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Melodies and chord sequences and stuff

#1 User is online   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 07:01 AM

It seems to me that melody is a key part of song writing and yet this forum has yet to gain much in the way of traffic.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. One of them is that many of us lack the vocabulary to discuss melody. Another is that many of us lack the experience to develop effective melodies. Yet another is that many of us (finger pointing at self here) are inherently lazy!

I think many people (most?) who write songs here mess around with chord progressions or riffs, find something cool and then find a way to sing something over the top of it. We arrive at a melody, possibly without knowing how and possibly without experimenting with other possible melodies that might work better with that chord progression/riff.

Others start with a melody and then build some backing instrumentation, possibly harmonising with the melody.

I'm particularly interested in hearing from the latter group and in ways of getting started with that approach. I suspect that learning some theory would help, so pointers in that direction are also welcome!

Simon came up with this link .. http://howmusicreallyworks.com/#HMRW .. any others?

Of course, if you can show us (rather than tell us), so much the better! Hearing something brings it to life more than reading it, at least for me :)

I believe there can be some really useful information to be shared and discussed here, but I'm not sure how to get the ball rolling!
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Posted 24 August 2010 - 07:31 AM

For my part - I think melodies are important -

Lets face it, nobody sings chord sequences in the shower -

The trouble is, I dont particularly enjoy music with a single melody (and no chords) -

I think I honestly would prefer spoken poetry to un-accompanied melody (even if the lyrics were sung along with the melody)
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Posted 24 August 2010 - 07:39 AM

I think a melody without a backing track is fairly boring. I don't understand the purpose of this forum as "Songcrafting" seems to cover any needed discussion on the construction of melodies. Songs and Instrumental Feedback cover the purposes of critiquing.

Are there any writers here who are looking for feedback on only a melody?
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Posted 24 August 2010 - 10:21 AM

View PostFunkDaddy, on 24 August 2010 - 05:39 AM, said:

Are there any writers here who are looking for feedback on only a melody?


I am, because it's the most important part of a song, deceptive in its simplicity, and probably the hardest thing to do well.

Last weekend I bought a greatest hits CD by The Carpenters (hey, it was in the bargain bin). Karen Carpenter had one of the finest voices of all time, but her brother Richard was a little too saccharine in his arrangements for my tastes. The lyrics are superbly crafted love songs... but its the melodies that make their songs stand out.

Take this song: Goodbye to love. The first verse is pretty much one long melody line with only repeating musical phrase. If you forget for a moment that this is The Carpenters and concentrate on the melody alone, this -- to me -- is as good as it gets. It flows like honey on a hot pancake.

I've been trying to write melodies like this, trying to get away from the repetative motiffs while maintaining some form of musical sense, but it ain't easy.

I have a new song that I'd love to post here for feedback on the melody alone. Are we allowed to do that?

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#5 User is offline   Salley Gardens Icon

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:02 PM

View PostAlistair S, on 24 August 2010 - 06:01 AM, said:

It seems to me that melody is a key part of song writing and yet this forum has yet to gain much in the way of traffic.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. One of them is that many of us lack the vocabulary to discuss melody. Another is that many of us lack the experience to develop effective melodies. Yet another is that many of us (finger pointing at self here) are inherently lazy!

The responsibility for the slow start lies squarely on my shoulders... (Thank you for the seeds you've been planting!) Right after the forum was created I had a blast of personal emergencies, and the only area I've been seen openly on the Muse is in the August Song Comp, which I committed to running several weeks ago. However, I've been working behind the scenes for this forum...

Quote

I think many people (most?) who write songs here mess around with chord progressions or riffs, find something cool and then find a way to sing something over the top of it.

Chord progressions and backing tracks will soon be posted for people to create melodies over. Right now, Zeek has some in the wings for this. If you (or any one else!) would like to create some for these projects, it would be most appreciated. The only "hold up" to proceeding is working out the method and instructions for Musers to download, record and upload their melodies for feedback.

Quote

Others start with a melody and then build some backing instrumentation, possibly harmonising with the melody.

I'm particularly interested in hearing from the latter group and in ways of getting started with that approach.I suspect that learning some theory would help, so pointers in that direction are also welcome!

Simon came up with this link .. http://howmusicreallyworks.com/#HMRW .. any others?

Of course, if you can show us (rather than tell us), so much the better! Hearing something brings it to life more than reading it, at least for me :)

Me, too! Thanks or the link reminder.

#6 User is offline   Salley Gardens Icon

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:19 PM

View PostFunkDaddy, on 24 August 2010 - 06:39 AM, said:

I think a melody without a backing track is fairly boring. I don't understand the purpose of this forum as "Songcrafting" seems to cover any needed discussion on the construction of melodies. Songs and Instrumental Feedback cover the purposes of critiquing.

Are there any writers here who are looking for feedback on only a melody?

There could easily be some crossover. It's possible much of the discussion will continue in "Songcrafting", particularly regarding the marriage of melody to lyrics. However, the Songs and Instrumental feedback forums aren't as suitable. The Songs Feedback contains completed songs. The Instrumentals Forum isn't geared toward songwriting and adding lyrics.

