewhere. Perhaps a not so visually entertaining commercial would of been a better example :)
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Originally posted by linwood:

You still think about "I like short shorts"?? Whoa....

That was the first commercial for me that I remembered being edited down. (Now that I think about it, it might have been called We Like Short Shorts and it might have been edited down to eight bars instead of six. It was a long time ago.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

Originally posted by linwood:

You still think about "I like short shorts"?? Whoa....

That was the first commercial for me that I remembered being edited down. (Now that I think about it, it might have been called We Like Short Shorts and it might have been edited down to eight bars instead of six. It was a long time ago.
It was for Nair (hair remover). I was too young to recognize the song but old enough to look at the girls.

 

"Nair likes short shorts .." :D

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Some truncating that bothers me is the Circut City commercial that uses The Cars' 'Just What I Needed'...there are some crazy, cringe-inducing rhythmic anomalies in that commercial.

 

A funny side-note, I was in the car with my son (age 8), and 'Just What I Needed'came on the radio. He immeduately said 'Hey Dad, its the Circut City song'. Hahahaha

 

I really like the company that's using 'Somewhere' from West Side Story in various styles and instrumentation in their ad campaign.

Weasels ripped my flesh. Rzzzzzzz.
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Hey Dave,

I'm amazed you remember it and that it had been altered. I've been struggling lately with a few things regarding my memory. I haven't played a gig in a while, maybe 10 years. I just work at home in my studio doing what I do. A couple weeks ago I had an old buddy come stay with me for a weekend. He's a classical guitarist and teaches at GW. One night while he was here he goes, "let's play some tunes". He grabs a guitar and i sit at the keys and we start doing some standard stuff. We did an hour or so. I couldn't believe how much music I'd forgotten. Many of these tunes I've played a million times, but couldn't find the changes without a chart. They were just gone. Another weird thing....I started studying again with a guy. I've been working with him for three months now and it's gonna be a long, hard journey, but again I can't believe what I've forgotten. I'm misspelling stuff all over the place. It's made me go from thinking that I'm relatively successful to realizing that I don't know shit and I've let some things slide. It's been humbling. Good, but humbling. Anyway...back to the topic at hand...

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I used to do a lot of jingle work and the cardinal rule was "don't fall in love with any of your music - not even one note or one bar - because somebody will cut or change it."

 

I specifically remember one assignment where the client want a very slow, syrupy-sweet tune which I delivered. When I saw the commercial on TV, it had been so time-compressed (speeded-up) it sounded like the Chipmunks. They also ended it on the V chord so there was no resolution. I just shook my head and cashed the check.

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. W. C. Fields
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Originally posted by garrafon:

That is not a rare situation. They do it ALL the time in commercials

Not that I'd mind listening to the whole of Hung. Rap 2 [on perhaps a show on TV], but it'd make the stella advert a bit long :D

 

I'd never realised before seeing these threads moaning about what is or isn't advertised and how, that there were people around that read / watched them. Perhaps they've never seen an advert for a kettle? ;) Least of all that anyone would fret about a magazine not having certain ones in or that TV adverts are too short to fit the whole of Opus Clav. in]

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Originally posted by Blue JC:

I used to do a lot of jingle work and the cardinal rule was "don't fall in love with any of your music - not even one note or one bar - because somebody will cut or change it."

I once read the auto-biography of a cat that had worked in advertising "way back when". He described painting a scene of dancing couples for a magazine layout. When he presented it, everyone looked at it for a while & then one of the agency muckleheads said, "It's just the thing we're looking for...but could you turn everyone just a little to the left ?"

The moral this guy took from that was that some people seem to think they must put their fingers into the pie to justify their own involvement.

It was a great lesson.

 

When I myself briefly did some composing for a friend's advertising studio in Austin, TX, years ago the most successful spot we did, in terms of the client's response, was done by sequencing a random sheet of music in reverse & programming a variety of percussion sounds to play it.

"Very exciting!"

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I could write a book about the absurdities I went thru because of so-called 'producers'... but to keep it on topic, here are two wonderful uses of well-known music in advertising, both from my wonderful country:

 

- For several years, a toilet paper firm tormented us with the beginning of the Scherzo from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Yes, the Ninth Symphony and toilet paper. And the music was multi-chopped to fit the images. Unbelievable.

 

- The ad for a famous alcholic drink used Weather Report's "Birland" as background music for a while. Saying that the song was chopped doesn't give any idea of the massacre they did. A few notes from the synth intro, half of the first theme glued with another section, the first three notes from the brass melody... and everything so *out of sync* with the pulse of the song, that even my grandmother would have noticed. Those who knew the song couldn't stand it. Luckily, it didn't last long; I'm sure they received a few death threats. :evil:

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Back when I worked in radio I would frequently edit the vocals out of popular songs to use as beds during live breaks, intros and outros from commercial breaks and other stuff. This was with two-track tape, razor blades and editting tape. You would think the folks behind some of the music in these current campaigns would have equipment or concern to make sure those rhythmic glitches wouldn't happen. They are annoying.
chip
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linwood, I too do jingles over 95% of the time, and when I have had to play live without much rehearsal, I am a mess....I think because I do a 30 second piece of music and then move on to something completely different, I have lost my memory :-). you do it and move on, never to play it again in your life....must affect your musical memory.

