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Old 10-11-2012, 03:17 PM   #1
fupashredder
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How the hell do I compose music(steps to be a better composer pls)

I have been playing guitar for 9 years and I dont have a single clue how to be a better composer.

I usually just sit in my room and just noodle around until im bored. I dont know what else to do.

I just recorded myself for the first time with windows recorder. i dunno even how i feel about it. i jsut had one simple little riff i made up.

usually i hate everything i compose......

haalp
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Old 10-11-2012, 03:48 PM   #2
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Composition is an artform like playing, the more you do it the better you get at it. Try studying simple songs and analyzing how they are structured. You'll start to notice patterns like "intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus,chorus"

Continue being your own worst critic, it will serve you well in the long run. If you don't like anything you compose then keep going until you start hearing what you want to hear.
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Old 10-11-2012, 03:49 PM   #3
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The only way to get any better at composing is to just keep at it. I have a folder on my laptop with almost a gig worth of little licks, riffs, song parts, etc. that I have yet to do anything with and most of them I still think suck.

But everything you write will help you to write better and better as well as become more and more efficient at it.

My advice is to sit down with you little riff and expand upon it. Try to come up with a melody to go over it, or solo over it. Try to come up with a part to go either before or after it. Just keep building it up piece by piece and eventually you'll have a song. Sure there's the possibility that you may like what you come up with then come back in a week and decide it's dumb(I know that I do this all the time.) But the most important thing is to concentrate on it and at least have something to show for it. The more you work and actually see something through then that's more experience to help lead up to that awesome song that you want to pen.
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Old 10-11-2012, 03:51 PM   #4
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Have you thought about joining a band? Having other creative people can feed into your ideas and vise-versa. Colabs are a great way to expand your experiences with songwriting. Find the strong qualities of the band and write songs to emulate those strengths.
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Old 10-11-2012, 04:29 PM   #5
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Like z4twenny and J-Dawg158 said.
Keep writing constantly. You're going to make a lot of shitty crap at first, everyone does. But you learn something from each composition you make and those lessons will carry onto your next piece of crap. Once you've written enough things will start sounding better to you. You'll still write crap once in awhile but you throw that stuff out and keep the good.

I also recommend getting out of thinking of sections of songs as just the guitar riffs. Think about the drums, think about the bass, everything as a whole. If you don't have access to bass or drums get guitar pro or some sequencer and fill in those parts. If you just sit around noodling around on your guitar you're not really composing anything. You're just doing exactly that.... noodling on your guitar.

Try to force yourself to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day to just write something. Don't be a perfectionist about it just get something done without putting too much thought. Come back to it a day later, then analyze it and figure out what you could do differently or what could be improved.

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Old 10-11-2012, 04:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fupashredder
I have been playing guitar for 9 years and I dont have a single clue how to be a better composer.

I usually just sit in my room and just noodle around until im bored. I dont know what else to do.

I just recorded myself for the first time with windows recorder. i dunno even how i feel about it. i jsut had one simple little riff i made up.

usually i hate everything i compose......


Ear training. Ear training. Ear training.

You want to compose with your brain, not your fingers. That means you need to develop your ear so that you can think, with pitch-accuracy, in complex sounds.

If you are just noodling around hoping to discover something cool, you're not really composing. You're the musical equivalent of a monkey at a typewriter - the odds of him producing a coherent sentence are pretty low.
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Old 10-11-2012, 04:38 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by HotspurJr
Ear training. Ear training. Ear training.

You want to compose with your brain, not your fingers. That means you need to develop your ear so that you can think, with pitch-accuracy, in complex sounds.

If you are just noodling around hoping to discover something cool, you're not really composing. You're the musical equivalent of a monkey at a typewriter - the odds of him producing a coherent sentence are pretty low.


Pretty much this.

Ron Jarzombek hears everything he wants to write in his head, and then puts it into a notation program to see how its played/analyze it/record it.

