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Inspiration and Music Composition

Arrangement, instrumentation, lyric writing, music theory, inspiration… it’s all here.

Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby MOF » Mon Dec 30, 2019 2:24 am

Another thing I might try again is writing music to video. When I dabbled with it in university I found it so much easier to have a finite block of time to fill rather than the infinite possibilities of a blank screen. The material on screen also got the ideas/emotions flowing a lot more too, Maybe I could compose the music then remove the video.

What type of music do you want to compose, is it the catchy melody/theme tune or supportive mood music for a film?
If it’s the former, then removing the video will leave you with something that generally doesn’t cut it, since mood enhancement rarely uses the catchy bits. I hear examples of this on Classic FM where they’ll play ‘the battle scene’ from a film and personally it doesn’t work for me.
I saw a BBC 4 programme about film music and one composer said he actively avoids using recognisable themes because it distracts the viewer.

whenever I stop trying to make music for a short while I always feel drawn to go back to it eventually, that magnetism of being drawn into composition

I would say concentrate on getting melodies down, I use the sound recorder utility on my iPhone, I sing and click my fingers for a basic rhythm and then transfer the best ones into Logic Audio to work on.
I also use Garage band on the phone to work up more involved basic tracks and then put those into Logic to finesse. The Alchemy sounds and automatic Drummer styles get you quickly to what sounds like a finished track.
The other method is sitting down with Logic and a decent keyboard in my studio. The latter method is fairly rare these days as I tend to play the same old riffs and chord sequences.
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby The Bunk » Mon Dec 30, 2019 7:17 pm

Possibly a controversial idea here but why not try a bit of plagiarism?
I would by no means think of myself as a composer, and TBH that's not really what I want to be. But I would like to be able to at least have a go at it. The trouble is...give me a blank sheet of paper from which to start something and it will stay blank.
However if I try and create something very much based on a particular chord progression (ideally a not particularly obvious one), melody or "style" that I have basically lifted from someone/something, what few creative juices I have start to flow. And you can actually be quite subtle about it once you add your own ideas to things. Or you can be bleeding obvious about it and somehow get away with it if your name is Gallagher.
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby The Red Bladder » Tue Dec 31, 2019 3:11 pm

I don't write music. But I have spent a lifetime watching people who do write music - and they ALL have one thing in common. They all had something to say.

Story -

I was working backstage (well, back lawn, as it was an open-air) and the star was holding court with a few of his musicians and others. We were sitting on the grass, drinking beer and he had a guitar in his hands and talking about music in general.

He was one of 'those' people who just produce massive volumes of successful work, both for himself and for countless others. 23 LPs, 11 number-ones, 19 top-10s, seven film scores, 14 prizes and five books - so no doubting his creative talents!

Someone asked him how he gets his ideas for songs and tunes and he said: "Something must be burning before there can be any light."

He went on to tell us that if you have nothing to say, nobody will want to hear you saying nothing! That, he told us, is the foundation upon which all art must be built. Yes, a jobbing composer-arranger can bang out a pretty tune using known patterns and progressions, but that he said is not art. It is only art when it is saying something - something that you think is important.

That burning need to tell the world something is the foundation upon which art can be built.
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby Marcus D » Sun Jan 26, 2020 11:41 am

This is a very interesting subject and there are lots of relevant information in the replies above.

I’d like to share my own experience and recommendations as I was previously in the same situation as the threadstarter.

1. Focus on melody
I used to focus on chord progressions before, trying to find elaborate chords and building around these. This led me to nice grooves but usually not much further.
What I am doing now after having done some online courses in songwriting is to focus on melody. I start as before with a chord progression but directly after, I focus on the melody.
I also try to create several melodies to the same chord progression in order to identify the strongest ones. A great example of this is Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of you”. Throughout the song he uses the same chord progression but he has different melodies for the verse, pre-chorus and chorus. Try this as a challenge to yourself - Use a simple four bar chord progression and work on different melodies according to your preferred song structure.

2. Finish the song
It is more important to finish a song than to make it “perfect”. Most successful songwriters are very productive. The more you write, the more you will get better at it. Even though you are not always finding the “holy grail”, finish it.

3. Build on creative ideas
I have listened to numerous famous songwriters and how they develop songs. There is one thing in common - they all use different approaches! Therefore, there is no “right” way, you have to discover what works for you.
Many of them however start with a conceptual idea or a title. Based on this, they usually ask themselves “What does this title MEAN?”. Then they take it from there, mostly starting with the chorus or the hook and work their way “backwards” to the verse, bridge etc.

4. Explore new music categories
Choose a new category of music which is not usually part of your songwriting style.
I for example decided to work on a blues song which was something I hadn’t done before. I tried to learn how the blues scale works, looked at common chord progressions and listened to blues classics and instrumentation. After a couple of days I had a finished blues song which I was very pleased with. This experience brought me new ideas for other song categories as well and helped me as a songwriter.

5. Find a professional who can give you tailor-made advice
This is probably what can really make a huge difference in your songwriting.
I had the opportunity of working with professional people who gave me very specific advice and made me progress immensely. There are numerous professionals offering this type of service and if you are serious in your ambitions, it can be worth the investment.