Think of this more like the counterpart to the Lyrics Feedback forum, but for melody. The melodies posted for feedback won't all be unaccompanied, since some are just not born that way.

Demonstrations are in the works, more will become clear. B)

#7 User is online   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 04:10 PM

We could argue about whether this should be a part of another forum, but the melody is a key part of song-writing and there are many different ways of writing. I think it does no harm to focus on it, and I am hoping to benefit from the potential learning here.
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Posted 29 August 2010 - 05:10 PM

Having chord progressions for others to write melodies over is a start but what about several people taking the same bare melody and writing different chord patterns to it?
I write both ways. Sometimes I'll base a melody on a chord pattern and sometimes I'll come up with a melody first and figure out a chord progression that I like to go with it.

Quote

Are there any writers here who are looking for feedback on only a melody?


Absolutely! That's one of my disappointments with the song critique board. Melodies are rarely critiqued. Posters will make comments about guitar playing, drum patterns, or arrangement but it's rare for someone to really comment on melody. Guitar playing, drum patterns, and arrangement are technically not even part of the song itself.
I agree with Alistair (and Lazz before him) that we, on the muse and pop songwriters in general, tend to write pretty weak melodies. I don't think it's coincidence that one of the best melodists on the board mentions the importance of getting away from repetitive motifs.

I apologize Salley that I haven't been more supportive getting this off the ground but, like you, personal whirlwinds struck just when you cranked up.
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#9 User is offline   Simple Simon Icon

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 04:14 AM

View Postdaddio, on 30 August 2010 - 11:10 AM, said:

Guitar playing, drum patterns, and arrangement are technically not even part of the song itself.


And once again this serves to illustrate just how much the definition of a "song" (or "music", for that matter), is a matter of personal perception. Some see a song as little more than a set of lyrics sung to a melody. Others think of it as a set of lyrics sung or spoken over a rhythmic or harmonic backing. I tend to think of a song in the more "holistic" sense of its final presentation to my senses. Just as I don't tend to think of a meal as being simply its basic recipe and its primary raw ingredients - as important as these might be - so I cannot generally think of a song as being nothing more than some lyrics and a melody, with everything else being added as some kind of garnishing.

Melody, of course, can be an important (depending on genre) ingredient - as can lyrics, rhythm, harmonies, timbres and a host of other factors. As such, I agree that it is certainly an area worthy of discussion by songwriters, and I also agree with the perception that a lot of contemporary "pop" music tends to be melodically weak. So yeah, it's worth discussing and examining in itself, but I would still argue that the greatest value in the discussion of melody would be in it's overall musical context, rather than in isolation.

#10 User is offline   daddio Icon

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 06:51 AM

View PostSimple Simon, on 31 August 2010 - 05:14 AM, said:

View Postdaddio, on 30 August 2010 - 11:10 AM, said:

Guitar playing, drum patterns, and arrangement are technically not even part of the song itself.


And once again this serves to illustrate just how much the definition of a "song" (or "music", for that matter), is a matter of personal perception. Some see a song as little more than a set of lyrics sung to a melody. Others think of it as a set of lyrics sung or spoken over a rhythmic or harmonic backing. I tend to think of a song in the more "holistic" sense of its final presentation to my senses. Just as I don't tend to think of a meal as being simply its basic recipe and its primary raw ingredients - as important as these might be - so I cannot generally think of a song as being nothing more than some lyrics and a melody, with everything else being added as some kind of garnishing.

Melody, of course, can be an important (depending on genre) ingredient - as can lyrics, rhythm, harmonies, timbres and a host of other factors. As such, I agree that it is certainly an area worthy of discussion by songwriters, and I also agree with the perception that a lot of contemporary "pop" music tends to be melodically weak. So yeah, it's worth discussing and examining in itself, but I would still argue that the greatest value in the discussion of melody would be in it's overall musical context, rather than in isolation.


My only disagreement, Simon, would be this. If you hear the same song performed by two different people and you like one but not the other, what are you critiquing, the song or the presentation?
I hear many songs on the board and in comps that get high praise for the vocal or the production but if someone else did the song would it sound the same or be as interesting? Often, not. So what's being critiqued. I have no problem with critiquing the presentation as a whole, it's hard to separate it. But if we're talking about the SONG and not the presentation, then it's just lyrics and melody.
Some of the really great songs from the past have been done and redone and are great in every incarnation. Not because of the vocal or the arrangement but simply because they are well written songs. To me, the test of a well written song is to take it away from the "dressings". If you sang it acapella, would it hold up?
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#11 User is offline   Gret Icon

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 07:10 AM

There is discussion here about getting away from repetition in melodies. I had the pleasure of listening to Jason Blume on a conference call. He did some research which I believe may be published, or at least a part of his book. He looked at thousands of songs - he listened to every single song that had been a "hit" over a period of time (years, I believe), across genres, and he made note of what they had in common. One of the things that I recall was melodic repetition. There were many many interesting things noted and I'm wanting to get his book.

