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Author Topic: How to write a tune....?  (Read 1272 times)

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arty

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How to write a tune....?
« on: May 28, 2017, 10:50:42 AM »

For some time, I have had this hankering to try and write a tune but I don't know where to start. Are there any basic structures / rules that I should follow?  I have ideas, but I don't know if I should try and work them in to some kind of standard formula for a tune, or if I can take liberties with the norm. The trouble with taking liberties, is that I may finish up with a glorious mess!

Most of the ideas I have, come from the sounds that I hear in my daily life. For example, lying in bed at 5.30 in the morning and listening to the morning chorus - all the chitter chatter of the birds, then a blackbird sings his beautiful song, a dog barks in the distance, and a cockerel is crowing, the man down the road starts his van and drives past my window, the breeze etc., etc.....
I feel like a painter, frozen in front of a large white canvas, unable to start !

I would really appreciate any help available....thanks in advance  (:)
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playandteach

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2017, 11:51:54 AM »

Lots of ways in.
In no particular order:
1 Think of of an upbeat pattern (e.g. The Abbess, or Oh When the Saints, or Flatworld) and use that as a hook.
2 Use a chord sequence you like.
3 Use a rhythm associated with a name, a bird or whatever your inspiration is: e.g. a Sparrowhawk might have an E upbeat leap to a CBC where the last note is longer.
4 Motivic development is just understanding devices: melodic sequence (En Avant Blond), intervallic expansion or contraction (Mazurka Incantata, Happy Birthday), reharmonisation of the same phrase (In a Continental Mood), rhythmic displacement (Star wars theme) (I can explain any of these if you want to know).
5 Knowing where to let the melody rest (normally 4th and 8th bars could have less activity - unless you want to deliberately twist the knife).
6 Have a contrasting B section - either tonality, or tessitura (where it lies on the instrument) or melodic shape - if the A section is based on a minor triadic motif, then the B section could be major, and move by step...
7 Harmonic pace - are you going for 1 chord per bar, like Flatworld, or a slower harmonic pace like Pirouette? This is also something that can switch in the B section.
8 A big one for me with only 8 basses is to use melodic dissonance (for example an on the beat B over an F chord) - I always write the tunes directly on the box to establish the intended dissonance from the outset.
I can help you pick apart tunes you want to scaffold some early ideas on if you like.
I like stretching conventions, but it might be as well to conform first to regular time signatures and phrase lengths.
Good luck.
(None of this implies that I think my tunes are keepers).
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george garside

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2017, 12:26:03 PM »

if its  a person moving ( dance, march etc etc) tune rather than accompaniment to a song  it is important to decide on the purpose of the tune rather than just trying to 'think up' a 3/4, 4/4, /6/8 or whatever.

for example a 6/8 could come out as a waltz, two step, pipe march , jig etc, each requiring appropriate phrasing and dynamics.

another idea that can help is to think up the first few bars  to fit ,maybe daft, words  (eg Cock of the north is remembered by  some as 'aunty mary had a canary stuck up the leg of her drawers!)- once you have got a chunk of tune to go with some sort of words  it becomes easier continue building up the tune.

Also keep in mind that  you can have  an A and B  part  and if it takes your fancy simplify things by repeating eg the last two lines of the A part as the last two lines of the B part as is frequently done!

Maybe for singing tunes  making up the words and then juggling both 'tune' and 'words' to fit together might work.
 
It is also useful to check that your 'masterpiece' is not in whole or part a regurgitation  of an existing tune  that has been laying dormant in the head!!

george
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Rees

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2017, 12:39:27 PM »

I tend to noodle around on the melodeon until I hit a musical phrase that I like, then keep repeating that phrase until another one pops up.
Gradually it forms itself into a tune.
OK that's the A part sorted, the B part can be more elusive and may not turn up until several days later.
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arty

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2017, 12:50:10 PM »

Thank you so much Pete, George and Rees....a huge amount to digest there!

It is half term this week, so I have a lot more time to myself than I usually do and maybe I can spend some of it working on this idea. I thought, because I have never done anything like this before,  I might be able to try composing a few short 'notes' as it were, i.e. a line or two, a phrase or two. I think I will forget trying to write a complete piece for now and just experiment with what is in my head.

If I may, I will come back to you......
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Stiamh

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2017, 01:36:17 PM »

Don't make it complicated - you don't need to "write" a tune... a) sing it as you are walking down the street or in the shower or b) noodle around on your instrument à la Rees. You can write it down when it's ready.
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Winston Smith

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2017, 01:49:07 PM »

Don't make it complicated - you don't need to "write" a tune... a) sing it as you are walking down the street or in the shower or b) noodle around on your instrument à la Rees. You can write it down when it's ready.

