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November 28, 2014, 05:21:17 AM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreativeAudioWhat to do when the melody doesn't want to appear?
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Author Topic: What to do when the melody doesn't want to appear?  (Read 1389 times)
Daniel Pellicer
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« on: April 26, 2013, 12:41:56 PM »

Hello!

I've been working in a theme a long time now, and when I have nearly everything comes the moment when I have to do a melody for the perfect background. The problem is that the melody will not come. I try a lot of different stuff but it never feels is working completely. I have already expend 3 hours without getting anything.

What do you guys do in these situations?

Change everything? start from the beginning? a magic trick?

I'm looking forward to your answers Smiley
« Last Edit: April 26, 2013, 12:49:38 PM by Estudio Evergreen » Logged

ZackParrish
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2013, 01:22:51 PM »

You're doing it backwards, bub.  Write your melody first.
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Jonathan Churchill
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« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2013, 02:10:25 PM »

Yeah, I agree with Zach to some degree..  but doesn't mean you have to start over. Just keep it suuuuper simple. Do some contrary motion between measures/phrases..  You've got it!

-Jon
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8thMode
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2013, 02:50:59 PM »

Write both at the same time!  Grin
Have your melody outline chords. How does the Star Wars theme start? Bb to F, a 5th, there's a Bb maj in there. Mario 1-1, C down to G down to E, hello C maj!

Don't make big chord movements, try moving one or two notes. Even just sit at your piano/keyboard and play CEG (Cmaj) then CFG (Fmaj sus2), a really simple movement. Just keep that going and work out a simple melody on top. Hey you've got a pretty decent melody! Something that outlines a Cmaj, the suggests the F, and the resolves back to the C. Maybe now this melody is telling you other places to go now like Amin or Gmaj..

Study children's melodies, nursery rhymes, write some yourself. It's fantastic practice. Study the master of themes (and everything else for that matter) John Williams. You'll be surprised how simple his melodies are. He invites the listener in with intervals that are familiar to the ear, it's accessible, you're bopping along, then BAM, he takes you to a whole new world you didn't even know existed.

The brilliant thing about simple melodies is reharminization. And reharminization = Thematic Developement

And if you're stuck, move to key you don't normally play in, (I know I've got too much muscle memory in Bbmaj, Cmin, etc...) Give F#maj a try!
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ZackParrish
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2013, 03:11:28 PM »

Writing both at the same time is fine and all, but the reason I say stick to writing the melody itself first, even if you do use chords beneath it to help yourself hear it better how you want it to move/progress, is because then you can adapt the melody to a greater level of variation.  Helps tremendously in cases where you plan on reusing the melody over and over in misc pieces of music in the project you are working on. 

Now, it is possible to make a melody once the chords are already established in a piece, but I would suggest singing while the chords are playing, or playing an instrument along side it.

Is is very likely if you are struggling to push a melody on top of your track, that the chord changes themselves leave you uninspired.  It's okay to change the chords if you need to in order to make the melody fit better with what you want.  The music SHOULD follow the melody, not the other way around.  It's the same deal as when you have a performance and there is a soloist.  The conductor is not conducting the performer, he is keeping the orchestra in sync with the performer.  Think of your melodic lines in the same manner, they should drive the music, they are holding the steering wheel, and they decide where it's going to go(vicariously through your decision making process).
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mscottweber
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2013, 04:27:30 PM »

Are you trying to write on a midi keyboard?  Try picking up a guitar.  Or try singing/humming random notes over the top of your piece.  I find that, when writer's block like this hits, it helps to break out of your compositional comfort zone and approach it from other angles.
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8thMode
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2013, 05:02:24 PM »

You can very easily develop a melody that's been written at the same time as the harmony. Take my C to F example. Let's say you've got a simple melody of C - G - F - - - . At simplest form it's Cmaj, Fmaj. (or the Fsus2 like above). There are hundreds of places we can go. Cmaj, Dbmaj. Cmaj, Bbmaj. Cmin, Bbmaj. Cmin, Fmaj. (Or my favorite) Abmaj, Fmaj. etc...etc...etc...
Granted it's a simple melody, but that's the point. Simple melodies are fantastic. A. Because they're easy to remember, and B. Because they're easy to reharmonize.

Here's a quote from one of my favorite blogs. http://www.robin-hoffmann.com/dfsb/daily-film-scoring-bits/
Quote
06/27/12: Neither composing chords first and then find a melody on top of them nor the other way around are optimal composition principles. In both ways youíre lacking ultimate control over what youíre writing. For example you have a chord progression that you like which is 8 bars long and obviously has its harmonic climax in bar 5. Unless you are absolutely aware of this and have a tremendous flexibility to shape a melody on top of these chords that mirrors the same dramaturgy and climaxes in bar 5 as well, chances are quite high that your two dramaturgy arcs will not be in sync completely which will be a lack of musical quality. Generally, you should try to get to the point where you can compose both levels simultaneously thinking at the same time about harmonic progression and melodic dramaturgy. Your compositions will become way more stringent if you take control over both elements at the same time and mold them together.

