View Full Version : Music Composition !!!!

01-09-2003, 04:18 AM
EricV, shulzc?!?! Anyone?!?!?!

Could someone point me somewhere I can find some text introducing me to composition?

Or after knowing the theory all left is imagination?

I find myself having lots of ideas in my head, but when I put them on music notation, I dislike them, mostly because it's like they were composed for children!!! And what I want to compose is more than just that!!!

If you see lots of exclamation marks is because I am kinda desperate!!!!

I want to compose stuff like metal but mixed with other styles of music like jazz and blues (I happen to sometimes compose little things in blues which I like, but don't know if they are just the same ol' or what) and just thingies aren't enough.

What I want to "create" is stuff in the style of Dream Theater, maybe I am aiming VERY high, but I want to be the best I can be, you know what I mean, right?

Also stuff like Love Song and Paradise (from Tesla) -have you realized that Love Song is pretty much simple stuff (basic chords) but they are used in such a way I think it's an AMAZING SONG?!?!?!

Stuff like Scarred (from Dream Theater) -check out that jazzy bass intro!!!-

stuff like the flamenco style of the guitarrist of Vince Neil ( I guess, if not mistaken, that his name is Steve Stevie).

I listened to Yngwie Malmsteen, but I percieve all his stuff the same stuff from him (please don't elaborate on this, that's how I see it) ... I don't wanna be like that!

I want to create killer riffs (power chord related but also different others).

I want to use excellent arrangements, chords, arpeggios, sweep picking stuff, anything.

I think I have great ideas on my mind ( I think I have 2 finished songs in my head that I think are great ) but I want to create more. Sometimes I listen to lots of soloes in my head, but they are very alike, I want different stuff, all the time!

All I ask is some leading... PLEASE!!!


Please help me channel my thoughts!!!

01-09-2003, 11:50 AM
I think I have 2 finished songs in my head that I think are great
Why are they still in your head and not on paper or sequencer or on an MP3?

01-12-2003, 03:02 AM
.... :)
I really need some guidance.

01-12-2003, 11:25 PM
Hi, SolitaryShell!

If you want some inspiration for creating riff-based prog. rock/jazz you might wanna listen to this song:


It's a song I made a year ago, and we (a band I was in) played it live on a concert last winter. The MP3 is just a sequencer recorded product based on samples and synths.

The most basic thing you need to keep in mind when composing is the form. This affects all types of music, compositions and arrangements. Your song may have start with an intro followed by a verse, then a refrain, a second verse, a refrain, a bridge, a refrain or two, and maybe an outro. That's one of the most basic forms out there and works great if the song is arranged properly. You may also have a third verse after the break.

To arrange the song in a proper way, you need a progression in sound and form. The bridge makes a really nice progression for the complete form, and the song's climax may be in the last refrain(s). And to add more progression, and to keep the listener interested, you can make the different instruments play at different times. An example of this and a common form may be:

Intro: All instruments. The intro may be thematic and harmonic related to the refrain, or just a unik part of the song which instantly introduces the sound and genre of the song.

1. Verse: Stripped down with fewer instruments and maybe minimalistic to create a nice contrast to the intro.

Refrain: More instruments or more dense harmonies and sound. If the refrain is related to the intro in any way, it instantly get the listener's attention and keeps his/hers interest of the song.

2. Verse: The second verse is thematic exact as the first verse, but may be reharmonized. It should hold more intruments or a more dense sound to keep the progression level from the refrain.

2. Refrain: This refrain may (should) be identical to the first refrain, which makes no harm to the progression, but helps the listener to remember the song...

Bridge: This is an important part of the song because it's like a statement of something new and leading. It is independent when it comes to themes and harmonies and may modulate the song to another 'scale' (I don't know the english word for 'toneart'). The bridge is leading towards a climax in the following part of the song.

3. Refrain: All instruments can be used here to create the climax of the song. And the refrain may be repeated.

Outro: If you don't use an outro you can fade out the song during the last refrain (not on a live version ;), but the outro finishes the song in a natural way and should contain a fade out of instruments so that the listener expects the end.

When it comes to my song (Deep Impressions) it's not based on the formula above, but contains a very similar form.

As for creating advanced and also interesting (prog. rock) riffs, a good way to begin is to base it on a certain scale. For example: E minor phrygian. Then you have to remember to keep the focus on the tonal centre of the riff (E minor). To do so you can rythmically augment the E notes in the riff (make them longer), and/or you can take advantage of the leading notes in the scale (F and C) in a clever way. Because they are just a half step away from two of the most important notes in the chord 'Em' they are considered as the most leading notes in the scale.

