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Thread: composing and arranging

  1. #1

    Default composing and arranging

    Working on a small project " what makes a pleasing or beautiful melody". In my opinion it is not the mode or scale. ( phrygian ???) Maybe a matter of intervals and accidentals, interval minors and majors. The first bar as opener giving the direction.

    I noticed with Bach or sahra's song, ICantForgetOldWhatsHerName-G-Wakefield, Some_Day_My_Prince_Will_Come G , Maudabawn Chapel , LittleRockGetaway, InaSentimantalMood, bigsandyriver, Blind Mary, AvaMaria, The gentle light that wakes me , Bach - Violin Concerto in E major - II - Adagio , APlaceintheHeart -Baldassari ,Air_on_the_G_String etc and many others...

    thirds prevail , others often as passing tones, melodic intervals rather close with occasional rare 4ths 6ths, rarely 7ths.

    Apart from personal, individual preference there may be a certain pattern I am looking for, what the catchy pieces, the things that stick in your ear have in common.

    I have the book composing for dummies- does not cover this aspect

    I only started with this. Interesting it is and one learns alot this way.

  2. #2

    Default Re: composing and arranging

    forget it.

    Thread finished

  3. #3
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by Werner Jaekel View Post
    Working on a small project " what makes a pleasing or beautiful melody". In my opinion it is not the mode or scale. .
    Pleasing, beautiful, or even satisfying? Alchemical magic.

    Many years ago I made a flying leap attempt at an answer to your question. I think I still agree with most of it, but I have moved on a little.

    Hope that helps. Or at least is relevant. Or maybe the thread should be over.
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  5. #4

    Default Re: composing and arranging

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...on-great-tunes

    Simply a wonderful piece of thought and writing. So true.

    Sometimes I get so lost in tone I forget to play.....drifting off, becoming my listener.., quickly I realise and go on..

    Genre does not matter. One finds them in all traditions and cultures worldwide in all ages. Sometimes how a piece of music moves us from cultures so different from ours. I travel alot.

    I also Like melodies from the 20ties, or 30ties,50ties, got some fakebooks. I also find them in bluegrass, celtic, swing, classical, folk, jazz ....


    JeffD
    "A tune tells us a story. The better the story and the better its telling, the better the tune. Great tunes tell unforgettable, timeless stories, that delight us anew with each hearing."

    "In a great tune, we respond upon first hearing as if we have always known it."


    M.Marmot -
    Now days he said that he much is much humbler with respect for the tunes saying that he now realises the power and beauty such music must have to endure as long as it has and that now his approach is to strip back the superfluous in an effort to allow the tunes essential beauty to emerge.

    Jim Nollman -
    In our band we have a running argument about speed. Some tunes I just can't stand playing fast because the melodies can't breath corectly.



    Yes, I find excessive speed kills overtones, what Jim calls breathing. And overtones are the mix of sustain.
    https://youtu.be/o4CSevKzsJU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaiwTQm7Y00

    If possible I want to find out if there is a common denominator to them. Is it the arrangement of intervals ( my guess), time accentuation or what

    Kenny Werner suggests in his book to write down any notes, randomly, and then make someting out of that. On a piano much easier than on mando with 10 fingers simultaneously. . Or just hit the keys randomly. He does not care about scales and modes...only the result counts

    A great book
    Last edited by Werner Jaekel; Feb-06-2017 at 4:37am.

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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    I have tried, an embarrassing number of times, to write a tune. I have never succeeded in writing a tune that would be one I would be interested in playing.

    Strangely enough I have written a couple of stories I liked well enough, some music related and some not. Nothing published mind you, but stories that held my interest.

    My only thoughts about arrangement of intervals is that rhythm and how the tune breaks up time is also something to play with.

    I have a friend who writes wonderful tunes. They are compelling and beautiful and have some internal drama and a few suprises that keeps you listening. She is playful with the melody and playful with the rhythm.