His composing is completely separate from his instrument.
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Old 10-11-2012, 05:08 PM   #8
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I disagree w/ Hotspur to a degree. You can throw a couple chords together and call it a song, it might not be "original" but its still a song. That being said if you REALLY want to write what you hear in your head then you definitely need ear training and to have a good sense of relative pitch. I wouldn't quite call it the musical equivalent of monkeys at typewriters though, I'd see it more as a childs story compared to a literary giant.
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Old 10-11-2012, 05:45 PM   #9
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Well, my writing only became good when I could hear something in my head, then notate it. That gave me freedom to compose everywhere I go, and that's brilliant, as I spend around 7 to 8 hours a week on the train, so I can just think my way through any recent compositions, and let new ideas flow in. I'd recommend getting Guitar Pro to start with and writing with that, that'll improve your writing, because it takes the noodling out, presents you with all the scales and keys you could ever want and lets you write based on what you hear instead of what you play, as long as you don't have your guitar in your hands as you compose.

If you think of songs that have great composition, nearly all of them will be great because everything comes together, I mean, try playing a lot of 'classic' riffs on guitar, and look at them objectively. I've played a lot of riffs from bands I love, and thought 'If I had came across that while noodling about, I'd not give it a second though', however, everything around it compliments it and makes it stand out, and that's where Guitar Pro helps. You can hear your riff in context, so it helps you hear how it'll sound in a situation, and it'll allow you to breath live into mediocre riffs. For instance, when I wrote the verse riff to Our Creation by my band Celestial Wish, I absolutely hated it, and was certain that I'd replace it later on, however, as I put different parts of the orchestra in, let it lock in with the bass and drums and finally added the vocals with the help of our singer, I realised that in the verse, that riff needed to be there.

So, in all basics, start writing on the computer and start writing for other instruments instead of using Guitar Pro as a database for all the guitar riffs that you've found while noodling, and get to a point where you don't need an instrument to write.
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Old 10-12-2012, 03:58 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by fupashredder
I usually just sit in my room and just noodle around until im bored. I dont know what else to do.


There are several elements to 'what you can do'.

Firstly: Acquire technical skills. Learn about functional harmony, melodic development, musical form (structure), arrangement, and music history. If you're a songwriter read up on lyrical form, rhyming and development as well.

Secondly: Practice your instrument diligently. Skill acquired in playing your instrument will enable you to express yourself more fluidly when the time comes to do so.

N.B. Acquiring these skills will not necessarily make you a better composer (your tunes may still be awful, your progressions predictable, &c.), but they will provide you with options when you're stuck, and give you more options when you're not. As with any art, your music is determined to some extent by the degree to which you can express yourself. Think about it: Someone who can't spell and has difficulty stringing a coherent sentence together is unlikely to write The Great Gatsby. Music is no different.

Thirdly: Composition (fancy word for 'writing and arranging music') is a set of skills. The more time you dedicate to practicing these skills, the better you'll get at it.

Put time aside to write something new every day that's completely unrelated to whatever other projects you've got going. Set your stopwatch for 10 minutes and write for that amount of time, then stop.
Under no circumstances listen to that voice telling you what you have written is shit - ignore it completely;
Keep the music you've written, preferably in one place and organised so that you can find them. Refer to these ideas now and again.
Set yourself something to write about. "Brown cow" is something to write about. "**** off and die" is something to write about. And so on. Don't over-think it (I use a random word generator).
Focus on getting something that really expresses what you think/feel about your subject. You're better off getting four notes of pure gold than ten minutes of total drivel. Better is better. More is just, well, more.
Some ideas will work, some won't. Try not to worry or get despondent if something doesn't work: There'll be other days when it will go well.
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Old 10-12-2012, 12:17 PM   #11
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this one's for you, spazzy.

to be able to compose, you need a set of skills that, at the very minimum, need to be sharpened to a degree where they can function.

the first thing you need is an ear. it doesn't have to be magnificent, but as with every tool you'll utilize to compose, the more skilled you are with it, the more options you have open to you. composition is all about checking your options*. but composition is, obviously, an aural art - while it's possible to "noodle around", that's akin to painting on a canvas with no real idea of what you want to convey. we would not have masterpieces like those created by da vinci, bach, michelangelo, schubert, rembrandt, palestrina, et al., had they simply walked up to a blank canvas or a sheet of manuscript paper with no idea what they wanted to convey. think of it like jumping in your car and going on a road trip with no destination. sure, you might have a little fun on the way, but ultimately it's a waste of time and gas (unless you're the type to go cross country on a motorcycle because you're a drifter, of course -- but even then, your goal is not to have a destination, so you already do have a goal in mind). be able to hear a melody in your head, and you'll be able to compose.

