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What Makes This Song Great? ELTON JOHN Ep.113

Rick Beato · Youtube · 40 HN points · 0 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention Rick Beato's video "What Makes This Song Great? ELTON JOHN Ep.113".
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In this episode of What Makes This Song Great? I breakdown the Elton John classic "Tiny Dancer".

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May 25, 2022 · 40 points, 73 comments · submitted by AlbertCory
Elton John is on my Mt Rushmore for musicians. Do yourself a favor and listen to some of his lesser known songs. I'll put some of my favorites down below if anyone is interested.

Funeral for a friend / Love lies bleeding

An epic medley contemplating death that morphs into a rock masterpiece.


A hauntingly beautiful song about running into a previous lover. In an alternate universe this would be Elton's best known song.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Reflecting on how tough New York can be when you are chasing a dream.


He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day.

> Funeral for a friend / Love lies bleeding

I'll second the recommendation for this one in particular! Although I knew most of Elton John's hits from listening to the local classic rock radio station growing up, I didn't know many of his deeper cuts, and I first heard about this song after hearing a Dream Theater cover on one of their live albums. I absolutely loved the song and looked it up, and I was surprised to see it was by Elton John! I think he's actually underrated as a musician in some ways; it takes one type of talent to put out chart-topping hits, and another type of talent to put together a technical masterpiece that stays riveting for over seven minutes, and he definitely has both.

Back in college I took "History of jazz music". I hated it. Nothing against jazz music; it's great. And the history is fascinating. But I hated dissecting all the songs, over and over, trying to understand them and what makes them so good.

I just want to listen to the music and feel it; I don't want to understand it. And that's what makes it so great.

"If you can feel what I'm feeling then it's a musical masterpiece." [1]


i'd say i'm quite the opposite!

i can find myself listening to a part of song or a tone over and over again until i can tell what's going on and reproduce it

i'll go as far as downloading original stems on pirate sites just so i could hear each track isolated

this is a bit like when i was a kid i used to play with Dev Tools in the browser

>downloading original stems

I had no idea this was a thing! Can you find most music like this or is it a select few?

personally, i can find stems of most of the songs i'm looking for

most of the time though, you won't be able to obtain them legally

the reason i need them is so i can use a certain sound as reference to recreate it on a synthesiser

that's an unusual way to spend your time i guess...

you can just watch Rick Beato's series "What Makes This Song Great" on YouTube where he explains each part for you

fun fact: once you hear all the hidden sounds in a song you can't unhear them

It's great because you don't want to understand it? That's echoing the same argument that people have against studying science--nature is beautiful, and somehow understanding nature makes it less so.

To be honest I don't think you'll get as much out of theory if you don't personally write songs. Despite what so many people say about music theory (they say "it explains music, it's not a set of rules to follow"), music theory is a fantastic tool to help write songs, kind of like how perspective is a fantastic tool for drawing pictures. Not a tool anyone is forcing you to use, but a tool nonetheless.

I'm no expert, but I've dissected a few songs. There are some songs that you might think, "Oh, damn, that's cool!" So you transcribe it or get a transcription or even just a chord chart, try to figure out what you liked about it or explain what you heard. And then, down the line, when you're writing a song, you might try to use one of these devices you found in a song you analyzed. At some point, the things that you hear in your favorite songs become a part of your repertoire for making your own songs, something you can build upon, and analysis is not strictly necessary but it sure as hell facilitates things.

i've studied piano for 5 years and i didn’t write songs

but i think understanding how the song is made will makes you appreciate the song on a much much deeper level than just hearing and forgetting it

dissecting the songs like Rick Beato does, shows you how the work is made down to every note

Rick feeds my curiosity and explains how things are done in a way even a baby can understand

Try writing a song!
i'm trying almost every day for 3 years now

Art is so much better when you understand it.

I don’t have much music knowledge, but I’d imagine the same is true for music as well.

