2 Pages V   1 2 >  
Reply to this topicStart new topic
> Writing Instrumental Guitar Music, Let's Share Pointers
Ben Higgins
post Nov 8 2014, 10:24 AM
Post #1


Instructor
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 13.765
Joined: 11-March 10
From: England
Member No.: 9.820



How does one go about writing instrumental guitar music ? It is, in my opinion, much harder than writing songs with lyrics. Once you've come up with some riffs and an arrangement you know that vocals are going to be going over the top of those riffs.

Of course, you can write riff based instrumentals if you're a full band. Orion by Metallica, for example. Losfer Words by Iron Maiden. For some reason, we don't expect these tracks to have lead guitar melodies in place of the vocals, we just accept them for being riff based extravaganzas. And we love them the way they are. Why do you think that is ? Why do we expect riff based instrumentals from bands but different kinds of instrumentals from players like Satch, Vai etc ?

As Joe Satriani has said plenty of times, his approach was to treat writing guitar melodies like they were vocal lines themselves. I think this is perhaps the best way to write instrumentals that are lead guitar orientated.

So if you start off with a riff that repeats 4 times, for example, you would then want to come up with a melody line. Remember that this is taking the place of a vocal hook so the simpler the better. We can add more later. If it were me I'd probably avoid just following the root notes of the chords and avoid changing only when the chords change. If you have a repeating chord progression then one thing you can do to provide interest is to have a contrast with when your melody changes notes and when the chords change. Sometimes it can be the same time but sometimes you might want to let a note hang as the chords change. Or shift the melody note before the chord change. You get the idea.

Ok, now you might want to have 2 contrasting melody lines to work with. You can then use the structure of melody 1, melody 2, melody 1, melody 2 to cover your 4 riff repetitions. This is one of the most common ways of doing it. Now, to take a leaf out of Satch's book, let's create more variation by altering the end of the very last melody. So it would look something like this:

Melody 1, Melody 2, Melody 1, Melody 3.

By taking the 2nd rep of Melody 2 and altering it, we create a melody that hasn't been heard until that point. Having a different melody at the end of a verse serves to prepare us to move to somewhere else, be it a bridge or a chorus.

I'm just getting us started on the subject of writing instrumental music and I know there will be much more advice from the other guys here at GMC so please do feel free to offer any other suggestions and ideas that can help people write better instrumentals.


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Todd Simpson
post Nov 10 2014, 07:29 PM
Post #2


GMC:er
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 13.747
Joined: 23-December 09
From: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Member No.: 8.794



Great thread!!!! I'm sure you could pull examples from your own work to help musically illustrate these points. I"m trying to think of anything I"ve got recorded that might help as well.


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
SirJamsalot
post Nov 10 2014, 09:05 PM
Post #3


Learning Rock Star
*

Group: Members
Posts: 1.226
Joined: 4-May 10
From: Bay Area, California
Member No.: 10.312



Instrumental music is somewhat foreign to me in practice. I've only attempted it once or twice. I find it challenging mostly because if you approach it like a song with lyrics, your gonna be repetitive (overly, IMO). For instance, when I listen to Joe Satriani, I get tired real quick, mostly because he sticks to a vocal format. The droning bass and drums never change, and his epic solo is repeated 2x, with some blues and tapping licks. It just feels like I'm subjected to the same thing over and over again, which bores me.

I think to keep my interest, I would not want an instrumental piece to keep revisiting the same verse and chorus. Drums, bass lines, bascially the entire mood would need to keep changing. I would want to start at point A, move to B, keep moving to C, and then either end on A or end on D.

Lyrics enable you change the texture of repeated verses and choruses freeing you up from the sense of repetition, which is why (I think) the Verse, verse, chorus, verse verse chorus pattern works - the words and how they are sung make the pattern not so repetitious.

I'd also want to make a distinction between the average listener and a musician listener.

For the average listener, an instrument like Joe Satriani's SWTA was consumable by the public because (again, I think) his playing showcased a dumbed down musicianship. I don't mean it wasn't great playing, I just mean he wasn't so technical that the non-musician wouldn't understand what was just played.

We (musicians) listen to complicated pieces regularly in order to pick them apart, so we really get down to the nitty gritty of someone like Jason Becker, Malmsteen and are impressed. We hear most of the notes and can identify the arpeggios when we hear them. We know when something that was just played was amazing technical ability on display, versus just a standard run.

The non-musician isn't picking apart the song like we are. They listen to the song as a whole and judge it on how the song moves them.