Good luck!
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby zekeyheathy » Sat Feb 01, 2020 4:41 pm

Awesome stuff Marcus! Thanks very much for giving to time to lend such thoughtful advice. Will investigate further :)
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby Siruiz » Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:57 pm

You could also try the opposite: not looking for inspiration, but knowing firmly everything you need is already inside your self. Trusting this to the core. You just have to make It appear, and the moment of appearing is always the now. Is It valuable? Well, extracting value of things is a diverse discipline, not the same as making things appear.
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby Arpangel » Fri Feb 14, 2020 9:23 am

Inspiration and composition only come into play if you’re actually "creating" something based on your own personal experiences, if you have something to say.
If you are involved in any other type of musical activity you don’t need inspiration, and you’re not actually composing anything, you’re just doing it parrot fashion, and you can do that anytime, it’s like a nine to five job.
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby John Egan » Fri Feb 14, 2020 11:55 am

Arpangel wrote:Inspiration and composition only come into play if you’re actually "creating" something based on your own personal experiences, if you have something to say.
If you are involved in any other type of musical activity you don’t need inspiration, and you’re not actually composing anything, you’re just doing it parrot fashion, and you can do that anytime, it’s like a nine to five job.

That's pretty harsh and seems to rule out most of the work of the creators of the Great American Songbook. And a lot of the output of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, etc.Regards, John
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:01 pm

I agree with John on this one, especially since I spent six years writing game soundtracks on commission.

Yes, you have to have a different discipline to create a minute or so of music a day (my typical goal for that time), but it still involves inspiration. The only difference to my mind over writing music for yourself is that working to commission you have to force yourself to move ever forward because you're aiming for a deadline, whereas with your own music you can let ideas come in their own time (or not as the case may be).


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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby Arpangel » Sat Feb 15, 2020 9:36 am

John Egan wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Inspiration and composition only come into play if you’re actually "creating" something based on your own personal experiences, if you have something to say.
If you are involved in any other type of musical activity you don’t need inspiration, and you’re not actually composing anything, you’re just doing it parrot fashion, and you can do that anytime, it’s like a nine to five job.

That's pretty harsh and seems to rule out most of the work of the creators of the Great American Songbook. And a lot of the output of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, etc.Regards, John
l

Yes, it was a bit harsh, on reflection, maybe a bad choice of words on my part.
Don’t know why it should rule out the output of those you mention though?
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby John Egan » Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:17 pm

Arpangel wrote:
John Egan wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Inspiration and composition only come into play if you’re actually "creating" something based on your own personal experiences, if you have something to say.
If you are involved in any other type of musical activity you don’t need inspiration, and you’re not actually composing anything, you’re just doing it parrot fashion, and you can do that anytime, it’s like a nine to five job.

That's pretty harsh and seems to rule out most of the work of the creators of the Great American Songbook. And a lot of the output of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, etc.Regards, John
l

Yes, it was a bit harsh, on reflection, maybe a bad choice of words on my part.
Don’t know why it should rule out the output of those you mention though?

I think that many great songwriters are shrewd readers and observers of the world around them with a good eye for a story line . They often show their personalities/beliefs in their writing and they certainly demonstrate empathy in bucketloads but don't necessarily write from experience.
Just as as an example, Rodgers and Hammerstein were New York based Jewish musicians and I'm not sure how much their backgrounds and experience could have helped them with Oklahoma, Carousel or indeed The King and I. Plenty of Bob Dylan's work draws on his reading and musical influences, rather than direct experience.
I do agree, however that who you are undoubtedly has an influence on your writing and certainly on the perspective you bring to the table.
Regards, John
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby Arpangel » Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:55 pm

John Egan wrote:I think that many great songwriters are shrewd readers and observers of the world around them with a good eye for a story line . They often show their personalities/beliefs in their writing and they certainly demonstrate empathy in bucketloads but don't necessarily write from experience.
Just as as an example, Rodgers and Hammerstein were New York based Jewish musicians and I'm not sure how much their backgrounds and experience could have helped them with Oklahoma, Carousel or indeed The King and I. Plenty of Bob Dylan's work draws on his reading and musical influences, rather than direct experience.
I do agree, however that who you are undoubtedly has an influence on your writing and certainly on the perspective you bring to the table.
Regards, John

All true, I heard Stevie Wonder make some interesting comments on this subject, they weren’t a million miles away from what I said, and he was very firm about it, you can hear the interview here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIXU5ExruI0
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby MOF » Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:20 pm

Do you ever find yourself singing one of your own songs? If so, that’s a sign that you’re a composer and in theory that those songs are catchy.
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby John Egan » Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:22 pm

MOF wrote:Do you ever find yourself singing one of your own songs? If so, that’s a sign that you’re a composer and in theory that those songs are catchy.

If only that were true!
Regards, John
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Re: Inspiration and Music Composition

Postby Arpangel » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:33 am

MOF wrote:Do you ever find yourself singing one of your own songs? If so, that’s a sign that you’re a composer and in theory that those songs are catchy.

I often hear a piece at a friends house, either by me, or by me and him, and I say, who’s that? that’s interesting, then he says, it’s us! So I must be doing something right.
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