the second thing you need is basic instrumental proficiency. i see all these guys saying "get your chops up" and "you need technical proficiency", when the fact of the matter is that you need no such thing. hector berlioz is one of the most outstanding romantic composers. he was able to compose for a tremendous orchestra the massive work we know as the symphonie fantastique, and yet he was known for being a guitarist -- and not a particularly skilled one, at that. but because he had basic technical proficiency and followed the tendencies i mentioned in the previous paragraph (he had an ear and he knew where he was going), he was able to create that magnum opus. but the level of skill i'm talking about is far, far less than berlioz, and i'm willing to bet it's far, far less than yours, as well. if you can fret a note and pluck it, you have enough skill to compose.

that's really it for "what you need". you need an ear, and you need an instrument (and if you get really good at it, you won't even need that anymore). learning things like music theory (and that's an extremely broad topic, there are a lot more subtopics in there you'll need to become aware of to make use of it), music notation (yes, learning how to read and write), orchestration (notably how to compose for instruments you don't play), and many other skills will heighten your ability to compose.

these things that you don't need, however, are what separate the boys from the men, so to speak. but everybody needs to start somewhere. start by composing something small every day. focus on composing melodically, not so much on playing riffs. you've been playing riffs for 9 years, and you're not really solving any problems, so is it fair to say that what you've been doing isn't really getting you anywhere? forget noodling around and really put your ear and your focus into it. listen to more music to develop your ear -- i'd say start with classical-era classical music (haydn, mozart, early beethoven to start) to develop a better sense of melody. you can get into jazz later - jazz is built around the same concepts but it takes a little more liberty with them. this liberty sounds great but it's more difficult to get into it without having acquired a solid knowledge of the fundamentals.

*composition is a process where there are essentially an infinite amount of options involved, and choosing one is essentially the rejection of all other possibilities. if i compose a melody that consists entirely of steps, the possibility of the usage of an arpeggio is nil. if i compose a melody with a certain shape or melodic contour in mind, the possibility of the usage of a different melodic contour is nil. the problem with a lot of novice composers is that they don't see possibilities - they just make what they can/want and they don't learn much about the art of quality composition. does this mean they don't sound good? hell, no. but if you want to get better at composition, you need to be able to check your options. that's what allows you to modify (and improve) existing melodies. think of it like writing an essay or a poem - you write something basic, you revise it, and you perfect it. composers like mozart and schubert had the ability to write perfect melodies spontaneously to a very high degree, but most good composers will be like beethoven - they will take a crude melodic thought and revise, revise, revise.
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Old 10-12-2012, 01:09 PM   #12
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The only other thing I'll say is that, if you want to compose, it's not about knowing rules per se so much as about having a comprehensive intuitive mastery of the form you're trying to write.

That is to say, if you want to write metal songs, you need to KNOW metal songs. If you want to write ballads, you need to know ballads. If you want to write classic sonatas, you need to know classical sonatas.

A tremendous amount of composition is subconscious. Your brain does a lot of the work without you knowing. But for it to be able to do that, you need to have that intuitive mastery.

So when people say you have to study theory, it's not so much that you need to know theory, it's that studying theory is a great way to improve your intuitive mastery of popular music. When people say you need chops, it's because developing the skills to play complex stuff improves your understanding of that type of music, making it possible for you to compose in it. Those things are roads to the intuitive mastery that makes your subconscious go.

And that's what the ear training is for. You need an intuitive mastery of the basics of music, and that doesn't come from the book knowledge but rather being able to think, with pitch-accuracy, in tones. If you can't do that, then your subconscious can't work on songs because it doesn't know how to think in music.
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Old 10-12-2012, 01:27 PM   #13
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I'm going to tell you that "form" is absolute bullshit, sure it's nice to know the basic forms, but ultimately it is determined by you the composer. When you write a piece, you'll start to see the logic of it. You can choose to follow it or not, it's really up to you. But it'll help you determine many things, the form is one of them.
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Old 10-12-2012, 01:36 PM   #14
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I'm going to tell you that "form" is absolute bullshit, sure it's nice to know the basic forms, but ultimately it is determined by you the composer. When you write a piece, you'll start to see the logic of it. You can choose to follow it or not, it's really up to you. But it'll help you determine many things, the form is one of them.


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Old 10-12-2012, 01:36 PM   #15
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Try to get in the inspiered state of mind before you write.
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Old 10-13-2012, 02:26 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by GoldenGuitar
I'm going to tell you that "form" is absolute bullshit, sure it's nice to know the basic forms, but ultimately it is determined by you the composer. When you write a piece, you'll start to see the logic of it. You can choose to follow it or not, it's really up to you. But it'll help you determine many things, the form is one of them.


this is true, but i caution you: the concept we know as form has not simply materialized out of thin air -- the fact that certain forms have remained in use for quite some time is not by accident.
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Old 10-13-2012, 02:37 AM   #17
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I'm going to tell you that "form" is absolute bullshit

i'm going to tell you to go away
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Old 10-13-2012, 05:31 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by GoldenGuitar
I'm going to tell you that "form" is absolute bullshit, sure it's nice to know the basic forms, but ultimately it is determined by you the composer. When you write a piece, you'll start to see the logic of it. You can choose to follow it or not, it's really up to you. But it'll help you determine many things, the form is one of them.


I'm going to come in your side here. Sort of. I asked my composition teacher about form and "How to do it". His comment was that the music determines the form, by which he meant that you can try and shoehorn what you've written into an existing form, or you can allow the music to grow more organically into the form it naturally takes.

That doesn't mean form is completely useless; I've written more than one song by starting with a formal model derived from something I've been listening to. And composition / writing / whatever you want to call it involves an element of deliberate choice - it's not the same as noodling. Still: I've heard plenty of people say "I'm going to compose a sonata" and then start with an idea that gives them absolutely no room to manoeuvre.

If you say: I'm going to write a poem about flowers, and then write something about the Battleship Potemkin it starts to look like you're deeply unclear on how to turn your initial idea into a finished work.

Having an appreciation of form is necessary though because it gives you ideas about how you might go on from where you are. It can save you time, just like knowing how to find interesting rhymes can save you time.
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Old 10-13-2012, 07:07 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by AeolianWolf
this is true, but i caution you: the concept we know as form has not simply materialized out of thin air -- the fact that certain forms have remained in use for quite some time is not by accident.


This is also true.

Maybe the word "bullshit" that I used was not appropriate in describing my thoughts on form, since the connotations involved seemed to have provoked other people with who think otherwise. My intention was not to say that form was completely useless, that's why I also added that we should know the basic forms.
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Old 10-13-2012, 09:57 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fupashredder
I have been playing guitar for 9 years and I dont have a single clue how to be a better composer.

I usually just sit in my room and just noodle around until im bored. I dont know what else to do.

I just recorded myself for the first time with windows recorder. i dunno even how i feel about it. i jsut had one simple little riff i made up.

usually i hate everything i compose......

haalp


I had the same problem for years as well. The problem is straight simple and I don't mean to come across as rude but....you most likely really do not know what you are doing and are missing vital elements to get you where you want. You most likely...do not understand how music works so to speak, its that simple. There are certain guitarists who claim to just mess around and not know anything but that kind of thing doesn't work for everyone. For me I use theory to guide me...I do not rely on it but if I did not know it I do not think I would be able to do what I do, or hear what I hear.

You need to start understanding intervals and the relationship of them with other notes and chords. You need to understand tension and resolution and cadences, consonance and dissonance. You should learn basic music theory. Once you understand it to a certain degree you can do your own thing and be creative.

It took me forever to learn and really understand the basic theory I know. Why? Because I never had a teacher and I think theory is something that requires you to really test you abilities as in hearing what you are learning to some degree.

If all of the above sounds like a bunch of BS to you...the only other advice I can give is that you need to keep playing and you will eventually develop your composition skills. Most people just think they cannot write a good riff like you and give up , why? because giving up seems like the best option and most stress free option. You cannot give up because the key to becoming a good composer is to let it develop like any other skill and you will slowly start to realize yourself writing better things. There was this one quote I remember from a Berklee Professor. He said that "There is nothing wrong with writing crap ...because crap is the best fertilizer."

Last edited by Unreal T : 10-13-2012 at 10:04 AM.
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