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 02:07 PM

View Postdaddio, on 29 August 2010 - 03:10 PM, said:

I agree with Alistair (and Lazz before him) that we, on the muse and pop songwriters in general, tend to write pretty weak melodies. I don't think it's coincidence that one of the best melodists on the board mentions the importance of getting away from repetitive motifs.


One trend I've noticed in pop music in the last few years is a trend toward massive repetition of little motives. There's this tune that's used on a kindle commercial which is a great example. The song is basically a single 3 note motive which gets modified but doesn't drift much... sustained thru the whole song... talk about repetition!

The song is here:
http://www.amazon.co...t/dp/B003D3SBQG

Most tunes don't have this much repetition, but it's a trend that's been on my radar for awhile.

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 02:19 PM

I would certainly agree that some repetition is a good and necessary thing because it makes it easier for the listener to remember the song. But incessant repetition of the same melodic phrase in every line is maddening unless the it's a dance tune and then the melody is not that important anyway.
I often hear songs here that are monotonously repetitive, and unfortunately, I've heard them on the radio too. I agree with Ian (another great melodist on the board), that it seems to be a trend in pop music. This kindle song is a good example, another is some music by Jack Johnson.
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#14 User is offline   Simple Simon Icon

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 02:53 AM

View Postdaddio, on 01 September 2010 - 12:51 AM, said:

To me, the test of a well written song is to take it away from the "dressings". If you sang it acapella, would it hold up?

That's a question I have asked myself a lot. Part of the problem, I feel, is that once one has heard a particular set of lyrics and melody in a harmonic context, that context is ingrained in us, subconsciously, so that any future listenings to the same combination of lyrics and melody, acapella if you like, would still (subconsciously) invoke those harmonies and arrangement we have come to associate with that song. This makes using existing songs as examples as a bit of a problem. But I'll try.

A lot of "great" songs utilise single notes, extended over periods of time, while the harmonies or other juxtaposed notes vary around them. A classic musical example I mentioned in a previous post was Bach's Air on a G String; without the contrabass, this melody would have little meaning. The repetitive verses in the Beatles' Strawberry fields are quite boring in themselves, but come alive in reference to their harmonic context . Even a song like Yesterday, as brilliant as the melody is, without that Em inserted between the F and the A7 the melody just wouldn't make the same kind of sense. When we hear it now, even acapella, we insert that chord even without being aware of it.

Please don't get me wrong. I LOVE good melody and I don't mean to diminish, in any sense, it's value in music and in songwriting. I guess I'm just trying to explain why I struggle to really consider it in discrete isolation. :)







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Posted 01 September 2010 - 05:21 AM

View PostSimple Simon, on 01 September 2010 - 12:53 AM, said:

A lot of "great" songs utilise single notes, extended over periods of time, while the harmonies or other juxtaposed notes vary around them.

There's actually a classical name for this device. It's a 'pedal point' or 'inverted pedal point'. You can create a lot of interesting textures using them and the music holds together really good because of the the sustained note everything revolves around. I love using them in my writing...

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#16 User is online   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 05:52 AM

Maybe I'm looking at this wrong. I agree with everyone above :)

Melody on its own isn't enough. However, to take golf as an analogy, the ability to drive off the tee isn't enough, either. To play a good round, lots of other skills come into play (unless you always get a hole in one!). It seems to me that, if driving is your weakness, practicing your driving skills would be a good idea. In the same way, I think it might be helpful to develop my melody awareness (and I hope that some of you better melodists might share your approaches - if you can (it might just come subconsciously)).

Simon is right. When I listen to someone singing a song I know (or if I sing it) a capella, I do "hear" some of the surrounding instrumentation. Of course, this isn't true of songs I don't know. With songs that I don't know, there often needs to be something else to hold my interest. The singer may sing/tap/clap a bit of percussion, for example. Often, it's the lyric. One genre that springs to mind where an unaccompanied singer is fairly normal is folk. In folk, the story is pretty key (though it can be the simple beauty of a lament, but there is a story of sorts there too). The lyric holds the melody up and keeps my interest.

There are exceptions. Take a tenor singing something like Nessun Dorma. I may not understand the words, but the melody is enough to keep my interest (well, that and wondering if the tenor is going to make every note! :lol:).

Then again, rhythm is part of melody. If you sing "Anything Goes" really slowly, the melody is pretty boring (I think). Speed it up to it's normal level and I think it's a cracking melody!

I suppose I am agreeing that the song is made up of lots of interlocking devices, all of which are important. Is a "strong" melody vital? Probably not. Does a more "interesting" melody always improve a song? I don't think so. The core of many songs isn't the melody, and the "feel" of the song could be destroyed if it soared and swooped more.

One could argue that the phrasing is more important. We have all heard songs that are fabulous when one person sings them and awful when another destroys them (I'm thinking of some of the covers done by more recent artists of old hits, where they have sometimes destoyed the soul of the song with their vocal gymnastics - think Mariah Carey).