What I do suspect will happen is that a lot of music you currently enjoy, because it’s played in our environments all the time, or is popular, will start sounding terrible once you start realizing how uninteresting and/or derivative many of the popular songs are.

yeah, but sometimes the effect is completely opposite

for me it was these pop songs you hear on the radio

i used to hate them universally, but once i've started listening more to the tone/melody rather that just the song i found myself hooked

all these great pop songs, and i mean all of them are made by a group of people around the Swedish producer Max Martin

Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, the list goes on and nobody even knows the man behind the show (which i find quite fascinating)

Rick Beato has a video on him:

As Richard Feynman says, "Knowing how something works only adds to its beauty, doesn't take it away".

Completely disagree with you on this.

Oh yeah, I have to give props to Professor Cecil Lytle, without a doubt, the nicest prof I ever met at UCSD. I asked to meet with him because I was struggling with the class. We sat and talked in his office for 3 hours. He asked me all about my family, told me about his, and even played stuff for me on his piano. It was surreal how nice and sincere he was. Truly a great human.

Rick Beato is great. My favourite video of his is about the most accomplished songwriter most people have never heard of - Max Martin (producer and co-writer of this Ariana Grande song and a ton of other pop songs you've heard) [0]

Also worth checking out is this 12Tone analysis of Tiny Dancer [1]



I wasted twenty minutes because I don't have a degree in music theory to understand most of what the pretentious twatwaffle was saying.

People who do have a degree in music theory, don't need to watch the video.

I've self-taught myself perhaps 1% of the knowledge in a music degree, and I enjoyed the video - even the parts I know I don't fully understand I can still appreciate.

I would go so far as to say most/all of the content posted on HN on a regular basis requires at least some advanced knowledge to fully understand. It doesn't seem to stop most people from enjoying it.

big fan of Max Martin here too (check out btw.)

i'm so surprised Max is so unpopular and unknown, yet he's the mastermind behind all of the recent and not so recent successes in pop music

I have no unique insight into his life, goals etc. Which makes me wonder if that is on purpose. Fortune without the fame could be pretty appealing.
it is on purpose for sure

i think the biggest secret is that he is both a singer and producer

check out this video of Taylor Swift in his studio

around 3:15 he sings a perfect falsetto with Taylor Swift out of nowhere and again at about 4:00

that 3 seconds made me wonder whether versions of songs exist where he is the singer

a conspiracy theory maybe, but i think he's using these really good singers as a proxy to perform his songs without the weight of fame attached to it

a more apt title for his youtube series would be "What Makes This Song" since he just breaks down the components of a song without explaining what makes it great. 12Tone is better in that regard, though
"The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory" by John Seabrook covers the Max Martin phenenomenon and more. I greatly enjoyed it, and if you enjoyed Rick talking about Max Martin then I reckon you'll like it too.

(I'm also +1 on 12Tone. I haven't found a dud from him yet, unlike Rick Beato who sometimes is superficial as in the original link)

I'm a big fan of Rick Beato and his "What makes this song great" videos are excellent and will give you a whole new level of appreciation for these songs.

Playlist of his other WMTSG videos

My favourite from the series is his break down of Pearl Jam's Black

If you like music and are a parent you can watch this video [1] and ponder your paths, choices, and abilities.


What’s the technology that allows Rick Beato to split the music into individual parts (eg vocals only, piano only, drums only etc)?

Also props to this man’s ear training.

There are a few AI-based tools for spliting music into stems. An open source one I know is
Rick’s explanation is he has some friends at music labels who give him the original stems (isolated tracks) for educational purposes

you can find the stems of many songs online and some artists often offer remix packs (which you can easily obtain by contacting their label/publisher)

you can also try splitting them yourselves with some ML:

Why is Hampster Dance such a great song?
Now this is a question I'd like to know the answer to.
nods head

nods head

nods head

nods head

stops playback

That, that right there!

restarts playback

nods head

See how he shifted in to the D-sharp-potato chord from the G-minor-underage chord?

nods head

nods head

Let's listen to the giggle track for a bit...


