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Music Workshop It can be difficult sometimes to have the confidence to make your first song upload, so with this in mind we've decided to launch this new forum with a view to helping other members solve some of their music-making problems.

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How to write a tune
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Default How to write a tune - 13-05-2012, 08:19 PM

How to Write a Tune

* I have written some music, but I will not profess to be an authority about it. However, there are some pointers that can be shared that will fit all styles of music (Rock, Country-western, Classic, etc.) And if there are any suggestions you can add, please feel free to do it. Anyway, here it goes!

The Main Tune:
* The first thing you have to do is have a main tune to work with. There are different ways to come up with these. Both Paul and Spike mentioned a method: Jamming along with a chord pattern untill a main tune becomes becomes apparent. Sometimes, a short tune just pops up and working on that and adding to it has produced some nice music.

* Pamela also had some input: Use a chord pattern from an established tune, and making a completly different melody out of it. (By the way, this method can be used to come up with a counter-melody for an exiting tune, also.)

* Mason Williams (creator of "Classical Gas") even came up with an interesting way: He used the alphabet and assigned note values to each letter. He then takes a word to see what "tune" it could generate. He wrote a tune based on the word "sunflower". (I will try this method, sometime!)

* CAUTION: Be careful NOT to use ad-lib as the only main tune, because it is different with each verse and does not have a "point" to the tune. The "point" of a tune is a (catchy) part of the tune that repeats and that people can easily remember. You can't remember it if it is different with each verse. Let's use "Mary Had A Little Lamb" as an example. Even if someone just SAID the words, people would know what the tune (the "point") of the song is, as it is easy to remember.

* Note: Ad-Lib is short for Ad-Libitum, (Latin) meaning "At one's Pleasure", a term used when one is NOT playing the established main tune, and is just "jamming" along with the chord pattern.

A Style
* Now that you have the main tune, choose the style you would want to play it in. Try not to be too stuck on only one kind of style, as the kind of music you write may fit many of the styles on the keyboard. At this point, you would also want to choose the tempo. Next comes the chorus.

The Chorus
* A chorus is not always needed, but if you have one already, (or want to add one) fine. Sometimes, though, one does not have a chorus to the music, and an idea for one is not coming so easy. One of the ways a chorus can be developed is by using a variation of the main tune. Another way is to use your imagination: Think about the tune and let your mind "wander" on it. I have done that, more than once, and have come up with a chorus for a number of different tunes!

Introduction & Ending
* Next, you would pick the intro and ending. There are many on the keyboard, and even more available on the web. But don't be afraid to make up your own, though, as it is not that hard and, after awhile, one may come to you. Alright! At this point, we have an introduction, a main tune, a chorus and an ending. You may want to add a counter-melody.

* A counter-melody is a tune that is NOT the same as your chosen main tune, but still plays with the same chord pattern as the main tune. It may also be a harmonizing with the main tune, and some keyboards can generate this kind of counter-melody. You may choose either style of counter-melody, or even not, as a counter-melody is not required. It is just another way to add interest to the music. At this time, you would want to work on the drum fill-ins.

Drum fill-ins
* The arranger keyboard has built in drums, with drum fill-ins available when you change from one main variation to another. These fill-ins make the music sound more interesting, as they are used to "announce" a change. (For example: Main to Chorus or Chorus to Main, between verses, etc.)

* When to use the fill-in: Your main tune should have ended, add the drum fill-in, then start your chorus lead. In other words, you should try to have the last main lead note on the beginning of the drum fill-in, and the first chorus note on the last note of the drum fill-in (this is to keep the "music" going). This example was used from main tune to chorus, but the principles apply to all changes.

Arrange the music & Practice
* What you would want to do is to decide how many verses there would be, where (and how many times) the chorus would be, where the counter-melody and a break would be, if any, and all drum fill-ins. You would want to practice this some, before you record it, so you can be familiar with what goes where and when. (You might even come up with a better version during practice!!!)

* Ready? Time to record your number! (I will not go into recording methods, as your manual should cover it.) You might record with your arranger and lead, or you might not. However, I will assume there is no lead and start from there. You have your background music recorded and it is time for the lead tune to be added.

* For those who may have trouble recording or understanding the manual, there are other articles in this forum "What is Multi-Tracking..." (done on the computer) and "Multi-Tracking for Dummies-Tyros 1 & 2" (by Nozzmoking and Gordon, respectivley.)

Adding the Lead
* How to record your lead is also in the manual (single-track recording). But I would suggest that, if you are having trouble understanding the manual, you can start with simple, short tunes and practice that until you know and understand what to do.

* Now you want to choose the voice (instrument) that would be your lead. However, I would mention this, though: Of the voices you would choose to do your lead or background, try to be familiar with HOW they play. For example, if you are using a lead guitar, try to use licks (musical phrases) that they would use. A clarinet? Listen to a person who plays the clarinet in the style you want and try to copy his licks and manner. Otherwise, if you are not familiar with how the instrument is played, you end up with a tune with just different voices playing the same thing, and it will sound boring.

* You can also add musical fill-ins when the singer pauses (or lead stops playing) to keep the music going. You may want to do it with another instrument (voice) to contrast the main lead instrument.