However .. however .. I would like to be able to produce more interesting melodies when I choose to. I suspect that I am constrained by bad habits rather than by choice. I'd like to practice my driving!

How to do it is a question. I wonder if we are nervous about putting up a melody on its own, fearing that it won't be sufficient on its own. Should we la-la it or play it or sing it with the lyric? I have to say, I would find a melody with no words hard to comment on, in much the same way that Simon finds it hard to consider a melody without the context of the backing.

Does anyone here usually write the melody first? If so, how do you go about it? What is the process of developing a melody, and then the other parts of the song? As I write on guitar, I think I try and find some sort of back and rhythm and melody all at the same time (I play something and sing over it.. la-la-la).. and then words come. I'm sire there are other ways - maybe easier with a keyboard?
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 06:20 AM

I can't disagree with anything Simon is saying either and I think we're talking about two different things.
I think there are some things we can do on this board with bare melodies that will be fun and interesting experiments but the beauty of a melody is directly related to the chords and rhythms that flow through it.
My argument is more about performance. My point is that, all too often in critiques, we see comments about performance. As a performing artist, they're great to hear but they don't really relate to the song itself.
Lately I'm feeling my inner dog.

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable"

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Hunter S. Thompson

"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."
Hunter S. Thompson


"I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings."
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


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Posted 01 September 2010 - 11:37 AM

View PostAlistair S, on 01 September 2010 - 05:52 AM, said:

I suppose I am agreeing that the song is made up of lots of interlocking devices, all of which are important. Is a "strong" melody vital? Probably not. Does a more "interesting" melody always improve a song? I don't think so. The core of many songs isn't the melody, and the "feel" of the song could be destroyed if it soared and swooped more.

One could argue that the phrasing is more important...

Does anyone here usually write the melody first? If so, how do you go about it? What is the process of developing a melody, and then the other parts of the song? As I write on guitar, I think I try and find some sort of back and rhythm and melody all at the same time (I play something and sing over it.. la-la-la).. and then words come. I'm sire there are other ways - maybe easier with a keyboard?


Not only is a song made up of "many interlocking devices" but so is a melody: specifically, the pitches and rhythm [as you say "Then again, rhythm is part of melody"] in addition, I think most accompanied melodies also generate an implied harmony [list to the Bach solo cello suites e.g.. I think phrasing IS the melody, specifically, it is the rhythmic component of the melody. I just finished reading a biography of Irving Berlin ("As thousands cheered") I think he realized how important timing (phrasing) the melody to syncopate (i.e., stress off beats)was to make a plain or boring melody interesting - the same point is made by Robin Frederick in her back that tries to help you write contemporary hits. It's interesting that Berlin was able to "sell" [convince someone it was a good song] his songs by singing them unaccompanied with a crappy voice. Also, I think it is a fallacy to think that whether a melodic line swoons and swoops is in any way related to whether it is any good; some of the best melodies stay within and octave and move mostly step-wise. melodies that m

regarding the last point, I usually write melody first, especially if I'm looking at someone else's lyric it is reasonably set before I sit down to an instrument - primarily I guess because what ever idea is triggered usually happens when I'm running or driving or reading. The melody pretty much implies the harmony - I often "hear" the "counterpoint" (i.e., riffes when I'm singing through the songs. Of course once you start putting it all together at an instrument (or the computer) other harmonic, rhythmic and accompaniment ideas pop up that can cause the other things to change. Usually I get a combines lyric and melodic phrase that I end up singing over and over and that triggers further development - I guess that's called building from the hook down - Ron
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 06:47 PM

I tend to write melodies first, sometimes without chords. As Ron said, it often comes while I'm driving or doing yard work or something like that. Then I go figure out the chords I like for it.
Again, as Ron said, usually I begin with a repeating phrase that allows for further development. Just like a lyricist will polish their lyric, I will polish my melody, trying different movements or rhythms.
Other times I might start with a written lyric. I prefer a lyric that is meaningful to me, that is, it's authentic for my voice. Sometimes the lyric will suggest a certain feeling or remind me of another song or suggest a style. Often that's enough to get started toward a melody. Other times I might get no musical ideas from the lyric itself and then maybe I'll start trying rhythms and chord progressions on the guitar.
Usually, for any song I write, I have to "teach" myself the song after I've written it. That is, I try to figure out interesting accompaniments.
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 02:46 AM

View Postdaddio, on 01 September 2010 - 04:20 AM, said:

My argument is more about performance. My point is that, all too often in critiques, we see comments about performance. As a performing artist, they're great to hear but they don't really relate to the song itself.

I mostly agree. "Music and Lyrics" is technically/legally melody and lyrics. And folks don't comment much on melody. But regardless of legality, songwriting isn't just about melody and lyrics. Chord progression, instrumentation, performances and the vocal are all integral elements.