    And she cannot tell me how she does it.
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    I wish I had the gift. While there are certainly "grinders," people who work tunes out through theory, trial, and error, I'm amazed by those for whom the tunes , "just fall out of the sky," to paraphrase Ricky Skaggs...
    Chuck

  8. #7

    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Whatever the mind is occupied with or concentrating on. Preoccupation. As a painter there are times with long breaks, travelling, gardening, playing music...

    That are the times when I think I have lost the ability to create art. I stand before the canvas and feel absolutely helpless. Look at my old stuff and cannot believe I did this.

    Other way around. In times when I do alot of painting, and once started, it just flows and things come easy.

    When I am very occupied with music and also listen to music to play along the mind is swinging and singing. At night I dream melodies, wake up in the morning and play them. Whatever I have in my mind, I hit the correct note. Mostly.

    In his book Effortless Mastery Kenny Werner refers to that phenomena. The importance to listen to music one wants to play. Think music, feel music, and relax, it is fun. And correctly he says that the more one wants somting to happen and the more one feels the stress to be good or perfect, the more one is blocked from achieving this.

    But that is the one side. The other, speaking as a lateral thinking designer and being convinced there is some pattern behind phenomena I think it should be possible to find the one behind appealing melodies. Maybe not. Maybe yes. Maybe one of those phenomena not explicable .

    I think it is the quality of intervals, their succession, timing and accents. In this respect I analyze scores. In itself a very interesting endeavour.


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  10. #8

    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Way back when, in a former life, when I studied music (theory and arranging), I thought about this.

    I came to the conclusion that good music is created from the soul--and there ARE no rules, reasons, or patterns.

    I take as evidence for this things like this: --- The flatted fifth is one of the most dissonant and avoided intervals in music history--the Devil's interval. Yet Leonard Bernstein used it (and its resolution) to create one of the most recognized and beautiful songs in history-- Maria, from West Side Story.

    I believe that Bernstein's musical soul "heard" or "created" the haunting beauty of Maria--- no rules.... no patterns (until after the fact maybe).

    Creating by formula sounds.... formulaic.

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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Personally, I think phrasing is the most important component in a compelling melody. Even fiddle tunes and Bach pieces that contain mostly eight notes have an underlying syncopation, where not every note is part of the melody.

    There are only twelve notes, arranged in limitless rhythms.

    "Are we not doing phrasing anymore?!?
    - Archer

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  13. #10

    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Personally, I think phrasing is the most important component in a compelling melody. ....
    There are only twelve notes, arranged in limitless rhythms.
    I would not necessarily place it above the order of the notes but phrasing encompassing timing, accent,rhythm, approach and tone color is a lot more critical to melody than is commonly recognized.

    The first line of the Christmas song Joy to the World illustrates this real dramatically. Try playing the notes in the proper order with no timing or accent differences or rests, as all quarter or eighth notes. No one will recognize this line, the one sung as "Joy to the world, the Lord has come" It is just a one octave scale. Play the same notes, in the same order, with proper timing, accent and rests then anyone will instantly recognize the melody and song.

    I think it is the quality of intervals, their succession, timing and accents. In this respect I analyze scores. In itself a very interesting endeavour.
    I think that captures it very well. I do not think there is a formula, either a recipe or algebraic formula. That is why people can spend a lifetime studying it and not find bottom. It is an exploration and voyage of discovery. There are some maps and guidelines tracing the routes other people have followed. But we are free to choose our own routes some of which will lead to clear springs and beautiful meadows, others will mire down in swamps full of nasty things, others across barren deserts, some through storms and to drown at the bottom of the blue, salt sea.

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    Formula for beauty. It is the holy grail. Whole shelves of philosophy books dedicated to it. Wittgenstein asked: What do I mean when I ask to see a picture of a butterfly, just like that one, only more beautiful.

