#1
Hello all, I take weekly lessons from my guitar teacher and as I'm progressing with my knowledge of music theory I'm trying to finally get serious about writing my own material.

Most of my musical influences come from the Metal & Classical/Neoclassical genres. Think Mastodon, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Yngwie Malmsteen, Electric Wizard, and a number of classical compositions from old composers.

I'm working to build my own unique style of music that is a mixture between heavy sounding Metal, Classical melody, and with the occasional dissonance thrown into the mix. For the most part however, most of what I play revolves around pentatonic phrasing & Major/Minor/Power chords which is nice but not dark or heavy enough for what I'm shooting for.

I don't wanna be a cookie cutter Death Metal/Djent hack, nor do I want to be a Yngwie clone. I genuinely want to write good compositions. I have a general understanding of the Circle of Fifths, cadences, the CAGED system, knowledge my scales, ETC. I have the tools to write good music but how do combine these styles in a unique way?

Do I just noodle on the guitar until I find something that works? Or do I look to my current level of knowledge with theory? Listen to music from others and try to create a variation?
#3
Quote by Sean0913
Can you perform a Harmonic Analyisis on tunes that you like?

Best,

Sean


I'm not yet able to perform "Harmonic Analysis" as of yet if you could elaborate please.
#4
I wouldn't worry about originality yet. You will develop your own style naturally.

I'm working to build my own unique style of music that is a mixture between heavy sounding Metal, Classical melody, and with the occasional dissonance thrown into the mix. For the most part however, most of what I play revolves around pentatonic phrasing & Major/Minor/Power chords which is nice but not dark or heavy enough for what I'm shooting for.


If you want to achieve that sound, listen to a lot of songs from those genres and analyze them. But if you are just a beginner when it comes to songwriting, maybe you are being a bit too ambitious.

Remember to use your ears. Most likely why your ideas are mostly pentatonic stuff is because that's what your fingers are familiar with. So maybe noodling around with your guitar is not the best way of writing. Try to hear melodies in your head. Try to think of the sound that you want to achieve. Listen to the artists whose sound you are after to get inspiration, and analyze their songs.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#5
Quote by anthonymarisc
I'm not yet able to perform "Harmonic Analysis" as of yet if you could elaborate please.


Free Bird is an example:

Key of G

G D/F# Em F C D

I V vi bVII IV V

Aside from knowing the key and chords, I charted out the function as well. In this case I identified the use of a bVII which is non diatonic and is from Modal Interchange.

If you don't know harmonic analysis, do you know modal interchange, and other non diatonic concepts such as backcycling, or secondary dominants?

If not do you have a strong grasp of diatonic harmony? If not, start there.

Best,

Sean
#6
Quote by anthonymarisc
Do I just noodle on the guitar until I find something that works? Or do I look to my current level of knowledge with theory? Listen to music from others and try to create a variation?
A mix of the first and third is how most rock composers work. They learn songs by their heroes, find sounds they like and copy them, put them together in different orders, and do some noodling on the side to find other things that sound good. Their theory knowledge wouldn't need to extend any further than what they need to communicate with fellow band members.

But songwriting skills come from studying songs, essentially: taking them to pieces and looking at how they work. Identifying moments in songs that strike you as interesting or powerful, and analysing what they consist of.

Theory knowledge is not essential (it sounds like you already know more theory than many of your heroes probably do), but of course it helps in identifying and labelling what you're hearing and working with, and in organising that information in your head. It makes the whole process less messy, and gives you a sense of command over your material.

Currently your influences are pretty narrow, I'd say. Nothing wrong with them as far as they go, but what would help in understanding their songwriting processes is to follow the genre back to its roots. Which bands or players did your favourite bands or players copy when they started out? And what were the influences on their influences? It all comes from somewhere - it didn't spring fully formed from their brains! And nor will your compositions. The more influences you can draw on (and fully grasp), the better - and more original - your own compositions will be.

If you really want to incorporate more serious classical influences in your music, you will need to do a whole lot more serious study. So-called "neo-classical" metal is barely scratching the surface of what classical music was about. It's the difference between being able to say "bonjour" and being able to speak fluent French.

But IMO that's probably not necessary for your ambitions. Just broaden out your listening (steadily) from what it currently is. Listen analytically, and copy what you like.
Last edited by jongtr at Apr 6, 2016,
#7
Noodle is the only way. When you try and force something like creativity you effectively increase your chances of being frustrated and unhappy with what you've made. For me personally I work much better going:

'I like this chord, what fits best with it with the feeling I currently have?'
'I like this guitar tone, what does it make me feel when I hear it?'
'I like this sequence of chords/notes, how would I extrapolate that feeling into a song?'
'I'm feeling like x, how does that influence my playing at this moment?'

I think it's much better to take those feelings and emotions and just write something, anything. When you look back on it and that initial spark has passed and you've got the ground work, that's when you can really start being critical on it and go 'okay it sounds fine, but can I make it better? Can I make it better reflect the feeling I want to convey? Can I employ music theory here to improve the piece?'

Never start off with music theory. Music theory is a supplement to creativity, very rarely is it creativity itself. It's like an architect starting off his building design using rigid forms of concrete, it's just not conducive to creativity given it's grey and non-mouldable function.

It's much better to ask questions about feelings and emotions when writing music because your answer tends to quite open ended. I mean you struggle to feel just one thing at a time, so it gives you a lot to work with. Music theory however is very limited to your own subset of knowledge and understanding, and very often creates more blocks than hurdles.
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Last edited by Anthony1991 at Apr 6, 2016,
#8
Quote by Anthony1991

Never start off with music theory. Music theory is a supplement to creativity, very rarely is it creativity itself. It's like an architect starting off his building design using rigid forms of concrete, it's just not conducive to creativity given it's grey and non-mouldable function.

