#1
So as of late, the past two weeks or so, i have found myself to be in a musical rut of sorts. That meaning i simply just cant make anything that feels interesting to me. I'm not totally versed in music theory of how such and such chords go together but i get some of it. I find that following the 1-4-5 or whatever chord sequence doesn't really cut it for me and generally i just put random chords together until i find something i like or i'll hum/ sing something and try to match it. Still i'm not feeling it...

I aspire to make something deep/emotional and amazing and as a product of that i have been trying to learn old classical stuff, spurred on by a single song "TO Zanarkand" a song from a game Final Fantasy X. Though i'm practicing these old classics like Pachelbel's canon in D which is what i'm currently working on i don't really understand what's going on or how to replicate that kind of depth/ how to get that kind of sound. Whenever i try to make something of my own it's typically your run of the mill major/minor chords in whatever position. I'm wondering how does one even get to the level of creating something like "To Zanarkand".
#2
If your songs are just chords played after one another, it's no wonder that it doesn't sound that interesting. Chords on their own don't create songs. Even if your song is based on harmony and isn't that melodic, you still need to find a way to play those chords, and your choice of chord voicings is very important.

This is a good example of a piece that is based on harmony and doesn't really have a melody.



It's basically just arpeggios but there's a clear musical idea behind it. It's not just chords played one after another. The chords are played in a certain way - there's a certain rhythm and a certain way of arpeggiating the chords that stays the same almost throughout the piece. There is also a clear structure behind the piece. The chord progression has a direction. It is about tension and release (some of the chords create more tension whereas others resolve the tension).


But when it comes to the pieces you talked about, "To Zanarkand" does have a clear melody. So maybe try to come up with some kind of a melody. You can come up with a melody first and then harmonize it or come up with chords first and then come up with a melody that sounds good over the chords. Most songs have a clear theme that is based on some kind of a motif. So the theme is not just random notes played one after another. It has some kind of an idea behind it. This makes the melody sound coherent. This motif may have to do with intervals (i.e., the shape of the melody) or it may have to do with rhythm. The main point is, there is something that repeats. Repetition adds "catchiness" (of course too much repetition will make it sound too predictable, but you need some repetition to make it sound coherent).

Here's a good example of a melody that uses the same motif over and over again (just played starting from different notes). It may even sound a bit cliched, but this is how you can easily write a catchy melody.



Pachelbel's Canon is a bit different kind of a piece - it's a canon which means that it is based on imitation. The piece starts with a 2 bar bassline that stays the same throughout the piece. After that violin 1 starts to play the melody and after two bars, violin 2 starts to follow violin 1 and plays exactly the same thing as violin 1 played 2 bars before. Then violin 3 joins and plays exactly the same thing as violin 1 played 4 bars before or violin 2 played 2 bars before. You could try writing something similar. You don't necessarily need to come up with a chord progression/bassline to base the piece on, but that may help.

If you didn't understand my explanation of canons, maybe this video will help. It doesn't have a repeating bassline behind it but it shows you what the basic idea behind canons is.




Another very important thing is structure. If there is no structure, your songs will not sound coherent and it will sound like they have no direction. You may come up with the structure of your song before you come up with anything else.

Also, don't forget about contrasts. A song with no contrasts will sound boring. By "contrasts" I mean stuff like dynamics (a good example would be Smells Like Teen Spirit - a calm verse and a loud chorus), different registers (maybe one part of the song is in a lower register and another part is in a higher register, or maybe one part stays within a small range and another part goes up and down), instrumentation (maybe use a clean guitar tone for the verse and distortion for chorus, or maybe the verse is bass and drums only and the guitar only comes in during the chorus or whatever), rhythm (maybe one part of the song mostly uses long notes and another part uses faster rhythms)...
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Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#3
it's been too long since i've seen someone post bach on here. i miss xiaoxi
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#4
TO Zanarkand is composed almost exclusively of "run of the mill major/minor chords"; I hear a major seventh followed by an eleventh rooted a whole tone above occurring once in the 100 second cycle of the song, everything else is major and minor chords, their inversions, and a melody line that allows one note to deviate purposely a couple of times.