    In another book, I forget now, there was this dialog that was a parody of the formula for musical beauty. One character, a world successful music critic, was asked how he could so infallibly pick the music people would find beautiful. He said he assigned numbers to every note on the piano. Then he would add up the numbers of a particular melody, and if the sum was a prime number, it would be beautiful, without fail. He said he didn't even have to listen to the piece, just add it up.

    Ridiculous stuff, I know. I am only pointing out that it is a very deep subject, and some really great minds have lost themselves trying to figure this out.

    Which also means to me that a creative mind, looking at things in a little different way, might really find something useful, by mining a different vein.
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by Werner Jaekel View Post
    Yes, I find excessive speed kills overtones, what Jim calls breathing. And overtones are the mix of sustain.
    I won't profess to know what Mr. Nollman meant with the term "breathing", but when I have used that term, I am thinking of something completely different than overtones or sustain or the quality of the notes and their decay.

    When I think of a tune breathing, I think it's more in the rhythm. Very fast tunes have to adhere to a fairly rigid meter in order to stay smooth. But when the tune slows down to a medium tempo, there is more room between the beats for syncopation and a natural ebb-and-flow of the rhythm.

    A lot of musical folks, even here on the Cafe, will preach that one must always play music as perfectly "in time" as possible. They get all crazy with their reliance on metronomes and rigid adherence to a uniform tempo. But for me, when I want a tune to breathe, it means the music flows more like human speech. Nobody naturally speaks in a uniform pattern, at a uniform speed. It would sound like a robot. When we speak, the words flow naturally from our brains to our mouths, and there is a very human ebb-and-flow in the pattern. We pause to take a breath, we slow down when we are thinking of the next thing to say. We adjust our tone and volume to reflect emotion. All the subtle nuances in human speech translate over to music as well.

    There's a lot of food for thought, when one starts thinking of music being played in the natural manner of speech. All that rigid tempo nonsense falls to the wayside, and one starts to think that maybe a tune can have more soul and character when it can breathe, like a human conversation. Music is a language, after all!

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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    I remember reading that Frank Zappa one time tried to figure out what it was he liked in certain music, that lacked in music he didn't care for. His discovery - parallel fourths.
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Zappa's comment sounds ironic, because he uses that guitar riff sometimes.

    The formula is the same as in Hollywood---do what worked before for someone else (or you). For music, this means look first for the "feel", the groove, the rhythmic specifics perhaps. If you want to write your own reel, just imagine riffs that sound like a reel. Probably you will imagine figures that already exist. This is normal, and why we get the joke about the difference between fiddle tunes being the name.

    I have not written a lot, mainly felt obliged to try when I formed a jazz group to use my electric violin. I first imagined what kind of music I would want to hear as an audience member--not what others might like. This was making a choice about fast, slow, smooth, jumpy, square or syncopated, etc. Do I want a simple tune now, with easy improv, or do I want something with tension and mystery? Next I ask what feeling, what emotion is the goal? Then I just try to "hear" the first two or three notes.

    The feeling is only that, no words. Is it an ache, or a happy dance? With an emotional "object" held in my mind, or actually in my body, I sometimes get lucky and hear a few notes that are like a word or phrase, that indicate the feeling. Obviously, a minor 3rd and tonic in a slow tempo is sad, etc.. But I try to look for a more specific feeling.

    With an opening phrase in hand (mind), I try to again hear what happens next. If I have a chord progression already chosen, or a song structure, like AABA, I can aim at a target of where the melody has to land, resolve, turn around, etc.

    For harmony I tend to start with a bass line. Sometimes I have a melody and no clue what chords are right, but if I feel the bass should move a certain way (like staying on a constant note, rocking high/low, or walking up/down a scale) I can just go with it an choose chords that result, or fit somehow. (Not so much an issue for a standard song form.)

    News outlets need to fill time or space and will publish the occasional study or experiment that sounds interesting, and recently there was an analysis of pop songs. This earth-shaking finding was that catchy tunes use repetition; the example in the news report was Taylor Swift: "Shake, shake, shake, shake" etc. Hmm. Peter Shickele (PDQ Bach) had a radio show about music theory and history, and I enjoyed one about Renaissance dances. He showed that the standard routine for these was to simply repeat them many times. Duh, when you find a hook you repeat it.