Traditionally music is understood as melody, harmony and rhythm. I personally think that in the age of recording and using recordings and recording devices on stage, a fourth element might be even more important than the traditional three: Sound. In some genres, getting a unique sound is probably now more important than a unique melody, harmony or rhythm.
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Posted 05 September 2010 - 01:19 PM

When I write my lyrics, I usually have a melody in mind with the song title. I can go to the piano and play my song note for note but it's difficult for me to find the right chords for the melody.
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Posted 07 November 2010 - 11:28 PM

View PostAlistair S, on 24 August 2010 - 07:01 AM, said:

It seems to me that melody is a key part of song writing and yet this forum has yet to gain much in the way of traffic.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. One of them is that many of us lack the vocabulary to discuss melody. Another is that many of us lack the experience to develop effective melodies. Yet another is that many of us (finger pointing at self here) are inherently lazy!

I think many people (most?) who write songs here mess around with chord progressions or riffs, find something cool and then find a way to sing something over the top of it. We arrive at a melody, possibly without knowing how and possibly without experimenting with other possible melodies that might work better with that chord progression/riff.

Others start with a melody and then build some backing instrumentation, possibly harmonising with the melody.

I'm particularly interested in hearing from the latter group and in ways of getting started with that approach. I suspect that learning some theory would help, so pointers in that direction are also welcome!

Simon came up with this link .. http://howmusicreallyworks.com/#HMRW .. any others?

Of course, if you can show us (rather than tell us), so much the better! Hearing something brings it to life more than reading it, at least for me :)

I believe there can be some really useful information to be shared and discussed here, but I'm not sure how to get the ball rolling!



Hi Alistair...I'll be more proactive on here in coming days/weeks as I learn more in the way of structuring melodies to the music I hear in my head, and the lyrics I've got now. I've been playin' guitar since June so I'm lookin' ta start mapping out a demo soon. Any help or advice you can give me along the way will be greatly appreciated. Cheers!

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Posted 08 November 2010 - 09:25 AM

Unfortunately, melody is not a strong point of mine. I tend to stumble through the process, blindly, and it is an area I would like to improve on.

There are a few here who are good at it. Of course, it may be hard for them to analyse and share what what they do, if it comes naturally to them.

One thing I have found is that looking for harmonies can sometimes help me to discover a better melody than the one I started with. This can be done simply by trying alternative melodies over the music you already have. Of course, that is quite different from the approach of finding the right melody first and then building the backing music. I suspect I don't understand music well enough to do that .. yet.

Here's hoping someone else can help! :)
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Posted 08 November 2010 - 11:05 PM

View PostAlistair S, on 08 November 2010 - 09:25 AM, said:

Unfortunately, melody is not a strong point of mine. I tend to stumble through the process, blindly, and it is an area I would like to improve on.

There are a few here who are good at it. Of course, it may be hard for them to analyse and share what what they do, if it comes naturally to them.

One thing I have found is that looking for harmonies can sometimes help me to discover a better melody than the one I started with. This can be done simply by trying alternative melodies over the music you already have. Of course, that is quite different from the approach of finding the right melody first and then building the backing music. I suspect I don't understand music well enough to do that .. yet.

Here's hoping someone else can help! :)



I appreciate that you are so readily admissive of your shortcomings as a musician. Having less than 6 mos of guitar under my own belt, and only knowing the more basic stuff, has me feeling a little uncertain of myself for wanting to get into these forums. But I feel that for all the progress I HAVE made, my guitar teacher (Matt Laporte from Jon Oliva's Pain) has me moving at the proverbial snail's pace right now (he just showed me Sunshine of Your Love, by Cream). JOP has 4 albums out, but Matt seems a little reluctant to help me develop any of my own material until I have a better understanding of music theory. Hmmmm. Perhaps I'm impatient, but I wanna learn NOW, damn it! Hahaha

For one thing, I hear music in my head that I cannot play yet. I can sing the words, and maybe even HUM the melody, but all I can actually play are the (single) notes I'm singing. Any suggestions as to how to find the chords that I would strum for the rhythm parts that would accompany the piece?

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 03:14 AM

View PostMortal_Soul, on 08 November 2010 - 09:05 PM, said:

Any suggestions as to how to find the chords that I would strum for the rhythm parts that would accompany the piece?

There's an excellent discussion on this here in the Songcrafting Forum.

It's important first to understand what intervals are (unision, major/minor 2nds, 3rds, perfect 4ths, 5ths, etc.), how to create a scale (in particular, major and minor) using whole & half steps (aka: major/minor seconds), and chord building concepts beginning with triads (and then adding intervals on top of the triads to form dominants, 9ths, etc.) It's also important to understand enharmonic spellings of chords.

Once these concepts are down, the above discussion makes more sense.

Some people can hear the chord in there heads when they hear a melody. Others, like myself, begin by making a wild or educated guesses, and adjusting the chords until they sound right.

If your head is spinning by now, this validates your guitar teacher taking the time to expose these concepts. If not, jump in with both feet!

