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A little composition help

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A little composition help

Post  Stryfer on Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:57 pm

So, recently my band broke up and everyone seems to want to go solo and do their own stuff...
I've started doing my own stuff a couple of years ago, but realized that I'm missing a huge piece of the puzzle - chords!
I know how to form chords, I know what they consist of, but I'm pretty much clueless with how they come together to form a song. The guitarist in the band helped out with this while I supplied the main groove or riff. Now that I'm on my own...I really need some help in this department.

First off, I'd like to share an interesting tool I've found. This gives me a few quick chord progressions when I need them.
http://chord-progression-generator.com
I also use the Guitar and Bass program, which gives me all the musical theory info I need.

However, I'd like some advice on how you guys do it. When making a song from a riff or groove or whatever, how do you work chords into it? I'm not looking for a theory overview, more like how do you go from one step to the other to make it work and seem natural? Like a basic template to start from.
Also, I've realized that chords on the bass work slightly different from chords on a guitar (or acoustic guitar) because of the sound of the instrument. So... if anyone could offer insight in this respect, it would be much appreciated. Smile

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Re: A little composition help

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:43 pm

1. Sit in front of piano.
2. Play.

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Re: A little composition help

Post  Pippynip on Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:25 pm

Pretty much that, yeah.

I'm sort of in the same boat as you in regards to knowing how chords come together to form a song. I've been saving up money for a keyboard, and when I get one I'll be messing around with all sorts of chord progressions, looking at how the chords are constructed. I might pick, for example, Em, Bsus4, F#mm6 and Am. No idea if F#mm6 is actually a chord, I just mean a chord made up of 1-m3-5-m6. No idea whether it sounds nice either, not having a keyboard handy and all.

So that appears to be in the key of E minor, sort of i - v - ii - iv. Minor keys are (or can be) made up of R - 2 - m3 - 4 - 5 - m6 - 6 - b7 - 7. That gives us E - F# - G - A - B - C - C# - D - D#.

Notes in chord:
E G B
B E F#
F# A C# D
A C E

Intervals of chords:
1 m3 5
1 4 5
1 m3 5 m6
1 m3 5

Scale degrees used (probably a simplified version):
1 m3 5
5 1 2
2 4 6 b7
4 m6 1

And I'd look at aaaall of that and then piss about with it. I know you weren't looking for a theory overview - it's just that that's how I'd go about trying to make chord progressions sound natural, by looking far too deeply into the notes used in the chords and seeing how they relate to each other.

I now await a "no no no you've got it all wrong" post from TLS Razz

Edit: ZVIZ is gone? Aw. Sad

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Re: A little composition help

Post  Stryfer on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:51 am

If I started working from chords that theory would be great... The problem is having grooves and riffs and finding a good chord progression over them... For example: Can't Stop by RHCP has that awesome riff, then it goes into a nice chord progression for the chorus... Can anyone tell me where something like that comes from? Do you just fiddle around with it or is there a sort of natural progression based on the riff? I am actually looking for some theory, just not the basic chord theory everyone has to offer XD More like theory or advice born from experience.

Another thing, on bass you usually do 3 note chords, while I know that on an acoustic guitar it's common to strum all the strings when playing a chord. On the piano you use both hands for a single chord...
I know that in order to form a basic chord on the bass you use the first, third and second note of a scale. Now, I assume you can use the same principle for guitar and keyboard, but I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that when it comes to those instruments. I could use a bit of intro to how you construct a chord on the keyboard and the guitar, as opposed to the three-note on the bass.

Note for Pip: Yea, our singer/guitarist pulled a John Fruiscante on us -.- I still retained all rights to the songs since most of the material is mine (save the damn chord progressions), so if I have another project, I can use them.

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Re: A little composition help

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:48 am

Well, I have this riff that goes:
Code:

G|-------------10--|-----------------|---------------|---------------||
D|--------8-10-----|-----------------|----------6----|----------8----||
A|-----------------|-----------------|---------------|---------------||
E|--8--8-----------|--8--6-----------|--4--4--4---4--|--6--6--6---6--||

And this is obviously C, C or Bb, Ab, Bb in terms of root notes. So what I did on piano was to play the root notes in approximately the same rhythm and find a nice chord progression. It's really simple: C, Gb/Bb, Ab, Gb/Bb.

So what I do is I approximate the bassline in the left hand on piano and then dick around. I would imagine it also works when you record the bassline and start playing over it on guitar or piano.

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Re: A little composition help

Post  Stryfer on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:26 pm

I see, neat little trick there with the Gb/Bb. If I'm not mistaken it's the same notes except one is a minor chord while the other a major right? So same notes, but different feel... Based on the riff, I would've just gone C, C, Ab, Bb, which would also probably be fine, but I can't just run the same 4 chords throughout an entire song...
Let's say I had these 4 chords: C, C, Ab, Bb, and wanted to swap things around for a sort of chorus, would it make sense to go Ab, C, Bb, Gb for example? My question is, would those 4 chords and their minor/major variants work in any order and still allow me to go back to the same riff without sounding like I went into a completely different song?

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Re: A little composition help

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:59 pm

If I'm not mistaken it's the same notes except one is a minor chord while the other a major right?
I don't know, man, it just sounds good to me. Razz I totally fucked up on the chords, though. It goes Cm Gm/Bb Ab Gm/Bb. In that scenario one indeed is a minor while the other is not. The notes are different, though. Bb uses an F, while Gm uses G. Unless you're playing Gm7 which uses both G and F.

You actually can run the same four chords throughout a song. Just switch up the rhythm, dynamics and melody. What I typically do is go into a different chord progression, but keep the first chord the same. For that particular song I use Cm Csus4 Cm Csus2, again, just dicking around.

If you take a closer look, you'll see that everything I do is in C minor. I suggest you stick close the key in terms of chords and then go from there. That's how I did it, and nowadays I write random shit like a bassline in F#m with Gb blues improv on top. Razz

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Re: A little composition help

Post  Stryfer on Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:26 am

Now I get it Smile Well, you've just opened up my horizons a bit. Now I have some basis for further experimentation! Thanks man! Very Happy
It was a bit daunting looking at all those chords and notes, like a blind man trying to use a map Laughing

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Re: A little composition help

Post  MetalJacob on Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:31 am

Wait a second...you didn't know any of that yet you made the pleasant music that is ZVIZ? WHY AM I WASTING MY TIME IN AN AP MUSIC THEORY CLASS.

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Re: A little composition help

Post  Pippynip on Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:26 pm

You don't actually need to know any music theory - it just helps Razz

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Re: A little composition help

Post  Stryfer on Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:07 pm

Well, I couldn't do it myself Smile I did the groove and/or riff for each song, but I couldn't move away from it. I had no idea how. So, I let my guitarist come up with the chords for the rest of the song (usually the chorus). Afterwards, I built the rest of my bassline across the chords and THAT theory I know.
It's just the chord progressions I don't get, being a pure bassplayer. Keyboard players or guitarists find it so much easier because they play around with chords more than individual notes.

If you think that's bad, Flea hasn't gone to a single music course until last year Laughing
Theory is like guidelines. You don't really need it, you can use your own instincts, but it sure helps speed up the process Very Happy

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Re: A little composition help

Post  Pippynip on Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:12 pm

Almost every line I create starts strictly following theory guidelines (for example, only using the notes in the major scale), then I go "bollocks I'm using this note instead" and it ends up completely different Razz

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Re: A little composition help

Post  MetalJacob on Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:44 pm

That's pretty much how I do it too. But yeah, I didn't understand chord progressions before this class either. It's way simpler than you think.

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