As an average listener, I think Joe's formula worked for a time - it's simple to understand at face value, but I think that type of instrumental burned out listeners kindof like Yngvie burned out musician listeners. It's novel and exciting for a while, but it's a new era.

That's my personal taste, and my taste has a knack of being off the beaten path, so just ignore my post. smile.gif

Cheeerios.

This post has been edited by SirJamsalot: Nov 10 2014, 09:07 PM


--------------------
The more I practice, the more I wish I had time to practice!
My Band Forum: http://passionfly.site/chat

Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
klasaine
post Nov 11 2014, 03:58 AM
Post #4


GMC:er
*

Group: Members
Posts: 2.659
Joined: 30-December 12
From: Los Angeles, CA
Member No.: 17.304



QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Nov 10 2014, 01:05 PM) *
I think to keep my interest, I would not want an instrumental piece to keep revisiting the same verse and chorus. Drums, bass lines, bascially the entire mood would need to keep changing. I would want to start at point A, move to B, keep moving to C, and then either end on A or end on D.


Kind of like jazz and classical music ohmy.gif

Approach it like that ... idea > development > new idea > develop that > maybe go back to the first idea in a different key > end it.




--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 11 2014, 09:20 AM
Post #5


Instructor
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 22.808
Joined: 14-June 10
From: Bucharest
Member No.: 10.636



Well, for me, things have gotten into a very different territory for sometime now smile.gif I like listening to instrumental music, but somehow, I grew tired of the same ol' cliches that we hear around us in every guitar shredder's arsenal, so I took to classical music or celtic/irish music, ambiental stuff or maybe even jazz/fusion.. The idea here is that shreddy stuff kinda puts me off, because I expect the same things over and over again - but with other instrumental genres, things are a bit more thematic and musical than with guitar oriented music.

Based on Ben's example of Satriani's approach, let's take a good case study - guitar covers of vocal tunes smile.gif



There's a very natural way in which the melodies are linked together, isn't it? The way in which the themes are growing in intensity and slowly climbing to a min 02:14 where the lines are changed by the middle part, the actual guitar solo at 02:45 and then another theme is being repeated, but in a higher register and with more guitar 'voices underneath' to finish off the whole piece.

I think that understanding the structure behind actual vocal based songs can really enhance our guitar song writing ability - the above example is just one ofthe many, so I suppose that making a little list with your favorite vocal based songs and understanding their structure and dynamics could make a difference smile.gif


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Ben Higgins
post Nov 11 2014, 10:08 AM
Post #6


Instructor
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 13.765
Joined: 11-March 10
From: England
Member No.: 9.820



QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Nov 10 2014, 09:05 PM) *
That's my personal taste, and my taste has a knack of being off the beaten path, so just ignore my post. smile.gif

Cheeerios.


Hell no, you've got a great and valid point ! biggrin.gif

It's true that the verse/ chorus vocal melody inspired way of writing instrumentals is only one possible way of doing thing and is a formula.. a formula gets tired after a while if repeated often enough.

So yes, an instrumental doesn't have to follow a structure at all... it can feel more like a series of movements. Music is movement after all. Different moods that segue into each other. Or a blunt, direct transition.. whatever feels right to the composer !


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Kristofer Dahl
post Nov 11 2014, 11:27 AM
Post #7


GMC Founder & Rocker
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 14.958
Joined: 15-August 05
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Member No.: 2



QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Nov 8 2014, 11:24 AM) *
Of course, you can write riff based instrumentals if you're a full band. Orion by Metallica, for example. Losfer Words by Iron Maiden. For some reason, we don't expect these tracks to have lead guitar melodies in place of the vocals, we just accept them for being riff based extravaganzas. And we love them the way they are. Why do you think that is ? Why do we expect riff based instrumentals from bands but different kinds of instrumentals from players like Satch, Vai etc ?


Riffs are pretty much rhythmic melodies (often) played in a lower octave. Since these bands' (Metallica, Maiden etc) strength is to write riff based songs - it is not unexpected this is the tool they will use for instrumentals as well.

I agree writing strong instrumental songs probably is more difficult than writing vocal based ones - however both of these present a huge challenge. I guess it goes down to the human voice which is (if possible) even more expressive than the electric guitar. Especially considering the voice can tell stories on different levels, both melody- and lyrics wise.

With a dynamic sound I think the electric guitar can compete with vocals (again, its handicap is the fact that it cannot convey lyrics).

Also I am used to a compressed guitar sound, which helps to play smooth legato lines but but which is pretty useless for dynamic story telling type of sound used by Satch, and Neal Schon in the video Cosmin linked to.

