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Melody or harmony first when composing ?
Old 22nd July 2019
  #1
Gear Head
 

Melody or harmony first when composing ?

Hi !

what Do you write first ? harmony or melody ?

Do you use the metronome when writing ?

cheers
Old 22nd July 2019
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

How do you know what the harmony is untill you have written the melody?
Old 22nd July 2019
  #3
Gear Nut
 
Garage Rodeo's Avatar
 

2. No. Metronome is for recording to a click of the natural tempo you sang the demo at. Sing or play the demo a few times. How you're playing it, is your tempo.
Old 22nd July 2019
  #4
Lives for gear
BALLZ come first.

This is ENTERTAINMENT...not math class,

Have something...ANYTHING that you are sure is entertaining.

That thing is usually NOT a chord progression or a melody, it's a STATEMENT..it's the "Verve" the "Je ne c'est quoi" that makes YOUR "Thing" a thing to begin with. Not just another of the countless functional re-treads that don't leave the slightest bowl smear while completing their "farewell victory lap" on the way to your local drinking water treatment facility.

Adam Mitchell is a guy who was known for co/writing some pretty good KISS songs and working with other major artists.

He teaches songwriting workshops and had a quote to the effect of "Piss on your pissant chords and melody, I could write the same thing 500 times during my mourning crap, and so could anyone else...What's your IDEA?!?"

It reminds me of my own rule: "Ok, so I've got "stuff" What's the ANGLE? would I buy this?"

Does my song make other writers ashamed when they hear it? God knows I've felt the shame many a time when I've neglected this rule.

For this reason, it can be very helpful, should you use co/writers to write with a non-musician, they don't care about crap, your progression, your cool bridge, your slick "out of scale" yet oddly consonant melody...They DON'T CARE...All they care about is whether you move the needle, and working with people who know jack squat teaches you that what moves the needle is often not what "Musicians" care about.
Old 22nd July 2019
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post

Does my song make other writers ashamed when they hear it? God knows I've felt the shame many a time when I've neglected this rule.
Such an interesting question.

I was doing a campfire set this past weekend for family and friends and I'd intersperse my own songs in with the standards. Never mind that the audience likely had not heard my songs, I could 'feel' as I sang that my some of songs weren't quite there yet. They didn't quite sit well with the classics, not on par...

While my writing was good, better than anyone in the audience could do, no doubt, but not great - yet.
Old 22nd July 2019
  #6
Gear Head
 

I definitely don't write harmony first. I do often write guitar or piano accompaniment first and then add a vocal melody. That is a pretty common approach. Sometimes I will have a melody in my head and then flesh it out with a piano or guitar while adding the musical accompaniment. The harmony always comes after the main melody line is written. It is also common for me to write the lyrics first and then write a melody for it, again while adding a musical arrangement for it after. Harmonies come in many forms. Sometimes they follow the main melody. Sometimes they are added flourishes that enhance the main melody. So many different ways to approach songwriting. There is no wrong way.

As for the metronome, that comes later, when I am recording. A metronome can sometimes get in the way. If you want to write songs that have tempo changes, slow down, speed up, change time signatures etc, playing with a metronome is impossible. I would get the ideas/song you want and then when you are ready to record, work out the tempo/s and time signatures in your DAW as you go. The more I write music, the more tempted I am to throw the metronome out altogether, but when you are starting out, it is important. If you only have one tempo and time signature, maybe playing to a metronome isn't a bad idea as you practice the song. Recording can be very painful if your tempo while playing an instrument is off. There are many tools within your daw (quantizing) that can help if you record VI instruments. The downside to quantizing is that it takes the human feel out of the recording. If you are recording a real guitar or piano, you really have to get the tempo down as quantizing real audio isn't very easy and often (I find) downright undoable.

