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36

You ask an enormously deep question that could (and does) comprise whole books of material. I'll try to boil down the bare essentials for right now, and I'll expand on them later. "There are only two types of chords: I's and V's" My teacher told me that Joe Pass said this, although I'm sure it's probably a misquote. The sentiment, though, is right on. ...


32

First, a key is only really a basis. You can have an F# in a piece written in C Major without having the piece "switch" keys. Second, keys are defined arbitrarily. Sure there is theory about what sounds good and that sort of thing, but at the end of the day it's just a group of notes that's just as valid as any other group of notes. This is made clear by ...


29

Music, as an art, is in the ear of the listener. As a musician, I can say there are definitely times when a song sounds "better" in one key than another. The primary reason this is so is when the key fits the "natural" range of a singer or instrument. A song may sound perfect when sung by a female alto, but as those notes sung verbatim would be at the top ...


23

As a composer, you mostly end up writing for instruments that you yourself don't play. Apart from Hindemith, it is fairly impossible to maintain a high level of proficiency on every instrument - there just isn't that much time and it is not feasible. However, that does not excuse having a working knowledge of the instrument. Though it might seem silly to ...


22

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 ...


20

AbstractDissonance raises some good points; you don't 'need' theory to write good music, in the same way that you don't need good grammatical knowledge emote an elegantly constructed sentence when speaking. In both cases however, knowledge helps. Understanding how something works pretty much always improves your ability to utilise it; this is no less true ...


18

The convention generally follows that which we see for minor key signatures. There is not a 1 to 1 relationship of key signature to root, rather, the key signature is there to tell us what notes exist in the scale. Then, we use the music itself to figure out where the root is. If you were writing in D phrygian, for example, would you have two sharps in the ...


18

There isn't one definitive answer to this question besides "Try to be Paul McCartney." That said, here are some guidelines that I hope prove helpful: Mix It Up Don't just use chord tones (meaning, notes that are in the chord you're playing at the moment) and don't just use non-chord tones. Non-chord tones will give your melody a sense of momentum and ...


18

But there are rhythms, harmonies and melodies in nature. When you walk, you establish a nice solid beat. Two beats to the bar, at its most basic level - but by adjusting your gait or the way you count, you can think of it as four beats, or three, or as many as you like. Skipping brings in different rhythms. The musical intervals that make up melodies are ...


17

In modern Western music, we use equal temperament where all keys are basically equivalent. Notes are based on 2 n/12. Using A440 as a base, you get the following: A = 440 Hz * 2 0/12 = 440 Hz B♭ = 440 Hz * 2 1/12 = ~466 Hz B = 440 Hz * 2 2/12 = ~494 Hz etc. Historically this was not the case, however. Just intonation ruled the world, where notes ...


16

There are some very simple ways to transform the mood of a song by slight alterations in the melody, harmony or both. A transposition of the melody to the relative minor (ex. from C major to A minor) or to the parallel minor (ex. from C major to C minor) are both very simple ways to retain the melodic material, while drastically changing the sound. ...


16

Why the past tense? How do classical (or rather, orchestral) composers write music? How does any composer write music for instruments they don't themselves play? Although a composer doesn't necessarily need to be able to play an instrument to a high standard, they do need to understand the mechanics of the instrument, its limitations and capabilities. This ...


16

I'd suggest the piano. While it takes many years to master, the piano is one of the easiest instruments to begin playing. Learning to play even the simplest chords or melodies on other instruments can take weeks, but a complete novice can use a keyboard. The piano also lends itself well to composition because it has a wide range and it is easy to play ...


15

The Super Mario theme song is characterized by mode mixture and syncopated sixteenth note rhythms alternating with eighth note triplets. Each note duration is very short, and each voice has a different rhythm. When the voices overlap, you hear the combination of all of the rhythms into a more constant stream of impulses. Each impulse has a different ...


15

As I'm sure you're aware, you can transpose any tune to whatever key you like. One reason to choose a certain key, is simply that it sounds good. It might be that you feel that notes of a certain pitch inherently sound pleasant on your chosen instrument. I happen to like the tone of my guitar with a capo on the 7th string, for example. Or it might be ...