A riff should be of a certain length too, and maybe looped. It doesn't have to be 4 or 8 bars long, it could be only 1 bar long to. But the most important with length is that it matches the length of the whole part. For example, if the refrain is really long, you won't create a really short riff that loops 32 times during the refrain alone. However, it can be used as an effect, but the riff may lose the listener's attention and interest.

Back to the example in E minor phrygian, and a one bar riff in 7/8 may be like this:

1/8 E1 - 1/8 E1 - 1/16 D2 - 1/16 E2 - 1/16 E1 - 1/16 F1 - 1/8 G1 - 1/16 G1 - 1/8 F1 - 1/16 F1

Here is the two first E notes used to keep the focus on the tonal centre. The two following high pitched notes are used to create a minor internal climax in the riff, and the last notes in the riff are F's, which leads back to E. This riff may be looped, or almost looped with just a little change from time to time to gain progression.

But here's where the creativity and imagination takes place. You can have longer riff's with rests, other scales, more syncopations and more advanced rythm. You just have to keep the focus on the tonal centre to keep the riff clean.

I hope this helps when you're composing riff based music with a basic form.


01-13-2003, 02:10 AM
You need to take the ideas you have and record them somehow either on paper, tab ,staff or sound file. Then work on them to try to match what is in your head. The melodies sound like childrens songs because you are new to this and it is like learning to speak. As you get more practice you will improve. Good software tools like powertab or cakewalk, or cooledit will help get you ideas out and formalized. Knowing things about the type of music you want to create will help. Analyze the music you want to emulate from a serious theory perspective as well as a form perspective. If you study enough music you will begin to see patterns that are commonly used ( I- IV or V-I etc...). This is how to learn about composisition. I can't really think of a shortcut except studying theory. Good theory books for the college will help you understand the common types of chord progressions and forms for (mostly) classical music. There are no good books for studying Blues or Jazz or modern forms (at least none that I have seen). Hard work and patience, and record every cool idea you have, that is alll you can do.

01-13-2003, 03:32 PM
Thanks Zenith and szulc!

I just put something that was in my mind into powertab and arrange it. Although it is not the walking perfection, I think the composition is very nice. I loved it, specially the lead guitar melody. It's an "instrumental" of 2:14 minutes.
Would you care to listen to it? Can I send it to you? Please let me know. Consider it's midi. I can take some suggestions, as I am learning.

Zenith, thanks for your very kind answer. That is what I "kinda" wanted, although I already knew about the parts of a song or composition (in POWERTAB you can see many part names like Outro and Intro and stuff) (sorry that you took all that time to write it BUT I thank you).
Besides there are codas, codettas (little codas), and development(s) of motives and stuff.

The tips you gave me about good riffs are great. Thanks for them. I really admire the creator of Metallica's riffs. I can't believe all the riffs they've created. (And no, I am not a BIG fan of them but I like them..:))

Thanks again Zenith!

Ok szulc. So, I have to work hard and be patient. I am :)

I have more questions:

1. What is reharmonization?
2. What is the difference between phrase, section and movement?
3. The text also mentioned that I have to avoid "cliches". Cliches are often-used phrases but in music?
4. What kind of chords are used when pentatonic scales are used?
5. What does the word "register" mean in the music language? I heard John Petrucci say this word (within a sentence of course) in his video Rock Discipline.
6.What does the word "refrain" mean in the music language?
7. I was reading some text about composition, and more about how to achieve a contrast between sections, and found that I can use dynamics and tempo as a reliable procedure, change of register as well. What does change of register mean? John Petrucci Mentions it also at his video RD.
8. How to fit a chromatic based phrase into a chord progression (or just into one measure single chord strumming)?
9. And how to do that viceversa?

01-13-2003, 03:41 PM
I just finished downloading your song. It's very cool. :)
I don't want to say it is like this famous band or this other famous band.

Just letting you know I liked it a lot, although it's a sequencer.
Keep the good work!

Be well.

01-13-2003, 05:01 PM
Very nice song indeed!
That must have been fun performing this live.


