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  #16  
Old 02-20-2021, 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Andyrondack View Post
This approach provides a practical starting point and is very easy when you can play the progression and just sing a line that sounds good over the chords, you imediately get a distinct harmony and melody part and a tune that's singable, like wise on keyboard - play the progression with the left hand and just explore a scale in the same key with the right.
This isn't so easy to do spontaineosly on an acoustic guitar which I think is why a lot of stuff which is composed on the guitar sounds like a series of arpegios rather than a distinct melody with seperate harmony. How do you get over that?
For an instrumental you start with the melody line and then add the chording and harmony to that.
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  #17  
Old 02-21-2021, 02:37 AM
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Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
For an instrumental you start with the melody line and then add the chording and harmony to that.
Sure on guitar perhaps that's how it has to be done otherwise the melody winds up being constrained by the chord shapes the player is familiar with, not so with singing or keyboard where there are not the physical difficulties associated with freely improvising a melody over the chords, I guess that's why bands with three guitars were created.
But I find another drawback to using acoustic guitar to create melodies in that it is not a very resonant instrument when compared to say even a childs electronic keyboard , sometimes I get the feeling that perfectly nice tunes might be played single string but they get overlooked because they just don't jump out due to this lack of resonance.
I struggled for a long time with making my own tunes on guitar for the above reasons then by accident hit upon a method for melodies that worked for me, I needed to do something to try and extend the very limited range and note accuracy of my singing voice, humming notes is a great way to warm up the vocal chords before singing words and I started humming to notes played up and down the scale trying to test the limits of my vocal range,got bored with that and started making short melodic phrases in the easy part of my register before connecting to higher parts of the scale with short scale runs, tunes just start to emerge and I can hear them resonate as my mouth space vibrates with the humming. By that point it's just a natural thing to seek some resolution by working back down toward the tonic, sure a good singer could go up to the next octave but not me. Now maybe it's coincidence maybe not but it occured to me that structure of a lower A part higher B part with a short turnaround section back to the tonic mimics the structure of an awfull lot of traditional songs of the British Isles, I am used to harmonising traditional tunes so if I kept a record of these ' warm up tunes' I could use the same methods, I don't bother as I have enough guitar stuff to keep me busy .
But to create and harmonise these 'warm up tunes' I need to learn about the underlying structures of what makes music work, things like scales chords and intervals and how they can be meshed together to create an arrangement, this is the stuff of music theory which you seem to have such antipathy to, why is that?
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Old 02-21-2021, 06:54 AM
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But to create and harmonise these 'warm up tunes' I need to learn about the underlying structures of what makes music work, things like scales chords and intervals and how they can be meshed together to create an arrangement, this is the stuff of music theory which you seem to have such antipathy to, why is that?
It's my firm belief that you don't need to learn music theory in order to do this. 'All' you need to do is listen to music and follow the trail of what you 'like'. In the UK there are 8 grades of Music Theory. Grades 1 to 5 are all about Music Notation. How to read it, how to write it and how to understand it. Also, I guess how to talk about it. If you don't need to read notation, you don't need to study Music Theory. Of course now there are many University courses in Popular Music that have Grade 5 Music Theory as a per-requisite and being able to read and write notation does have it's own benefits but you don't need it in order to create new music.
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  #19  
Old 02-21-2021, 09:12 AM
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Like some others have said, I had song ideas in my head before I even began to play guitar in ‘76. I have no music training, no family musical influences. In fact, for quite awhile after starting to play, songs were just coming to me and I wasn’t even interested in learning covers. Certainly, they started off relatively simple and as I got better at playing, so did the songs. I create songs for my own pleasure, so I don’t profess to be overly great at it. I just can’t help myself.

Though I’ve learned many covers over the years, I’ve always been a perpetual noodler, entirely unstructured which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I just stumble on what might be an interesting chord progression and if it sounds original and appealing, I’ll work with it. Sometimes the initial music will become the chorus, other times the verse. Whichever it is, next I’ll work on the others section. If there’s to be a bridge, it’s usually last to come to me if it’s needed to create a variation in the song...break up any musical monotony, resolve the story lyrically. Along the song’s development, intuitively I begin to hum nonsensical words/phrases which is the emergence of the vocal melody which in a lot of ways is what makes the song unique. You can tell 10 songwriters to create a song using just G-D-C played similarly, and they’ll likely come back with 10 songs quite different from each other. A lot of that will have to do with the vocal melodic interpretation the music inspires in them.

