#1
I have a really stupid question about composition. How do you make something in a major key (most my stuff comes out minor). I have an unconventional style of writing and am soon forming a band. My job will be writing bass and guitar parts. The song I have in mind will be catchy and somewhat upbeat yet still intelligent. How would I go about that and make major key songs?

Also how do you choose the key for a song? Usually it picks me.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#2
To answer the second part of your question, certain genres tend to gravitate towards certain keys and certain instruments tend to lend themselves to playing in certain keys. And the two often have a connection, such as bluegrass tunes tending to be in G and A since this keys are quite agreeable to all the instruments commonly found in the genre. Irish music tends to be in D or Em since those are favorable keys for the fiddle, mandolin, and the pipes. So usually when writing that kind of music I tend towards those keys.

Also you have to consider the range limits of instruments, particularly vocals. If the singer can't comfortably fit a song in their range, you play it higher or lower to accommodate them.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#3
learn the difference between major and minor scales, that will answer your question.


To put it bluntly, instead of using one note(the minor third), you use the note one semitone higher(half step up, that would be a major third).


what determines if you are playing in major or minor is the third.


learn how chords are constructed by using scales, then you will understand the rest in time.
#4
Start your song with a major chord. Just play one major chord and start listening. What could come next?

Listen to songs that are in a major key.

Or write a minor melody and change all minor thirds, minor sixths and minor sevenths to major. This of course doesn't always sound good so you may need to change some notes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7FzLX0Ql8M
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#5
I think "it picks me" is what you want. Idk why you would ever go out of your way to play a song in whatever mode, just for that sake alone.

However, if, for some reason you really want to do that, the easiest way, if you're not very used to it, is to drone out the note you want to be the tonic. Starting on a major chord, if you want to play in major key, usually also ends up in a major key progression.

If I were you, I would steer clear of "intelligent" music. Music is not really intelligent. I mean, it sort of is, but it's not like theoretical, imo. I don't find it productive to approach creating music from an intellectual perspective. I find that gets you music that sort of "works" but is not really "good" from my perspective. Like, I don't feel it. It's kind of using knowledge of relationships to justify something that doesn't sound fantastic, is kind of odd, but technically "works" as somehow superior, because it requires some knowledge to justify it.

However, I do definitely find that unique, and fresh new things in music is awesome, as long as it sounds great. So, I don't believe in just finding common progressions, or straight just following some common generalizations in popular music, such a good idea either.

I don't believe theory should in any way dictate what you do. Music is not a cognitive process like that to me. And "intellectual" music sounds great, if the premise is that all music is designed via theory, and some stuff is more theoretically simple, and therefore easier. But I think that premise is false.

However, everyone is different, and has different goals and different tastes, so do whatever suits you, but I think "the key chooses me", progressions choose me, tempo chooses me, melody chooses me, is a much stronger philosophy. It is going with feel, over rational justification.

For me, music is much less something you do, and more something that occurs to you. So, making music is less doing, and more allowing to happen.

Even if say, I had to write a score for some movie, I wouldn't think "ok, so I've got space, and love scene, so that's gonna be minor key." I'd instead want to get artwork for the movie, watch the scene, watch similar stuff, and get all in the mood and frame of mind where the right thing will happen to me, where I'll feel like creating what will fit. I will never do anything numbers. Even to choose the tempo, I wouldn't put some number in. I would know the neighbourhood I want from experience, but I would get the tempo from the feel I want, from something I played, then use that as influence for the rest.

I prefer that sort of philosophy. I find it is more likely to create music that moves me, rather than something cold or bland, that works, but is missing something intangible. But like I said, different strokes for different folks.
#6
Yeah, I think (not sure) that when Ronald says intelligent he means, "something that isn't:

C - Am F - G

ad nauseam.

Fingkerpikin's advice is great though. There isn't really some secret Ronald, all you need to do is find out how keys work, and put something in a major key though. All you have to do is come up with a sequence of chords where a major chord sounds like home/the root. The rest takes care of itself usually.

Now if you want to go through like 8 different keys, that's another story. Major keys often lend themselves more easily to modulation. But don't start yourself off like that. If you aren't used to major key writing, write simple stuff for a while first, and then gradually expand. Don't bite of more than you can chew.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#7
fingrpikingood, I agree with you. But if you never try to write anything in a major key, it may be that you'll never be able to write anything in a major key. When you are too familiar with one sound (for example minor key), it may be that you won't be able to hear different sounds. There's nothing wrong with writing only in minor key. But if Ronald wants to learn to use the major key in his compositions, I think he should learn to use it. It will open up new sounds.

