Pop Songs Rip Off Classical Music? Think Again!

Tommaso Zillio

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classical rip off

(ok, that’s long… if you want to cut to the chase, scroll down and watch the video)

Nowadays I can hardly open YouTube without the YT algorithm proposing me at least one video like:

  • 5 songs that rip off classical music
  • 3 top 40 hits copied from Bach
  • Pop is unoriginal: here’s how these 7 songs were lifted from classical pieces

Oh dear… (facepalm)

Where do I start? I’d like to tell these YouTubers:

“Bless your heart, these songs are not copied. The way you think music works is very different from the way music actually works.”

Yes, I know, in our culture it’s really hip to say that songs are ‘copied’, ‘ripped off’, and so on.

“Pop songwriters copy” is one of these things that rings true, that is delicious to share with friends, and that make you feel smart when you say it.

The problem is… it’s not true.

And yes, I can totally hear that these songs sound SIMILAR to classical pieces - I am not deaf. But they are not copied.

Unless we redefine “to copy” to mean something else… and by this new definition Mozart (and Haydn, and Haendel, and Scarlatti, and…) was copying too.

In fact we’d have to admit that Mozart did not write a single original note in his whole career!

So what is going on? Why several pop songs DO sound like classical music if they are not copied? Am I telling you that pop songwriter write … gasp… original music?

(How’s that for an ‘heretical’ thought?)

Well, I would really like to summarise all this in a soundbite… and yet, as it often happens, the truth is quite more complex and interesting than a short slogan.

But if you really want one, “pop songwriters write music in the same way Mozart did” rings pretty close to reality.

This one too: “If you don’t know music theory history, you are destined to repeat it”. Trouble is, it applies to you too.

Now if you want to know HOW Mozart wrote music and how you can do the same… or how you can do something different in case you don’t want to write like pop songwriters, then you have to watch this video and hear the musical examples:

As I say in the video: what you need to do to leverage these patterns and make them your friends is the ability of changing, modifying, and elaborating them at will.

That is, the ability of taking a chord progression, and 1. play it in several different ways and 2. change it ever so slightly, so that it sounds like a different progression.

These are exactly two of the main goals of the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course. If you are a guitar player and you want to access this kind of creativity, then then check out this course immediately.

I could write at length on how this course can help you - but this article is already long as it is. Instead, why don’t you go and see for yourself? Complete Chord Mastery


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