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Err simple question. How do you write music? - Printable Version

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Err simple question. How do you write music? - bigcat1969 - 02-08-2017

I got MagicScore Songwriter 8 for cheap and figured I'd try it.
This page popped up on google, so I gave it a try.

So I came up with this, which isn't quite as memorable as your average Mariah Carey tune at least what I remember when I was actually listening to the music on her videos...

How do you write good melodies and chords? What do you do after you have melody and chord to orchestrate? As if you were writing a for idiots book.

Oh if Sam can forgive me that was using the VSCO2 Community Violin section and Organ.

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - peastman - 02-08-2017

Quote:How do you write good melodies and chords?

I'm also interested to hear what people say about this.  It's kind of funny, but looking back on the music theory classes I took in college, I realize that the whole concept of melody was hardly even mentioned.  They were really into harmony.  We spent countless hours analyzing chord progressions.  We did study voice leading, but that isn't really the same thing.  Basic questions like, "What makes a good melody?" or, "Why do some pieces sound more tuneful than others?" just didn't get discussed.

Regarding chords, that page summarized things pretty well, but left out a few things I consider important.  The fundamental chord progression in most western music is I-(various chords)-V-I.  Progressions almost always start on I.  They then wander through various chords, but eventually make their way to V, from which they return to I again.  That V-I transition is called a cadence, and it gives a strong sense of resolution.  Anywhere you want a satisfying feeling of arrival, put in a cadence.

Important exception: after you reach V, sometimes you'll move to vi or (less often) iii instead of I.  This is called a deceptive cadence.  It sounds like the chord progression is resolving to I, but (surprise!) it didn't really resolve, and here it is on an unstable minor chord from which you can go on to do other things.  (Why vi or iii?  Because those chords each share two notes with I, so it almost sounds like it's resolved to I.)

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - Otto Halmén - 02-08-2017

Nice to hear music from you! Smile

Melody and harmony (i.e. chords, roughly) are just two of the fundamental elements of music. There's rhythm and timbre as well, and (depending on the list you use) voicing, form, and probably a couple of others as well.

Good melodies and harmonies support the core idea of the composition, and the same can be said of the other elements. Do you want to make a happy, sad, calm, exciting, serious or funny composition, or something completely different? This is largely subjective, and often involves a fair amount of trial and error, so do get your hands dirty. Smile

As to Banana Split, I get a sense of calm and... cozy? You could try finding combinations of instruments that somehow support that. Bowed violins in the lower register can sound warm and sunny, a flute may sound gentle, an oboe may sound graceful yet possibly a little brittle, a clarinet may sound dark yet possibly cozy, and so on. Accompaniment to support that would perhaps be a walking bass line in half time with the melody, together with chords or simple counterpoint. Do try out things with the form as well. You could have a quiet part with something like just pizzicato and solo woodwinds, and possibly a grand closing part.

These are just ideas. Naturally, you be the judge. Asking for feedback is often smart move, but don't be afraid to trust your own taste in the end. Smile

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - bigcat1969 - 02-08-2017

Thanks for the responses and the thoughts. I'm kind of like an elementary student asking college professors for help with math problems. I value the advice and sometimes i even understand it.

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - Samulis - 02-08-2017

For me, there are two modes of operation: chords first or melody first.

Chords first is the easier option but sometimes leaves something to be desired of the melody. It's basic logic: you have three notes, pick one or two for each chord, then figure out how you want to move between them.
Melody first is the harder option, but sometimes leaves something to be desired of the harmonies. It seems basic- pick which note in the measure or half measure you want to be accompianied by a chord, and try a bunch of different chords that include those note(s) until you find one that clicks... but the challenge is finding one that clicks there AND also makes sense in the larger scheme. We call this process "Harmonization", or when we are taking an existing melody with harmonies and completing this process ignoring said harmonies, "Reharmonization".

Basically, do your melody, then remember chords are always 3+ notes with any of the following halfstep relationships:
+4+3 (major)
+3+4 (minor)
+3+3 (diminished)
+4+4 (augmented)

Therefore, if you have the note "G", there are three different positions G could be in the chord (top, middle, bottom, or to use the technical terms, fifth, third, root) if we are talking just triads, and there are four senses to each position. These are all the chords we could pick:
Root: G Major (G, B, D), G Minor (G, Bb, D), G Diminished (G, Bb, Db), G Augmented (G, B, D#)
Third: Eb Major (Eb, G, Bb), E Minor (E, G, B), E Diminished (E, G, Bb), Eb Augmented (Eb, G, B)
Fifth: C Major (C, E, G), C Minor (C, Eb, G), C# Diminished (C#, E, G), B Augmented (B, D#, G)

This gives us 12 initial variations we could assign to each note.