Also be aware (if you are not already) of the dreaded term: latency. If you are recording via usb or firewire interfaces to your computer, there is a chance you might have high latency that will make playing in time impossible. Try and get the lowest latency audio interface possible. I recommend Thunderbolt interfaces or at least usb3. The lowest latency (that I know of) that you can get is with Pro Tools HDX or the Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt. I would go with the Apogee Ensemble over Pro Tools HDX, since the HDX is very expensive and unnecessary. I do own it but I spent way too much money. Latency is around .07 ms which is the lowest possible (again that I know of). Universal Audio Thunderbolt interfaces also offer low latency, but pretty much any Thunderbolt interface will reduce latency to hopefully imperceptible levels.
Old 24th July 2019
  #7
Gear Nut
 
Ed Driscoll's Avatar
I posted this a few days ago in a similar thread, but it also applies here:

It all depends. I've written songs starting top down, chorus first, when the catch phrase or title pops into my head. I then record a (very) rough vocal of that phrase, and structure the chords and timing underneath to fit. I've also written loads of songs from the middle out, starting with a guitar or keyboard part, and build everything up from there. I've occasionally written from the bottom up, when I've stumbled over a great drum loop or drum sound and build everything up from there.

In all cases, the most important thing is to simply get that initial spark of inspiration, get started exploring the options, and then the craftsmanship kicks in to finish the rest of it.
Old 28th July 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
Now I pull out the natural note in the words of the inspirational phrase I am using. Before going too far... I try to amplify natural stress (upbeat downbeat) within the syllables - and try to wander not far from the little melodic phrase and the soon to be beat. For me; on some songs, it can be difficult down the road if I can't get the rhythm right with the lyrics. It's like wresting elephants. I really try to get a nice drum flow goin before I get to far on with writing the lyrics. Once the little phrase is paired up with the little beat (I mean fits like a glove) the rest will come easy. I am not painting myself into a corner,
Old 1st August 2019
  #9
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Carnalia Barcus's Avatar
 

I don't follow a formula, but probably at least 75% of the time I have some harmonic components first, since when I'm in "noodling for tunes" mode what I tend to come up with first is chord progressions (and rhythms) that I like. So then I'll add other stuff, including melodies, based off of that.

Sometimes I'll come up with melodic bits prior to harmonic ideas, but I'm sure it's less than 25% of the time.

I never write with a metronome per se, but I've started with patterns I've come up with either on drum machines or with drum/percussion parts I've sequenced.
Old 1st August 2019
  #10
Lives for gear
 
Carnalia Barcus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post
BALLZ come first.

This is ENTERTAINMENT...not math class,

Have something...ANYTHING that you are sure is entertaining.

That thing is usually NOT a chord progression or a melody, it's a STATEMENT..it's the "Verve" the "Je ne c'est quoi" that makes YOUR "Thing" a thing to begin with. Not just another of the countless functional re-treads that don't leave the slightest bowl smear while completing their "farewell victory lap" on the way to your local drinking water treatment facility.

Adam Mitchell is a guy who was known for co/writing some pretty good KISS songs and working with other major artists.

He teaches songwriting workshops and had a quote to the effect of "Piss on your pissant chords and melody, I could write the same thing 500 times during my mourning crap, and so could anyone else...What's your IDEA?!?"

It reminds me of my own rule: "Ok, so I've got "stuff" What's the ANGLE? would I buy this?"

Does my song make other writers ashamed when they hear it? God knows I've felt the shame many a time when I've neglected this rule.

For this reason, it can be very helpful, should you use co/writers to write with a non-musician, they don't care about crap, your progression, your cool bridge, your slick "out of scale" yet oddly consonant melody...They DON'T CARE...All they care about is whether you move the needle, and working with people who know jack squat teaches you that what moves the needle is often not what "Musicians" care about.
It's not like I'm not at all a KISS fan, but what the heck was Adam Mitchell's "idea" when he was co-writing a tune like "Creatures of the Night"? It sounds to me like he's basically teaching bull****. I like "Creatures of the Night" because I like the way the formal elements--the riff, especially the syncopation of it, the chord progressions, the melody, etc. work. That's why I like any music that I like. Because I like the way the formal elements work. That's what attracts me to music in the first place.

My ideas are formal ideas--ideas about musical structures--harmonic content, melodic and contrapuntal content, rhythmic content, etc.
Old 1st August 2019
  #11
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Carnalia Barcus's Avatar
 

It seems like some people are reading "harmony" in the sense of "vocal harmonies that complement/flesh out a melody." The TC had to mean "harmony" in the broad sense, where we're talking about chords in general. Otherwise the question wouldn't really make any sense.
Old 7th August 2019
  #12
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnalia Barcus View Post
It seems like some people are reading "harmony" in the sense of "vocal harmonies that complement/flesh out a melody." The TC had to mean "harmony" in the broad sense, where we're talking about chords in general. Otherwise the question wouldn't really make any sense.



exactly I meant "harmony" as the chord progression . the chord progression may harmonizes the melody in major, minor , dorian , lydian ... thanks to relative major/ minor concept.
Old 7th August 2019
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post
BALLZ come first.