    This is why Beethoven would re-use his motive in a symphony. It's not so much a difficult trick as an easy way to say the same thing again and again. Why not re-use something you know says the right thing for the tune? I am thinking of a reel, "Drowsy Maggie", which uses the 5th/7th/5th jump in the first bar, and keeps using it. Many other reels use it, too. It has a certain feel, and if you want that feel you will be hard-pressed to find a substitute. To be original, you have to use it differently, like in a different place in the bar or such.

    But all music reflects previous music. I was disappointed to discover, a couple of years later when I listened to other jazz, that I had closely emulated another tune more than once. Not what would be plagiarizing, but the dreaded "derivative" could be applied. Oh, well, I just want to play music.

    I hope this is not too much information. One final item to mention is that clearly focusing on what YOU want to feel when you hear the tune will steer you away from easy cliches, and make it more likely you will say something unique. In successful art, what happens is someone conveys their deep feeling or understanding and someone else feels in their heart "I feel that way, too!" This makes one feel less alone, and the writer tries for the same thing, to feel less alone by telling another his heart.
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  19. #15

    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael H Geimer View Post
    Personally, I think phrasing is the most important component in a compelling melody. Even fiddle tunes and Bach pieces that contain mostly eight notes have an underlying syncopation, where not every note is part of the melody. ...
    That's an eye-opener about Bach, I'd been trying to play his stuff 'straight' and wondering why it all sounded so bad, like it had no melody and no rhythm at all, just a string of miscellaneous notes.

    Never occurred to me to approach his music the same way as a fiddle tune.

    My usual thing is to automatically fiddle-tune-ize everything I play anyway, because I grew up playing fiddle tunes and that's just the way my mind (such as it is) works, but...

    I was deliberately trying to *not* do that with Bach because I figured it wasn't appropriate... shows what I know, eh...

    As to Bach, I was trying to do something right, for a change, and play it the way it was written, instead of changing everything around to suit myself and 'wrecking' the piece with my own folk interpretations (one of my specialties lol).

    Guess "playing it as written" doesn't work even in classical (or whatever Bach's genre is) music?

    I might have to re-visit some Bach pieces and see if I can turn them into something I'd actually want to listen to, rather than my former approach of just wanting to try Bach because it looked like an interesting challenge or technical exercise with lots of notes 'n' weird accidentals 'n' stuff.

    (Ok so *now* maybe I finally understand why some violinists sound bad when they try to play fiddle tunes, just a string of notes with no rhythm (that is, *if* they have no prior background with the fiddle-tune genre), because they're probably approaching fiddle tunes the same way I was approaching Bach, just playing it as-written from the page without an understanding of the rhythm that ties it all together. Huh. Guess I'm not too old to learn new stuff after all. Will have to try Bach again.)

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    ... I have never succeeded in writing a tune that would be one I would be interested in playing. ...
    I have, a dozen or so compositions still left (that I haven't thrown out yet) over the years, but then I go into protectionist mode where I don't want someone else stealing my idea and claiming it as their own and, to add insult to injury, then making money off my idea.

    That actually happened once, with something I'd designed and built a functional version of, although not related to music.

    It ticked me off, but at the time I wasn't sufficiently funded to lawyer up and legally pursue the person who'd stolen my idea. And much of it would have been my word against theirs anyway, as I had long since gotten rid of my prototype and I hadn't patented it because I didn't think it was anything worth stealing.

    Just goes to show, what one person thinks is clever but of limited market appeal, someone else might see as a money-making business opportunity.

    Anyway, I wouldn't object to other people *playing* my compositions, that's totally fine even if it was on a for-profit recording of some sort, as long as they didn't try to claim they'd written the piece. But if they were to claim authorship, that's where I'd have an issue.

