A newbie's question about composing and music

This topic may not be popular but I’m really curious about the song writing process and the song as a story with sentences and phrases.

I love popular music, camp fiction and movies that parody other movies. I drive my wife crazy with every cultural detail in “Rugrats” or other films like that.

My questions is, what is the smallest piece of music that needs to be “quoted”.

For instance:
These From Jaws: in two notes, you could figure out what the director was alluding to if you saw a scene of people swimming in the water.

Gilligan’s Island: If anyone sees a movie with people riding in a boat on a stormy day, and you hear nine notes, or four notes, you can guess what is going to happen.

Do these small sequences need to be licenced and cleared for use?

I know we can use melodies for song parodies but what about recording or using a pop melody as an English teaching song? I doubt a small time teacher could afford the rights to this kind of song. Would it be considered fair use?

Anyway, there’s so much literature about copyright in writing but I really want to know more about music.

When a composer creates a tune, how much of it is original, or borrowed from others.
Do you in the musicians community argue about people ripping off one another’s work?

Are there any exciting books about this topic?

But did you know that you can sing the words of “Amazing Grace” to the Gilligan’s Island theme song - and vice versa?

But did you know that you can sing the words of “Amazing Grace” to the Gilligan’s Island theme song - and vice versa?[/quote]

You can sing The Yellow Rose of Texas to Amazing Grace too…as well as recite Emily Dickenson’s poems. :smiley:

Imposible!!! I bet you will go off the melody and follow the original. This I gotta hear. :smiley:

While you’re at it… anyone know the all the lyrics to Susan Susan… or the original song?

Susan, Susan sitting in shoe shine shop
All day long she sits and shines, shines and sits and sits and shines…

Heard that at a vaudeville show by Uncle Floyd. in Jersey… Try singing that song with a few brews.

Rumour has it that Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” album fits perfectly with “The Wizard of Oz” movie of 1939.


Strangely, it only works with the CD, not the LP. And seeing as DSOTM was released 10 years before CDs were invented, it’s obviously just a weird coincidence. But still kinda weird.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but it depends on how much you use of the original for it to be considered plagerism. Like the first two notes of the Jaws theme, those two notes can be found in music everywhere. What makes it unique is the rhythm and the repeating pattern of the theme. So if you’re going to be caught for stealing music, you really have to steal the whole thing or most of it. Otherwise, people would be caught stealing music all the time, cause a lot of music (especially pop music) uses the same chord changes all the time.

In the 40’s, people used to use the chord changes to I Got Rhythm, change the melody around to the song a bit, and then put it out as their own. They did it back then to not have to pay out royalties, and were able to crank out tons of songs. All jazz musicians master the “I Got Rhythm” chord changes very early in their training because they appear in so many jazz songs.

As for your question for changing songs to use as an English teacher, it depends on how you use them. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal to play them in your classroom for your kids; musicians do that all the time. If you’re putting it on a CD to make a profit, that’s a different story. Copyright laws are not international, however, so as to the legalities of it I have no idea. If you’re going to make a profit from it though, you might as well get the permission, or just write your own.

Barney lost a law suit for his theme song because it has the melody of “This Old Man”. Who would have thought that would have been copyrighted?
George Harrison lost a suit for his ‘My Sweet Lord’ because is had the tune of "She’s So Fine’. I don’t think George did it on purpose.
I was reading about Brahm’s ‘Academic Overture’, which I think as a joke, he built around themes of German drinking songs. When I first heard it, I thought it was ‘The Faber College Theme’ by Elmer Bernstein from Animal House.
Just shows, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Wasn’t the melody of the American national anthem an old English drinking song?


Imagine what would have happened to today’s music had the musicians of the past had the copyright over-protection of today?

Richardm: I can’t verify this now, but I think Barney lost his lawsuit by stealing the lyrics “I love you…”

I believe it was written by a teacher in CT, USA. I’m sure someone could provide the link.