Question of the day.

Hi people! πŸ™‚

What makes a song a good song to you?

My answer:

Sometimes it’s hard to say why I like a song. But some factors that play a role are: what instruments are in it, my favourite instrument is harp, almost all harps, but especially Celtic harp, but I also like all sorts of guitars (nearly all plucked string instruments really), flutes and piano from the more commonly used ones and a lot of others, also I don’t mind synth music or not typically. Sometimes electrical guitar can badly trigger my sensory anxiety if played a certain way but generally I love a good guitar riff, and not only just riff. The vocals, I don’t really know if there are some clear patterns to what kinds of vocals I usually like and what I usually don’t, I only know I usually dislike coloratura sopranos or voices with a similar hue – I spontaneously made up a word to describe them as a teen because I didn’t know if there was any actual way to describe them and I called them thick, as in a thick fluid, perhaps because that’s how they feel to my synaesthetic brain –
and some types of tenors, no matter in what genre, but there are always some exceptions to the rule, for example Maire Brennan from Clannad (has been featured on my blog) has a very thick singing voice but I rather do like her, though I prefer her singing in the lower registers because then she’s less thick. I tend to like light and clear lyrical sopranos as well as slightly husky and deep altos, and strong baritons, and I can like tenors too if they have enough depth and strength and expressiveness but not too much of the latter, as I always appreciate expressiveness in music, but too much exaltation is awfully annoying and a really bad thing for music in my very personal opinion. If there’s harp in a song/piece of music, it’s very bad if there’s also some rhythmical beat at the same time, ugh, it’s a profanity and the results are rarely any good, it sounds kinda cliche. I like lyrics that I can relate to, or that are intriguing, or funny, or very quirky, even so quirky and odd that no one can really understand what they’re about. There’s something refreshing in odd, even nonsense lyrics when all you hear all the time in “normal” music is: “Oooooh yeeeeeeeah yeah yeah I luuuuv yaaaa baaaaby” or the like. No, I don’t mind lyrics about love whatsoever, but it’s depressing that, according to what I once read somewhere, well over 50% of lyrics (don’t remember now how much exactly) is about love (though I hope they were only talking about English-language pop music). It also doesn’t make me feel as much of a connection when a song is about love as I’ve never experienced romantic love nor the sexual stuff that people often mistake for love, my fazas are a little similar but not the same. Elaborate, folklore-themed are always welcome. I love creative lyrics and those that are raw and honest or at least appear to be so. But usually lyrics are not the primary thing in a song for me, and if I like the music, I am often happy for the lyrics to be anything, unless I find them somehow really awful or completely not in line with what I think then it might be more of a minus and make me like the song less. Also I of course listen to a lot of music in foreign languages, so I’m not one of those people who have to understand a song to enjoy it. Sure, lyrics help me or at least hugely motivate me to learn and it can be so rewarding to see my progress in a language by being able to understand more of the lyrics of a song over time, but I’m happy not to understand a word. I’ve been a fan of a Polish radio programme called Strefa Rokendrola Wolna od Angola (English-free Rock’n’roll Zone” on Polish Radio Programme 3 where you can listen to all sorts of rock music (not necessarily just rock’n’roll) in all sorts of languages, including minority or just rarely heard of languages, any language you want except English and except Polish, unless sung by non-natives or Poles singing in a different language. And I usually don’t understand very much of the songs but still like listening to them. I also enjoy the childish and primitive language play with lyrics – where you either try to understand, or your brain understands on its own, some bits of the lyrics in another language as if they were singing in your language or any of the languages you know. – English speakers who speak only English might be confused right now, so I’ll say it’s like when you listen to a song, you try to pick up on as many words that sound similar to words in your own language. Both I and a lot of people I know often have such an illusion even without trying, when listening to music in a language we don’t know well or not at all, that some of the words or even whole phrases are in a language that is familiar. Brain doesn’t like things that aren’t familiar so I guess it’s logical in its own way. For example, Zofijka is convinced that in the song Sofia by Alvaro Soler he says “poo” in Polish, and then “Bibiel” a couple times. I often hear absolutely crazy things, although my capacity of understanding strange things in English music has been lessening as I become better at it which is sad. My favourite artist in this regard is Julie Fowlis who sings in Scottish Gaelic, in whose songs I’ve managed to hear Polish phrases like: “Make pancakes for me, make coffee for me, make pancakes for me and buy me a great-great-grandma”, “The poo has fallen out”, “Shame, Billy”, “You knave”, “James is marrying”, “Oh, I’m not deaf, son” etc. etc. etc. these are just a few bits I remember at the moment, there were a lot of totally absurd and bizarre ones.

