#1
When writing the overture to a series of songs, would it be wise to write it first, or last? I noticed from groups such as The Who and Rush that most of the overture is based on riffs throughtout all the other songs. If I were to do something similarly, would you guys suggest I do it first to get an idea of the riffs I will throw out later, or last, where I can take all my riffs and put them together into one fluid song?
#2
Whenever you get the inspiration! There isn't really a set way to write anything
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#4
An overture is a piece of music that precedes that main part of the song. It foreshadows themes and other parts of the song that will come up again later on. Sometimes, they contain themes that are similar to the ones repeated later on in the song, but sometimes there are variations to the overture themes.

Back to the original question...

I'm currently working on a concept album and I've run into the same problem you're facing. I would suggest writing the main music first, and then going back and writing an overture that makes sense.
#5
Quote by GuitarGod610
An overture is a piece of music that precedes that main part of the song. It foreshadows themes and other parts of the song that will come up again later on. Sometimes, they contain themes that are similar to the ones repeated later on in the song, but sometimes there are variations to the overture themes.

ahhh right. like when you watch old movies sometimes there's just a black screen with orchestra music before the actual movie starts and it just says "overture". gotcha.
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#6
The main one that's coming to mind for me is Jesus Christ Superstar.

I would write the music before the Overture, it just seems like its much easier to narrow it down from a big list of music than to build up from a little collection of riffs.
#7
Overtures typically are ubiquitous in Opera. They were instrumental opening pieces to set the mood for the work. Overtures set the precedent for film music as well. It is due to overtures that when seeing some grandiose movie such as Star Wars the we expect to hear some great exciting theme to open the film.

About the original question; you can start with a great idea that is composed of a lot of smaller ideas and then extract these smaller ideas and build them each into individual pieces of music. Sometimes when an inspiration hits an idea that started off as something you may have considered using as a "main theme" ends up being better suited to working as a transition or introductory passage.

It can work the other way too. Most themes in a concept album or symphonic movment or even in an entire opera will have some relation to one another. In other words, if you a writing a large multimovement work or song cycle (such as one of the traditional Classical or Romantic orchestral works or a Prog type concept album, for example) it is a good practice to employ common elements in the various movements/songs that make up the whole. A great example of this that most people reading this thread might be familiar with is Pink Floyd's album "The Wall". If you listen to it, through out you can hear iterances of previously heard thematic material, given a new spin.

This is the same type of thought process that is employed in development sections and episodes. In the baroque era, counterpoint was the typical texture employed, and themes had to be designed so that their various motivic cells could be mainpulated in such a way as conducive to counterpuntal movement. One way of structuring themes and their reiterances was with episodes, which were simply small sections of music in which an idea (motive) was stated and then briefly manipulated*. Often, the result of such manipulation resulted in fresh motivic material which could be extracted and used later in the piece.

Episodes may be transitional, expository or developmental, usually they served in all three capacitieswith emphasis on one roll over the others. For instance an episode in which a basic arpeggio descends and is sequenced with 3 repitions or so would naturally be a transitional episode, but it is expository if the arpeggio has not yet been heard in the piee, and it is developmental in that treating it sequentially is a basic form of development. However, none of this would affect the episodes role as a transitional part.

Baroque, Classical and Romantic development sections were like large episodes unto themselves, and were often comprised of groups of smaller episodes. In a true development section, the music typically works it's way through a few different keys and it is the motivic material that keeps the music sounding cohesive. Modulations, sequences, diminutation, augmentation, inversion and interpolation and combinations thereof are some of the common devices useed to treat motives and create developments.

To many, music constructed in such a fashion tends to sound more organic, alive and natural than music in which disperate parts are seemingly randomly thrown together. However, even completely unrealted music can be made to work together if motives from each are extracted and used to construct a transitional episode.

This is a gross over simplification of the process, but I wanted to illustrate how in a broad way the concepts of motivic development may be applied to composing your overture. Extracting and manipulating material from one work to grow another different yet related piece is to me one of the most gratifying parts of the compositional process, indeed the very heart of it.

Sorry so long a response, I get going on this stuff and don't know when to stop. Below is a link to an overview of hte motivic develoment process. Not too in depth, I tried to paint it with broad strokes so that anyone reading could apply it to their particular style of writing or improvising.


* For more info see: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=378006