The curse side of the way I approach it is that my playing journey has been a long, slow one. At best, I’m an intermediate player, not as disciplined as I wish I would be, but then again, it’s the way I have fun with it and it’s not a race.

For about 10 years from around ‘96 to ‘06, I frequented various online songwriting forums. That really helped me. Many of those who participate are lyricists, some hoping that their piece will inspire musicians to put music to their words. Naturally, I’m a music-first songwriter, then develop a vocal melody, then the actual lyric inspired by what the music seems to inspire as a theme. I’m always thinking about possible song titles which inspire a theme. I list these titles in a log that I maintain and draw from it if one seems to fit with the music/melody that’s emerging. From participating in the songwriting forums, I found that I could put music to someone else’s existing words which lead to some fun collaborations and friendships akin to those I’ve made here. Arguably, one of the best of these songwriting forums is Just Plain Folks. Music theory is great to learn, but you really want to learn about songwriting, just get down and dirty and jump into a site like JPF.

Hope this helps some.
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  #20  
Old 02-21-2021, 09:22 AM
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But to create and harmonise these 'warm up tunes' I need to learn about the underlying structures of what makes music work, things like scales chords and intervals and how they can be meshed together to create an arrangement, this is the stuff of music theory which you seem to have such antipathy to, why is that?
IMO to play well, and I mean with feeling, expression and coherence (not just shredding that lacks those qualities) you have to develop a good ear. That's mostly by listening and incorporating. Whatever theory helps you do that is a plus. Spending most of your time and energy on book learning theory minutia, dozens and dozens of chord variations and scale patterns at the expense of the time learning and playing actual musical pieces is likely a mistake for most people. If you really have the time for all of it then great and/or are a working musician and you need to communicate efficiently with fellow musicians you need to know the language.
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  #21  
Old 02-21-2021, 12:16 PM
Andyrondack Andyrondack is offline
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No one except perhaps a music profesor or profesional arranger needs to know 'all of it' ( music theory ) but if you don't know any of it the best you can do amounts to spending a lot of time re inventing the wheel, which for most of us will take years, whereas the right bit of information at the right time and the penny drops.

I think this guy is a good educator who teaches in such a way as to show how music theory is put to practical use, his approach is intended to enable rather than mystify.

https://www.activemelody.com/lesson/...-lesson-ep397/
We all grow up listening to lots of music every day, since we were born it's on the radio the tv shoping malls everywhere every day, so why don't we all just absorb it and grow up to be at least competent musicians? Because listening to it doesn't mean we understand how it came to be.
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  #22  
Old 02-21-2021, 12:29 PM
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Although there are certainly exceptions, I’ll hazard a guess that the majority of the most famous and successful popular songwriters of our time have had little or no formal music training and just got into playing for various reasons, relying on their inherent curiosity and natural talent. They winged it, didn’t know the rules so were free to explore, found or placed themselves around like-minded people...and somehow realized a career in music that they never thought would or could be sustained. Whatever your approach, it’s all good if it gets you to where you’re happy.

The OPs question is more about composing acoustic instrumentals which perhaps may rely more on understanding music theory, but I’m sure the foregoing applies as well. I’ll never know because guitar playing and singing is equally important to me. At best, I’m a bare fingerpicker/strummer, will never be a fingerstylist (no interest).
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  #23  
Old 02-22-2021, 03:15 AM
Andy Howell Andy Howell is offline
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There are a number of ways in which new songs come to me., but the most basic thing is that you have to have something to say or an emotion to convey.

For me, most songs start as tunes but the tune may well invoke an idea or a story. Sometimes I have a story or message at the back of my mind and it comes forward when a tune seems right.

When playing around with a tune it sometimes stands our as either being an instrumental or as being a song. Instrumentals tend to be more varied or complicated musically, but not always.

Be prepared to play around with ideas. A few years ago I was playing around with a tune on the guitar. It was a bit celtic like. At some point I decided it was a song. I then thought it sounded a little Irish. I thought of my favourite part of Ireland ó West Cork in the SW of Ireland. This part of Cork was famous for emmigration and has been once again since the financial crash. I went to Google and put 'emmigration Cork' in ó out came the story of Annie Moore who was the first migrant to be processsed through Ellis Island. I then started researched Annie's life and a song was born!

On another ocassion I was stranded on a railway station late at night in Stockport in the North of England. It was the coldest night of the year. I posted on Facebook that I was 'Stranded Here in Stockport', A friend replied that it sounded like a song ó so it really had to be done.

