When scoring a film I am constrained not only by the emotion and action of the scene, but also by its length, which could be anywhere from 5 seconds to a few minutes. Limitations make it so much easier to compose! You might want to set some limitations on your music too. Set an intention to write 2 verses and 1 chorus for your first song, or a short 16-measure theme for your instrumental piece. You might also want to limit yourself to playing in one key. In these videos on composing, the limitation I set was that both my melody notes and chords will be within the key of C. To review the chords in any key, watch Composing – How To Write a Song or Piece, PART 1 and print out the chord chart.
Once you have come up with a short melody you like on the 1-chord (C Major), you can start to expand on the melody. Just work on one short phrase at a time, finding a melody, then the chords to go with it. Or you can start with a short progression of chords, then find a melody you like to go with them.
Keep your piece short and simple. Keep moving forward on your piece even if you aren’t loving it; try to always complete a piece before starting a new one. As with all things, you will get better at composing with time and practice. Don’t expect your first try to be a masterpiece! REALLY, lower your expectations, and enjoy the process of learning without judgement.
If you are drawing a complete blank, take a walk outside, or get in your car and drive, bringing your phone or digital recorder with you. Sometimes when we aren’t so hyper-focused, the creativity flows more easily. While you are driving or walking, think about a memory, an emotion or a story you might like to tell, and start humming melodies. Be sure to record the melodies you have been humming. Later you can listen back and expand on the melodies that interest you.
Thanks for joining me in this composing adventure! Let us know what you are writing in the comments below! With love and music, Gaili
Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul, Songs of the Seasons, and a wide-ruled manuscript book for your creative endeavors!
2 Replies to “Composing – How To Write a Song or Piece, Part 3 Melody and Chords”
Thanks Galli. This is exactly what I need. I did manage to write a melody in C and record it on my iPad, but I haven’t actually written down the notes on paper yet. I wonder if there is any software/iPad app that helps with that? Thanks again, Julia
I see that there is an app called: Notation Pad-Sheet Music Score, for the ipad and it’s inexpensive. I haven’t used it, but it gets good reviews. I use Sibelius for my sheet music but it’s expensive and complicated and probably more than you need. Thanks for asking! If you get it, let me know what you think.