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> Writing Your Own Music, Help
post Sep 2 2009, 03:54 AM
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Hey everyone. Okay, I understand some theory and I learn it rather quick, but I just dont know how people put it all together and make a song. Could someone explain this to me? Also, lets say you write a song in the key of Em, do you stay in that key the whole song or can you change? Explain please. Thanks for the replies.
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post Sep 2 2009, 06:13 AM
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Well of the two questions, the second one has the shorter answer: Yes. You can choose to stay within one key for an entire song, or you can modulate or pivot the song's tonal center.

For beginners (like you and I), it will be much MUCH easier for you to improvise / compose a lead over a chord progression that is within one key. The downside is that if you are not comfortable with the chord harmonization available within a key, you may struggle at first to stay within a key if you're just playing chords you like.

As an example, the rhythm guitarist / songwriter in my garage-rock highschool band just assumed that the key of C contained major chords built from all the notes that were neither sharp nor flat. At the time, I didn't know any better either, so we were a little puzzled. As you may have guessed, that's not the case smile.gif

The good news is that the easiest chords to play are ALSO the most flexible: power chords. They're a great place to start and they are not nearly as restrictive of key. Andrew's Theory Board here in the forums has an excellent description of chord harmonization within a scale. The chapter is easy to miss (I speak from experience) but it's called "Chords for Scales" and I will dig up a link.

That chapter is here.

The full table of contents is here.

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post Sep 2 2009, 08:09 AM
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You can check this lesson as well. It really helps when you start composing.


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Ivan Milenkovic
post Sep 2 2009, 08:59 AM
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QUOTE (Sizemore23 @ Sep 2 2009, 04:54 AM) *
Hey everyone. Okay, I understand some theory and I learn it rather quick, but I just dont know how people put it all together and make a song. Could someone explain this to me? Also, lets say you write a song in the key of Em, do you stay in that key the whole song or can you change? Explain please. Thanks for the replies.

When composing songs it is always good to learn the theory well since it will become a powerful tool to speed up the songwriting process. If you don't know theory well, all you can do is "poke in the dark", hoping that you will find something that sounds good.

I suggest learning about keys, modes and chords everything you can. There are 7 scales that build 7 chords within every key, and you just have to know the chords very good.
If you compose a song, you have to be aware of all the 7 chords within the key you are composing ALL the time. What this means is that you actually have to be able to learn the voicing changes so well that you can anticipate their movements in the progression.
If you want to modulate keys, there are some usual modulations that were used in jazz, blues and other forms of music and other music styles accepted them and (sometimes) developed them further. You don't have to remember all these modulations, but it may be wise to go through many of them as possible just to get familiar with them.
However, I strongly suggest that you do not start to learn about modulations unless you are very familiar with all the keys and all the chords within them.

This post has been edited by Ivan Milenkovic: Sep 2 2009, 09:00 AM

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Pedja Simovic
post Sep 2 2009, 10:12 AM
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I have to ask what type of music are you referring to?
Each style has slightly different harmonic approach. For rock and metal styles, primary emphasis is on power chords which are not complete chords. This is why you are allowed a lot of things such as sliding into powerchords and making it sound all in tune for example. Regardless of style of music, every song has some sort of cadence in it. Cadence is group of chords that describes given key or mode in a very strong way. Without cadence its just bunch of random chords with no particular order. This is something that you won't find in songs for sure. In order to learn about cadence and everything else, you should start with basic major scale harmony. Intervals, chord construction, harmonization of major scale (triads and 4 part harmony). After that you can study modal harmony (modes of major scale). You can then do some minor scale harmony (harmonic and melodic) and their modal harmonies. This is more than enough and trust me there is a lot of material for studying just by going over things I mentioned. Question is how far do you want to go, and what kind of music do you want your songs to belong to? smile.gif
Let me know if you need anything.

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post Sep 2 2009, 10:58 AM
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QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ Sep 2 2009, 09:59 AM) *
If you don't know theory well, all you can do is "poke in the dark", hoping that you will find something that sounds good.

I can't say I agree with this Ivan, sorry smile.gif

The process is different for everyone, and there's no right or wrong way to do it.
Some write lyrics before the music, others write the music first, and others write them at the same time.
Basic chord theory is good to know to build a chord progression though smile.gif

When you got the chord progression you want to use, you can try to experiment with Harmonic rhythm.
Try playing some of the chords for half a bar instead of a full bar, or two bars instead of one etc.

Try changing how fast or slow your song is. If you're getting stuck on a slow song, speed it up a bit.
This might help getting more ideas.

Start with a melody that's already in your head. Sing it or figure it out on guitar.
Record that and figure out what chords go along with it.

Play a chord and sing a melody that fits on top of it, and see if it leads you to the next chord.
Do it over again until you find the right one etc.

Record every riff you come up with, even if you're stuck..
'Cause you never know when you write another riff that will fit the old one, and.. voila.. you're song's progressed wink.gif

There's many ways to write a song, just experiment a bit and find the way that works for you!

I don't know much theory, but I've got no problem writing songs so there's hope laugh.gif
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Muris Varajic
post Sep 2 2009, 02:01 PM
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Imo you should try to learn as many songs as possible,
it's endless process tho cause there are countless songs out there.
But while learning them you'll realize how some things work,
how chords are related within progression,
what grooves you can use (drum and bass patterns) etc.
Along with learning songs you'll naturally learn theory as well
IF you analyze songs correctly which means that you always
need to do some theory reading along the way.
About Ivan's "poke in the dark",
this method can work sometimes indeed but it would be wrong to leave it just like that,
if you find something that sounds good using "poking"
then you should also try to explain it to yourself using theory of course,
then you'll learn how that thing happened and you'll be able to use similar
thing again and again.
Many composers actually have that "trademark",
some motive that is repeating in many compositions,
nothing wrong with that tho.
Composing is tricky indeed, can't be explained or learned,
it's never ending process and you should give it some time, work hard and learn things. smile.gif


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post Sep 2 2009, 08:19 PM
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I think that a lot about composing comes with experience. For instance, I am quite experienced in playing acoustic guitar and almost every time I get my acoustic I come up with something "new" cool.gif that sounds good. But that's because I played hundreds (maybe thousands) of songs on acoustic and I have a strong feeling of what chord I should play after another one. For me, for example it is much harder to compose a solo, because I am much newer to that.
So what about theory???
That's exactly where you build upon the experience of other people, instead of your own!!!! Therefore, music theory is the best shortcut to start composing.
So, in short learn the most you can about theory and then spend time learning songs and everything will come in time. wink.gif

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post Sep 2 2009, 09:37 PM
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After learning my fair share of theory, I've found out that it doesn't matter which scale OR key you're in, because there are no wrong notes to play on the guitar. There are only notes on the guitar that may or may not give you the effect you are looking for in your song. You will have to figure that out by ear. Music theory is something that might give you some actual guidance doing that very thing and they are not 'rules' per definition.

In time you will learn to find your own way, and you will become better at songwriting by... writing songs. No magic here, just practice smile.gif

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