How do I arrange the tune?
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Music Theory & Composition Questions & comments about composition, arrangement, and music theory. Music rules and how to follow or break them.

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Old 08-01-2017, 03:23 AM   #1
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How do I arrange the tune?

One topic I see lots about, and that I receive pretty common questions on from folks, is how to conceive of and think of a tune.
This topic isn't about arrangement as that's how to approach an entire song, but instead, this firstly addresses the theory of how to put notes together in a sensible fashion in the first place.

This is a VERY, VERY light weight run down of what can end up being a VERY long topic about melodic and harmonic theory.
Most of these ideas, or rules, were organized and put into a succinct manner (indeed, a very complex manner) during the baroque period of music (which coincided with the obsession over the mechanistic view of nature and the universe - also this is the era of the automaton; so the idea of exactitude and precise order was in fashion).

The below, then, is me taking one part baroque melodic and harmony theory, and one part old American gospel (or cotton field) music (because this structure is the backbone of blues, which then became the backbone for just about everything modern), wrapping them together and distilling it down to the most BASIC of articulations of the point without getting TOO heavy into the deeper theories of why/when/how to do things.

Hope it helps,
Cheers!

P.S. You'll need to click the bar to open it to a larger view to see everything clearly.

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Old 14-01-2017, 07:44 AM   #2
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

Like you said, this is a long topic, and there could be hundreds of factors that make melody good or bad, but I did have an interesting idea I did want to bring into the mix.

First off, I've never heard the term call or call back before but I can imagine that it's like the "question" and "answer" in opposing parts of a melody (correct me if I'm wrong.)

Anyway, one thing I wanted to bring up is that another very important part of what makes melody "pleasing" is using pauses. Both on paper and in reality, the use of pauses is great for building up and delaying expectation in preparation for a more pleasing resolution or continuation of the tune.

Anyway, if you have any more you want to add, or any objections, I'd be pleased to talk more about it.
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Old 14-01-2017, 08:03 AM   #3
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

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Originally Posted by Treyt0r View Post
First off, I've never heard the term call or call back before but I can imagine that it's like the "question" and "answer" in opposing parts of a melody (correct me if I'm wrong.)
Correct.
There are different terms than this in regular melodic theory anatomy discussion, but this is a simple way to refer to the two primary components that I find most intuitive in explaining the starting point.
The terms are based on old field music where you had a 'caller' who would hauler out the first half of a melody, then the group would either hauler that same lyric back at a slightly different melodic pattern, or if it was a known call (song) would hauler back the related lyric for what was called by the caller.
In some cases, the callback was a refrain that never changed the duration of the call/song.

So it's a borrowed term from a specific genre in history because I find that it breaks down the two halves of a melody's anatomy incredibly well without getting overly technical for introductory discussions.

Quote:
Anyway, one thing I wanted to bring up is that another very important part of what makes melody "pleasing" is using pauses. Both on paper and in reality, the use of pauses is great for building up and delaying expectation in preparation for a more pleasing resolution or continuation of the tune.
Absolutely; there's an entire rule outline regarding intervals of times and how much can be piled together, or absent, before distance is placed between, or sound is given.
For the diagram above, I left that out as: a) I still haven't quite wrapped my head around a meaningful way to easily present those concepts in the same digestible way as the above charts, and b) I mostly wanted to focus on what I'm usually asked about - what notes to pick next; or, how to think of notes so to pick notes in the first place.

Mostly, this is an alternative way of conceiving without bringing up degree discussions.
For example, this is how I taught my daughters introductory melodic theory and then I would have them identify the CALL and the CALLBACK in songs that came on the radio (which...on regular pop station music, this is typically pretty easy to point out).

Quote:
Anyway, if you have any more you want to add, or any objections, I'd be pleased to talk more about it.
I have another thread with a much more advanced examination on intervals and the selections therein, wrapped up inside of an excel tool I've named "CAT" (composition assistant tool).
Perhaps you'll find that examination of interest on the last few tabs of the excel document where it gets into scale interval constructions and a melodic interval map.
Here's the link to that thread:
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Old 14-01-2017, 08:58 PM   #4
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

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Originally Posted by TheStumps View Post
Correct.
Mostly, this is an alternative way of conceiving without bringing up degree discussions.
For example, this is how I taught my daughters introductory melodic theory and then I would have them identify the CALL and the CALLBACK in songs that came on the radio (which...on regular pop station music, this is typically pretty easy to point out).
I think this is a great method. There is a lot we can take just from observation in terms of melody, and to a greater degree music in general. I can see why pop would be easy though because in all aspects, pop likes to play by the rules.
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Old 14-01-2017, 10:34 PM   #5
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

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I can see why pop would be easy though because in all aspects, pop likes to play by the rules.
Bingo.
Not only that, but ohh...95% of American pop music is rooted in some way to a blues and rhythm phonic library, with the remaining being latin roots dominantly, and then minorly some country/folk (which is a blues and British/Irish folk music alteration which flattens the rhythms out more).

