Didn't really know how to phrase the title lol
anyway, I'm new to writing music and music theory, and I have a question.
Say I have a guitar riff, and I want to write a flute melody (or guitar solo) to go over it, what do I need to consider in order for it to sound well together?
Typically people identify what the main chords of the riff are, then use the notes from the scale to create the lick. But I'm weary of saying this because many people write themselves into a rut by doing that, because they get too focused on the chords they are writing for and such. I'd say that's a fine method, but don't be afraid to go outside of it, even way outside of it.

If you're just starting out, you should learn the fundamentals of what notes are in a scale and how they relate to each other. Get to know the unique sound of each interval, and how they can work together. For example, if a guitar is playing the first note on a scale (I), a flute could play the third (III).

When you're soloing, you're usually going to be playing the scale of the key you're in (hopefully displacing the notes just a bit and not going up and down the same scale). As long as you land on a note that fits the chord you're playing (as long as the musical phrase ends on a 'right' note, it will sound good. For example, I could play an A minor chord, and do a lick that ends on either an A, a C, or an E and it will sound good, because those are the notes that make up the A minor chord. If I want to get fancy and end on a G or on a B, and make an Am7, or a Am9 chord, respectively, I can.

However, these really aren't the things to think about while you're in the middle of a solo, because your licks will be terrible if you spend too much time thinking about what note to end them on. These are all things that you will develop over time. There really is no magic trick that does it, because music is all about what sounds good, and everybody has a different idea of what sounds good and why. Theory is what we have to help us make sense of it.

Kudos on being interested in learning music theory so early in your progress. It helps more than you can imagine.
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What JD said is really good. I would like to try and explain to you how I "Compose multiple instruments." without to much theory.

What I do is I always start with the root note. Most of the music I write is in the key of C and I tune my guitar to drop C. Because I have been writing music in that way for a while I slowly figured it out through trial and error.

ok first thing to remember is if you have a guitar part and you want to add another instrument ontop of it then you usually would want to play it safe and harmonize with the guitar by either playing the same/similar riff starting from either the same root, an octave of the root or the 5th. You can also harmonize with the 3rd and the 7th or even 9th, 4th and 6th and it will work but my preference is to stick with the root or the 5th.

I hope that makes sense. What I would do is once you have a rhythm guitar riff recorded, try and play the exact same riff on your keyboard. Then move the pattern up from the root by 5 notes. Then down from the root by 5 notes.

Then try play the pattern an octave higher, then 5 notes higher then that. Find the tonal sweet spot you are looking for. Once you have found the sound that you want then you can start playing with the melody and changing things up.

It gets a little tougher with a guitar solo because you will be playing many more notes than the rhythm riff. Like JD said don't be afraid to go outside the box with this, or even way inside the box. For example I would decide to write a solo using the pentatonic scale and during quick licks and runs I would just play whatever sounds good, hit 3 notes next to each other and so on. On the first note of the phrase I usually always start on the root or the 5th but after that I just do whatever and then makes sure I come back to one of the roots or 5th for the start of the next bar/ 2 bars/ 4 bars depending on the solo.

Last edited by Victorgeiger at Jun 29, 2014,
you certainly need to be aware of the key of the guitar riff at all times. it also helps to understand typical chord progressions, and then try to broaden the understanding to your guitar riff - maybe some section of it implies a subdominant/dominant function, and you can use that as a guide for the melody.
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You need to use your ears. It really depends on what you want to do. Let's say there is a riff and you want to write a fulte melody over it. It is pretty much the same as writing a vocal melody. Maybe try singing something over it. IMO writing a melody shouldn't be overthought. That just makes it sound too "technical" or "theoretic". Write what you feel. Maybe come up with the rhythm first and then find the right notes. Same goes with guitar solos and everything in composing. Sometimes it's just trial and error. Try different notes and find the notes you like.

I would first try to compose for instruments you are more familiar with. For example a basic rock band that has guitar, bass, drums and vocals. First you may come up with the guitar riff. Then I would try finding the groove. You could try beatboxing over the riff. It's good to know something about basic drumming before writing drum parts. Then after you have the drum part, you may want to write the bass part. Listen to the drums. Drums usually play the notes bass should accent. Bass could also follow the guitar. I would write the vocal part by singing. Find a melody that works over the riff. You can of course write in whatever order (drums first or bass first or vocals first).

I would suggest listening to songs that you like and figuring out what different instruments do in the song. That way you'll learn about their "roles" in a band.

The thing is, you just need a good ear. You need to be able to recognize the notes you are hearing. Learning theory helps. But you can do this with just trial and error too. I would suggest learning to sing - it makes it easier to recognize different pithces. And if you have ideas in your head, you can just record yourself singing the ideas and figure them out later on guitar.
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