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Beside playing drums I'm toying with software to create music. The problem is when I need to advance further. I may have some good, let's say "riffs" (or pieces, or melodies, or ideas), and I'm pretty harsh with everything I create (until I'm really proud out it, it's crap to me), but have no idea how to make it longer. I have lots of "samples", short melodies, but I just can't make them last longer.

Is there any way to make creating music little easier? Some music theory stuff? And how to connect pieces, how to extend existing one? That are things I'm really interested in.

I would be very grateful for any answer., I love both music and creating it, but the lack of ability to "continue" is getting me down.

And I know that there was thread for composing, but it was aimed for guitar, and I'm seeking more general tips.

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See also… - my question is posdibly a dup of this.. – naught101 Sep 16 '12 at 1:57
Brainstorming. Just sit there and jam in your head with what you already have, ideas will come eventually. – Anthony Oct 7 '13 at 19:55
up vote 25 down vote accepted

Listen to as much music as possible in as many styles as possible and force yourself to listen to music that you aren't familiar with or even don't like. You can't progress from a point of no reference. Like when you learn to speak, you learn vocabulary from practice and by emulating others. Then, after you've built up a broad vocabulary, you can start to talk like your own self. The same is true with composing (or playing for that matter).

Technically speaking, theory certainly won't hurt. If you learn proven and accepted ways of doing things "right", then you can be more confident when you break those theory "rules". But remember, it is all still theory. You need to let your own ear guide you through.

Also, don't spend all your time writing at the computer if you can help it. A computer is a great tool and can certainly ease a lot of pain when writing, but it is just a tool. The music still comes from you. Use a pencil and paper and you'll see the difference. They both have their places.

Finally, for some practice, try to write every single day, even when it feels difficult. If you can only write a couple of bars in a day, then that's still better than nothing. If you need some structure around that, try just writing melodies and don't pay attention to key or even a time signature. Just work on melody. If you do that and practice it, you'll start to learn to incorporate that into your compositions in a practical way. Melody is king.

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In addition to this, work on the "music theory stuff" - you can get so far without it, but reading, studying and understanding theory will help you progress. – Dr Mayhem Aug 19 '12 at 15:46
Yes. See my 2nd paragraph. – tptcat Aug 19 '12 at 15:57
sorry - my wording was bad. I was agreeing with you, but stressing from the OP's own words that he'll need to do both. You already got my upvote :-) – Dr Mayhem Aug 19 '12 at 15:58
Thanks. I'm always surprised by how musicians are prideful when they don't know theory or don't know how to read music. Sure, you can get really far without either, and neither is the key to success, but knowing both will never hurt you so long as you aren't relying on either more than you are listening and making music. – tptcat Aug 19 '12 at 15:59
@Dreat To leave url in comments: [Wikipedia]( outputs Wikipedia – American Luke Aug 20 '12 at 19:41

In addition to tptcat's nice answer:
Besides just listening to music you could try and copy music for yourself -- record it or write it down. This will force you to observe all the details of the music you are listening to. And when you've copied a song (as best you can), think about what riffs, pieces, melodies, or ideas there are (that you could have made) and how the songmaker extended these or connected them together. This might give you ideas to build on and develop for your own material.

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Thanks for nice answer, great addition! – Dreat Aug 19 '12 at 20:59
@Dreat: You could try to search for sources like this. Perhaps that one's not your cup of tea, but with some clever searching you might find other idea spurring sites or sources. – Ulf Åkerstedt Aug 19 '12 at 21:44
Just to add a little detail: "Copying music" is technically coined "transcription". Transcription is a great tool for a musician and should certainly be valued highly. – Saebekassebil Aug 21 '12 at 10:48

Harmony is king, learn to write music 'improvising', 'rehearsing' on a real instrument.

contrary to @tptcat I don't write music on paper. And I don't think it can be easy for a drummer that don't play a multi-tonal instrument (strings or keys).

