The Art Of Pre-Composition. Part 2

The primary objective of this article will be to go through and analyze the short example I gave in the first one.

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If you did not read my first article dealing with this subject, then let me start out by saying that this technique is not for everyone and I definitely don't consider it the ultimate technique for writing a song. I just want to share a different method/technique of composing with all of you that I have found very useful in my own musical experience. Thanks.

Welcome back fellow artists to the second installment of the Pre-Composition series. In the first article, I received many comments and e-mails asking for more information and a deeper explanation of the Pre-Composition process. Fortunately for those who have waited patiently, your concerns and questions will be answered in this article. My first article simply introduced the concept of Pre-Composition and then gave a small example at the end for the reader to ponder and decipher on they're own. I did this because the topic of Pre-Composition is very large and it is easier to teach the technique in a series of articles rather than bombarding the reader with too much information all at once. Anyway, the primary objective of this article will be to go through and analyze the short example I gave in The Art of Pre-Composition No.1 and explain how each line can be interpreted and how you can apply it to your actual composition.

When you first glance at this chart, you will most likely come to the following conclusions.

01. This Chart will affect the way the music will turn out. 02. The Emotion in this song will be uplifting/happy. 03. The level of Happiness changes throughout the piece.

These are all correct and accurate assumptions that can be deduced from looking at this chart superficially. However to attain our goal of understanding the Pre-Composition process, we must go into even more detail and provide a functional explanation of what we are seeing and how we can truly express everything we wish in our composition.

01. Yes, the chart above will completely affect the way the song turns out because it is a blueprint of our song. However, this is only one step/element out of many in the whole process of Pre-Composition (which I will explain in more detail in the next article).

02. Yes, the emotion in this song will be happy; however there are many varying degrees of happiness that can be expressed in the song, so we must understand how we can express every dip, curve, and rise in the lines formed in the chart.

03. Depending on the topic or subject you are composing about, the elements you use in the Pre-Composition process will change. For this example, our subject will be The First Date.

Reevaluation Of The Example

As we take a closer look at the chart, we start off a little bit below what I consider Average happiness. Although it may seem a little unnecessary to go into this much detail at first, think of it like this. As a composer, you want to fully express everything in your song in as much detail as you possibly can and without these fine details, your song will be less expressive of the subject you are writing about. Just as an architect would go into detail with his blueprints, you should too with your Pre-Composition chart. Although the architect may want to construct a large building, I guarantee he will not just label his blueprints with, Make the Building Big. Instead, he will give very detailed information about how long every piece of wood or steel beaming is to be.

With this now understood, I believe we can all agree that there are varying degrees of happiness ranging from: I just got a free soda to - I just won the lottery.

I would rank our beginning a little bit higher than I just got a free soda, and because we are dealing with the topic of The First Date, we will say that we just got the number of the person we are going to go out with.

A. One thing we could do to express this is to use only a root and a major third in the music for our harmony/rhythm guitar (since the chord is not completely full with out the fifth and will lack some voices, it can be understood as happy/optimistic, but not the peak of exhilaration).

B. As you can see, the line then starts to go up. Since I gave an example of what you could do to express something like this in harmonic terms last time, I will instead give an example on how rhythm could be used to express this rise in the 'intensity' of happiness. Let's say our composition is in common time (4/4), rhythmically this feels very natural and flows very well. So to add intensity and push forward our harmonic progression and symbolize movement towards somewhere, we will add a triplet rhythm to the last beat of every measure. Since the meter is split into duple (divided by 2's) if we add a rhythm/texture of 3 (like the triplet), then we disrupt the natural flow of common time/duple meter and catch the listeners attention to symbolize that this progression is moving somewhere!

C. There are many other techniques and compositional things you can do to signify an increase or decrease in the line that expresses Happiness, and the great thing is that every interpretation and decision is yours to make. Here are a few other examples of things you can use to signify an increase or decrease in your chart's line is (but not limited to): Tempo Change, Timbre Change, and Developing a Motive (Melody/Theme).

(It is also a good idea to have each instrument use a different expressive technique. For example: You could have the guitar playing a straight quarter note rhythm and have the bass do the end of the measure triplet rhythm instead of incorporating everything to the guitar.)

Now that I have explained in detail what a few of the dips and rises in that one simple line can implicate for your piece and how you can apply it musically; I believe you are now ready to practice making your own charts and eventually create your own song. Until next time, best wishes and keep composing fellow artists!

Copyright 2007 Kole (Kyle Hicks). All rights reserved.

Kole is currently studying music composition and classical guitar at Indiana University; but he will be transferring to, G.I.T., in the fall. He also is completing his debut album Exile through Empire Records and teaches many students for guitar and songwriting.

Kole has also just finished co-authoring a great new instructional e-book for guitar titled The Next Step: Serious Improvement for the Developing Guitarist, which can be found and purchased at thenextstepguitar.com. If you would like to find out more information about Kole, his music, or lessons feel free to visit his site at kolemusician.com or send him an e-mail at kole@kolemusician.com.

32 comments sorted by best / new / date

    guitaringsailor
    georgeryle wrote: To the people criticising the article and/or the author- throughout the article the author emphasises the point that this is only ONE method to help compostion. the fact is that if you are a remotely creative person or talented musician you have the option of using this to aid the contruction your your piece. Furthermore to people who seem to discredit Ordered or "formulaeic" approaches to composition you are the naive ones as all "good" music incorperates structure-it is ALWAYS integral to the piece. this structure may not be intened but it is always there. even serialism-aimed to be the opposite of any "classical" music- no harmony, melody or rythm relies purely on construction. if you disagree ask yourself why you are reading this article as you clearly think yourselves highly experianced composers! i myself am always open to new concepts- all music requires structure-what makes someone exceptional is their inspiration and ability to create origional music within a structure that aids this. by being open to all concepts a musician can absorb ideas they are interested in and begin to develop individuality as a composer. apologies or this very long rant but i find ignorant people who criticise matters beyond their understanding exasperating! i wonder what these people do with their instruments and if they find this knowledge beyond their reach- i understand the merits of this article and i am sixteen. thanks to the author.
    I just have to say that you're so right! I would have written something like it but you did for me, thanks! Kole, Great article keep it coming!
    ibanez_gtrs
    But when I compose something I rely on the spontaneous...how can you just go: Hey, I will be extra happy from 2:56 to 3:21...I just can't do it, but it is a good thing to try.
    I don't think he meant it like that. Have you ever written an essay or a paper... and used an outline? Probably..or maybe not... anyways.. it makes it alot easier to get your point across easier for papers... I'm pretty sure thats how this is supposed to work for writing songs.. makes it easier to get your emotions through to the listeners (we all know how to make our voices sound happy or sad or angry or whatever.. so why not learn to make our instruments do that)
    georgeryle
    To the people criticising the article and/or the author- throughout the article the author emphasises the point that this is only ONE method to help compostion. the fact is that if you are a remotely creative person or talented musician you have the option of using this to aid the contruction your your piece. Furthermore to people who seem to discredit Ordered or "formulaeic" approaches to composition you are the naive ones as all "good" music incorperates structure-it is ALWAYS integral to the piece. this structure may not be intened but it is always there. even serialism-aimed to be the opposite of any "classical" music- no harmony, melody or rythm relies purely on construction. if you disagree ask yourself why you are reading this article as you clearly think yourselves highly experianced composers! i myself am always open to new concepts- all music requires structure-what makes someone exceptional is their inspiration and ability to create origional music within a structure that aids this. by being open to all concepts a musician can absorb ideas they are interested in and begin to develop individuality as a composer. apologies or this very long rant but i find ignorant people who criticise matters beyond their understanding exasperating! i wonder what these people do with their instruments and if they find this knowledge beyond their reach- i understand the merits of this article and i am sixteen. thanks to the author.
    zhille
    Different method, I must say it's interesting. But when I compose something I rely on the spontaneous...how can you just go: Hey, I will be extra happy from 2:56 to 3:21...I just can't do it, but it is a good thing to try. He should have spent more time explaining emotion representations. Naah... just listen to Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mahler or Rimsky Korsakov that can show you a lot of emotion representation techniques. Nice contribution.
    silent caution
    its different from what i usually do, but whenever i see or hear something different/new i try to see if i can work wit it...maybe next time i cant think of anything to write i'll try this
    Kole*
    Glad I could help Tmd9314 and bad_obsession99. Also, thanks tony d and CrossBack27 for understanding my intentions and standing up for the article. To answer your question muse-ik. Absolutely, many songs are based on tons of different emotions like sadness, anger, etc. Pre-Composition works just as well for those emotions, I just picked hapiness as one example. Hope this helps.
    muse-ik
    Good article, but I was just wondering... aren't alot of songs also based on sadness? and minor keys instead of major happy sounding ones? Maybe it's just your style of music, but I find that sad compositions are more touching and powerful.
    tmd9314
    Wow! Thanks for helping its really going to help me write my songs.
    tony d
    Ibanezax372 wrote: That whole thing in the end just proves how full of yourself you are.
    dude i dont see your contribution so shut the **** up. i think its because you dont know what the hell hes on about that your critisizing him.
    CrossBack7 : Stop bashing him. At least he put in the time to try to help some of us. Good job.
    i know what you mean.
    CrossBack7
    Stop bashing him. At least he put in the time to try to help some of us. Good job.
    whynotmelvin
    Very naive way to look at composition. Composition shouldn't be a step by step sort of thing. It's too formulaic and relying traditions that are outdated.
    There are many other techniques and compositional things you can do to signify an increase or decrease in the line that expresses Happiness
    I mean...really??
    Kole*
    Thanks for reading everyone, I'm glad most of you like it or atleast appreciate it...I'm very happy to share. Also, thank you maddd0g for clearing up the misconception that I'm full of myself...as you stated, those are just credentials I list. Thanks again and feel free to ask me any questions or request other topics you would like me to write articles on. Peace.
    maddd0g
    Ibanezax372 wrote: That whole thing in the end just proves how full of yourself you are.
    ??? Those were simply credentials, and a little advertising to make this article worth his time as well as yours, and to somewhat verify that he knows what he's talking about.
    rik23
    mmm interesting but music comes from the heart not a text book. Good t ponder over though
    Xeus
    sionsion wrote: Different perspective for sure.
    yea, i like it
    frankv
    Thanks, I'll give composing a try once when I'm bored with verse chorus song-structures .
    Kurt_Morrelo
    Wow. This was definitly something different. Thanks for this, I don't know if It's ever going to be truly useful, but I'm liking just toying with it. Thanks again, this was cool.
    Kurt_Morrelo
    Wow. This was definitly something different. Thanks for this, I don't know if It's ever going to be truly useful, but I'm like just toying with it. Thanks again, this was cool.
    Masterbeefy
    webby1990 wrote: this didn't appeal to me at all, i thought it was stupid, to be honest...
    Do better and I MIGHT listen to you. until then i view you as nothing but a third rate piece of crap attempt at a guitarist who could probably only crap out a C chord with great effort. The fact that Kole is actually willing to take the time to share his experience with us is admirable, and all you people putting him and his work down should really get a life. Keep the articles coming Kole!