Because it is a sped-up/chipmunked version of Roger Miller's "Whistle Stop". And Roger Miller was freaking awesome!

( )

You the real MVP
nods head

nods head

nods head

nods head

stops playback

That, that right there!

restarts playback

nods head

See how he shifted in to the D-sharp-potato chord from the G-minor-underage chord?

nods head

nods head

Let's listen to the giggle track for a bit...


The words she knows, the tune she hums

Schubert: Alright baby, now work it away from C to change things up a bit.

Elton John: Like what?

Schubert: Lemme sit there...

plays flat VI

Elton John: But, oh, how it feels so real!

Schubert: I know, right? For your homework try using it in at least 3 more hit songs that I can think of off the top of my head.

Elton: Thanks, Schubi!

Schubi: You're welcome, Elton.

Elton: Goodbye.

Schubi: Auf wiedersehen.

Edit: added italics so that Elton sings his famous line

The most important part is the melody. I don't buy that "chords generate the melody" as he says early in the video, it's other way around. That was my philosophy when writing my AI melody generating assistant and it's proven successful or I wouldn't be able to make any catchy melodies.
It’s called Chord Melody and it’s pretty advanced. Great musicians such as Elton John make it seem so easy to write. Add in Voice Leading, another music composition tool, and you have yourself some sophisticated music. What’s great about Elton John is he does all this complicated stuff yet it seems so natural, it never sounds forced or contrived. That’s why Elton John is a master, and it’s all part of what makes this song great.
You can write songs either way around. Maybe your AI assistant can't generate catchy melodies on top of a chord progression, but humans can.

Sometimes when you hear a melody in your head, there are parts of it which you can't really explain when you try to fix the melody on paper. Often what's going on is you're hearing inner voices in the harmony in your head--you're really writing harmony and melody in concert, rather than one or the other.

There are plenty of catchy pop songs which get handed off to someone else to write a melody on top. It's common enough that there's a name for the job: "topline songwriter". Someone who writes the "topline"--the melody and lyrics sung by the vocalist, on top of a backing track that somebody else made.

And of course, then there are people who take an existing song, keep the melody, and reharmonize it. Dirty Loops is probably the most famous for this.

They might be helpful for humans, just as rhythm or a bassline might be, but it's not what makes this song great (to answer the title of the post). This would have been a great song if it was just sung without any accompaniment, even though of course it does make it much better. These 60 melodies I made are not even taking any chords into considerations:

If you read what the best pop songwriters (Max Martin) say about it, they start with a hook: "He's always talking about melody and striving to find that thing that makes it magical."

I heard the isolated vocal track. I don't think it would stand up on its own.

> If you read what the best pop songwriters (Max Martin) say about it,

Max Martin isn't the only songwriter out there! People have been writing songs different ways for ages. Here's a song you probably heard, with a melody written over a hundred after the accompaniment was written: Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod:

I like it, and that's enough for me.

To be honest, I can't hear the melodies in the AI-generated pieces.

To each their own but I'll take Ave Maria a capella any time: I think there is a good reason that it's the melody that gets stuck in our heads for earworms.
Yes, as you can see, the melody is still good even though it was created to fit the harmony, rather than the other way around. Pretty solid proof that you can write the harmony first.

And yes, it's melodies (and rhythms) that get stuck in our head. That's not really the question here.

I just heard this today. Cannot force myself to not hear it as "Tony Danza".
Joseph Gordon Levitt did that song in the lip sync battle on Fallon and he did β€œTony Danza” the whole way through.
Are we Human, or are we Danza?
It's not just you. :-D
I worked with a guy that would go around singing this. It's the only way I can hear the lyrics now. Thanks Loren!

It's like my wife, she always sings the Ghostbusters theme "who you gonna call, then her name", or that song "this is how we do it" which she replaces with "pick your nose and chew it"

I ran across "Oh Canada! We stand on cars and freeze!" once, and now I cannot un-think it.
My wife sang:

Never gonna dance again, guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm


Never gonna dance again, Can’t you see I got no rhythm.