I don't know... You can definitely start with a theoretic concept. Let's say secondary dominants. If you force yourself to use a lot of secondary dominants, that may lead to something cool, something that you wouldn't come up with otherwise.

You can experiment with theoretic concepts.
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
#9
Quote by MaggaraMarine
I don't know... You can definitely start with a theoretic concept. Let's say secondary dominants. If you force yourself to use a lot of secondary dominants, that may lead to something cool, something that you wouldn't come up with otherwise.

You can experiment with theoretic concepts.


I did try and frame it as 'I prefer not to' rather than it be a holistic THOU SHALL NOT

And to be honest what you said does chime with what I said, it's fine to start off with 'let's base around x and develop the feeling from there'
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#10
You two's points do not complement each other neatly, because
Quote by Anthony1991 at #33914323

And to be honest what you said does chime with what I said, it's fine to start off with 'let's base around x and develop the feeling from there'
is definitely not how most people would interpret what was said: by the common interpretation, you'd also proscribed music theory off as an approach.
Suggestions should not be framed as absolutes unless they want to be interpreted as non-suggestions.

@OP: I usually start off with some melody and think of how I can add to it. Write/record your melodies, and if you can find a good complementary riff, go for it! Verses and choruses don't have to have extremely different material, so if you can vary your melodies enough, it might suffice. Ear training as said before.
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#11
There is not really a "method" for writing a song. Lots of people have different approaches to doing it, but there isn't some set of steps or some flow chart you can go through, and then a great song is the result. It's like writing a book or poetry.

You can start writing right now. You could start with random noodling, or with an idea in your head, but what you really want is to have direction. An idea of what you want to do.

What's a bit difficult at first, is realizing the ideas you have. You might think of something in one key, and then play notes, and that's in another key, and then you lose your idea. Or, you might play a chord, and want another one, and then have a lot of trouble finding it, and you lose the rhythmic idea you had.

What's a little easier at first is to start with a couple things, and then play with those and make something, I find. So, learn some chords of a song, and make your own with it.

Learning about harmony is what you want to do if you really want to have a lot of control in writing. That will name sounds, and let you spend less time hunting, so that you can have an idea, and play with little to no trial and error.

You can actually find flow charts for harmony that show you the order chords like to go, and you can use those at first, but it will be tough to make something cool by following any sort of logic. Really what you want to do, imo, is learn the sounds, learn where they are, and then use the ones you want.

That's really what writing is, what art is, to me. Deliberate creation, selection with intent, knowing what the result will be. Happy accidents are always a part of it also, but really the main thing I'm getting at, is basically; "just do it". However you get it done. But the tools, the things you want to name, that you want to learn to wield chords, is functional harmony, the roman numerals.
#12
Appreciate the responses guys, slowly working my way up the functional harmony tree. I guess I'll jot down ideas occasionally but for now I'm just gonna have to settle for covering songs and hope that'll help with ideas and phrasing. I definitely need to focus more on ear training and stuff like that. The roman numerals are common point of reference for me with key families and what not.
#13
Quote by MaggaraMarine
I don't know... You can definitely start with a theoretic concept. Let's say secondary dominants. If you force yourself to use a lot of secondary dominants, that may lead to something cool, something that you wouldn't come up with otherwise.

You can experiment with theoretic concepts.
I agree, except - in my experience - it only really works with theoretical concepts that are new to you. If you work with theory you already know, you tend to to end up with generic sequences.
Which is fine if that's what you want, of course. Eg., "I'm going to write a doo-wop pastiche, so naturally I'm going to use I-vi-IV-V".

If you work with secondary dominants, you'll end up with some vintage "jazz standard" sounds - again, great if that's what you want, or if those sounds are new to you.

Of course, even when trying not to work from theory - to follow the intuitive path Anthony was talking about - we can't avoid using all the theory we already know that's become subconscious (common kinds of chord change, eg). We have to force ourselves out of the comfort zone, out of habits where we know what we're doing. That's where noodling has real value.

The way I work, personally, is to let a melody lead me: feeling my way interval by interval, trying to hear a phrase in my head first and then find it. Pretending the melody is writing itself, and trying to avoid thinking about chords or keys. It's difficult, but I find it's the only way to avoid cliche (or what I regard as cliche). I think it's important not to tie a melody to a key, scale or chords, until the melody makes those things unavoidable.
Occasionally I do just work with chords, no melody, but always trying to find new kinds of changes, unusual voice-leading. (Unusual to me, that is...)

That's unless - as I say - I want to sound generic in some way, and then it's about consciously following the rules of that genre.
Last edited by jongtr at Apr 7, 2016,
#14
Quote by NeoMvsEu
You two's points do not complement each other neatly, because
is definitely not how most people would interpret what was said: by the common interpretation, you'd also proscribed music theory off as an approach.
Suggestions should not be framed as absolutes unless they want to be interpreted as non-suggestions.

@OP: I usually start off with some melody and think of how I can add to it. Write/record your melodies, and if you can find a good complementary riff, go for it! Verses and choruses don't have to have extremely different material, so if you can vary your melodies enough, it might suffice. Ear training as said before.


I need better grammar here I'm afraid
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#15
Quote by anthonymarisc
Appreciate the responses guys, slowly working my way up the functional harmony tree. I guess I'll jot down ideas occasionally but for now I'm just gonna have to settle for covering songs and hope that'll help with ideas and phrasing. I definitely need to focus more on ear training and stuff like that. The roman numerals are common point of reference for me with key families and what not.


You can come up with ideas and phrasing without any instrument, and without any knowledge of any theory.

It's just a lot harder to show that to the world. Michael Jackson would overdub his own voice to show his producers what he wanted to do.