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Topic: Compositional help & advice needed

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  1. #1

    Compositional help & advice needed

    Hi all,

    I have hours upon hours of musical ideas, probably totalling in the thousands. The problem is they are just that: ideas - a single melody line, rhythm, or whatever. I rarely ever get past this point, and it's quite frustrating and really leaves me feeling unfulfilled. After 20 years or so, I only have a handful of completed songs to show for it.

    I need to expound on these ideas, but I don't know where to go with them. Everything I try comes out sounding unnatural and forced.

    I wonder if anyone else has this problem, and if you do, how do you overcome it?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.


    Thanks!
    -DC Ross

  2. #2

    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    Quote Originally Posted by DC Ross
    Hi all,After 20 years or so, I only have a handful of completed songs to show for it.I need to expound on these ideas, but I don't know where to go with them. Everything I try comes out sounding unnatural and forced.
    Thanks!
    -DC Ross
    It ain't easy, but stay committed to your musical ideas...even if they come out sounding 'unatural and forced'. A finished 'forced' piece is infinitely better than a thousand snippets. Morever, by staying committed through the entire process, you learn things you never would by forever 'starting' and never 'finishing'.

    This learning process has a curve...by having faith in your own passionate committment, with enough energy and will, you may come out on the 'other side' of the curve (so to speak) with greater ability and hopefully more substantial work.

    Good luck!

  3. #3

    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    Mystery Orchestra 3000? LOL, that avatar is freaking awesome!

    Anyway, the same thing happens to me. So I get depressed and give up. I have nothing further to add, I just had to applaud your sense of taste with that avatar.

  4. #4

    Smile Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    Quote Originally Posted by DC Ross
    Hi all,

    I have hours upon hours of musical ideas, probably totalling in the thousands. The problem is they are just that: ideas - a single melody line, rhythm, or whatever. I rarely ever get past this point, and it's quite frustrating and really leaves me feeling unfulfilled. After 20 years or so, I only have a handful of completed songs to show for it.

    I need to expound on these ideas, but I don't know where to go with them. Everything I try comes out sounding unnatural and forced.

    I wonder if anyone else has this problem, and if you do, how do you overcome it?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.


    Thanks!
    -DC Ross
    This may be worth a try:
    1. Sketch a dynamic form.
    2. Select different harmonic moduses.
    3. Choose modulationpoints from modus to modus.
    4. Compose a melody and keep it relatively short, this will give space for melodic augmentation, diminuation etc. in the piece.
    5. Select instruments.
    6. Put the melodic and harmonic layers together.


  5. #5
    Senior Member newmewzikboy's Avatar
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    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    You need to deal with a few things if you are writing structurally:


    1) All music is the art of repetition. You need a good understanding on the art of variation. Select less material out of what you think is good. Maybe only 3-4 notes, and string these ideas into larger ideas. Use them for harmony too. THink of a motive as a piece of elastic visually, and see how you can bend 3-4 notes. Heres a list...you will have to visualize the rest
    http://solomonsmusic.net/vartech.htm

    You also need to understand reharmonization and reorchestration as variation choices.

    2) Form is definately an issue. You need to be able to understand what exposition, development, suspense, transition (7 typical ways), novelty, reference points, resolutions, contrast, cadences (a number of ways to conclude not just tonally) etc.

    Alan's book, although rather poorly structured, is a good explain...
    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers.../bk/index.html


    3) Doesnt matter what kind of music, you need to come up with an overall plan for your piece. It may be all at once, or it may be revised as you go along, but you need to understand where you are going and where you came from. Some people write their contrasting and variable sections by their own, and then JOIN them together using transitional material base on A to B. and spend all their lifetime mastering the balance of these elements.

    4) Classical forms can help you understand how pieces are put together using these elements. Analysis is good for understanding the fundamentals of what these mean...

  6. #6

    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    Nice resources, and post.

    Quote Originally Posted by newmewzikboy
    Alan's book, although rather poorly structured, is a good explain...
    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers.../bk/index.html
    There's something ironic about a book on form being poorly organized, don't you think?

    -JF

  7. #7

    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    Newmewzikboy

    Very nice post indeed. Your teaching comments are truly blossoming.



    DC

    My wife teaches history and literature and tells the story of a famous poet (don't remember which one) who said he wrote a poem every day. He was asked how to do this and said "lower your standards." Work with the ideas newmewzikboy sketched out and finish some pieces even if the result doesn't match your vision. With experience the gap will get narrower.

    Something to try anyway.

    Best wishes

    Chet

  8. #8
    Senior Member newmewzikboy's Avatar
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    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    You really have to take your own initiative when it comes to music education. I have spent years in libraries, reading biographies, reading obscure dissertations and paying for them, looking online, looking at original manuscripts of my favorite composers, discussing with profs, reading mathematical musical theory, collecting obscure rare theory books, reading everything I can get my hands on, and ultimately experimenting in my writings...most of which has resulted in my throwing out a technique I thought would work for me. I'd say I have kept maybe 10%.

    My writing this up is simplistic and may sound naive, but I cant stress enough putting the heart aside, and the importance of criticizing your own work as if someone else had written it, and doing the background academic research. And experiment with what you have to see if it fits into your vocab.

    I keep a musical journal. It not only has a place where I work to derive my theoretics, but I also write down other things that influence me...other writers techniques, quotes, interview thoughts, drawings. I would recommend you keep something like this, and work to simplify a pallette that can be assimulated in whatever you are doing at the moment.

  9. #9

    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    Quote Originally Posted by chet reinhardt
    Newmewzikboy

    Very nice post indeed. Your teaching comments are truly blossoming.
    I agree...and the references quoted are helpful also. The Belkin is a bit "unordered", as NMB says, but has some helpful info anyway.

    I too have problems getting started, and even more problems getting finished while meeting my own standards. So lately I've taken an approach that is kind of a combination between what you suggest about "lowering your standards" and "a poem a day" with NMB's suggestion of a keeping a musical journal. I now do a melody a day and one short, simple, but completed piece each week. Nothing worth posting yet, but it's getting better. ;-)

    One suggestion that was made by, I think Richard N, is to copy a piece you like...not all of it of course, but pick one or two aspects: form, harmonic progression, texture, instrumentation, etc. and then fill in that "mold" with your own ideas. This also helps your analysis skills since you have to "pick apart" the work you are using as a pattern.

    It's easy to be so self-critical that 1) you never get started, or 2) you keep "tweaking" so that you never finish. Go ahead and let it be "forced and unnatural", you can always come back to it later!

    As a "shameless plug", you might want to try taking part in the latest GPO Orchestration Duel (see the thread "Orchestration Challenge III")...it's totally anonymous if you want it to be.

    ;-)

    Jim Jarnagin - no not THAT Jim Jarnagin, the other one.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Re: Compositional help & advice needed

    Hey DC, what kind of music do you want to compose?? What's your favorite example of that music, in an easy version and a hard version??

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