.....adapt the melody to a greater level of variation......
 
Are you saying change the melody or the harmony? If you're trying to keep it simple, and most effectively engage the listener, change the harmony.

because....

The music SHOULD follow the melody, not the other way around.
 
Which brings me back to, "have the melody outline the harmony". Therefore, write melody and harmony simultaneously.
Just as you should clean up while you're cooking, and as you should buddy up to the jail's topdog while crafting a shiv to kill him with.
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christianc
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2013, 05:51:03 PM »

Sometimes you don't need a melody. If it is a style that fits this approach, try just playing around with textures. Sometimes songs will come out very well this way. Sometimes a melody even comes to me by accident while playing around with textures.
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ZackParrish
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2013, 06:10:19 PM »

Are you saying change the melody or the harmony? If you're trying to keep it simple, and most effectively engage the listener, change the harmony.

Which brings me back to, "have the melody outline the harmony". Therefore, write melody and harmony simultaneously.
Just as you should clean up while you're cooking, and as you should buddy up to the jail's topdog while crafting a shiv to kill him with.

First part, change the harmony.  Was kind of in a hurry when I typed it so probably worded it weird.  Simultaneously writing the two parts is fine in my book, so long as the melody is leading the harmony and not the other way around. I couldn't honestly tell you my exact process for writing melodies anymore because I just kind of... DO.  I don't put much conscious thought into what I'm doing these days. I know when I was much younger and idolized Uematsu I always tried writing chords first and ended up with some pretty generic melodies as a result.  Eventually I flipped it around and wrote the melody first, just... not how you are probably thinking.  I don't mean like... come up with a 20 note melody and then try to map harmony on it, I mean like... get an idea of the melody in your head, what you want it to do, where you want it to go(as well as the music in general), and then make it go there.  If you can visualize what you want it to do, then writing the harmonic parts will typically just fall into place.  Granted, the more experience you have the easier that gets... and it definitely takes a bit of practice to really KNOW what you want and where to go with it.

Wasn't disagreeing with you, was confusingly trying to imply a simple point... keep the melody at the forefront.  Most of my tracks I'll usually have the melody written out for several measures with nothing more than a whole note bass line under as a "guide" for where I want it to go, so the process of incorporating counter melodies and misc textures is a much more streamlined process.  Of course, there are also times where I skip entire segments of a track and start working on the next section ... sometimes the rest of the song before I go back in and fill it out.  I think that's just me being impatient with the process though.  Gets tiresome structuring a section of music with 30+ tracks all simultaneously playing something...

I wouldn't argue too much against my strategy for composing though, because it obviously works well for me. Smiley  Ultimately music shouldn't be treated with such a hard set of fundamentals or rules, and more loosely based on what a person feels.  I do what feels right to me, which is part of the problem I think he's having.  He's not "feeling" it.  Which to me says he's trying too hard to force a melody, or more interesting melody onto music that is already there. 

My God I have ADD... -_-  What were we talking about?
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8thMode
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2013, 11:36:27 PM »

Yeah, you're right. What works for you, works for you!  Gentleman
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Daniel Pellicer
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« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2013, 05:23:19 AM »

Thank you very much guys! This is really helpful for me. I think I have to restructurate a few things in my head related to composition.

I will try to erase the harmony that is right now, I will think of a melody I would like to do and then I will try to develop the melody while doing the chords at the same time Wink
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MoritzPGKatz
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« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2013, 05:30:19 AM »

CFG
...is a Csus4!

Kind regards,
- a Music Theory Nazi
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ZackParrish
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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2013, 07:45:49 AM »

Thank you very much guys! This is really helpful for me. I think I have to restructurate a few things in my head related to composition.

I will try to erase the harmony that is right now, I will think of a melody I would like to do and then I will try to develop the melody while doing the chords at the same time Wink

You don't have to ERASE them all, just... alter them as you develop your melody.  On the first measure, or first two measures, start your melody out and get a feel for what you want it to do, then wherever it goes, make the harmony change to accommodate it.  You can even sit at a piano(if you know how to play at all) and play the first chord of the harmony, while either singing or playing a melody you have in your head, and determine where to go with that.  As you figure out how you will progress from one measure to the next, change the harmony in your project. 

What DAW do you use?
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8thMode
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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2013, 01:58:26 PM »

CFG
...is a Csus4!