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 06:33 AM

Mortal Soul, just curious, have you explained to your guitar teacher that you are interested in learning guitar for songwriting purposes? It's actually quite easy to learn enough guitar to write songs. I am entirely self-taught and get by just fine.
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Posted 09 November 2010 - 07:45 AM

I teach guitar too and understand why it seems that your teacher is going slowly. You can probably write some simple melodies right now using the chords you've learned but Salley Gardens is right. If you really want to understand what you're doing and write the melodies you hear, then you need to learn intervals and train your ear to hear them. You can probably do some of that now but don't know what to call it.
Many successful songwriters have done it with three chords, a good sense of rhythm, and no other training. But the more you know, the better you go.
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Posted 09 November 2010 - 12:51 PM

View Postdaddio, on 10 November 2010 - 12:45 AM, said:

If you really want to understand what you're doing and write the melodies you hear, then you need to learn intervals and train your ear to hear them.

I totally agree; and this is something that can be practised at almost any time. All you need is your voice (although it might help to have a piano or keyboard on hand as a reference instrument when you start out). Sing or hum scales - up and down, major and minor. Get familiar with the scale degrees (2nd, 3rd, 4th etc) of the various notes and practice singing/humming those intervals by name. As you do this you will start to become more aware of the musical relationship between each of these notes and the tonic, or starting, note of the scale.





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Posted 09 November 2010 - 10:14 PM

Whoa...what a deluge! Haha, I appreciate all the helpful replies. Wow...I'm pleased, to say the least.
SALLY) I'm gonna go check that discussion board in a few minutes, thanks.
FUNKY) I always appreciate your advice, and think it may well be high time I DID take some personal responsibility upon myself to fill in the gaps my guitar teacher may not be addressing (I'm a huge fan of his work so I'll continue taking lessons from him, as well).
DADDIO) Your additional supportive, helpful advice & knowledge is very much appreciated too.
SIMON) Same as above...you're ALL so much more knowledgeable than I am, musically. Thanks!

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 09:19 PM

IMHO it is the melody and rhythm that sells pop songs.....production and performance come next.....then last of all lyrics. Finding a melodic hook is crucial to creating a decent pop song. Most people will not remember lyrics except for maybe a few lines of chorus but will whistle or hum the melody especially the melodic hooks. Sometimes a simple melody is better received than a complicated "clever" melody. It is a fact that most people do not have a good ear for music and a large percentage of listeners are tone deaf or at least not great at singing or clapping in time. Most of the recent pop song hits rely on repetetive hooks and simple rhythm and melody. That said writing a simple catchy melody to compliment a rhythm and chord progression is the HARD PART.

KISS is a good strategy when writing melodies. Nothing wrong with a simple well crafted melody.

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 12:18 AM

I don't understand your question... Is *what* normal? using .10 guage strings?

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 09:56 AM

Sorry, I guess I don't know wtf I'm talkin' about. Ignore me.

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 12:00 PM

Okie dokie, Mortal. We'll still be here when you're ready. B)

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 02:28 PM

View PostMortal_Soul, on 27 November 2010 - 09:56 AM, said:

Sorry, I guess I don't know wtf I'm talkin' about. Ignore me.


First off, never apologize for where you are on the path. We're all on the same path ti's just that some people have walked further than others. Keep walking.

Curiously, you've deleted your question. But I think, after reading some of your earlier posts, that you're asking if there's any value to a song written by a relative newcomer.
Man, that's where we all started. Don't wait to start writing and sharing your songs until you've reached some mythical level of musicianship. Writing songs, like learning your instrument, is a skill that you learn and grow. The way to start is exactly what you described in your question.
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Posted 27 November 2010 - 02:34 PM

View Postdaddio, on 27 November 2010 - 12:28 PM, said:

Don't wait to start writing and sharing your songs until you've reached some mythical level of musicianship.

Ain't that the truth! I know, for sure, that level of musicianship exists... right at the bottom of that rainbow!

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 12:30 AM

View Postdaddio, on 27 November 2010 - 02:28 PM, said:

View PostMortal_Soul, on 27 November 2010 - 09:56 AM, said:

Sorry, I guess I don't know wtf I'm talkin' about. Ignore me.


First off, never apologize for where you are on the path. We're all on the same path ti's just that some people have walked further than others. Keep walking.

Curiously, you've deleted your question. But I think, after reading some of your earlier posts, that you're asking if there's any value to a song written by a relative newcomer.
Man, that's where we all started. Don't wait to start writing and sharing your songs until you've reached some mythical level of musicianship. Writing songs, like learning your instrument, is a skill that you learn and grow. The way to start is exactly what you described in your question.



So, tell me then, Daddio...what exactly does that mean, to start writing and sharing songs? I have posted approx. a dozen of my better lyrics on the Lyric Crit forum, and I hear most of my stuff fully developed in my head. It's learning to play what I hear that's the main obstacle for me, at this point. I guess I'm a little confused as to what a melody actually is, since there seem to be 2 different schools of thought on this; one belonging to people who consider it the single string of notes that make up the vocal, and the other belonging to those who consider it the flow of music AROUND that single string of notes. I had always considered any additional accompaniment to be harmonizing, myself. But clarification would be a nice firm step in the right direction for me, first off. More questions will be coming soon, of course. B)

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 01:25 AM

Mortal, what is it you are actually hearing in your head? Are you hearing a melody, or harmony, or both? (I agree with your definitions of melody and harmony.) The methods for getting what you hear out of your head to playing it with your fingers may be different depending on what you're hearing.