 

up to two years ago, I use to do a weekly jam, which kept it all in check and re-energized my memory, but now I no longer do that, I am back to S@#T I can't believe all the tunes I have forgotten.

maybe it is time to start back a weekly live gig.

rsp

richard sven

sound sculptist

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Originally posted by Dick Ward (Alias: Mr. Pretentious):

Honestly though, don't blame the commercial people. I mean, they're bastards, but they didn't write the songs. Blame the artists that you love and support that need to sell out your favorite song and destroy all emotional attachment to it for a buck.

What about the fact that, in many cases, the artists don't even own the rights to them anymore? It is not them that are selling it out in those cases ... admittedly most of these are from an earlier era, when artists were more oblivious to licensing and publishing rights and signed everything over (see: The Beatles).
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You would think the folks behind some of the music in these current campaigns would have equipment or concern to make sure those rhythmic glitches wouldn't happen. They are annoying.
This is all part of my global, if you will, gripe about a lot of stuff going on in music. We have musical decisions being made by folks who are not musicians\instrumentalists but who do own a computer and music editing software. There's no need in many musical positions to actually know how to play an instrument it would seem; ... and a well known keyboard magazine very often features artists who fit that bill. :rolleyes:

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

This is all part of my global, if you will, gripe about a lot of stuff going on in music. We have musical decisions being made by folks who are not musicians\instrumentalists but who do own a computer and music editing software. There's no need in many musical positions to actually know how to play an instrument it would seem; ... and a well known keyboard magazine very often features artists who fit that bill. :rolleyes:

I'd agree, to an extent.

 

Where I'd diverge is in the idea that you have to be able to play an instrument... what difference does it make if you hit the keys on a keyboard, or, for instance, place notes on a sequencer's matrix editor? While I think it would be counterproductive (often much easier to play stuff on a keyboard, and then edit if needbe), the important point is having enough knowledge of how music works, and enough ability, to create well crafted material.

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Originally posted by soundscape:

I'd agree, to an extent.

Is that to the extent that someone can show firstly that they have an ability to play an instrument [which seems highly subjective] and then, by using that ability, their significant impact on music [or, more likely, the complete lack of any impact whatsoever] is the direct fault / result of decisions made by keyboard magazine editors or people who own computers?

 

Are we going to pass the onion for the Mozart that could have been if only it wasn't for those pesky advertising execs? :D:rolleyes:

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Originally posted by yabbadabbadoo:

Is that to the extent that someone can show firstly that they have an ability to play an instrument [which seems highly subjective] and then, by using that ability, their significant impact on music [or, more likely, the complete lack of any impact whatsoever] is the direct fault / result of decisions made by keyboard magazine editors or people who own computers?

LOL!

 

I guess whether there's currently much quality music depends on your taste; I happen to like popular styles, but that's vague, I really mean stuff like 80's synth-pop. What I see is that a lot of that stuff was very highly crafted by people with both proficiency with the equipment, and with how music is constructed. Today, we have popular genres of music that are hard to 'write songs on top' of, maybe they inherently reject 'traditional' musical forms: rap is 'spoken'.

 

Worst of all is the 'music by collage' idea thanks to postmodernism ('it's OK to recycle music that's recorded before' [meaning 'it would be so much cooler if you did', or even, 'you must']), and perhaps the best case is reusing the odd phrase or two (as in Madonna's 'Hung Up'), or in the worst case, a mash-up. Which, according to the fashion-conscious, is apparently 'very cool', but to me, is the opposite of a highly-crafted piece of music.

 

Is this stuff the result of computer technology? Perhaps--sampling and being able to chop and edit recordings at will certainly helps; then again, people have mixed together one song with another using a couple of vinyl records, and 'remixes' apparently started with tape editing.

 

As for magazines, my main concern is there's tons of 'music tech' magazines that talk about equipment and production techniques endlessly, but say very little about music composition, theory, arrangement, or, even, how to play. But no, they aren't exactly stopping someone who knows how to create music from doing so!

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Originally posted by wmp:

The KFC ads that loop over 2 bars of Sweet Home Alabama are among the worst these days.

Hey at least they didn't use "Freebird" :D

I can imagine the ad if they did: (KFC ad)

Buy one family meal get one free ("Freebird starts playing in the background) in original or extra crispy (song cuts to verse: "And This bird you cannot change!") mmmm.... good, only at KFC. :P

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I think on of the things we often forget is that, no matter how dumb it seems, the fact is that most people don't really observe most of the basic qualities of music, let alone the nuances.

The register them in an unconscious or subconscious way & are definitely affected by them but they usually have no idea why or how, let alone the ability to discuss what they might actually notice.

That's why most record/music reviews, other than in musician's journals, focus on the most broad areas of what's happening or even almost tangential things like song lyrics.

 

We may cringe at something but most people just notice that a particular song they may recognize---& which the advertiser is hoping will carry over as an identification icon--- is there.

 

That's why, contrary to what was suggested earlier ["You would think the folks behind some of the music in these current campaigns would have equipment or concern to make sure those rhythmic glitches wouldn't happen. They are annoying."], is ultimately irrelevant.

The producers may recognize what they're doing but have enough studies to demonstrate to them that it's not worth the extra effort to make these things musically correct.

 

I fully agree with the premise that this is both annoying &, in terms of what it conditions people to accept, just bad...but when most of the world would rather go with whatever entertainment is flashiest & familiar, I think we're better off taking a deep breath & looking for what we can do to raise standards in other ways, especially outside the realm of a bludgeoningly crude area such as TV ads.

It's a bit like complaining that people in a nightclub aren't paying attention to the quality of the music while they try to hustle a date.

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