Let's pick another example - secondary dominants. If you never try to use them, you may not learn to use them. Or at least it's more likely to learn to use them if you just intentionally try to use them - once you understand how to use them, you'll start hearing them in your head. So sometimes it's good to just try to write something. You will figure out new things that way. The composition itself may not be great but it may help you in the future. I don't think all songs need to appear on an album. You can also just write songs for the sake of it.

Sometimes limiting yourself also creates new ideas. When you limit yourself to, let's say one note, you'll come up with stuff that you wouldn't normally come up with. You need to concentrate on different things to make it sound good. It may make you look at music in a different way. As I said, maybe that composition isn't going to sound good, but it may make you look composing in a different way. You may learn something from it and use some of that (subconsciously or consciously - it doesn't really matter) in your future compositions. Just my thoughts about it.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#8
Thanks for the suggestions, guys. What I meant by intelligent wasn't musically (that's easy) but lyrically. Like not a generic love song and/or something a drunk wrote in his sleep (not calling any names here). Something that has some meaning and purpose while still being catchy. Voltaire is a musician (I'm a huge fan of his) who specializes in that kind of thing.

I'm writing a major-key song because it's something new for me (I like to challenge myself) and so I can make a minor variation later on. Also people say you need to pick a key and tempo (I usually go with 120) but is that really productive? My personal style (according to 20Tigers) involves minor second dissonance, odd syncopation, and streams of notes.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
Last edited by RonaldPoe at Jan 17, 2015,
#9
Quote by Jet Penguin
Yeah, I think (not sure) that when Ronald says intelligent he means, "something that isn't:

C - Am F - G

ad nauseam.




I'm not sure what he meant either, but I find I-vi-IV-V is popular because it can be a cool progression. There are a lot of songs that use it, and I like some of those.

I won't decide to like a song or not, based on its progression that way. The theory doesn't really matter to me.

For me, the mistake is to create by using the logical reasoning, "I-vi-IV-V is a good progression, so I'll do that, and I want a bar song so I'll use 110 Bpm, and I'll make the melody by using this or that degree of the chord" Or stuff like that. I think it would be very difficult to write a good song that way. If it wasn't then I'm sure there would be computer software that you could buy that would write hit songs for you. Computers can write songs, but imo, not very good ones.

I-vi-IV-V is a popular progression, but that doesn't mean that all you have to do is use it, and that song will be great, imo.

I also think it would be a mistake, if you think of some melody you really want for some part, and it turns out a I-vi-IV-V, to just drop it, because it is a common progression.

At the same time though, if all you do, is just write songs with that progression over and over, then you're not being creative, and it will quickly become bland.

Take the blues, I don't really like the blues all that much because it is so samey, because it's always that same progression, and a lot of guys will recycle the same sorts of licks, but at the same time, some guy might play the blues and blow me away.

For me, the theory of a song doesn't matter. I just listen and decide that way, if it moves me or not, and I try to make music the same way. Theory for me, is just so that whatever that idea of sound might be, I know how to produce it on my instrument.

It's how to make what I want, not what I should or shouldn't want.

In the case of OP, I would focus on step by step the sound I want, whether that's chord by chord, or melody note by melody note, or whatever. Whatever mode or key, or whatever that ends up being, so be it. Which sounds a lot like what they are doing already. I think that's a good thing.
#10
Quote by MaggaraMarine
fingrpikingood, I agree with you. But if you never try to write anything in a major key, it may be that you'll never be able to write anything in a major key. When you are too familiar with one sound (for example minor key), it may be that you won't be able to hear different sounds. There's nothing wrong with writing only in minor key. But if Ronald wants to learn to use the major key in his compositions, I think he should learn to use it. It will open up new sounds.

Let's pick another example - secondary dominants. If you never try to use them, you may not learn to use them. Or at least it's more likely to learn to use them if you just intentionally try to use them - once you understand how to use them, you'll start hearing them in your head. So sometimes it's good to just try to write something. You will figure out new things that way. The composition itself may not be great but it may help you in the future. I don't think all songs need to appear on an album. You can also just write songs for the sake of it.

Sometimes limiting yourself also creates new ideas. When you limit yourself to, let's say one note, you'll come up with stuff that you wouldn't normally come up with. You need to concentrate on different things to make it sound good. It may make you look at music in a different way. As I said, maybe that composition isn't going to sound good, but it may make you look composing in a different way. You may learn something from it and use some of that (subconsciously or consciously - it doesn't really matter) in your future compositions. Just my thoughts about it.