If it ain’t trance I don’t dance!
Shoulda known better than to eat a pen

The ink is tearin up my insides

"When the rain washes, you'll clean your nose"

I thought that was the lyric for years.

I've always enjoyed Ben Folds' cover of Tiny Dancer:
it's almost as though different age groups are trying to message about something
(and imo, the word 'age' can easily be changed for... indie, pop, rock, and so fourth!)
Imagine being able to play this and then just belting it out when you come across a piano at the mall or in a subway station.

I never learned to play piano; as a kid, I learned other instruments instead. This will always be a regret for me because I wish I could play. There's something so satisfying about playing and singing a song with such a strong chord progression right before the chorus. It makes you feel warm inside to play stuff like this. I have to substitute with acoustic guitar but piano would be so much better.

As someone who has played guitar at a beginner-intermediate level for 15+ years and started learning piano within the last few months, why don't you start now?

My extremely limited guitar knowledge has still given me a head start, and I've found that the common advice - that music theory is simply much easier on piano - is very true.

imagine being able to play a guitar in front of some random girls at a park

i have to substitute with piano, but acoustic guitar would be so much better

You can get a shiny new budget digital piano for ~$500 (I have a Roland FP-10) and get to a point where you can comfortably accompany your singing in a single year. I got my piano a year ago, as an adult with no prior knowledge or experience (I could play the guitar a little), and it's been great. It's not even that difficult, and every bit of progress is so rewarding, the feedback loop between doing things right and hearing the beautiful tones come out of the thing is very tight.

I can't really stress this enough, if you have ANY desire to play the piano and you can spare a bit of space and a bit of time, go for it. It's a good idea. It is all you imagine it to be.

Long ago, I took some dance training. Before then, I'd say this person was a good dancer, and that person wasn't. But I had no idea why.

With the training, I could see exactly why one was good and the other wasn't.

I'm sure music is the same way.

What makes leek spin so good?

I'm predicting in a few years people will be looking back and making "why this meme was so good" videos.

I always thought he was singing "Tony Danza."
Just in case you don't know, yet, this is a reference to Pat Finnerty's series of videos which calls out the pretentiousness of Rick Beato.

Start with but all of Pat's videos are incredible.

> Pat Finnerty's series of videos which calls out the pretentiousness of Rick Beato

well i mean it started out as a light parody of Beato's videos but then quickly became its own weird universe

The best universe!

"I don't think it stinks because it is a rip-off. It think it stinks AND it's a rip-off"

But you're right - it is a huge series of in-jokes that are built on the previous videos. Starting at this video is right, then watching 1 - 5 in order is the right move.

Elton John is going deaf from entertaining yall. Respect #
My eyes are getting worse every year, knees, ears, hair, memory. All the senses. Pretty much everything getting worse and worse.

Only choice is to keep reminding myself, it's better than the alternative.

You sure it’s not just cuz he’s a old?
Prolonged exposure to very loud music -- that'll do it.
Every Dj and sound engineer.
He's 75. Hearing loss isn't uncommon for the elderly.
I didn't know that. Not surprising, though.
I mean it gave him a pretty good life as well. Possibly fair trade.

Internationally reknown eternal legend who has made hall of fame lists, been knighted, praised and adored far and wide by everyone, and lives in a castle.

For 1/3 of his hearing.

I'm a big fan of Elton John but I didn't enjoy this video. He just said what the chords were and played different instruments in solo. He didn't answer his question: "Why is it a great song?".

If you want to know why this song is great listen to the Strong Songs episode about Tiny Dancer:

Strong Songs actually explains why the instruments are playing what they are and how they impact the songβ€”not simply what it is.

The YouTube algorithm is always trying to get me to watch Rick Beato, and the few times I have it’s been incredibly dull content with very little insight or value. I watched all 21 minutes of this one and learned almost nothing. Ads cutting in every two minutes did not improve my enjoyment either.
Rick's goal is really to spark the interest, not do in-depth analysis
The video is over 20 minutes long.
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