Kind regards,
- a Music Theory Nazi
Merely an enharmonic equivalent my good sir!
In said context it is an inverted Fsus2.
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ZackParrish
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« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2013, 02:08:31 PM »

CFG
...is a Csus4!

Kind regards,
- a Music Theory Nazi
Merely an enharmonic equivalent my good sir!
In said context it is an inverted Fsus2.

Let's lose the specifications and just call it a triad.
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Daniel Pellicer
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2013, 02:47:59 AM »


What DAW do you use?

Errr... Right now im using pxtone for chiptune stuff and reason 4 for orchestral stuff. I want to start using cubase so i could use kontact instruments but i find it a little too complicated to use.

What DAWs do you people use/recommend?
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MoritzPGKatz
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2013, 04:03:11 AM »

CFG
...is a Csus4!

Kind regards,
- a Music Theory Nazi
Merely an enharmonic equivalent my good sir!
In said context it is an inverted Fsus2.
Oh, you're right - could be an Fsus2 as well.  Embarrassed

Still an opportunity for me to be a nitpicky bastard, though! Wink
Enharmonic equivalence is something different altogether, e.g. when an F-sharp and a G-flat result in the same note, making them different spellings for the same thing.
The different interpretations of "CFG" are more likely to serve a functional differentiation, e.g. assuming we're in the key of C: Csus4 is probably a "true" suspension on the tonic, while Fsus2 would be a "colored" subdominant chord.

Let's lose the specifications and just call it a triad.
Suspended chords aren't triads in the usual sense. Which can make the functional interpretation tricky at times!
They do, however, provide ample opportunity for awesome stuff like layering fourths or fifths! (in fourths: G - C - F, in fifhts: F - C - G)

What DAWs do you people use/recommend?
That's quite the recurring topic. Truth is, it's mostly a question of taste and the kind of workflow you need.
There are some "industry standards" like Pro Tools in traditional audio recording or Steinberg Nuendo for post production, but not to the same degree as Adobe products in graphical design.

There's a handy article on MusicRadar that gives a nice overview over 15 of the most popular DAWs around at the moment.

Cheers,
Moritz
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Daniel Pellicer
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2013, 04:23:22 AM »


That's quite the recurring topic. Truth is, it's mostly a question of taste and the kind of workflow you need.
There are some "industry standards" like Pro Tools in traditional audio recording or Steinberg Nuendo for post production, but not to the same degree as Adobe products in graphical design.

There's a handy article on MusicRadar that gives a nice overview over 15 of the most popular DAWs around at the moment.

Cheers,
Moritz

Actually I wouldn't use it normally to record, but more to put the instruments and there and compose the different parts. I don't need something to record audio, I would like something that is easy to use, and that helps me instead of giving me a lot of work. I find Reason quite easy to use, and everything is mostly intuitive, that's why I've used it so far. The problem is it doesn't allow vst (without rewiring) and I would like to use some very characteristical sounds (so I need vst). With all this in mind I have to make my decision.
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ZackParrish
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2013, 04:28:51 AM »


What DAW do you use?

Errr... Right now im using pxtone for chiptune stuff and reason 4 for orchestral stuff. I want to start using cubase so i could use kontact instruments but i find it a little too complicated to use.

What DAWs do you people use/recommend?

I personally use Sonar 8.5, but it's really a matter of preference when it comes down to it.  People argue endlessly over which DAW is the "best".

Reason I was asking, is if you had Sonar I was going have you send me the project file so I could "analyze" your track/melody and potentially offer some more "advice" by way of actually modifying a small section of it.  
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elizabitcrusher
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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2013, 07:28:10 AM »

Take a sentenceómaybe even one that has the game title in it, or some descriptor of the mood or plot of the scene you're scoring. Use that sentence to come up with a melodic phrase.
OR
I like to come up with complex chord structures and then extrapolate a melody. Sure, with C-G-F you can take those pitches and put them in the melody, but you could also use... E-B-A. And pick any rhythm. Then fill in that gesture with other notes. E-F-G-B-A.
I like step-wise motion a lot and I think the most memorable melodies are ones you can sing, so think about space, too, not just for breathing but to create tension and release.
I will say that, if you're going for a melody that's integral to the game/character/scene, start with the melody. It's your leitmotif. Chords you can add lateróand change in really drastic ways if you need the melody to come back. It's much, much harder to do it in the reverse IMHO.
This is a fantastic threadóreally good food for thought, though it's a lot to digest!

I tried my own method (about picking notes and filling in around them) here. https://soundcloud.com/elizabitcrusher/shadow-of-the-colossus-demo
But I think it's pretty unsuccessful :face palm: Whomp whomp.
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