So the latter is something I plan on dealing with soon. Typically when I dial in a more dynamic kind of sound, I will think wow this sounds cool but it kills my technique...and then dial in something else. What I should do instead is stick with that sound which feels somewhat un-natural, and instead try to change my technique!


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
SirJamsalot
post Nov 12 2014, 12:31 AM
Post #8


Learning Rock Star
*

Group: Members
Posts: 1.226
Joined: 4-May 10
From: Bay Area, California
Member No.: 10.312



QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Nov 11 2014, 03:27 AM) *
Riffs are pretty much rhythmic melodies (often) played in a lower octave. Since these bands' (Metallica, Maiden etc) strength is to write riff based songs - it is not unexpected this is the tool they will use for instrumentals as well.

I agree writing strong instrumental songs probably is more difficult than writing vocal based ones - however both of these present a huge challenge. I guess it goes down to the human voice which is (if possible) even more expressive than the electric guitar. Especially considering the voice can tell stories on different levels, both melody- and lyrics wise.

With a dynamic sound I think the electric guitar can compete with vocals (again, its handicap is the fact that it cannot convey lyrics).

Also I am used to a compressed guitar sound, which helps to play smooth legato lines but but which is pretty useless for dynamic story telling type of sound used by Satch, and Neal Schon in the video Cosmin linked to.

So the latter is something I plan on dealing with soon. Typically when I dial in a more dynamic kind of sound, I will think wow this sounds cool but it kills my technique...and then dial in something else. What I should do instead is stick with that sound which feels somewhat un-natural, and instead try to change my technique!


Good points. Also, riffs are powerful blunt statements - they make you wanna hunt for your dinner instead of purchasing it at McDonalds. You can bounce your head and groan like a wombat, and feel cool doing it. Solos are smooth and divide the rythem - you can't really mosh to a solo - you need the bongos to do that! It goes back to the mood thing.

smile.gif

This post has been edited by SirJamsalot: Nov 12 2014, 12:32 AM


--------------------
The more I practice, the more I wish I had time to practice!
My Band Forum: http://passionfly.site/chat

Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Todd Simpson
post Nov 12 2014, 02:34 AM
Post #9


GMC:er
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 13.747
Joined: 23-December 09
From: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Member No.: 8.794



WADS of good points smile.gif You can follow traditional structure or go nuts and wing it. What you CAN"T do is be boring. Boring your audience is a cardinal sin. No matter what, you have to keep them entertained and keep them guessing so they are curious as to what you are going to play next smile.gif If it's too predictable, it gets boring and you can lose them.

QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Nov 11 2014, 07:31 PM) *
Good points. Also, riffs are powerful blunt statements - they make you wanna hunt for your dinner instead of purchasing it at McDonalds. You can bounce your head and groan like a wombat, and feel cool doing it. Solos are smooth and divide the rythem - you can't really mosh to a solo - you need the bongos to do that! It goes back to the mood thing.

smile.gif



--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 12 2014, 09:33 AM
Post #10


Instructor
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 22.808
Joined: 14-June 10
From: Bucharest
Member No.: 10.636



To underline Todd's point, building tension and release is a great method of keeping a listener on his tippy toes. I will share an example of turkish fusion, which I think is speaking this idea out pretty loudly:



The whole tune is built on this idea, but check out the phrases such as the one starting around 01:18 wink.gif


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Ben Higgins
post Nov 12 2014, 10:22 AM
Post #11


Instructor
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 13.765
Joined: 11-March 10
From: England
Member No.: 9.820



QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Nov 12 2014, 02:34 AM) *
What you CAN"T do is be boring. Boring your audience is a cardinal sin.


Absolutely. The sin of all sins ! cool.gif


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Todd Simpson
post Nov 12 2014, 10:56 AM
Post #12


GMC:er
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 13.747
Joined: 23-December 09
From: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Member No.: 8.794



VERY WELL SAID!!! I"m always banging on about TENSION AND RELEASE during video chat. Great example here!! Thanks smile.gif


QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Nov 12 2014, 04:33 AM) *
To underline Todd's point, building tension and release is a great method of keeping a listener on his tippy toes. I will share an example of turkish fusion, which I think is speaking this idea out pretty loudly:



The whole tune is built on this idea, but check out the phrases such as the one starting around 01:18 wink.gif



--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Gabriel Leopardi
post Nov 12 2014, 02:29 PM
Post #13


Instructor
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 28.059
Joined: 3-March 07
From: Argentina
Member No.: 1.289



Hello guys! About this amazing topic, I would like to share a thread created by a Gab's Army student in which he did a phrasing analysis and got 10 approaches to create phrases based on Joe Satriani's compositions.