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 03:55 AM

View PostMortal_Soul, on 28 November 2010 - 05:30 PM, said:

I guess I'm a little confused as to what a melody actually is, since there seem to be 2 different schools of thought on this; one belonging to people who consider it the single string of notes that make up the vocal, and the other belonging to those who consider it the flow of music AROUND that single string of notes. I B)


Melody is the former of these: the string of notes that make up the main vocal (or instrumental) part.


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Posted 28 November 2010 - 10:49 AM

Ok, cool. So, the way I understand it, if I come up with a lyric that, when sung, goes "La laa-laa, la dee-daa, dah-dah deee-doo, dah doooo", that's the "melody" (assuming it's the central idea of my song), right? Or, am I not getting it? Btw, that was just an example. Not a lyric. :P *This may seem like a stupid question but I'm just looking for a little bit of clarification here.

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 10:59 AM

View PostMortal_Soul, on 28 November 2010 - 08:49 AM, said:

Ok, cool. So, the way I understand it, if I come up with a lyric that, when sung, goes "La laa-laa, la dee-daa, dah-dah deee-doo, dah doooo", that's the "melody" (assuming it's the central idea of my song), right?

Yup! You got it!

(oh, yeah, I want to add, there *are* no stupid questions!)

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 11:23 AM

Thanks, Sally...it almost goes without saying, yet something I believe Daddio had posted a while back made me think I misunderstood what a melody actually was. I think I'm getting it now (finally). What is the music that swirls through & around the main melody called (let's say it's also very melodic, but enhances the main melody line). I'm prone to want to call that a "harmony" but I've also heard that as "counter-melody". Does that make any sense?

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 11:52 AM

View PostMortal_Soul, on 28 November 2010 - 09:23 AM, said:

What is the music that swirls through & around the main melody called (let's say it's also very melodic, but enhances the main melody line). I'm prone to want to call that a "harmony" but I've also heard that as "counter-melody". Does that make any sense?

The question makes perfect sense.

If the music that is swirling around the main melody can be sung as a melodic line on its own, it's called a counter-melody. The counter-melody is just one type of harmony. (It's thought of as horizontal (linear) harmony).

Another type of harmony is the use of chords. This is thought of as being vertical (stacked) harmony.

Either/or can be used. It's even possible to create a combination of both of these kinds of harmony.

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 12:31 PM

When you described someone sitting in their room with 10 gauge strings, strumming some simple chords and singing a line over that, the line you're singing is the melody. The chords you're strumming are the rhythmic accompaniment, what Salley called "vertical harmony". If you're hearing other melodic elements in the spaces between the sung lines, they may be a countermelody but it's more likely to be the notes that many players use to connect chords and spice up their sound. This is a fairly common technique used by some guitarists, especially fingerpickers and I'm sure you've heard it. A very basic example would be changing from a C major chord to an A minor. This is a common chord change that's been used in many songs. Some guitarists would use the last beat or two of the C major measure to catch the B note on the way to A minor. It adds some melodic movement to the chord change. I've heard it so much in songs throughout my life that I hear it too when I'm writing and it's not there yet.

Another common way to add melodic spice to your strummed accompaniment and fill the gaps between the sung lines is to use the sus4 version of the V chord in your I, IV, V chord sequence. For example, if you're in G, the chords are G, C, and D. The Dsus4 involves adding your pinky to the D major chord at the third fret of the first string. Sometimes called the "church lick", this device is very common also and I hear it when I'm writing.

Sorry to bore all the non-guitarists and non-musicians with guitar specific advice. I've heard keyboard players use the same accompaniment devices. There are so many that are very commonly used that I believe many people who hear accompaniment when they are singing acapella are hearing these kinds of common musical ideas.
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Posted 28 November 2010 - 03:05 PM

Thanks so much, to both of you...this really makes my day. Sally, you've given me more to work with now, challenge-wise, with the suggestion that one can quite conceivably weave a stacked harmony with a linear one. It sounds fun, if a bit complicated. I shall master this in a matter of weeks. ( :P )

Daddio, that's so cool of you to explain that to me. Six months of guitar lessons from a guy who knows theory, inside-out, and we've never even touched on this. Thank you. Btw, I discovered that neat little "church lick" trick recently while playin' an Am-Em strum thru on my Standard E tuned electric the other night. For a rhythm break I slipped a Dm in for 2 strums then a DSus2 (hadda look that one up after I realized how nice it sounded, lol) back to a Dm (1 strum each) then back to an Am. I switch up the Am-Em for one measure with a C and an E, respectively. Sounds pretty cool. Thanks for allowing me to pick your collective brains, here. B)

P.S. > The post I deleted, if anyone read it, sounded like I was very full of myself, which is certainly not the case (at least not at this very moment, lol). That's why I deleted it.