Am I alone in just knowing that I would have forgotten it before I put my key in the front door?
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Theo

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2017, 02:01:52 PM »

I find I can sometimes come up with a good tune when there is a special occasion, or a moving event.  I once woke up with a complete tune in my head that has composed itself in my unconscious.  You can't plan for that!   At the other extreme it can be a much more deliberate process, but I need some kind of starting point.  The last time it was a chord, or it can be a short phrase, usually only one or two bars in length, but not necessarily complete bars.   Then like Rees I noodle around trying to generate a variety of complimentary and contrasting phrases.  These then become the building blocks.   Don't be afraid to repeat some phrases 2 or 3 times, and expect to have some that get discarded.

I don't understand most of the musical terminology that Playandteach has listed.  The last decent tune I made up I entered for a competition at Rothbury festival.   The judge commented on my use of a hemiola.  I had to look that up and was very relieved to find it didn't need medical treatment.  Oh and the tune took first prize.
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playandteach

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2017, 02:56:10 PM »

I don't understand most of the musical terminology that Playandteach has listed. 
They're just descriptive words that are no more complicated than 'upbeat' once you know what they mean. I tend to use them as they are so much quicker than long winded explanations, but if anyone wants to know more, I'll happily unpick them, with notated examples. So, anyone that wants to know, just ask. As you say a lot of it is instinctive, but labels don't mean having to paint by numbers.
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Theo

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2017, 03:01:27 PM »

I don't understand most of the musical terminology that Playandteach has listed. 
They're just descriptive words that are no more complicated than 'upbeat' once you know what they mean. I tend to use them as they are so much quicker than long winded explanations, but if anyone wants to know more, I'll happily unpick them, with notated examples. So, anyone that wants to know, just ask. As you say a lot of it is instinctive, but labels don't mean having to paint by numbers.

I agree.  And now I understand the term hemiola.

Making a tune is like other crafts where theory, experience, imagination and instinct are deeply intertwined in the creative process.  Each of us will use them in different proportions depending on our background.
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Theo Gibb - Gateshead UK

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stevejay

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2017, 05:01:30 PM »

Sometimes a familiar tune with a different chord sequence is a new tune, and vice versa.

From there drift further from the main melody, and voila, new tune!

" Knowing where to let the melody rest " Good advice P&T
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Little Eggy

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2017, 06:42:36 PM »

I can sympathise with Theo having to have his Hemiola looked at by a professional. I often get an awkward anacrusis when I'm starting to jot down a tune.

I wrote a little song for my wife in my guitar only past life. I thought it might sound OK on the box but I have found it is quite difficult to make it musically interesting. I can't quite fathom out why this should be so, but suspect it may be as simple as the fact that a song will be constrained by the vocal range of the singer.
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Jackhumphreys

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Re: How to write a tune....?
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2017, 09:24:17 AM »

Here's a bit of a framework for converting a brief tune idea into a full tune..... thinking of  Donkey Riding as an example

For the A music:

Think of an opening phrase. ( Dumdi Dumdi Dumdi Daa)
      Make an answering phrase  (   Dumdi Dum-diddle  Dumdi Daa)
Repeat the opening phrase  (Dumdi Dumdi Dumdi Daa)
      Make a different answering phrase  (Dumdi Dumdi Dum Dum )

The B Music can follow the same pattern, and it does in Donkey Riding.

Dum Dum Dumdi Daa    -
     Dumdi Dum diddle Dumdi Daa
Dum Dum Dumdi Daa 
     Dumdi Dumdi Dum Dum
             

So the pattern is the following with each section repeated.

XY XZ;  PQ PR

The pattern doesn't have to be like this, but many traditional -style tunes are:  Canal in Octobre comes to mind.

To make it more interesting,  the X can be varied the second time round, e.g. same motif moved up or down a few notes.
To make it less interesting, the  R can match the Z.

There are other tune structures of course. But this one could be useful for starters and has  a weight of tradition behind it.

Having said all that, I leave it to my unconscious to come up with tunes.  Tunes tend to arrive when walking alone on holiday often after lots of coffee.  then I sit down on a stone and write them on a bit of music paper.  But when I get home with the scraps of paper I find that most of them are too full of clich'es: OK for walking, not for dancing or listening  I don't write tunes on the box, as that would pull me towards more clich'es that come naturally under the fingers.  So out of dozens of tunes one might be worth keeping: as on my tune pages listed below.  Then there's the often hard job of learning to play it on the box.

Hope this helps produce some more good tunes.
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