Harmony is the fact of putting several notes together. For example, managing a bass line and one line of melody, is already harmony. The bread and butter of many western tunes.

My favourites instruments for composition are the guitar and the piano or synth. Though it takes years to master them, it happens quickly that one can play simple pieces on them very fast. Playing a bass line and a melody line for example ( 2 notes progression).

But best is to try 3 notes progression, so as to instinctively learn and feel in the guts the movements between the modes, basically the circle of the fifth, that gives (given an start point, let's say a C Major) the 5 other possible chords you could play next step almost blindly and that will always sound good (Am, GM, Em, FM, Dm)... though sometimes not enough exotic or surprising ;-)

Then you could interest yourself in all the modes, Major, Minor of course, but also Ionian, Dorian, etc... that could show you paths for making melodies.

I think that before imagining music in your head (that's what writing with pencil and paper means, and means years of training for me), you have to feel music in your fingers, just like you play drums.

On the other side: @tptcat's argument to listen to any sorts of music to improve the hear... yeah, that's a really good advice. +1.

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Try to sing one of your favourite songs out of key. Then sing it in key. Ask yourself - what makes it work. Change a few bars of your favorite song and see what you get. Dont worry if you destroy it in the process. Just add on a few bars of your own and keep going. Try to learn how to improvise? Ask yourself what works for you (not me)? Try this exercise even if you do not feel like doing it (everyday).

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Nice tip about singing out of key. Another might be to re-write it in a different mode. Could get some interesting results! – naught101 Sep 16 '12 at 7:34

I believe compositions are generated out of the experiences of one's life. Live you life to the fullest, rest will come chasing you. Let your feeling guide you for a while you will see the difference.

Importantly always appreciate your composition if it comes out of your life experiences and the feeling that came within you going through that.

Finally, Keep Practising!

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as Paul McCartney said "Remember to let it into your heart, then you can start to make it better..." – Stephane Rolland Aug 21 '12 at 9:36
Yes, but how do you translate that into music? It's not as simple as "I'm happy, I'll write in a major key!" – naught101 Sep 16 '12 at 7:39

Another potentially helpful way to compose:

Take a look at different forms that are used in classical music, and use those as a guide for your own music. For example, take ternary form: where the pattern is A-B-A.

Create an interesting melody A, then maybe perform a key change to a new melody B, then come back to A with some extra stuff added. Put those melodies together one after another, and you have a piece of music with some interesting development. Or you could try binary form, 32-bar form, etc etc.

More information on different types of forms here:

Note: Take the above with a grain of salt. I'm just beginning to compose myself.

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Well, I'm guessing you are referring to songs with a melodic line, and not drum solos. Therefore, it would be much easier for you, I think, to write down what you are working on if you have a pitched instrument on hand. (I play drums but haven't ever written a song on them. Guitar, piano, and French horn have lead me to some interesting ideas though.) Software such as MuseScore, Finale, and Sibelius are a definite help when writing songs (at least for me) for many reasons. Sorry if this isn't helpful...

And don't worry if you get songwriter's block; I'm actually just coming out of a bout of that and it's pretty exciting, actually. Just don't give up!

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Well one way to make a longer tune would be to "string together" some of those short melodies you have. Some theory would help a lot in that regard, because you might need to do some transposition and/or modulation, if you want the whole thing in the same key or you want to do some key changes.

If you want to be able to conjure some music out of thin air, one way to simplify the process is to establish a bunch of parameters, within which you can play around until you come up with something. Settle on a key, decide if you want minor or major, maybe pick a mode, decide on a time signature... you're a drummer so now take advantage of that fact; make up some simple pattern in the time signature you chose, then write down the notes. You can use that as the base for the melody, just using the timing of those notes, and the silences; then assign a real note to each drum hit. You may like what you hear or not, but now you have a starting point, you can fiddle with that melodic pattern until you like it or start again from scratch...

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