So they get an easy-in to Americana standard and then when they hear things like Zappa or Floyd, there is a context (whether they like or dislike it).
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Old 14-01-2017, 11:00 PM   #6
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

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So they get an easy-in to Americana standard and then when they hear things like Zappa or Floyd, there is a context (whether they like or dislike it).
I completely agree with this. In fact, I remember the very first time I remember hearing Pink Floyd and I remember how absolutely shocked I was and at the time I was only listening to their hits (which are still good, but definitely not thaaaat wild.)

I remember just eating up their music every day and getting more used to their sound. I thought it was so wild that Barrett could just go up and down the entire string, every fret, hitting every single accidental and yet all of this was what gave them identity.

It's not that what I was listening to before was that bad, but listening to new stuff like Floyd, ambient type stuff, and other gems has really become a big part of my personal music philosophy which is:

"Music and melody is a complex game with lots of specific rules as to what is and isn't pleasing, and the point of the game is to break as many rules as possible and still be pleasing to the ear."
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Old 14-01-2017, 11:32 PM   #7
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

I think I agree with that philosophy; it's where I started.
Now It's morphed into "Music is a complex game with lots of specific rules as to what it is and isn't, and the name of the game is to bend as many rules as possible without changing the name."

e.g.
How far can you push <insert genre> music before it's no longer <insert genre> music?
If the genre says only 4/4, can we make it 3/4 inside of a 4/4? Can you take a triple note melody and shove it over 4/4 beat and still create functional framing for an EDM sound?
Can you create a musical turduckin? Can you shove Latin into Gypsy into House?
Can Punk Rock, Michael Jackson, EDM, and Bollywood get swirled into a musical milkshake?

These are examples of what I mean (and, yes, I've made each of these).

Other times it's more of How far can you represent <concept> musically before it's no longer <tonally cohesive>.
(I like to remember that in times of Ancient Greece, if a theory was of something that could not be physically grasped, it would often be required to be presented phonically in model to show the concepts before it would be considered a passable theory. Sometimes I like to approach music from this perspective rather than "I'm making a song".)

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Old 15-01-2017, 12:27 AM   #8
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

I've gotta admit some of the things you are saying are still a little over my head but I'm finding it really fascinating. I suppose I just really need to try everything. I'm still at a point where I just make whatever sounds good to me and find that it sounds similar to (insert genre name here)

That said, I think I can imagine both some really strong advantages and disadvantages to what you're saying about changing everything but keeping the name/genre intact.

It shows a lot of character to layer complex concepts and weave them together, but I also believe there is a lot of merit to ditch the entire idea of genre and let something come that has no definition.
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Old 15-01-2017, 01:30 AM   #9
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Re: "How Do I The Tune?"

Oh definitely.
I don't mean to sound like I'm a genre-ist or anything.
I would say that I am a formula driven writer, but I don't typically sit down and compose a piece by the agreement of it to some genre. Occasionally I do, but that is more how I deconstruct and study a given genre; by emulating it, and then bending it to find out how it becomes not that genre (or pushing it to the edge), but in this I am mostly attending to my impression of the genre I'm looking at as I'm not very good with identifications of genres beyond the most basic labels (I still haven't a clue, for example, on what makes any given subset of EDM that given genre over some other...I also haven't really put any effort into doing so - with EDM, I tend to study a given song or person/group rather a given genre).

Most of what I make I can't tell you what genre it should belong to because the ideas which drove their creation were phonic, philosophic, or physics driven ideas if they aren't me studying an artist or song.
For example, I once made a song based on my pondering of frequency modulation relationships in categorical difference between elements in astrophysics and how, to my mind, it seemed that all was the same thing essentially, but different scales and expansions of itself (For instance, take light and radio waves, ultimately we're talking about the same wave, just at different frequency oscillations. Or take for instance, the construction of the covalent bond radii, astrosphere radii, and the effective radii of quasars - if you gather up a large enough set of data, then you can find that there tends to be a shared proportion of relationship between their central energy source - atom, star, quasar - and their outer boundary; that is that that energy source is roughly around 0.0039% of the occupied radial space of the total radius size of the entire system which is generated by the existence of that energy source).

Music is fun to use as a thought experiment playground.

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