Ya, that's true. Listening to music can kind of help with that, but I guess forcing yourself to try new stuff can help you not get stuck in a rut and be too samey.
#11
Quote by RonaldPoe
Thanks for the suggestions, guys. What I meant by intelligent wasn't musically (that's easy) but lyrically. Like not a generic love song and/or something a drunk wrote in his sleep (not calling any names here). Something that has some meaning and purpose while still being catchy. Voltaire is a musician (I'm a huge fan of his) who specializes in that kind of thing.

I'm writing a major-key song because it's something new for me (I like to challenge myself) and so I can make a minor variation later on. Also people say you need to pick a key and tempo (I usually go with 120) but is that really productive? My personal style (according to 20Tigers) involves minor second dissonance, odd syncopation, and streams of notes.


Oh ya, I see what you mean. I often write songs with lyrics along those lines also.
#12
Oh totally fingerpickin, I didn't mean to imply that progression was stupid at all. What I was trying to say was that I think ronald is looking for something less generic.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#13
Ronald,

Some things may help you ...

First off, familiarise yourself with the major scale tone tendencies. So, 1,3 and 5 are all stable, "resting points" in a melody, and represent the key you're working with. In order of instability, from low to high instability, we have 6 (down to 5), 2 (resolves down to 1), 4 (down to 3) and 7 (up to 1).

These are the "expected" resolutions (those that often occur), so if you don't make that resolution, you leave the expectation building, which is good.. The remaining 5 pitches from the octave are all out of key, so all are very unstable. These often resolve to nearest scale tone

Listen to some major scale melodies, and see where the stable notes appear cf the unstable ones. Listen whether the melody has a lot of jumps, versus moving from scale enote to neighbour scale note.

Then experiment yourself using what you've observed from above, just using melody.

Once you feel comfy with that, try doing the same while you have a major triad in the same key (i.e. the tonic). Listen how that feels.

Then start bringing in chords derived from the major scale, and experiment where you play across these chords as though the tonic is the only chord. And experiment by landing on chord tones of the various chords ... but still bear in mind the major scale tone tendencies.

Here's an old rock instrumental I wrote using the major scale a lot.

https://soundcloud.com/jerry-kramskoy-1/majority

cheers, Jerry
#14
Quote by RonaldPoe
Thanks for the suggestions, guys. What I meant by intelligent wasn't musically (that's easy) but lyrically. Like not a generic love song and/or something a drunk wrote in his sleep (not calling any names here). Something that has some meaning and purpose while still being catchy. Voltaire is a musician (I'm a huge fan of his) who specializes in that kind of thing.

I'm writing a major-key song because it's something new for me (I like to challenge myself) and so I can make a minor variation later on. Also people say you need to pick a key and tempo (I usually go with 120) but is that really productive? My personal style (according to 20Tigers) involves minor second dissonance, odd syncopation, and streams of notes.

That's based solely on two examples of your work that I've worked with. They were both fairly quickly thrown together and I just assumed they were indicative of your style but for all I know they could be anomalies. Also it wasn't meant as criticism, just that your style is quite different than mine and it challenges me.

I could give you some subjective feedback based on those two pieces I've worked with - if you want. It would be purely subjective (based on my own tastes and preferences) but fully constructive.
*******

In regard to writing major melodies. The best way to learn is to study and imitate. So find some major melodies. Start with simple stuff, like twinkle twinkle or mary had a little lamb etc. It sounds rather elementary but I'm not being condescending. Mozart did a whole lot of variations on twinkle twinkle. Some jazz guys start with a simple melody like mary had a little lamb and play it over and over for years until the melody is their own.

Learn melodies from artists you like. And even some you don't but whose melodies you can appreciate. Guys like Bill Withers, or Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson etc. were known for having great melodic tendencies.

If you're writing for vocals then there are some guidelines you will want to consider to make it easy on your vocalist. Things like staying within an octave or an octave and a half, using mostly stepwise and third movement with the occasional leap. When you do leap take a step back in the opposite direction. Watch out for dissonant intervals that are hard to sing. Pay attention to your melodic contour. When you peak on a note don't repeat the note often as it loses effect (If all the land is as high as the mountain it's not really a mountain.) I could explain some of these these ideas in a lot more detail if you want. But keep in mind they are only guidelines. Like everything in music they are not hard rules. With that in mind you don't want to set out to write against them just to be pretentious. You have to really focus on the music and what sounds good to you.
Si