    Copyright-infringement lawyers aren't cheap and I don't have limitless funds to pursue miscreants over some piddly li'l piece of music I wrote.

    But most such compositions of mine probably aren't really as good as I think they are anyway. Some have stood the test of time, most have not and have been discarded. I will probably discard even more of them as time goes on and my perceptions change as to what is 'good'. So in the long run it might not matter all that much anyway.

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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    I think if someone is stealing your music and making money from it - you have objective verifiable evidence that you are on the right track and producing something that has value and interest.

    They can steal your specific idea, but they cannot steal the machine that makes those ideas. Go for it.
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    As an aside I link another thread, where that friend of mine mentioned above, with the uncanny ability to compose really interesting beautiful waltzes.

    How is this even possible?
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I think if someone is stealing your music and making money from it - you have objective verifiable evidence that you are on the right track and producing something that has value and interest.

    They can steal your specific idea, but they cannot steal the machine that makes those ideas. Go for it.
    Good point.

  24. #19

    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    That's an eye-opener about Bach, I'd been trying to play his stuff 'straight' and wondering why it all sounded so bad, like it had no melody and no rhythm at all, just a string of miscellaneous notes.

    Never occurred to me to approach his music the same way as a fiddle tune.

    Guess "playing it as written" doesn't work even in classical (or whatever Bach's genre is) music?
    One of the most usual and effective ways to play Bach is to use "forward phrasing". Instead of making each measure a phrase, each phrase ENDS on the first note of the NEXT measure. The next phrase starts on the SECOND (usually an eighth-note) note of the measure. This keeps the music from being "chopped up", and makes it move forward into the next measure. This is the most musical way to play Bach and similar music, and has been used for centuries. None of this is notated in any way, but it was expected, as it made the music more musical. The same kind of phrasings and different groupings can be done in "fiddle tunes".

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    I want to try to look at this phenomea from a different angle.

    Resonance.

    There is a sound, vibration, waves, amplitudes, and here is a receptor. It is responding. Any vibration causes resonance. Physically.

    We know each tone inherits own specific overtones and specific resonance.

    So why do people or animals respond to music at all, bird singing, and not to everyday noise in the same manner ?

    I think it takes a succession of at least 3 notes to form some melodic harmony, this regarded as beautiful , indifferent or ugly.
    Why so ?

    The vibration received by the outside body and the senses causes a reaction in the brain. Still a resonance to the source. This can feelings and bodily reaction in the widest range from tears, smile to creating havoc.

    Not in everybody. Some people show absolutely no response to music and this resonance. They could not even whistle a "happy birthday" correctly.

    So what is different with them ?

    So which at least 3 tones or what kind of succession of resonancing tones brings us to tears of pleasure ?

    That is a question to a pychologist and probably a theme for PhD undertaking.

    I am still in the process of gathering scores, momentarily Pachelbels Canon in D, Bach Adagio E minor, Andante A minor, Lascio Ch’io Pianga, Ombra mai fu, Bach Air on a G string and others, looking closely for some kind of commonality. I play them in CGDA and GDAE, mandolin and mandola in same positions. Interesting. Each time a 5th different.

    Scale values tonic , supertonic, mediant, subdominat dominant submediant, leading tone seem to be the chief characters. Independent of the scale in use. Why ?

    Second the sort of intervals, their quality and succession.

    In come phrasing, accenting, tempo, da capos, repeats, change, surprises.....

    For the brain in the end to respond to resonance there may be a common denominator. But then a computerprogramme could produce them.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl-V2IsUprQ&t=8s

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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by Werner Jaekel View Post

    Scale values tonic , supertonic, mediant, subdominat dominant submediant, leading tone seem to be the chief characters. Independent of the scale in use. Why ?

    Second the sort of intervals, their quality and succession.

    In come phrasing, accenting, tempo, da capos, repeats, change, surprises.....