And yeah, language. Language makes a song good. Sometimes the only thing that makes me like a song when I think of it is because it’s in one of “my” languages.

And the general feel and vibe, you could say energy. Or in any case, a bad feel and a bad overall harmony can make me really dislike a song and have a bad sensory reaction to it. My brain just doesn’t agree with some sounds and combinations and sequences of sounds.

That’s all that comes to my mind, though it’s possible there are some other factors too.

You? πŸ™‚

17 thoughts on “Question of the day.”

  1. What a fun question! One of two things:

    1) Intense somberness–anything minor key–anger, sadness, despair, emotion, etc.

    2) Something super upbeat that makes me want to dance. Think Motownphilly by Boyz II Men.

    What I HATE in music:

    1) Stuff that’s gimmicky and repetitive and unoriginal and tiring.

    2) Stuff that’s too cute and not well enough produced, like a lot of stuff on the radio these days. If you listen to eighties rock, you can tell how hard the producers bent over backward to really develop the song on so many levels. Stuff today’s like a flash in the pan in comparison, although I still sometimes like some of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can you tell us more about how electric guitar can trigger your anxiety? I play the guitar and I’ve never heard of it having that effect on anyone so I’m quite interested!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a really tricky thing to explain this sensory anxiety thing I have. I’ve written a lot about this on my blog but actually never wrote what it’s exactly like just because I don’t really know how to do it to give a clear and possibly full picture in a way that people would be able to understand.
      I don’t even know a proper name for this thing so I just collectively call it sensory anxiety because it’s triggered by specific sensory – usually auditory – stimuli, or silence. I’ve hear it could be due to sensory deprivation, or some sort of a nervous system hypersensitivity, sensory overload as in autism, along with other more fancy theories like for example that it could be my reaction to subliminal messaging or some sort of electrical activity in the brain triggered by music, but I just don’t know for sure and probably will never know because it’s too bizarre and too subtle, I’d heard I may grow out of it but haven’t so far.
      The way I can put it, some sounds, harmonies, sequences of sounds, sometimes whole melodies, make me feel something like a sudden rush of adrenaline, as if they’re somehow dangerous to me personally. My typical default reaction to that as a little kid was shrieking, but later on it has turned into freezing. Some that particularly creep me out make me feel like they’re pure aggression and like this aggression is directed specifically at me, it’s a very strange feeling, naturally very irrational but very persuasive in how strong it is. Then after I hear it already, most often it gets stuck in my brain, and likes to pop up in an intrusive way when I’m in complete silence or with very few sounds around, and then it makes me feel anxious again. It’s not like a hallucination that I think it’s seriously there, I know it’s in my mind but it’s no less scary and I have little to no control over it. Perhaps it’s not even the sound itself that is so scary but the feeling of threat that comes with it and that something really awful and surreal is going to happen. the only thing I can do to get rid of it is to find some really good way to distract, but it’s hard to distract completely and effectively when it’s already started and even if I can find something like this, it’s temporary. And at the very least I must find some other source of, possibly soothing and friendly, or at least neutral, sounds, that would be loud enough to neutralise the scary stuff at least a little bit but not too loud. So I either try to be around other people, or listen to music, or these days Misha helps a lot since I’ve got him, even though he barely makes any sounds and even his purring is always very quiet. That’s why for example I always sleep with music quietly on, just in case. The sounds usually fade with time or sometimes I sort of desensitise to them over time or something, but I have some that have stayed for years and thankfully at least I’m no longer exposed to any of them in my actual outside daily life anymore.