* Along with the above idea, if you are changing instruments (voices) that do the lead, while one instrument is ending you can build up with the new instrument, that is: add a lead-in with the new instrument (once again, to keep the "music" going).

Adding Background Instruments
* Now that your voices for lead are in place, you would want to make sure the music is full-sounding. Add background instruments. Violins, cello, a steel guitar, horns or another guitar (whatever you would choose) would make the music sound more full and more interesting.

Two points:
1) Don't start with them all at once, start simple and add them (maybe one at a time) as the music goes on. The idea behind this is to make your music "grow" as it goes on. Increasing in complexity helps to keep interest in the music, and not sound boring.
2) Don't use too many, as you don't want the music to sound "cluttered".

So, what is done basically, is:
1) Obtain a MAIN TUNE
2) Add a CHORUS
3) Choose your INTROs and ENDing
4) Add a COUNTER-MELODY and BREAK (if you want to)
5) Add DRUM Fill-ins
6) ARRANGE how you want the song
7) PRACTICE the arrangement
8) RECORD the arrangement
9) Add the LEAD instrument(s) and fill-in lead
10) Add any BACKGROUND instrument(s).

* Tah-Dah!!! A Hit may be born! These are just suggestions for making the music, nothing is written in stone and you can do what you feel is needed. These are just ideas that can be used to start with. Enjoy!

.................................................. .............Pat

P.S. NEVER NEVER think your tune is too DULL or boring to make. A profesional sounding band (the keyboard) playing your tune brings it to life!

* Do you think going up and down the musical scale is dull or boring?
Frank Mills did that with "Music Box Dancer", and MANY people liked it!

Last edited by plchong; 08-02-2013 at 09:04 PM.. Reason: Update
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Re: How to write a tune
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Default Re: How to write a tune - 14-05-2012, 10:43 AM

Hi Pat
Thanks for taking the time to write such an interesting article, maybe it will encourage other members to have a go at writing their own songs.
As you say 'it's not written in stone' and would depend on how people think up their music.
I personally don't do it that way.
I take a style, perhaps a new one which I've just obtained, and start jamming with it. Eventually a tune will evolve. I then do a quick record . Once I'm happy with it I add other voices, multipads and effects. I do a final mix and that's it. I have been know to then delete the melody track and record it again whilst the rest of the song is being played. I also often fiddle around with the song with Cubase to correct any duff notes.
Perhaps the difference between the 2 methods would be the ability to read music or not - I'm one of the latter.
It'll be interesting to hear from other members about their preferred method.
PS This is how I do it on the Tyros - when done on the Motif XS it is done differently because of the different system of performances and patterns as opposed to styles

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Re: How to write a tune
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Default Re: How to write a tune - 15-05-2012, 06:13 AM

Hey Paul and Spike,

Thanks for the nice words. I like to help....
I, too, remember what it was like starting with a keyboard.

There it lay before you: The control panels of the Starship Enterprise!

I needed instruction, and, having gone through it, still remember what it was like.

So folks (any of the readers), if there is anything that you feel that needs to be added, let me know and it can be added and I will give you the credit. This way, we can all contribute to a good article!

Thanks............................................ ..........Pat

Note: There will be some suggestions that can't be added to the article.
For example: Most of my tunes have started with a simple tune that just pops up in my head, and I add to it on the keyboard. If that works for anyone, GREAT! But it is NOT a suggestion that I can make in the article (Oh, just sit around untill a tune pops up................) You see, there are some things that can't be added. Take care before suggesting, that's all.

Last edited by plchong; 31-05-2012 at 06:28 AM..
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Re: How to write a tune
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Default Re: How to write a tune - 15-05-2012, 04:37 PM

Great article, thanks Pat!

I work the same way as Spike, i.e. play along with the onboard styles until one takes my fancy and something 'happens'. If I'm feeling brave, I'll leave out the auto backing and just have a drum beat playing and then see if anything comes of it.

I also try to keep things (chord wise) as simple as possible because when you have to go back and start adding other instruments you're then not faced with difficult chord sequences which I always forget!

I always find the main melody line the hardest part to come up with which is why most of my tracks are just grooves, more akin to backing tracks than anything else.

Although I can read music I don't find it helps much with creating new tunes. The main benefit of being able to read is when making edits in Sonar as you can quickly spot the offending note(s).

A good point you made was in the 'Adding A Lead' section. Trying to think like a bass player, guitarist, sax player etc. I feel is the most fun part of recording your own music. Some tracks (trance for instance) I feel you're better off using the onboard styles for your backing where other types of music lend themselves to the player deleting the backing tracks and playing in your own. OK it might not sound as polished as the onboard style, but it does I feel lend more authenticity to what you're doing.

I also agree with your comments on not adding too many voices to a tune. I suffer from this as it's easy to get excited and chuck everything in, including the kitchen sink.

I hope others enjoy your article and give us their views on how they create their own compositions.

Nice one!



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Re: How to write a tune
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Default Re: How to write a tune - 30-05-2012, 12:51 PM

Hi Pat A very interesting article, I personally never write anything down, I just play what comes into my head, one method I use is to take a song and using those chords, play a completely different song, it's surprisingly easy to do, try it... Pam

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