How do you compose the original tunes?

For the ones who participate in the Original Tunes competitions, or are composers,
how do you compose the tunes?
how much do you know about music theory?
how do you know to what chords use?
do you use some pattern of how the tune has to go (ej ABBA)?
what programs do you use?
and how do you dissect the tunes of others to learn from them?

I wouldn’t say I could give the best advice about this but I can share with you my process. I started playing guitar 5-6 years ago and like playing little bits of a bunch of songs. In that process I was able to figure out what sounded good such as chords which played well together. I looked up a few things as time went on to try to get a better grasp of how things worked. As for original compositions, I only started writing my own music about 1 year ago. Some of my projects turned out well where others not so great. My first program I used for computer music was something named guitar pro, I had a ton of fun trying to wrap my head around that program and ended up making a few cool projects. Time passed and I decided to look into other programs to try out. Secondly I tried something named soundtrap. In the free trial period I was able to make a project there which was pretty fun and easy to use. Thirdly, I bought a copy of fruity loops studio. Or fl studio. So far I have only made 2 tracks. The first one not so great but I was fairly happy with my second attempt. If I was to choose any of those 3 I would use fl studio. It is kind of expensive but it has a lot of options. It is also in my opinion pretty complex however there are many tutorials for it. I do believe all those programs come with a trial version of you wanted to check them out. As for my process of writing the music, I find myself humming a song in my mind sometimes which I generally composes into a song. I find sometimes I forget some of the things I’m humming so I recently decided to record my humming so I wouldn’t forget some of my song ideas. Last month I picked up a midi keyboard. I have no knowledge of playing piano, however as I played around with it I was able to devise a few things which sounded good in my opinion. I don’t recall many of the videos I watched, however the most recent video I seen I found interesting if your seeking music theory tutorials. The persons name is Andrew Huang. The video specifically is (Learn music theory in half an hour) The vidéo can be found on YouTube. I hope some of this information is helpful to you and you receive more suggestions and advice about this subject. Good luck and don’t get discouraged!

I’ve been participating in these Gametabs tunes for something like 7 years now, and while my tools and particular approach has evolved tons during the time, the general approach hasn’t. Naturally the points below apply to me personally, the answers will be very different from everyone.

General approach:
In almost every case I start by testing out and noodling with my guitar until I find some kind of a rhythm/pattern or string of melody to use as the core inspiration. Half of the time I’m also thinking of some song/theme that already exists that has the same kind of atmosphere that I want to achieve to act as a very vague guideline in the beginning.

Theory:
On theory I’m fairly novice and would probably fail any test put in front of me. I probably do some smart things right by accident, but as mentioned before, I’ve been dabbling at this for many years already.

Chords:
My choices of chord progressions often rely on what I remember to work (having learned and played pop/rock/whatever songs) plus trial & error. Understanding this through theory would be quite useful for myself I can imagine. I’ll get to it any day now! Tomorrow, or the day after!

Often I don’t think about the chords at all, but try to find the most atmospheric combination of notes that still somehow works together. Chaos until it isn’t, don’t take notes from me.

Pattern:
Varies from piece to piece, but there are a few considerations I have when it comes to sections. For one I try to retain some common elements (rhythmical or melodic) between sections to remind the listener that this indeed is still the same song. And especially in this context (game music) the ending should naturally resolve back towards the initial key so that we have a loop that isn’t too shocking as it goes around.

Software:
Reaper as my DAW, and a few paid VST instruments (bass, cheapish full orchestra, drums and a synth) and some free stuff I look up as I need it.

Most of the time I just laze out, record two guitars and slap some reverb on top as I’m a bit clumsy and slow with MIDI.

Dissecting others:
I don’t. I just listen to all the entries a few times in row imagining the scenes and make my decisions based on how well it connected to the original theme in my mind. Everyone has their own approaches and tools, and there are plenty of things I can find to improve in my workflow, composing and playing while analyzing my own stuff.

3 Likes

Hi!

So, my main thing is to compose for short movies, or other kind of projects. But I’ve also composed music just for the sake of music, and although the process is kinda different, well, it’s still music, so there are some similarities.
Anyway, to answer your question. When it comes to music theory, I’ve come to learn about these things. Knowing how chords, scales, rythm, modes, and everything work is a great tool in my opinion.
As any tool, I believe you can do without. However, I also believe it’s only a benefit to have. And needless to say it will help you to “choose” your chords. At some point, your options for a chord at a given time will appear more “logical”. And even then, you can twist that process to avoid to fall into the “I’m playing this chord because the rules say so, and because I’m used to that process” trap.

How I compose tunes is quite hard the answer to give precisely. If it’s a piece I have to compose for a short movie for instance, then I MUST make the music related to the video. If it’s music just “for me” or something, well, even then it depends what I feel like I want to do (is if folk? it it metal? is it orchestral? sooo much thing to do). Sometimes ideas come under the shower, sometimes I have to “force” it (and then knowing theory so you can quicky apply a sequence of chords, and get a melody out of it for instance is a good trick to get started), sometimes I’m just playing guitar or piano in a not-so-serious manner, just to strech/wake-up my fingers, and something may come out of it.

Also, try not to discard ideas or melodies you can think of too soon. Sometimes, you’ll have an idea for a melody and think “nah, come on, that’s no good”, but since you only got this melody on your piano on something, well… yeah, it’s not gonna be great at first! It will need to be harmonised, re-work, instrumentalised, maybe it’s something that’ll need lyrics even, etc etc… You need to trust it will get good with polishing it, otherwise, you’re just going to get melodies after melodies and never do a thing with any of these.

Playing an instrument can truly help you to get something out of it too. And, of course, it depends on the instrument : you’re probably not going to get the same music out of playing bass, or guitar, or piano, or flute, or whatever. That’s why I always encourage musician to try new instruments. And if your thing is only guitar, well… why not try to tune it in another way? Like in the infamous DADGAD. You’ll see how change can stimulate creativity. Singing, or even whistling/humming can help. I really like to whistle while playing chords on guitar for instance.
In the same regard, playing around with a DAW and sound libraries can help getting something on.

Speaking of DAWs, I’m using Logic. But quite frankly, you can use anything you want. Programs may stimulate your creativity, but it’s not the thing that will give you ideas.

When it comes to pattern, well, I don’t really use them. Consciously at least.
But yeah, again, when it comes to film music : my pattern IS the film, so I don’t really have a choice here. I actually find myself struggling a bit more in that regard when I’m completely free (limitations breeds creativity they say). But even still, you just find way. You can change the melody, or parts, you can apply different variations to said melody, you can change the key, you can add a counter-melody, you can use brutal changement in the instrumentation, you can do basically anything! And that’s why it’s not that easy! But even so, I don’t want to use some sort of template.

And I don’t really “dissect” the tunes of others. Sometimes, I pay attention a bit more when there’s something I like or if I want to understand something, but it’s not like I’m going to dive into the score or something. Sometimes I feel like I should, sometimes not so much. But just like music theory, analysis is NOT something that has to “block” you. You can get inspiration from others, sure. But it must not become rules.

Anyway… I could go on for hours giving you advice, or just telling what kind of thing I do to help or something, but at some point, you just need to work on it. Learn at least the basic of music theory, but most importantly : just practice! :slight_smile: