Out of curiousity, how do you start composing?
Whether from picking a key, writing a sad mellow song etc. What keys do you find yourself most commonly composing in and why?
With me it's all about feel. I start out with a little tune I cine up with in my head, then try to play it. It doesn't turn out exactly the same ever, and sometimes I accidentally stumble across something entirely different. I just build from there. As for theory, I use it for chord progressions and then I use arpeggios and modes of scales to solo.

And also I like to improvise a lot. A lotta blues improv solos
And I use E minor for most of my blues stuff because I love the sound of the ending CRANK on the open low E string. Also I am most familiar with E Minor, because when I first started music theory, I learned all of my scales and modes in the key of E Minor
I either pick a desired feeling, and progression that would fit that.
Or just play something, figure out the theory behind it, and build on it.

I most commonly would compose in a key that favors a lot of open strings, like C minor because my guitar is tuned to C Standard and all the open strings are in key. I can use a lot of pedal tones easily because of that.
when i compose, i like to record everything i do.. just to review it and change up things if i dont like it. I like to smoke before hand.. it really helps coming up with something cool and different off the top of my head. and when i finish .. ill usually use my mixing program to mess around with the overall pitch just to see if i like it in a different key sig.. and then if i do, ill rerecord it in that particular key.
Last edited by pepsi1187 at Dec 6, 2009,
I just use chords and then I figure out what scale sounds best with that progression and add little bits of lead into it.
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I try and make an "epic" sounding intro comprised of chords and arpeggios all played on the one guitar.

Then I play riffs for about 2 minutes, then do an improv solo, close it with whatever riff I chose to use for the chorus.

See, I never actually COMPOSE anything. Well, very rarely.
i usually start out with either a riff or an idea i have in my head then go from there.

usually though, i right in either B minor or D minor keys cuz my band plays 7 string guitars or detuned 6 strings

then from there, i just use theory and my knowledge of scales and note intervals to finish up the rest until i feel it is complete
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when you have somethin to say, pick up your guitar and let it out. Thats how i write songs
Usually I´ll start out with the desire to write for some particular instruments, or in a particular form. When that´s settled, if it´s a relatively serious piece, I´ll write out a basic sketch of what I want to happen in the piece. After that´s done, it´s go time
for me, everything comes from a cool set of chords. if i find a nice voicing i build a sequence around it, and that'll be the basis of the song, whether the chords find themselves dominant in the composition or implied by the playing of other instruments
I start with lyrics. The meter of the lyrics determine where the song goes. Next is the vibe I want to relate. If the lyrics are angry, I go with a heavy chord progression. If they're sad, it will tend towards blues. I think of the music as a way to convey an emotion that fits with the words. There is no single way to do it. I know people who work the music first, and write lyrics to match. You do what works for you. There is no magic formula.
for me... I have two ways of doing my composition...

sometimes Im using chords and try to add the details later...

but most of the times is that I will mess around with my guitar until I find the one that I think suitable...

Im more into making instrumental now.. so I think... when I mess around I kinda use the ideas from my influences...
Decide on a structure.Think of a good chord progression and add a melody to it, or think of a melody and harmonise it.
One of my favourite methods is to get as stoned as hell with the guys, put a tape deck on record and just jam. Then later after I've straightened out (usually the next day) I play the tape back and listen to what popped out. Then I construct a song out of the mash of licks/riffs and chord progressions on the tape, think of a topic for the words which usually is triggerred by the music and just write. Bada bing bada boom - new song (or three).

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I compose on piano and usually find a chord sequence which is fairly simple and twist it round to make it interesting (add in accidentals etc) or i just start with one particular type of chord eg dm7, from there i was playing around and found it slides nicely into Bb major. Playing around basically
usually ill come up with something by accident. ill just fool around and maybe a certain phrase, or chord will lead me into something. then if i get something going, ill work out more from there. i find if i force it, it comes out wrong. sometimes i can do it just by using a progression i know and then making a lead part or melody. thats pretty much it. and as for key, it depends. i use a lot of flat keys since im tuned to Eb. but the songs i write can be in any key. the most of them seem to be in Gb, Eb, Ab, Bb, Cb and Db, all either minor or major. sometimes though i might transpose a song just because i feel i have too many songs in a certain key.
Last edited by Blind In 1 Ear at Dec 6, 2009,
most of my good stuff comes from a little riff or lick that I just stumble across when screwing around, then I perfect the riff, tweaking it until it's perfect. then I decide what direction I wanta go in with the song. I'll think about how I want it to build and flow together, then I'll start adding in parts, building off of the main idea. A lot of times I'll come up with a chord progression to base my riffs on, and then end up throwing out the chord progression later on, or just having it in a clean part.

once I've got a good number of parts that fit together well then I start thinking about structure.
When I play on my own, I'm just dicking around, messing with riffs I already know, throwing in extended solo's and practicing and such. When I play with a band, I often stumble across something during a jam, which we usually then write on if we like it. I can really only write if its late, if its early it just feels to odd. Late being the second half of the day, not after dark necessarily.
I write a lot of stuff just sitting on my friends couch at 3am watching shitty horror movies with an unplugged electric in my lap, you know?
And as for keys, E minor is a good place to start for rock, but I find that I get trapped in it. I'm not a fan of A, for soloing reasons. But B, C, and D (drop and standard tuning) are recent favorites of mine. I play in Eb for the sake of my vocalist, so really all of these are a half step down.
Last edited by SaulnierE at Dec 6, 2009,
If I have a melody in mind I will first determine if it is all diatonic, and then think of the rhythmic "groove" I want to go from, From there I will compose those chords around it. Once I have the "key" I will try all sorts of progressions over it to "jump start it and unless that rhythm and groove is compelling enough, I will generally avoid a I IV V approach as personally that tends to have the effect of genericizing my sound. But literally I could use ANY chord progression diatonic to the melody in whatever key I am in and it will work, so I might try something like IV vi iii I which might be different enough against the melody to sustain my interest. From there I would use my ear and groove and sense of the overall composition to direct me.

After that I might consider "altered" keys, etc which might shift my melody somewhat and introduce some mildly dissonant tones in there, for example in the key of C I might use the bVII Bb over that melody which is an outside chord, but effectively blends well with the rest of the progression.
Melody comes first. Once I have a melody I'll keep brainstorming until i hopefully have at least 2 or 3 sections that are good enough and that compliment it. That's the "inspiration" part. The rest is slogging, figuring out instruments, basslines, structure, lyrics etc.

My song will be in whatever key the melody is when it comes to me, unless another key is better to sing in, in which case I'll just change it till its appropriate.

And always I repeat the mantra, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand is the best pop song ever written."
Jam, with at least a drummer, and a recording medium (the mic on ur laptop/pc) and just play for 5 mins.

go back, find a riff u like, work on it. repeat.
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I generally start out with a riff and sometimes, as cheesy as it sounds, the song just writes itself, I'll be jamming the riff on the guitar and simply play something that sounds awesome. Usually after I've written a song I'll go back and analyze the theory in it and learn/improve upon it. Or work out harmonies and such, most times I'll come up with a melody for various sections then fill in the chords/harmonies later.
I'll usually "stumble" upon a riff. From there on I try to squeeze out as many similar riffs from that as possible, and then try to surround it with similar riffs that "fit" into the original riff idea. For example, I tried to make up a Killswitch/Metalcore/Gothenburg riff type deal and I really like what I made up. So I threw together another riff that I had already had that fit with the other riff, and ended up with two solid riffs. From there I made a chorus, and had the general song structure down. I made two more really good riffs to finish it off and just changed around the song structure and what not.

Yeah, thats how a "riff" master does it lol. All metal guitarists just try to get as many different riffs from one idea as much as possible imo. I tend to use a lot of octaves when I write chorus too. The only other part of my writing is whether or not I want to harmonize certain riffs or leads, and whether or not I can fit a coherent solo into it or not. I'll usually record a riff and improv solo over it and i'll stumble upon something that works.

When I learn theory I will understand how it works lol.
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As it stands right now, I am currently deliberately writing some songs that make us of generic chord progressions.

I don't use the progressions the whole time, just as like a chorus or something..

If you are creative enough, you really can make generic progressions sound interesting, what progression your verses have will affect how the chorus blends in as well..

For example..

I was playing Am, ALL STRINGS OPEN, Em7 (just the 1 finger on the "b" note on the A string), and then F...
I don't know the name of the ALL STRINGS OPEN chord, so yeah, but those chords really sound awesome for me, for a verse, I made the chorus a generic C, G, Am, F.. and it really sounds mad.

Good stuff.