01-13-2003, 05:30 PM
Originally posted by SolitaryShell
1. What is reharmonization?
2. What is the difference between phrase, section and movement?
3. The text also mentioned that I have to avoid "cliches". Cliches are often-used phrases but in music?
4. What kind of chords are used when pentatonic scales are used?
5. What does the word "register" mean in the music language? I heard John Petrucci say this word (within a sentence of course) in his video Rock Discipline.
6.What does the word "refrain" mean in the music language?
7. I was reading some text about composition, and more about how to achieve a contrast between sections, and found that I can use dynamics and tempo as a reliable procedure, change of register as well. What does change of register mean? John Petrucci Mentions it also at his video RD.
8. How to fit a chromatic based phrase into a chord progression (or just into one measure single chord strumming)?
9. And how to do that viceversa?

Thanks for looking into my 'advices'! Allthough you knew some of it other members can take advantage of them if they need. And it's great that you liked my song! ;)

As for the questions, I know they are meant for szulc, but I'd like to try to answer them, because I need to internationalize my musical expressions...

1. Reharmonization means that you use other harmonies, related chords and/or substituted chords than originally used. Of course they should match the melody. A simple form for reharmonization is to find other chords which contain many of the same notes as the original ones. In that way they are related. E.g. use Am instead of C. And you can substitute chords in for example ii V I progressions with the chords that have the same function as the original chords. For example Db7 leads to C in the same way as G7. And then you have the V's related ii, which in this case is Dm. This chords can be substituted with a Abm, which leads to the Db7 and then to C.

2. This one is more difficult to answer for me, because I don't know the direct translation to norwegian, but a phrase is a part of a melody that has a natural beginning and end. It's not the whole melody, but maybe seperated by rests or unrelated/new themes and motives that are clearly different from the phrase itself. Phrases are often recognized rythmically and are in most cases seperated by rests. A section is a more specified length of the theme/melody. As for movement, I just don't know what it means. ;)

3. Cliches in music may be a commonly used chord progression. For example: C - Am - F - G7. That's one of the most known cliches which is harmony related. Cliches appear everywhere in most of todays pop music because it's something the audience seems to like and recognize. Even though we composers would like to avoid using cliches, it's necesarry for us to learn them, because they're often the most basic part needed in composing popular and maybe 'simple' music.

4. In pentatonic scales, for example C pentatonic, you have chords like C, Cadd9, Csus2, C6, C6add9, Am, Am7, Amadd4, Am7add4, Dsus2, Dsus4, D7sus2, D7sus4, D7sus4add9, Gsus2, Gsus4, Gsus4add9, plus a couple more, but you get the point. There's harmonic voicings you can use when using a pentatonic scale. For example, you've got three quartal triads (credits to szulc for the term ;) ) : D-G-C, E-A-D and A-D-G. By the way, the whole scale is based on the quartal interval; E-A-D-G-C.

5. It means the span of tones that you're able to play. For example; the piano has a register from the deepest tone (sub-kontra (?) A) to the most high pitched tone (C5).

6. A refrain (maybe it's not a widely used term, but it's directly translated from norwegian) is a part of a song which is repeated. It is widely used to give the listener something to 'hold on to'. It also has the same text (in vocal based songs) every time it's repeated.

7. When changing the register, you basically transpose or move the tonal centre of the song up or down. It can also mean that you're just transposing the melody or harmonies up or down an octave to achieve contrast with the other parts of the song.

8. and 9. I'm not completely sure of what you means by this, but I think you have to transpose a lot.. ;) If the phrase is for example a plain chromatic scale all the way you can 'attach' a chord to each note in the phrase if the note is a part of that specific chord. For example: The chromatic phrase E-F-F#-G-G#-A-A#-B could have a harmonization like this: C - Bm7b5 - E9 - A7 - D9#11 - G7add9 - Db7(9, #11, 13) - C. That's a more typical jazz influenced harmonization...

I hope I answered most of your questions. If it's anything you don't understand (e.g. terms and expressions), just ask.

BTW, thanks Guni for liking my song! And, yeah, it was really fun to perform live! ;)

01-15-2003, 12:50 AM
Well, that's quite a lot of information to assimilate.
Thanks a lot Zenith.

I have one more question, if u are able to answer it, please do:

If you have "Powertab", you know that you can select the display on the staff of the key you are working on. Then, if you put a note on the staff, and then press F12 (which "detects" the name of the chord that is on that poistion) besides the chord name, a display of the ACTIVE key PLUS the series of chords that belong to that Key so you can see if you are using "A CORRECT" chord in you tune.

Now, you can see this in both Major and Natural Minor, but not in pentatonics, nor harmonic neither melodic minor.

1.Would you mind mentioning to me the chords that belong to pentatonic scales, and harmonic and melodic minor as well?
I know you already mentioned the ones for the pentatonics scales.

Oh, and you didn't answer me if I could send you the powertab file of my song. It'd be great if you could review it. And I can take a "no" for an answer, because I know you may be busy with other stuff. :)

01-15-2003, 01:16 AM
Harmonic Minor

imM7 iio7 IIIM7#5 ivm7 V7 VIM7 viio7

Melodic Minor

im7 iim7 IIIM7#5 IV7 V7 vim7b5 viim7b5

01-15-2003, 02:17 AM
This is just great!
Thanks a lot szulc and Zenith!!!

I feel complete now!!!

Now I have to go to the laboratory and experiment, experiment, experiment!!!!

Would you mind giving me the formula for Pentatonic Major and Minor chords? Or where to get it?

For example, szulc gave me the chords formula for the Harmonic Minor keys: imM7 iio7 IIIM7#5 ivm7 V7 VIM7 viio7

I need that but for Pentatonic, both Major and minor.

Be well!!! And thanks again!!!

The Bash
01-15-2003, 05:01 AM
Listen to Everything.
Listen to who influenced your influences.
Study great writers/great songs theoretically and emotionally.
Write, write, write. Donít judge it. Just write it. You can be more objective latter.
You are gonna write crap. Everbody at sometime has written crap. Not everythings a gem.
Write. Write. Write. Keep or Polish whatís good, throw the rest away (far, far away or someday after your famous someoneíll bootleg it as buried treasure, at which if your lucky youíll already be dead and not have to live through the experience).
This may seem simple advice, but works for me.

01-15-2003, 05:44 AM
Sure "THE BASH" :)
I do that, try to.. there are a lot of things there to analyze and enjoy.

Be well.

01-15-2003, 08:51 AM
In pentatonic scale there's only two complete tertian triads. In for example C major pentatonic you've got C and Am. And the same in minor of course. F.ex. A minor pent.: Am and C. C and Am are parallells in the pentatonic scale. But there's a lot of insteresting quartal harmonies in the pentatonic scale as I mentioned in the last reply. The whole scale is based on the quartal interval, so you've got three different quartal triads. And if you use them you really takes all advantage of the sound the pentatonic scale gives you. For example, begin with an E and start counting several quartal intervals upwards, and then you'll see that the first four quartals (quarts, or quads?) contain all the five tones of the C major pentatonic scale.

One more thing that's more interesting than tertian triads in pentatonic scales is the 6 chords. (F.ex. in C major pent.: C6 in different positions.) And add9 chords. (Cadd9) When using the quartal triads you get to use both the tensions and the nice voicing the harmony gives you. For example, the quartal triad E-A-D in C major pentatonic gives you both the 6, the 9 and the quartal voicing and sounds great in major pentatonic scales. In minor you can use f.ex. D-G-C in A minor pentatonic to get both the 4, the 7 and the voicing.

01-15-2003, 11:59 AM
ACDEG Gsus2/Dsus4 Am Csus2/Gsus4 Dsus2/Asus4 C

01-17-2003, 11:31 PM
Ok. You probably you'll want to kill me, but I still remain clueless about which chords I can use for Pentatonic Keys.
And what is that about tertian triads and quartal voicing and quartal triads?

01-17-2003, 11:57 PM
Do you know how chords are constructed?


ACDEG Gsus2/Dsus4 Am Csus2/Gsus4 Dsus2/Asus4 C

ADG This is G sus 2 or D sus 4
CEA This is Am (1st inversion)
DGC This is C sus 2 or G sus 4
EAD This is D sus 2 or A sus 4
GCE This is C major

Discussion of quartal harmony

How many different chords can you spell with ACDEG?

These are tertian triads because they are built on thirds, thus the term tertian and triads becaues there are three notes, thus the term triad.

These are quartal triads. Quartal because they are built on fourths and triads because they have three notes.

Now if you want only R5 diads you have more choices.
As you can see EB is out because there is no B.

Four note tertian chords:
DGCE Cadd9

Four Note quatal chords:

5 note Chord
Am7 add 11

01-18-2003, 12:01 AM
Thanks szulc. I've got it now.