Check it out, I consider it very rich and interesting: https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/guitar_fo...c=53348&hl=

You are also invited to expand it!


--------------------
My lessons

Do you need a Guitar Plan?
Join Gab's Army

Check my band:Cirse
Check my soundcloud:Soundcloud

Please subscribe to my:Youtube Channel
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Kristofer Dahl
post Nov 12 2014, 10:16 PM
Post #14


GMC Founder & Rocker
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 14.958
Joined: 15-August 05
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Member No.: 2



QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Nov 10 2014, 10:05 PM) *
We (musicians) listen to complicated pieces regularly in order to pick them apart, so we really get down to the nitty gritty of someone like Jason Becker, Malmsteen and are impressed. We hear most of the notes and can identify the arpeggios when we hear them. We know when something that was just played was amazing technical ability on display, versus just a standard run.

The non-musician isn't picking apart the song like we are. They listen to the song as a whole and judge it on how the song moves them.

As an average listener, I think Joe's formula worked for a time - it's simple to understand at face value, but I think that type of instrumental burned out listeners kindof like Yngvie burned out musician listeners. It's novel and exciting for a while, but it's a new era.


Yes in a nutshell this is the reason why most instrumental albums don't make it to the masses. They are albums made by über-musicians for musicians. In other words the niche is small!

Although I personally find Satch music absolutely mindblowing, I am still a bit amazed his 'Surfing' album made it to the masses. But then I don't fully understand the 80s music scene either.


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
SirJamsalot
post Nov 13 2014, 06:40 AM
Post #15


Learning Rock Star
*

Group: Members
Posts: 1.226
Joined: 4-May 10
From: Bay Area, California
Member No.: 10.312



QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Nov 12 2014, 02:16 PM) *
*snip...But then I don't fully understand the 80s music scene either.


Bite your tongue!!!!!!!!!! wink.gif dry.gif tongue.gif mellow.gif huh.gif ohmy.gif


--------------------
The more I practice, the more I wish I had time to practice!
My Band Forum: http://passionfly.site/chat

Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 13 2014, 09:19 AM
Post #16


Instructor
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 22.808
Joined: 14-June 10
From: Bucharest
Member No.: 10.636



QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Nov 12 2014, 09:16 PM) *
Yes in a nutshell this is the reason why most instrumental albums don't make it to the masses. They are albums made by über-musicians for musicians. In other words the niche is small!

Although I personally find Satch music absolutely mindblowing, I am still a bit amazed his 'Surfing' album made it to the masses. But then I don't fully understand the 80s music scene either.


Historically, there's been good stuff and bad stuff in the 80s smile.gif I for one never understood the clothing and hairstyle in the pop scene back then - but hey, that's how it went biggrin.gif On the other hand, a lot of the guitar greats have emerged during the 80s and a lot of famous rock bands - take Guns n Roses for instance - they came with a plus: they had of the guitar greats smile.gif


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
klasaine
post Nov 13 2014, 04:09 PM
Post #17


GMC:er
*

Group: Members
Posts: 2.659
Joined: 30-December 12
From: Los Angeles, CA
Member No.: 17.304



QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Nov 12 2014, 02:16 PM) *
Although I personally find Satch music absolutely mindblowing, I am still a bit amazed his 'Surfing' album made it to the masses. But then I don't fully understand the 80s music scene either.


I was too!
In the late 80s early 90s I had a non-muso girlfriend. The first time I went to her apt. I noticed that besides the usual non-muso records in her collection was Joe Satriani's 'surfing w/the alien' album. Asking her why she liked it didn't really reveal much ... "I think it's good music. All the songs have a mood and go together". In her non-technical way she was saying that they were songs - not just 'jams' or collections of riffs. Melody, harmony, rhythm put together in a good order (album programming) and it's all concise - it's not 'boring'.

'Normal' folks in the 80s and 90s had 'Surfing' in their collections for the same reasons normal folks in the 60s and 70s had 'kind of blue', 'dark side of the moon' and 'a love supreme' in their collections. It's just good music.