14

I'm quite used to it by now, my point being that at one point, you can sort of feel this rhythm patterns. However, when you start a new time signature, it's good to break the bar up in smaller pieces. For instance, you can count a 7/8 as 2 times 2 and 1 time 3. Just tap your foot on the 1 when counting in your head the following pattern: 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3. ...


14

Use the diatonic harmony trick of stacking notes and see what you come up with. For instance, in G, the notes of the major scale are G A B C D E F# If we stack every other note in that list (wrap to the beginning when necessary) 3 times we get a simple minor or major chord/triad: G,B,D - G Major A,C,E - A Minor B,D,F# - B Minor ...


13

The art of Counterpoint, as studied by composers for centuries, gives exact details on how to correctly ornament any melody. The lists of ornaments cited as point 4 in the question is only a subset of the possibilities given to us by counterpoint. There are five main species of counterpoint. The treatise by Johann Joseph Fux is today the most common source ...


12

"Key" implies "tonality." The name of a key corresponds to a pitch class that is considered the "focus" of a key or section. Is it possible to compose a melody without a key? Of course. That was the whole point of the Second Viennese School. Of course, it is possible not to be tonal (which implies a specific framework of relationships surrounding one ...


12

Before you replace chords with 3 or 4 notes with those with 5 or 6 notes (or even more), re-harmonize a melody by applying these 2 complementary strategies recursively (i.e. each is applicable to the result of applying them, so you can do it in many passes) to chord changes: 1) replace one chord with two (duration of 2 chords in new version = duration of ...


12

You may want to read this Wikipedia article section, concerning harmonic minor. Short summarized, this variant of minor keys reduces the gap between 7th and octave, so that the seventh tone can be used as a leading tone similarly as in major keys.


12

It is a Major triad built on the lowered 2nd scale degree. It's usually in first inversion, hence the "6th" part of the name. So if I'm in C-minor, the Neapolitan 6th (sometimes analyzed as N6 or bII6) would be a Db-major triad, probably with the F in the bass. They are chromatic harmonies, and their primary function is to go to V. EDITED TO ADD: There is a ...


11

This won't help with full orchestration and the like -- if you're hearing all that clearly then you're way ahead of me. But for melody, shape of harmony, rhythms you want to capture, etc, a voice recorder can help. I've found that sometimes a melody deteriorates as I try to transcribe it from my mind, so I start by singing/humming/la-la-laing it into a ...


11

To add to the other answers, there is also dodecaphony, or twelve-tone technique, a method to compose music explicitly without a key by trying to give equal weight to all 12 notes of the western scale. (Look ma, no key) Another example: YouTube: Arnold Schönberg: Suite op. 25 / Musette Surely sounds interesting, but this kind of music is definitely more ...


11

Be careful with the Maj 7 on I chords (ie DMaj7), which will quite often conflict with the root (D) played in the melody : you tend to get a b9 interval between the 7th (left hand) and the root (right hand) with sounds very bad. In that case, substitute DM7 with D6 which will sound smoother. The IVM chord (GM in our case) can often be replaced with a IIm7 ...


11

I think "hearing" a melody first and then working out a suitable chord structure is the method used by large numbers of songwriters. There is no "rule book" for these things. Some very famous writers work up the music first and then find lyrics, some write the lyrics entirely and then work up an accompaniment. Same for instrumental pieces.


11

An arranger specifically changes the music away from what was originally written. This is different from an editor who might clean up notation, clarify the meaning of markings, translate outdated terms, give instructions for proper interpretation, etc. Both technically alter the original but the editor tries to "bring out" the original as much as possible, ...


11

An arrangement is about which instruments play what, when and how for a specific tune. The core of a tune, or composition, is the melody/-ies1. Using this core an arranger - i.e. the person attributed by "arranged by" - when creating an arrangement may Decide what instruments, including singing voices, to use Select key (or keys) for the arrangement (i.e. ...


10

Well, that subject is VERY subjective, but there are some points commonly agreed upon: Chord progression plays an important role, but any given progression can have a different feeling depending on the context. For example, take the vi - IV - I - V progression very common in pop music. Sometimes, when played ballad-style and flowingly, it can give an image ...



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