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Brainstorming Music

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Brainstorming Music

Postby Guest » Fri Jun 05, 2020 2:47 pm

Not exactly theory here (more applied pre-theory) ... but wondering if anybody has some methods for creating music, melodies, chord progressions, rhythm patterns, etc.

There are many methods of brainstorming ideas, graphing them out, using mindmapping software. What about how to coax some musical ideas from inside?

Obvious ones would be to create a loop of say one chord progression, two chords, back and forth repeatedly, exploring phrases, etc. That's a regular tool for many.

Listening for rhythms in everyday life.

Attempting to define a feeling in five notes or three chords, or whatever.

Taking a simple melody (public domain) and reversing the direction of notes. Or playing it backwards. Or playing it in its native key (C for instance) but adding the sharps or flats from a different key to the same line. Say Ab - flatting B, E, A, and D.

The idea is really to start a flow of ideas and hopefully the creative process kicks...just to get the ball rolling.
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby GilesAnt » Sat Jun 06, 2020 12:16 pm

You mention reversing (retrograde) part or all of a melodic line, and there are some other well known techniques.
Inverting a melody - playing it 'upside down' so that for example a rise of a 3rd becomes a drop of a 3rd.
You can also play this backwards (retrograde inversion).
Augmenting the rhythmic values, i.e. doubling the note lengths
Diminishing the rhythmic values, i.e. halving the note durations.

You may be clever enough to combine these techniques, e.g. the bass line might be an augmented retrograde of the main melody.

The extent which these produce musically useful results will vary, but they may be worth exploring.
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby Ben Asaro » Sun Jun 07, 2020 2:07 pm

Very interesting topic, I am always interested in composition strategies!

I try to leave the "theory" out of my writing until it's absolutely necessary. :) (And I write prog rock!)

In my music theory class, it was stressed to spend time every day just sitting down with notation paper and pen and writing without any thought of actual theory ... just 'sketching' shapes that looks interesting to you. When you get back in front of your instrument you then can play through them and sort out the good from the bad. Keep the good, and the bad can be very instructive, too. As you start learning more theory, your sketches tend to get more and more constrained/refined, but then you are looking for ways to break the rules you are being taught.

I still use this approach today, just going to a park bench and sitting down with notation paper and pen, and writing short melody lines and then parsing through them when I get home. It can be surprisingly fertile territory!

A useful bit of equipment for writing melodies is a step sequencer, because it can automatically do exactly what you're stating: play forwards, backwards, alternating, or random. You can also set the range of pitches you want, so you can constrain a melody to one octave, or expand it to two or more. You can get a LOT of mileage out of a handful of notes if you put a lot of time into them!
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby desmond » Sun Jun 07, 2020 2:20 pm

I embrace my compositional weaknesses wholeheartedly, as it's the weaknesses that help define your own sound/style... :thumbup:
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby Ben Asaro » Sun Jun 07, 2020 2:29 pm

desmond wrote:I embrace my compositional weaknesses wholeheartedly, as it's the weaknesses that help define your own sound/style... :thumbup:
Ha, that could be a whole other topic! I took a master class from Pat Martino years ago and one of the concepts he discussed was 'auto destinations', an idea similar to what you're talking about but using it as an actual compositional technique.
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby CS70 » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:10 pm

A bit left field, but if you write some lyrics with some cadence and form, they often suggest some music.
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby Ben Asaro » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:26 pm

CS70 wrote:A bit left field, but if you write some lyrics with some cadence and form, they often suggest some music.
That's also a very useful technique!
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby al_diablo » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:38 pm

I was reminded of an oft quoted phrase uttered by Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock "don't play the butter notes" which Hancock apparently interpreted as the 3rds and 7ths of chords. Omitting them from harmonies took them in a new direction.

I've been trying to teach myself new chord voicings to get better at the guitar (with limited success) and leaving out obvious notes from some of them. I've found this also suggests different harmonic progressions to my usual limited palette, probably in part because I have to think about what I am doing more.

I think anything disruptive is probably good for ideas
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby Ben Asaro » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:40 pm

al_diablo, do a search for the '246' composition method, I think you'll find it right up your street! HackMusicTheory has a video about it on YouTube ...
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby al_diablo » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:45 pm

Ben Asaro wrote:al_diablo, do a search for the '246' composition method, I think you'll find it right up your street! HackMusicTheory has a video about it on YouTube ...

I'm intrigued, thanks!
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby Folderol » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:57 pm

If I'm composing a song (very rare) I find the rhythm of just speaking the words suggests the style, mood and sometimes the pitch.

For instrumentals, it's no holds barred. I'll sit and noodle around. I might go for an hour and nothing comes out, other times within minutes I have a melody and a framework for accompaniment - that's the easy bit. Turing it into anything i can make public can take anything from a few days, to years.

On very rare occasions I'll wake up with a complete tune running through my head. I have to get up and play it immediately and record it (no matter how badly) otherwise it's gone forever.
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby MOF » Sun Jun 07, 2020 4:06 pm

Quickly and randomly drawing notes onto the piano roll page, play the result and delete the obviously wrong notes if you can hear the basis of a good tune?
You could do the same for chords (but blindfolded) with the sequencer in record but take your hands away from the keyboard each time so that you don’t use muscle memory to follow your usual progressions. Move the chords next to each other before playback to see if there’s anything useful.
Use automated drummer software and change parameters, this might inspire you to come up with a melody to match the rhythm.
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Re: Brainstorming Music

Postby amulitz » Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:27 pm

Use your ear. What you listen to defines and forms your sense of taste -- what you like. Don't make yourself nuts trying to find the magic chord sequence or melody. Just play and listen to what your playing; feel it. Start small. Make your self just play your instrument for a minute, then two minutes, and so on. Play over a pedal tone. Steal a chord progression you like. Take a song you like and change it; make it your own. Start with pentatonic scales, then add notes to the scale you like. Transpose it. Develop a sense of feel by free improvisation -- don't think ahead, just play and listen. Relax.
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