5 essential theory/knowledge for making music?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by vejichan, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. vejichan

    vejichan SS.org Regular

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    Jan 4, 2012
    New york
    Other than the mandane excercises. What would you say what theory, info etc was the most beneficial for you in creating your music?
  2. Lasik124

    Lasik124 SS.org Regular

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    Dec 28, 2009
    Listening to good music and analyzing song structures. Keeping said structures relatively simple even if parts inside them get complex.

    Learning to use dynamics.

    And of course, setting aside any theory or technical fanciness to let the song speak. Always going for conveying a emotion over worrying if my part is "cool enough"

    With all this said. Having an idea of what key your in, and what chords belong to that key can really help.
  3. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    May 29, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I am very preoccupied by form. Everything else feeds into or comes out of form for me. That is how you tell a story, after all. Couple form with voice leading, and composition becomes extremely intuitive. That's my take on it, anyway.
  4. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Dec 7, 2005
    St. Johnsbury, VT USA
    That's like asking "Which 5 tools are essential for building a house?"

    Five tools wouldn't be enough to build most houses well, which tools are most important depend on the kind of house to be built, and different people will likely prefer different tools to go with different skills sets and aptitudes.

    Back to making music: What are you wanting to make?, specifically? Obviously, a singer/songwriter, like, for example, Paul Simon, uses completely different skills and tools than a technical guitar wizard, like, for example, Ron Jarzombek.

    For that matter, writing a good garage punk song has little in common with writing a pop punk song. It's not just about which techniques are utilized, but also, which techniques are avoided.
  5. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Oct 23, 2009
    Southend-on-Sea, Essex, U.K
    Bostjan makes a good point.
    However, I'd say I can easily note a few topics for me that, from originally just writing by ear, improved my music or at least made it easier to get the results I wanted.
    Knowledge of intervals + chord construction
    Voice leading (and inversions, though they kinda amount to the same thing. You can use voice leading to great effect without knowing the names of inversions, or even the chords you are playing)
    Form (such a broad topic)
  6. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Jan 22, 2007
    London ONT
    Very well said.

    I'd think of it like this:

    What do you want to say? What is going to let you say it to the best of your abilities?
  7. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Dec 2, 2014
    I think that the basis of music is RHYTHM and DYNAMIC. When one controls rhythm and dynamic one controls the groove and most of the feel of the music. For that part, FXs like delays (long delay times) and loop stations are on the spot for the job and let you play with "someone" backing your own playing... and it's way more fun than a metronome, 'cause it has feedback (all kinds of puns here).

    Then, go for pentatonic scales and learn how they span across the fingerboard. From these to tonal and modal scales is a small jump. As already spoken, chords over scales for mix and match.

    Questions for you to find out:
    • What are scales and what purpose do they have?
    • How are chords made?
    • What chords combine with which scales?

    The combination of rhythm and harmony/melody makes the music, but these are not the only things one should think about. Tone or timbre do give different feel: the same music line played in different instruments express different feelings.

    So, in a quick answer, and IMO, have this in mind:
    • Rhythm is about time management,
    • Dynamic is about intensity or loudness management,
    • Scales/Chords or melody/harmony are about mood management,
    • Timbre or Tone is about imagination and also mood (as these are linked).

    FX and gear are about timbre and tone, period. They won't teach you anything substantial about all the other stuff. Some may have effect over the others, but you'll have a harder time if you rely on FXs to learn about them.
  8. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

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    Jan 15, 2015
    Not here
    You can also write good songs by first writing five hundred bad songs without telling anyone.
  9. tyler_faith_08

    tyler_faith_08 Strings of Chaos

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    Aug 3, 2013
    Mobile, AL
    I'm going to vote for further information regarding what specific type of music you hope to compose. Writing something along the lines of Meshuggah wouldn't be best served by mastering chord theory if you only picked 5, whereas learning the ins and outs of advanced rhythmic concepts wouldn't suit something like radio rock.

    Though it doesn't answer the question so much in the way that it was asked, listening to a band like Symphony X (more specifically, V: The New Mythology Suite) can really help answer that question in a way that I feel it should be answered. Read the lyrics as you listen to the album and you'll get a pretty good idea of how to convey a thought to music on many different levels.

    Take a phrase like "Golden Days" or "Dream Within a Dream" and try to make out a handful of different things that they each mean to you, then go listen to those songs by Anubis gate. Seeing people take an idea to a product can be a great exercise that will uncover a lot of descrepancies in your songwriting.

    To answer your question though...

    1. I'm going to say to aim for modes as a first objective. It will help you break out of a box and learn new things and ultimately find more material and questions. The research you'll do getting to the understanding of it is as critical as or more critical than the information itself.

    2. Chord theory - because the amount of help it offers makes it a no-brainer for how long it takes to learn it.

    3. Knowing when to listen to the song as a listener and not as the composer. Know when enough is enough. Don't write a song where someone would say, "it gets good in a minute." Essentially, don't let your hopes for what the song could be on a mechanical level override what the song should be.

    4. Learn and practice every bit of information you can find on rhythm.

    5. Voice leading fo sho.
  10. Karmaic

    Karmaic SS.org Regular

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    Jan 18, 2017
    Rhythm and melody for sure. Soul and feel. Emotion. Deep, "emotional" chords and progressions hit home with a lot of people. Most people in fact. Dont try to make your songs overly complicated in terms of technique. Yeah, its "cool" (not really, unless it sounds AMAZING and chances are it doesnt) to blaze across the fretboard to try and impress your friends (they honestly dont care). But in general, a typical audience doesnt want to hear a 3 minute intro followed by a 7 minute solo. I dont care who you are, or how much you love metal, you get bored listening to that. And you dont need a pinch harmonic every other note. Ive seen a lot of songs butchered because the guitarist tries to make it all about his technical skills, and not about emotion and soul. There isnt any 1 scale/mode for writing good music. Hell, a lot of songs are chromatics! I write mostly out of minor.

    1. Emotion/melody
    2. Rythym
    3. Keep it simple
    4. Dont stray from the original feel
    5. Keep technique tasteful
  11. coffeeflush

    coffeeflush SS.org Regular

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    Feb 6, 2012
    1: Learn the notes on your fret board
    2: Learn to count beats
    3: Intervals (though the western style is not necessary)
    4: Frequency range of each of the instruments used

    Can't think of a 5th one. Actual song writing gets much more complex but at its most basic, this is enough in my humble uninformed inexperienced opinion.
  12. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Aug 17, 2004
    Somerville, MA
    This, so much.

    I'll take it one additional step further - I don't think you can even reduce music theory to distinct "tools" - I refer to theory as a "toolbox" too, but it's not like you can say "I'm going to use this one distinct little thing here and nothing else," because so much of this is interconnected and builds off everything else.

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