*As for the 80s in general? I don't know ... and I was there laugh.gif

This post has been edited by klasaine: Nov 13 2014, 05:33 PM


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Kristofer Dahl
post Nov 13 2014, 09:52 PM
Post #18


GMC Founder & Rocker
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 14.958
Joined: 15-August 05
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Member No.: 2



QUOTE (klasaine @ Nov 13 2014, 05:09 PM) *
I was too!
In the late 80s early 90s I had a non-muso girlfriend. The first time I went to her apt. I noticed that besides the usual non-muso records in her collection was Joe Satriani's 'surfing w/the alien' album. Asking her why she liked it didn't really reveal much ... "I think it's good music. All the songs have a mood and go together". In her non-technical way she was saying that they were songs - not just 'jams' or collections of riffs. Melody, harmony, rhythm put together in a good order (album programming) and it's all concise - it's not 'boring'.


Maybe it was because of Joe's haircut, perhaps you can dig up some old photos of you so we can get a hint about her preferences ph34r.gif

QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Nov 13 2014, 10:19 AM) *
Historically, there's been good stuff and bad stuff in the 80s smile.gif I for one never understood the clothing and hairstyle in the pop scene back then - but hey, that's how it went biggrin.gif On the other hand, a lot of the guitar greats have emerged during the 80s and a lot of famous rock bands - take Guns n Roses for instance - they came with a plus: they had of the guitar greats smile.gif


Agreed, when I got serious about guitar, the record label Shrapnel (from the 80s!) was synonymous to music for me. I still like to go back to some of that stuff, although nowadays I have a hard time telling if it's the nostalgia, shred or the music I appreciate.

Doesn't really matter on a personal level though. I am quite sure I would not have fallen for that stuff if it were today, but those records are like old-time family members now!

QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Nov 8 2014, 11:24 AM) *
How does one go about writing instrumental guitar music ? It is, in my opinion, much harder than writing songs with lyrics. Once you've come up with some riffs and an arrangement you know that vocals are going to be going over the top of those riffs.


Maybe it feels easier with vocal songs because you hand over the responsibility of building the - ever so important - lead melodies to someone else..? tongue.gif

QUOTE (klasaine @ Nov 11 2014, 04:58 AM) *
Approach it like that ... idea > development > new idea > develop that > maybe go back to the first idea in a different key > end it.


Btw Ken, you should tell us how this is done. Your "have a talk with good" is one of better instrumental tunes I have heard, the melody can be remembered after just one listen and it's a perfect illustration of call and response motive development!


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
klasaine
post Nov 13 2014, 11:27 PM
Post #19


GMC:er
*

Group: Members
Posts: 2.659
Joined: 30-December 12
From: Los Angeles, CA
Member No.: 17.304



QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Nov 13 2014, 01:52 PM) *
Maybe it was because of Joe's haircut, perhaps you can dig up some old photos of you so we can get a hint about her preferences ph34r.gif


Btw Ken, you should tell us how this is done. Your "have a talk with good" is one of better instrumental tunes I have heard, the melody can be remembered after just one listen and it's a perfect illustration of call and response motive development!


Thanks! Well, it's a Stevie Wonder song so I cannot take credit for the melody, only for choosing it.
It's a blues progression which, IMO - that I to IV motion - is always a super strong and sure fire way to build a song/melody structure. I also tried really hard to get some of his vocal inflections into my playing of the melody. That guy can sing a song like no one's business. But beyond that, the development in my version of that tune is typically (generally) what you strive for in an improvised (jazz - ?) setting/context. Strong initial melody and then the song builds/changes/develops during the improvised sections/solos (it can conceivably go anywhere - ?) and then you bring it back to the main melody and end it. There are 1000s of exceptions to this of course but in the context of what I did with it, it felt pretty natural.

As for the hair in 1990 ...
Attached Image

This post has been edited by klasaine: Nov 14 2014, 02:41 AM


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post
Kristofer Dahl
post Nov 14 2014, 09:22 AM
Post #20


GMC Founder & Rocker
Group Icon

Group: GMC Instructor
Posts: 14.958
Joined: 15-August 05
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Member No.: 2



QUOTE (klasaine @ Nov 14 2014, 12:27 AM) *
As for the hair in 1990 ...
Attached Image


I knew it, it's Satch's (and your) haircut she fell for!! laugh.gif tongue.gif

Now I can quit learning about music and just grow out the little hair I have got left.

QUOTE (klasaine @ Nov 14 2014, 12:27 AM) *
Thanks! Well, it's a Stevie Wonder song so I cannot take credit for the melody, only for choosing it.


Aha ok, still huge credit to you for making that lead as expressive as it is!


--------------------
Go to the top of the page
 
+Quote Post

2 Pages V   1 2 >
Fast ReplyReply to this topicStart new topic
2 User(s) are reading this topic (2 Guests and 0 Anonymous Users)
0 Members:

 


RSS Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 17th January 2017 - 06:20 PM