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 03:26 PM

Oh, one more question. Well, maybe 3 more. LOL First, what's the difference between a riff and a melody? Second, what exactly is "phrasing" in musical terms? And third, well...ok, so maybe there is no third question. I lied. :lol:

#46 User is offline   Salley Gardens Icon

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 03:59 PM

So, a melody is a linear line of music. Melodic lines can appear anywhere in a piece of music. There can be a main melody, as applied to lyrics. There can be an additional melodic line, in a counter-melody. There can also be little bits of melodic fluff. When the bits of melodic fluff are really, really short, they are sometimes called ornaments. When the bits of melodic fluff are longer, showing a bit of flair for a solo musician, it's called a riff.

The fluff is decorative, the main melody of the piece can survive without it, and still be recognized.

A riff is usually improvisatory in nature, or at least began that way. It's a chance for the musician to shine and express him/herself a bit. The riffs themselves can become popular, and other musicians might use them. Some riffs get identified with a particular song, and are hard to use elsewhere. Many riffs can be used in different songs. Riffs can be combined with each other, creating new riffs, or to make them longer. They are just melodic ideas.

There are a couple of concepts regarding phrases and phrasing. The most common idea of phrasing has to do with a musical "thought". It's similar (if not exactly) to phrasing with words. In a way, a phrase is like a sentence, or part of a sentence. When reading the written word, we'll pause at a comma, and then make a more pointed stop after a period. We might not take a breath after a comma (maybe just a little one), but we would after a period. We'd *never* take a breath in the middle of a word, or pause in certain parts of the written phrase when reading aloud. It breaks the continuity. Melodic lines also have phrases.

Quite often in pop/folk/classical music (not always), a phrase consists of four bars of music. It is usually followed by another four bars. It's almost like the first four bars is a question, and the second four bars is the answer. Together, these 8 bars of music create a "period". Some people might even call the whole 8 bars a phrase, feeling like the "thought" isn't complete without the "call" and its "response".

One doesn't need to get bogged down in counting bars to identify phrases. We instinctively "feel" the beginning and natural conclusion to a snippet of music when we listen. Sometimes, when we're learning to play or sing some music, we end up focusing on perfecting little parts within a phrase, and lose its connection to the larger phrase... Like someone trying to pronounce difficult words while reading aloud, the meaning of the sentence can get lost.

Sometimes we have our choice how we want to phrase a piece of music. We decide where the beginning and end of a phrase are. Not everybody makes the same choices, and the differences in interpretation can really effect the delivery.

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 04:17 PM

A lot of rock and roll is riff based. That is, a repeating musical phrase often two measure long, is repeated over and over as the signature of the song. To an old fart like me, the classic example is Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. That opening music line, before the singer starts, is two measures long and is repeated throughout the song.
Another less obvious example is the opening two measure of Beethoven's 9th.
A riff can be a melodic line or it can be more rhythmic like a strummed line.
Lately I'm feeling my inner dog.

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"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Hunter S. Thompson

"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."
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"I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings."
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Posted 28 November 2010 - 05:39 PM

:ph34r: :blink: must - learn - more :blink: :ph34r:

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 06:33 PM

No.

What you must do is learn to work with what you have. We all learn to live within our limitations. I can hear full, orchestral pieces, or amazing electric guitar backing that I cannot replicate. We all "hear" things we can't reproduce. What we present to the world is what we can do.

Presenting that, with all its faults, is what separates the men from the boys. It takes courage. It is also where the learning begins. After time, we see patterns in what we are doing, and what others are doing. That is post hoc rationalisation and reflection. That is a part of learning, but isn't all of it.

There is always an excuse. Get enough excuses and you never have to do anything. Do it. Then the learning begins.

You can always learn more. You could be on your death-bed saying ... must.. learn .. more.

What would you rather? Someone who can tell you how a song could be sung, in theory, or someone who sings you a song? Who gives a **** what the parts are called? How it affects me is all that counts, surely!

'Nuff said?
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Posted 28 November 2010 - 07:16 PM

Nope. Not 'nuff said...

It depends on a person's specific goals.

The only reason to learn what parts are called is to provide a common vocabulary for for the purpose of trading information. If one isn't interested in communicating with another, then I agree, learning names of parts is silly.

And just so you know, not everybody has the gift you describe of hearing music so completely. I'm not one of them, for sure! If you ever had the goal of replicating the music you hear (outside of playing it...) you might want to learn the names of parts, too. Your music could be replicated into a score for other people to play. This requires more learning, including names of parts.

I think I understand you may be saying, "Don't wait until you learn everything before you *do* it!" If so, I agree. But learning common terms, if one is interested in doing so, shouldn't be ignored while making music. It can facilitate future learning.

I recently started learning to play jazz, and one of the first things I did was start learning the lingo so I could ask the right questions of "real" jazz musicians!

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