    For the brain in the end to respond to resonance there may be a common denominator.
    Pentatonics

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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by Werner Jaekel View Post
    Working on a small project ...
    Respectfully I say: No, you're not!
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Unfortunately when I am onto something there is no quitting. But same time I want to just play my instruments and my favorites and finish some paintings for an exhibition. Unfortunately one needs rest in sleep. (Darn, night time again...)

    So while playing and writing on my staff lines and reading music theory I keep an open eye for these things.

    For me it works well when writing notation and trying what I wrote. Rather hitting some random fret which always turns out to be what I am used to playing.

    Would be nice to find some source which covers what I am looking for. Like this Science Ferstival.

    The more one gets aquainted with the theory of music the easier comes progress. Sort of exponential.

    Amazing the number and varaity of melodies possible to create out of our musical system. Endless obviously. Even though much is copied.

    Bobby McFerrin Great

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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Some simple musical elements can be explained in their effect, but this kind of science-y talk doesn't help you write------

    The natural world has enough examples of the Pythagorean harmonics that the sound would have been considered as matching the native spirits. Wind in a hollow, waterfall resonating in a small pool, a taught vine plucked, all would carry the basic harmonics in their tone. So early efforts to imitate nature (animal calls, spirit catchers, etc,) would lead to associating some tones with some activities, feelings, results.

    Most ethnic musics use the diatonic scale and Pythagorean intervals (1/1, 2/3, 3/4, etc.) An exception is Middle Eastern. A wild speculation of mine is that Semitic peoples mainly used a simple flute to play music, while the Homeric Greeks used the lyre also, which encouraged Pythagorean tuning to play simply chords. The simple flute, though, will make for a weird scale if the holes are placed equally--with no short distance for the half-step between 3 and 4 in the scale. Instead you get that funny note that is in between the 3rd and 5th degree of the scale. This could have been a cultural identifier that was preserved to remain separate from the substantial Greek cultural power.

    That digression aside---the harmonies that match the first natural harmonics, the major chord, would be the happy state, a resting place, of normal harmony. Intervals that show up elsewhere in the scale would feel funny in comparison. But before we get to harmonies, simple melodies imply harmony.

    Just having a melody go up and then down conveys a question and answer. A melody with small intervals is emotionally cautious (as in "Strangers in the Night"), large leaps are heroic (Wagner, Mahler, or "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"). This is because it feels that way when singing. All melodies and harmonies will feel relaxed when they arrive at the beginning note of the scale, and a major chord. This is called a resolution. A cadence is a fancy name for the way a song settles down at the end.

    Rhythm is of course going to be mainly bilaterally symmetric, as that is how we walk or run. So even songs in 3 will have a back-and-forth to make for a larger 2 pattern. Tempos near the elevated heart rate of 120bpm are favored for dance, for obvious reasons.

    Chirpy tones, like birdsong (fluttering flutes, for example) imply serenity, because in the natural world, if the birds are singing, not only is it Spring, more important is that nobody is sneaking up on you. When the woods go quiet, look out.

    Deep rumbling, like busy bass lines and large drums (Verdi marches, or John Williams stealing from Verdi) imply exciting events, probably the thundering arrival of the caribou or reindeer herd. This event would be both survival-promising, and competition-invoking for the hunters, and some danger.

    But this is not how to write music. The way to write is to learn a lot of other music, try to write stuff that is like that, and eventually you get some moves of your own. In all cases, you write to convey what you feel, and this is the trick. Find the feeling first, then try to hear what it sounds like.
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  34. #25
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: composing and arranging

    Things I have tried:

    Take an inspired single note melody, from anywhere, and try and write an arrangement for it, with harmony and bass. The goal is to arrange it so as to highlight and increase the drama of the expression of the original melody.

    Take an inspired melody, from anywhere, and write out just the chords. Now try and write an entirely different melody, that feels different but is an exact fit those chords.


    While some of the answers you seek will come from thinking hard about the problem, a lot of answers will come from wrestling with specific musical choices.

    BTW I failed miserably at both of those tasks. YMMV.
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