Importantly in the tonal idiom we should keep in mind the Dominant 7th chord, which consists of a minor third put on top-
Root: G Dom7 (G, B, D, F)
Third: Eb Dom7 (Eb, G, Bb, Db)
Fifth: C Dom7 (C, E, G, Bb)
Seventh: A Dom7 (A, C#, E, G)

This brings us up to 16 primary choices.

This can keep going, for example we may also use a Suspended 4th chord:
Sus4: D Sus4 (D, G, A)
Sus2: F Sus2 (F, G, C)

There are also several other special case chords (Neopolitan, the "6th" chords, etc.), as well as other 7th chords (which essentially just put another third on top of the chord, thus four notes and additional flavors- Major, Minor, Minor/Major, Diminished, Augmented, blah blah), and then we get to special "tension" chords which utilize more than four notes and whose names read more like chemical formulas than musical notation...

So basically you have 12-16 standard choices and a universe of variations, expansions, and additions... that's not even to say that you have to use "chords" as you know it! Sometimes you can just stack up a few perfect 4ths instead of 3rds, or just bang on keys until you find a combination or cluster that sounds "right" (a la Eric Whitacre). Virtually everything can be analyzed somehow with harmony (well, mainly if it's "functional", i.e. the chords have "purposes" for being in places).

You COULD go through all 16+ permutations, plus inversions, until you find something you like... or you could play a few random combinations on the keyboard until you find something you like. This is often the most advantageous option, as the secret to music is understanding that the subconscious is and always will be a better musician than the conscious. It is not by conscious struggle but by subconscious digestion that all music worth blowing a toot about is created. Your mind already knows how to compose, you simply need to learn how to let it do its job. One can learn the names of things and the way we catalog and organize these things, and the way we write them so others can read them, but all this is not learning to create music: it is learning to communicate and understand music consciously.

With chords-first, the process is reversed. Once you have a chord progression, identify what are called the "chord tones". These are the notes which belong to each chord.

The process can be done very simply- select one or two per measure, then transition between them using either straight leaps or what are called "Non-Chord Tones". Logic tells us if chord tones are notes which belong to the chord, non-chord tones are probably notes that don't belong to the chord!

Well, the easiest of these is the passing tone. Let's say we have a C Major chord the first measure, then an E minor chord the next. We picked C for the first measure, then E for the next. While playing C Major then E minor with C in the melody then E in the melody is pretty, it's far from musical. Instead, we might have the first measure consist of C, then D, and then when the second measure with E minor chord, we have our E. This is an example of passing tone in action.

We might also use a neighbor tone- in the same example, let's divide the first measure in four quarter pieces (thus four quarter notes)- the first is C, the second is B, the third is C again, then the final is D. Next measure is still E. This pattern is much more interesting than just a C whole note, thanks to the neighbor tone (the second note).

There are numerous others you can use and experiment with. The danger to this approach is that you do not have a melodic "motif" pre-selected and thus your melodies may wander and be disorganized. This is a common feature of beginner works, where there is no real melody to speak of, but a series of rambling "phrases". It's nothing to be ashamed of either. Over time, the creative of the subconscious will learn how to work with the organized of the conscious to create form within creativity. This is the ultimate highlight of formal music.

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - bigcat1969 - 02-08-2017

Wow thanks Sam amazing info!

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - peastman - 02-09-2017

If you want to get really serious about learning to compose, this online textbook looks quite good: I've only skimmed a few sections, but I'm impressed by what I've seen. Actually, I'm thinking of spending some time with it, since it covers a bunch of topics I've never studied.

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - bigcat1969 - 02-10-2017

Thanks Peastman that looks like quite a good textbook. I must admit I've done nothing yet except blow my tax refund on a string library that I have no clue how to use, but I like.

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - Otto Halmén - 02-10-2017

Which one is it? There's an artifact that shows up throughout the track (e.g. at 0:09). Sounds like a G#, which could mean that it's the open G string on a violin resonating that got pitch-shifted due to diatonic sampling. I hope it's not a full ROMpler library, as I'm pretty sure that could be easily fixed with a little neighbor borrowing or possibly even retouching the troublemaker sample. Smile

RE: Err simple question. How do you write music? - bigcat1969 - 02-10-2017

Adagio. It's Kontakt so I should be able to fix it. Thanks for being so specific, I'll try and find it. Good ear.