      There’s no clear pattern that would be understandable to an outside person that would say what sounds exactly are bad and what are not. I know I have problems with some harmonies, but I’d asked my friend with perfect pitch and showed her some of the songs with fragments that I’m especially scared of so that she could say if there are any common traits in them but she couldn’t really identify anything, other than in most of them were some less common combinations of sounds.
      But there are some things that are more likely to freak my brain out and one of them sometimes could be electric guitar. It hasn’t happened in ages that I would feel like this due to hearing electric guitar alone, but it used to quite a lot in the past.
      I’m afraid though that I can’t tell you much about in what cases it affects me negatively. I don’t have much practical experience with music, apart from having been for a few years in music school but then left it, so I don’t think I can say what exactly it is with electric guitar that could trigger my sensory anxiety, but one thing I’ve noticed can be triggery is when someone plays in a “jerky” sort of way. Years ago I got badly triggered hearing some electric guitar solo and later learned it was by Steve Vai but don’t know the name of the piece. Also one instance I remember very vividly was when I was in theatre on a Polish musical called Metro, and there was a lot of guitar and at some point I got really panicky and thought I’d have to leave.
      One thing that especially doesn’t sit right with me are things like ads, radio jingles, weird music in shops. Not all of them but generally this type of sounds can be particularly nasty. I especially tend to hate jingles that are longer, and noticed that it’s the more when they have electric guitar in them.
      A lot of people find music like metal aggressive but for me it rarely feels aggressive in this particular way, in fact I used to be a Gothic metal enthusiast not so long ago.
      I unfortunately don’t have any examples at hand to show you so that you’d have a clear idea if you find this interesting but perhaps on the other hand it’s better from my point of view, haha, not too wise to expose myself to anxiety triggers at night. πŸ˜€
      Hope that gave you at least a bit of an idea.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for that, it was very interesting! I am familiar with Steve Vai and he plays a lot of unorthodox music that’s quite hard to ‘understand’ so I guess I can kind of see why you might find some of his things more triggering in that he makes some strange noises! That’s what he does though, really, he tries very hard to be unique and unusual. If you do ever happen to find out the name of the piece that upset you I’d be very interested to listen to it.

        Do you still listen to gothic metal?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, I still like Gothic metal though don’t listen to as much of it as I used to, and not as often, now I usually do if I’m in the mood for specifically Gothic music. I guess mostly because it was more like a transient phase in my life, and also because my views on some things in life have changed and so it felt sort of incongruent for me to listen to a lot of Gothic music and I didn’t feel it as much anymore. But I used to love bands like Within Temptation, Nightwish, a Polish band Closterkeller and I also listened to loads of pagan/viking metal/rock, and nowadays I still love folk metal but without the pagan connotations as I’ve “re-converted” to Christianity some six years ago.


  3. I have absolutely no idea. Honestly, I can’t tell what instruments are in a song most of the time, let alone what tone a singer is singing in (I mean tenor, soprano, etc.).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish single instruments in a piece of music indeed when there are a lot of them. And also sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what type of voice a vocalist has. At least for me as I am not musically trained, and I think everyone has a different level of awareness of music.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m mostly drawn to words that inspire perseverance and make love songs into self-love songs. If they sing ‘you’, I imagine it’s me talking to me. Instrumental, like many you’ve posted, have a way of stirring emotions while keeping me calm.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. An example would be Rammestein. I gotta confess I didn’t know it was _that, specifically_ until my partner found a video by a trained vocal coach who analyses songs which explained it. πŸ™‚ But now that I know, I can’t unhear it.

        Liked by 1 person

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