This is ENTERTAINMENT...not math class,

Have something...ANYTHING that you are sure is entertaining.

That thing is usually NOT a chord progression or a melody, it's a STATEMENT..it's the "Verve" the "Je ne c'est quoi" that makes YOUR "Thing" a thing to begin with. Not just another of the countless functional re-treads that don't leave the slightest bowl smear while completing their "farewell victory lap" on the way to your local drinking water treatment facility.

Adam Mitchell is a guy who was known for co/writing some pretty good KISS songs and working with other major artists.

He teaches songwriting workshops and had a quote to the effect of "Piss on your pissant chords and melody, I could write the same thing 500 times during my mourning crap, and so could anyone else...What's your IDEA?!?"

It reminds me of my own rule: "Ok, so I've got "stuff" What's the ANGLE? would I buy this?"

Does my song make other writers ashamed when they hear it? God knows I've felt the shame many a time when I've neglected this rule.

For this reason, it can be very helpful, should you use co/writers to write with a non-musician, they don't care about crap, your progression, your cool bridge, your slick "out of scale" yet oddly consonant melody...They DON'T CARE...All they care about is whether you move the needle, and working with people who know jack squat teaches you that what moves the needle is often not what "Musicians" care about.
This is so dead on. But I'm not even sure you need much of an idea. Eight repeating notes and yelling "Tequila" every so often isn't exactly an idea, but it sure is entertaining. And it sold a bunch.
Old 7th August 2019
  #14
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

You're not meant to write either first, because 'you' are not meant to 'write' it at all. You are meant to channel it. Let it through. Like a fishing trip. Don't build stuff with your brain. It will only be dull. Throw the nets out and see what you get in magic sparks, and then get good at working on those without putting them out.

So, to the question: whatever lands in the net first.
Old 7th August 2019
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

I found it easier for a songwriter, when they come up with some type of chord progression first. And then they lay the melody and lyrics right on top of that without even trying hard to create a song. After that. They pass that idea to me and I produce it. But I have seen some writers come up with the melody first. Without a piano or guitar to strum chords. Just out of thin air. Just melody. Bam! Lyrics next. Bam! Then turn to me to harmonize and produce their song. It’s really a whatever you feel to come first type of thing. Just make sure it comes from the heart when conceived.
Old 8th August 2019
  #16
Gear Nut
 
Ed Driscoll's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
You're not meant to write either first, because 'you' are not meant to 'write' it at all. You are meant to channel it. Let it through. Like a fishing trip. Don't build stuff with your brain. It will only be dull. Throw the nets out and see what you get in magic sparks, and then get good at working on those without putting them out.

So, to the question: whatever lands in the net first.
Right. Getting that initial spark is a lovely moment, whether it’s a title, a guitar riff, or a chord sequence. The problem with the “antenna” metaphor, is that while getting that initial inspiration, when and if it strikes, is wonderful, there’s still a tremendous amount of craftsmanship that is necessary to bring a song to fruition, from envisioning the rest of melody and/or lyrics that didn’t appear in the initial brainstorm, to structuring the song to its (hopefully) fullest potential. And having that craftsmanship at your disposal is also an extremely useful tool (or series of tools) when the gods aren’t speaking to you, and you need to grind a song out from scratch.
Old 8th August 2019
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

And if all of the above fails, just rip a tried and tested classic off which seems to be a popular option these days.
Old 8th August 2019
  #18
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Driscoll View Post
Right. Getting that initial spark is a lovely moment, whether it’s a title, a guitar riff, or a chord sequence. The problem with the “antenna” metaphor, is that while getting that initial inspiration, when and if it strikes, is wonderful, there’s still a tremendous amount of craftsmanship that is necessary to bring a song to fruition, from envisioning the rest of melody and/or lyrics that didn’t appear in the initial brainstorm, to structuring the song to its (hopefully) fullest potential. And having that craftsmanship at your disposal is also an extremely useful tool (or series of tools) when the gods aren’t speaking to you, and you need to grind a song out from scratch.
Well exactly. And my conviction is that therefore the relevant skills are only two:

- getting to be as open as possible as to let as much through in one piece to start with, so you ideally don't just get the single riff, but keep weaving it on before 'the transmission stops'.

and

- becoming very good at respectfully crafting what you did get through without killing the fragile magic it has.