Some periods can be very productive while others less so. But I always continue to play and often a new tune suggests a subject or a story to me, something that might have been in my mind a few weeks ago or some years ago.

I think you have to be curious in terms of your own creativity! Songwriting courses or programmes can be helpful in that they prompt you to explore things you may not have done so.

In any course if you take one or two simple ideas away it will have been useful.

A few years ago I went ona songwriting workshop for political song. I am wary of political songs as ó aside from the great ones ó I hear many that are dreadful. But the workshop was being run by the UK's Robb Johnson who is both a great political writer but a tunesmith of some real talent. He told us when thinking of an issue not to looo at the obvious. Look to your own family and its history and you will find very ordinary people dealing with extraordinary odds. My grandparents came to mind and a song based on their life struggles always goes down well.

So, be curious and keep playing.

Finally, another suggestion that has worked for me is to spend time immersing yourself in the work of another songwriter and seeing where that takes you. I have a couple of songs written this way ó they may not sound like the artuists I was focussing on but the inspiration is certainly there!
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  #24  
Old 02-22-2021, 07:47 AM
Andyrondack Andyrondack is offline
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Although there are certainly exceptions, Iíll hazard a guess that the majority of the most famous and successful popular songwriters of our time have had little or no formal music training and just got into playing for various reasons, relying on their inherent curiosity and natural talent. They winged it, didnít know the rules so were free to explore, found or placed themselves around like-minded people...and somehow realized a career in music that they never thought would or could be sustained. Whatever your approach, itís all good if it gets you to where youíre happy.

The OPs question is more about composing acoustic instrumentals which perhaps may rely more on understanding music theory, but Iím sure the foregoing applies as well. Iíll never know because guitar playing and singing is equally important to me. At best, Iím a bare fingerpicker/strummer, will never be a fingerstylist (no interest).
In the US the emacipation of slavery occured in 1863, African American's had been excluded from mainstream education and continued to be so for a long time after the end of slavery, and yet within a generation their social and educational structures produced Scott Joplin and a little later Duke Ellington and on to the likes of Miles Davis, these people knew exactly what they were doing. I think it's worth thinking about how the musical education offered to and sought by these inovators differed from that which was considered appropriate for young white kids.?
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Old 02-22-2021, 08:44 AM
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IMO to play well, and I mean with feeling, expression and coherence (not just shredding that lacks those qualities) you have to develop a good ear. That's mostly by listening and incorporating. Whatever theory helps you do that is a plus. Spending most of your time and energy on book learning theory minutia, dozens and dozens of chord variations and scale patterns at the expense of the time learning and playing actual musical pieces is likely a mistake for most people. If you really have the time for all of it then great and/or are a working musician and you need to communicate efficiently with fellow musicians you need to know the language.
The books I recommeded to the op come from the ...For Dummies book series, they are meant as reference books for the interested amateur much as a Haynes Manual is meant for the amateur who wants to understand how their car works. They are reference books, you take from them what you find usefull as and when you need it, sure maybe stil those like the op who want to compose their own music will still not feel they have gained enough of an understanding to get them to where they want to be, which is why I also wrote that they might want to seek the services of a pro teacher who can identify knowing which aspects of music theory might enable them to do what they want to do.
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Old 02-22-2021, 01:43 PM
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The books I recommeded to the op come from the ...For Dummies book series, they are meant as reference books for the interested amateur much as a Haynes Manual is meant for the amateur who wants to understand how their car works. They are reference books, you take from them what you find usefull as and when you need it, sure maybe stil those like the op who want to compose their own music will still not feel they have gained enough of an understanding to get them to where they want to be, which is why I also wrote that they might want to seek the services of a pro teacher who can identify knowing which aspects of music theory might enable them to do what they want to do.
I have recommended both Music Theory For Dummies and Guitar For Dummies in the past. Straight forward books, less arcane stuff.
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  #27  
Old 02-23-2021, 06:08 AM
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It's my firm belief that you don't need to learn music theory in order to do this. 'All' you need to do is listen to music and follow the trail of what you 'like'. In the UK there are 8 grades of Music Theory. Grades 1 to 5 are all about Music Notation. How to read it, how to write it and how to understand it. Also, I guess how to talk about it. If you don't need to read notation, you don't need to study Music Theory. Of course now there are many University courses in Popular Music that have Grade 5 Music Theory as a per-requisite and being able to read and write notation does have it's own benefits but you don't need it in order to create new music.
I don't agree with this, on another instrument perhaps yes but I believe the design of the guitar inhibits any easy understanding of how music works and how to create it.
Take a keyboard give it to someone who likes listening to music but does not know how to play an instrument, limit their options by telling them to use the white notes only and show them where middle C is and give them a rule that their composition must finish on that note. Leave them to get on with it and in time harmonious melodies will emerge, they will soon recognise that the spacial distances and the repeating pattern of the keyboard matters to the sound that emerges, they will very quickly realise that if you count the keys up 4 from middle C well that sound has a different quality than counting up 5 keys or counting up 3 keys and that these differences in quality are the stuff of what music is made from, it will become apparent because the keyboard has been designed to make it so, the physical spaces between the keys are the intervals of the C major scale, when they come to harmonising their creation it's so easy as to make a guitar player wonder why they even bothered with guitar, by experimentation they will soon realise that two adjacent keys played together don't sound so good but if you leave a gap in the middle then two keys played together sound just fine, maybe someone will need to nudge them a bit to leave another key gap and add a third note, but quite likely they will come to that realization on their own, so then they have stacked intervals of thirds in a row and created a major or minor chord in the key of C major they may easily realise that this chord can be extended by leaving a gap and adding another key to create a rich sounding chord which will be a 7 or maj 7 or min7 chord, it doesn't matter that they won't know what the names are only that it all sounds pretty good .
Such a novice keyboard player does not need to learn music theory because by experimentation they will realise the significance of the spacial distances between individual piano keys and their relationship to middle C . These physical distances equate to the intervals of music theory and the player will discover music theory as it relates to melody and harmony through their experimentation, as their ear develops they will recognise how gaps between the keys equate to tunes they wish to learn and the notes that harmonise with the tune.
It isnt going to happen like that with guitar because of the design of the fretboard and tuning, so some way needs to be found that the player searching around by ear for melodies and harmonies is aware of the intervals they are playing, the very stuff of music theory which is just a description of how music works.
It's not true that music theory is just or mainly about reading notation , ( you're description
of theory in the grading system is more an artefact of the class system operating in musical education).
The books I recommended have stuff on how to read notation sure and they show examples written in notation, personally I don't see anything wrong with that but if any one knows of a book on the subject which doesn't use notation to give examples lets hear about it.
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Old 02-23-2021, 09:21 AM
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Andyrondack,
Would be very interested to hear example (s) of your instrumental creations as you apply theory. Any to share?? I'm thinking your theory based work might yield more complex tunes that would be interesting to hear.
Thanks!
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  #29  
Old 02-23-2021, 11:04 AM
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I don't agree with this, on another instrument perhaps yes but I believe the design of the guitar inhibits any easy understanding of how music works and how to create it.
Hi Andyrondack. I read your post with interest. Our approaches appear to be opposites.

My approach, my way into arranging and composing, was made up from three distinct activities. Firstly imagining sounds. I would hear in my mind a melody or some harmonies. Second was liking or not liking what I imagined and heard and finally remembering what I liked or not remembering what I did not like.

I could do this before I could play any instrument. Technical or theoretical knowledge was not required.
I'm not saying that it wasn't there but at the time I wasn't aware of it. It was all just 'sounds'. In retrospect it was simple enough stuff, what I now would call I, IV, V sequences with perhaps the occasional ii and vi thrown in for good luck. It was what I was hearing on the radio. I just came up with my own combinations. When I first started to play guitar these were the chords I learned and used.

It would have been some years later that I could combine fingerpicking with adding notes to chords to get instrumentals. I was listening to the Beatles, folk guitarists, old blues players and others and getting ideas from all of them. I can now talk about what I did then in theory terms but back then they were all just sounds that I could juggle and reconfigure. Suspensions and 'add' chords were just sound tools that went into the box as I went along. Intervals were already in the chords and it didn't take long to extend chords and added notes into scales.

As for keyboards being easier this is a discussion I've had on this forum before. I find the piano to be strangely complex. Compare the difference between a scale of C and a scale of C#. On a piano they are completely different, and there are still another ten major keys to go, all different again. On a guitar you just do the same pattern one fret higher. To me the guitar is much simpler.

Anyway my way worked nicely for me. Your way seems to work for you. Maybe there are other ways as well. Good luck.
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  #30  
Old 02-23-2021, 11:24 AM
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Andyrondack,
Would be very interested to hear example (s) of your instrumental creations as you apply theory. Any to share?? I'm thinking your theory based work might yield more complex tunes that would be interesting to hear.
Thanks!
He's posted a few things on Show and Tell, for example
https://soundcloud.com/user-46411948.../s-Pl33KxXyYKk
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