View Full Version : roughing songs

05-16-2005, 07:34 PM
I usually start writing a song with a melody in my head, then building chords around that melody. this has worked for a while, but a major drawback is i can only write with material i can physically play, thus i dont think im achieving my full creative potential.

what i'd like is a way to concentrate on harmonic tensions and rhythm without having to spend alot of time figuring out voicings, entering in notes one by one, or practicing an idea to get it sounding good enough to record only to find out i dont like it or it doesnt work.

any suggestions on software that does this, or perhaps some other non-computer related techniques?

05-19-2005, 01:33 PM
You might start with a standard progression and then start screwing around with replacing simple triads with more complex chords. Try 7ths, 6ths...whatever. You've probably already done that to some extent, but it's always a fun exercise.

You might also try starting with a really odd chord or two, just playing it over and over until a melody emerges, and then run with that.

You can also try starting with a groove, then add some odd chords.....

05-19-2005, 02:09 PM
Have you tried Band-in-a-Box? As far as I've heard, you can punch in the chords and it' will play them for you.

05-20-2005, 02:14 AM
I know what you mean.

I don't know any software that does that, but "roughing it" (I would think) helps you to know the fretboard better. The combined mental/physical exercise of having to finding the right voicings will only strengthen your intuition, so that the more you do it the more intuitively you can do it with practice.

Some guitarists even improvise voicings when soloing, e.g. good comping in a jazz setting.

05-20-2005, 06:57 PM
these are all good suggestions. i havent tried band in a box yet, but im looking into it.

what im really looking for is something that can allow me to do more eclectic type stuff, such as schoenberg. cakewalk for example has an ok score editor but is a pain in the butt to use with frequent key changes, altered tones, or voicings with lots of notes (5-6). it also has a "piano roll" editor that makes non-diatonic notes easier to enter, but only as long as the voicing stays within 1 octave.

what happens when i want to use something like cbsus7(#11 b13) when i dont know a voicing off hand and the key signature is in g? i spend 5 minutes screwing with it, or i try to figure it out on piano well enough to record it that way. either way, by the time im finished punching in that chord, im ready to move on to something fun - eg actually playing something - rather than experimenting with the really whacked out ideas in my head.

i've even considered writing my own scoring software, but id really rather not take on a major project if someone else has done it already or if im just trying to do this the wrong way and need to come back to reality.

05-20-2005, 10:03 PM
If you wanted to find something like a Cbsus7#11b13 (lol what a chord) you relate everything to the chords major scale. So first write out Cb major scale

Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb Cb

lets start with the first part


Cb Eb Gb
1 3 5

Then put in the sus7 (which really isnt suspended, its just a Cbmaj7)

Which would be

Cb Eb Gb Bb
1 3 5 b7

Then put on the #11 and b13.

Cb Eb Gb Bb F Abb (Abb is the same thing as G.)

so now just find those notes on the guitar neck where you can reach it. Just make sure you find all the notes

(Cb Eb Gb Bb F Abb)

05-20-2005, 11:40 PM
yes, i know the theory behind it, and can figure out every inversion of the voicing and play it in multiple positions - when i take the time to figure it out. sometimes i can figure out simple alterations on the fly by relating them to known voicings (example, an e dominant b13 voicing is similar to the open e dominant voicing [020100], but the upper b is replaced by a c [020110]). the point is that i have to spend time doing the theory work when i want to be doing compositional work, and the theory work is taking too much time away from raw creativity in scores that are so experimental i cant possibly feel it without hearing it first.

let me explain it in a different way. when i comp chords i dont think about note names themselves. instead i think about motions in harmonic tensions.

in the verse for "one note samba" (which isnt one of the experimental songs), a normal person might look at it like this:

|: D-7 | Db7 | F7sus | F7b5 :|: G-7 | Gdim7 | C-7 | Bmaj7 :| D-7 | Db7 | F7sus F7b5 Bbmaj |

I look at it like this:
|: melody=f harmony=D-7 | melody=f harmony drops 1/2 step | melody=f harmony=F7sus | melody=f harmony drops 1/2 step :| melody=Bb harmony=G-7 | melody=Bb middle notes in harmony drop 1/2 step | melody=Bb middle notes in harmony drop 1/2 step | melody=Bb lower notes in harmony drop 1/2 step :|

and its easy to see that movement when you look at the voicings i use:

D-7 [x5756x], Db7 [x4646x], F7sus [8x886x], F7b5 [7x786x], G-7 [xx5766], Gdim7 [xx5656] with [xx2323] and [xx8989] for substitutions, C-7 [xx5546], Bmaj7 [xx4446], Bbmaj [688766].

05-24-2005, 11:11 AM
Just being mister picky:

sixstrings: Cbsus7 is not the same as Cbmaj7! Cbsus7 is shorthand notation for Cb7sus4. In either case its: Cb Fb Gb Bb

Anyway, to the OP:

Band-in-a-box is IMHO the thing. After what I've heard, you can write in "Bbmaj7" and the program will find a suitable voicing based on what comes before and after the chord, freeing you from this and allowing more focus on the melody.

It's either that or a more "run-of-the-mill" compositional program like Finale. I use finale when I choose chords for my melodies and it works for me. Makes me practice voiceleading ;)

05-24-2005, 05:18 PM
I made tablature sheets with eight staves on each page. When I come up with a riff while practicing(guitar or bass) I write it down. When I get a page or two(front and back), I enter it all into a PowerTab file. Once I get the riffs, licks and what not sounding right I begin arranging. I mix and match, add and subtract, combine and discard, etc... I've had a few pretty cool accidents as well. I do a lot of my arranging at work where I do not have access to a guitar. All of the solos in the seven songs I have ready to record were written with my guitars 22 miles away from me.

06-10-2005, 03:32 PM
Band in a box definately put a different spin on the writing process, although i'm not sure it's what im looking for. The problem is im trying to figure out how to feel pantonal music with the knowledge that i cant play it yet. finale and cakewalk are looking like the best options for now. thanks for the input.