What was that story about the writer who said he could only write when he was inspired? I think he said something like 'so I make sure I am inspired every morning at 9'....lol

In the end I think it's a balance between doing channeling when the radio reception is good, and doing crafting on days when it isn't so much, pushing forward regardless.
Old 8th August 2019
  #19
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pquinn View Post
And if all of the above fails, just rip a tried and tested classic off which seems to be a popular option these days.
These days? Cause that never happened in music before Blurred Lines?
Old 8th August 2019
  #20
I always hear the melody first, without fail.
Old 8th August 2019
  #21
Lives for gear
 
Herr Weiss's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Driscoll View Post
Right. Getting that initial spark is a lovely moment, whether it’s a title, a guitar riff, or a chord sequence. The problem with the “antenna” metaphor, is that while getting that initial inspiration, when and if it strikes, is wonderful, there’s still a tremendous amount of craftsmanship that is necessary to bring a song to fruition, from envisioning the rest of melody and/or lyrics that didn’t appear in the initial brainstorm, to structuring the song to its (hopefully) fullest potential. And having that craftsmanship at your disposal is also an extremely useful tool (or series of tools) when the gods aren’t speaking to you, and you need to grind a song out from scratch.

More songs than not, do arrive complete.
Old 8th August 2019
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Herr Weiss View Post
More songs than not, do arrive complete.
The blessing and the curse.
Old 8th August 2019
  #23
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Herr Weiss's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny nowhere View Post
The blessing and the curse.
Hmmm....

They all sound great to me, my friend.
I refuse to write down anything that does not bring me joy.
Old 8th August 2019
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Herr Weiss View Post
Hmmm....

They all sound great to me, my friend.
I refuse to write down anything that does not bring me joy.
Don't misread me, Herr. They all bring me joy, but when I hear all of the composition at one time, I find myself working so quickly to get them down before losing a part it stresses me out! Lol
Old 8th August 2019
  #25
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Herr Weiss's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny nowhere View Post
Don't misread me, Herr. They all bring me joy, but when I hear all of the composition at one time, I find myself working so quickly to get them down before losing a part it stresses me out! Lol
Ok, I do understand you now!!!

For many reasons, I also find that moment very disconcerting; not at all pleasant.

Like you mentioned, there is always the possibility of not getting the whole thing down.
Besides, you are not in the "drivers seat"; that is a difficult position to be in - Not to be in control of the whole situation. A feeling of helpless, kind of a dread.

Still, I welcome this unpleasantness with a thankful heart.


~HW
Old 8th August 2019
  #26
Gear Nut
 
Ed Driscoll's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Herr Weiss View Post
More songs than not, do arrive complete.
You’re very lucky.
Old 12th August 2019
  #27
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s wave's Avatar
There is an old adage that says you should write to record. That has changed a little now a days with the availability of some many sounds. But it is still pretty important. You can write or channel a song in your head with great violins and this synth and that guitar etc but unless you have the means of getting usable tracks like those in the song that came into you head... the writing is the easy part and the producing can be a nightmare trying to create those puzzle pieces. It is nice to have those ideal ideas too. But if you write for recording (production is pretty breezy) - you are doing the hard future work in the writing by choosing the sounds you know you can easily deliver - of course it is a bit tougher in the initial stage. But when you put the pen down you are pretty sure to hit near your mark.
Old 15th August 2019
  #28
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pquinn View Post
How do you know what the harmony is untill you have written the melody?
My first thought!
Old 15th August 2019
  #29
Gear Head
 
cat alley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post
This is ENTERTAINMENT...not math class,
If you are referring to music, you could benefit from expanding your horizons. Music is/has been created and performed for many different purposes throughout history, entertainment being only one of them.
Old 15th August 2019
  #30
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horseface's Avatar
Both at once, lately.

I find I have a tendency to over complicate melody if I create it in isolation.
If I add melody to a harmony, it can often become noodly and unfocused.

Both at once allows me to keep things simple and focused.
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