The point is that it is a composed song, taking advantage of the simplest of musical elements... I think the feeling of being in a "...musical rut of sorts. That meaning i simply just cant make anything that feels interesting to me." is just the natural effect of your musical mind awakening and shifting into a more sophisticated mode, desiring and requiring more from music, and confronting for the time being that you have not caught up with it yet. This is really a positive thing although it makes you feel crummy for a little while.

Perhaps you could look at this chord progression map which shows the fundamental functional chord changes. It is designed so that you may select a key and the chord names will adjust for that. Then you can experiment by following the flow lines... this may also encourage you to explore learning more chord types, learning how the Roman numeral system (Nashville system) is used to indicate progressions, and other things...
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#5
1) Here's some rut-fighting ideas.
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/features/overcoming_guitarists_block.html

2) MaggaraMarine has given you some good advice. Repetition and variation are fundamental building blocks. Find a little something & repeat it. Do that a few times, and maybe introduce some subtle differences like flattening or sharpening some of the notes. Or change the pitch. I was listening to a classical piece the other day- the name escapes me at the moment- in which the theme was played by the strings, then later by woodwinds, then later by brass, etc. Each section played essentially the same notes, but in ways..."stereotypical" of the instruments. The flutes played with the theme in a fluttery, birdlike fashion. The strings lingered on certain passages to deepen the pathos. The brass were bombastic.

As I recall, Holst does that same kind of thing with sections of "The Planets."

Rockers & others do it too. Guitarists echo vocalists. Piano themes get picked up by bass or brass. Bass and guitar duel. Guitar vs banjo pops up occasionally...
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

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#6
Thanks for the responses from everyone, much appreciated. been trying to find melodies doing little solo's of sorts. i'm wondering now how to match that up with a harmony, Do you just use chord versions of the notes you play or is there something else to it?
#7
Personally, I'm a chord-o-phile. Odds are good that I'm not going to use single note runs & progressions if I find a chord I like.

But it really depends on what you're playing, who you are as an artist, and as I've heard it formulated by various "what the song demands".
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#8
Quote by drgn_claws
Thanks for the responses from everyone, much appreciated. been trying to find melodies doing little solo's of sorts. i'm wondering now how to match that up with a harmony, Do you just use chord versions of the notes you play or is there something else to it?

There are many ways you can harmonize a melody. Obviously the melody and the chords need to have something to do with each other (meaning that the melody should have chord tones in it), but not every single note in the melody needs to be a chord tone.

I would suggest learning about chord functions. Understanding functional harmony is pretty important when it comes to harmonizing a melody. The most important thing is learning the sound of the different chord functions. Analyze other songs and see how they use chords. But yeah, when you know what sounds you are after, it's pretty easy to harmonize a melody because you just need to follow your ear. You want to learn to hear chords.

Another thing would be coming up with a bassline that would work well with the melody.

But yeah, just follow your ears. Do you hear any chords (or notes) behind the melody? If not, you should learn to hear chords, and the only way to do this is to train your ears. Just listen to music and figure out the chords by ear (again, I would suggest learning about chord functions because they will help you a lot if you want to recognize a chord progression by ear).


So,

Do you just use chord versions of the notes you play


No. If our melody is for example C C G G A A G, you wouldn't want to play C major G major A minor G major. The notes in the melody aren't always chord roots. The note in the melody can be any of the chord tones, and it doesn't even need to be a chord tone (but you need to be careful with this - if the melody is full of non-chord tones, it will sound weird over the chords). Just follow your ear.
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
I like PlusPaul's idea that feeling like you are sometimes in a rut musically is a positive thing. It means your inner musician wants more and a wider variety of sounds, tempos, styles etc.  I remember seeing an interview with Billy Joel who says he often hears music someone else has done music and he says to himself almost angrily "Why didn't I come up with that". It's motivating and inspirational and makes you want to get better by learning more. Enjoy the feeling. It means you are not content with the same old same old and you recognize it. Many people don't.

Whatever you create, make sure to record it and save it. It might be useful later. I recently came across a song I did a major production on in a studio about 25 years ago. I never thought much about it. I played a few months ago and I still think the song is lame and borrows too much from other songs but I created a little four bar riff in the intro and between the verses that I forgot and now love and I am now trying to use it as the basis for a whole new song. You never know how you can use old ideas down the road.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at May 4, 2017,