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Why your music should be LESS tuneful

We all love a good tune. But there are some areas of music where tunes are positively not required and will only be to your disadvantage.


What is it about tunes anyway? If you listen to music from earlier centuries you will realize the the concept of a tune was something that had to be discovered.

Even J.S. Bach, genius though he was, went through his entire career with hardly a tune to his name. At least what we would call a tune today.

Now Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was certainly capable of writing tunes. When he felt like it. Mostly he didn't, Neither did Beethoven. Mostly mind, I'm not saying there are not exceptions.

The heyday of the tune however started with Franz Schubert. He wrote a lot of songs, and somehow songs seem to demand real proper tunes more than purely instrumental music.

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Skip forward a hundred years or so and we have the popular songs and musicals of the twentieth century. Chock full of tunes. Real tunes. Real tunes that ordinary people sing in the bath and whistle in the street.

And we have instrumental tunes too. TV programs commonly have title themes are are real, whistleable tunes.

Somewhere along this timeline it has become a common idea that music must have a tune. But this simply is not so. Go back to Beethoven and you will see that his work consists largely of musical 'figures' which are elaborated upon. Yes, you can whistle the tune from his ninth symphony, but when do you hear anyone whistle the 'fate' motto from the fifth.

And, getting to the point, in fact most music used on TV does not have and does not require a tune. In fact it requires not to have a tune.

If you really listen and concentrate on the music used in TV programs, you will find that the vast majority is tuneless or possesses only a rudimentary tune. Certainly nothing you would want to sing in the bath.

Exceptions are title themes, and 'motto' themes that commonly occur in dramas. But mostly TV music is really rather tuneless.

So go ahead and make some music without tunes. You'll find that tuneless music is very much easier to sell into the TV market.

By David Mellor Monday July 3, 2006