Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
Joined
·
5,248 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I really need to start putting together some tunes of my own. It's seems everything is some complex but in reality my favorite tunes are always simple. These tunes are also the ones everyone plays.

In any case, where do you start and how to avoid getting mired in the over thinking harmony.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
2,243 Posts
Welcome to the composers' club! Writing and improvising are my two favorite parts of being a musician. There has been nothing more satisfying in my life than slowly, sometimes VERY slowly, developing tunes that I actually like. (It took a long time for me to actually start liking them.) But I'm also really curious about how other people's writing processes work, so I look forward to how others chime in here. There's no right or wrong way to write a tune, and ideas can come any time, anywhere. Here are a few examples I posted on another forum I click around on:

This tune came to be while I was brand-new in Brooklyn, mostly gigless, more down time on my hands than I wanted, and messing around with keyboard patterns in odd time signatures. I think it's probably my favorite tune that I've written, it was really just a series of happy musical accidents that stuck.

This tune developed over a long time, probably a couple years, while I was messing around with contemporary hip hop production ideas. The end result is probably way too complicated and nerdy for a contemporary hip hop track, but it turned into something useful anyway!

Finally, this old tune I wrote for Snarky Puppy (maybe the first tune I ever finished that I actually liked!) originated as a riff that started running through my head somewhere on highway 287 between Amarillo TX and Wichita Falls TX while I was driving from Albuquerque to Denton. I had to pull over at a rest area so I could write it down before I forgot it! Bernard Wright ended up recording a ridiculously awesome synth solo on it, and for years that was the best thing on my resume, by far.

I've had other ideas pop into my head while walking around, in the shower, or other places where recording it isn't possible or ideal... sometimes I've gotten them down in time, sometimes they're lost forever! All part of the agonizing and beautiful impermanence of life, I guess.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,493 Posts

·
Forum Contributor 2017
Joined
·
8,071 Posts
Chord changes and head first. I use Band In A box to create compositions that I then take to my band to interpret. Sometimes I come up with licks and phrases while warming up or from something I've heard and I will go to my keyboard and come up chord changes that work with the "lick."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
457 Posts
Welcome to the composers' club! Writing and improvising are my two favorite parts of being a musician. There has been nothing more satisfying in my life than slowly, sometimes VERY slowly, developing tunes that I actually like. (It took a long time for me to actually start liking them.) But I'm also really curious about how other people's writing processes work, so I look forward to how others chime in here. There's no right or wrong way to write a tune, and ideas can come any time, anywhere. Here are a few examples I posted on another forum I click around on:

This tune came to be while I was brand-new in Brooklyn, mostly gigless, more down time on my hands than I wanted, and messing around with keyboard patterns in odd time signatures. I think it's probably my favorite tune that I've written, it was really just a series of happy musical accidents that stuck.

This tune developed over a long time, probably a couple years, while I was messing around with contemporary hip hop production ideas. The end result is probably way too complicated and nerdy for a contemporary hip hop track, but it turned into something useful anyway!
These two lead to "404 error" for me...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
457 Posts
I apologize in advance for any "woo-woo-ness" of what follows. This is just how I do it.

I compose by ear, not theory, and always with voice and/or an instrument. Theory only comes into play when I'm charting the tune out afterwards. So when I'm writing I never 'think' "where should I go?". I have to hear it in my head, then go find it. Sometimes it's really interesting to see what works or goes with what harmonically when you don't think about how you're approaching it theoretically first. My ear doesn't pre-judge what it hears or have criteria for what's inside or outside of a particular box.

I always start with the changes first. To me, they are the 'landscape' and define the terrain of the tune. Guitar is my chordal instrument, so that's what I use to establish the changes. The melody is then like the character than inhabits and dances inside that landscape. So both a part of it but also separate and moving inside it.

Melody comes only after the changes are firmly established, and nearly always I sing it to find it. I say "find" it because I feel the melody is already there, latent inside the changes and I'm just teasing it out into the open. I sing it rather than play it because on either sax or guitar I will tend to be influenced by how I 'get around' on those instruments and in songwriting I'm not at all interested in rehashing familiar patterns, I'm trying to bring something new into the world, and singing it is for me the easiest to manifest what I'm hearing.

I don't want my songs to be 'crafted' through following instructions, or assembled from a musical parts bin. I want to be a musical midwife rather than a musical plumber.

I'm happier with some of my tunes than others, but the ones I like the best tend to be the ones where I'm most able to get out of the way and just let the music come through.

Anyway, that's how I do it and here's one with my band:

https://soundcloud.com/radical-departure/psychefunkafus
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
457 Posts
Those tunes are cool!

They all seem like they could be Snarky Puppy tunes to me.

I'm curious; these tunes feel very 'modern' in that manner of SP tunes. They hit me less like 'songs' and more like 'compositions'. Is that how you see them? They seem to me to consist more of 'movements' than a verse/chorus/bridge (etc) 'song' structure.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,473 Posts
After reading this earlier I started trying to write a song based on the changes in Sonnymoon for Two. It quickly started to sound like a solo not a melody. Makes me think learning to write songs could do a lot to improve my improvising which often starts off pretty good then becomes an aimless collection of licks
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,578 Posts
Make it singable.
Be aware of canyons and hills in the contour of melody.
Not playing a certain note, (especially a prominent one; 1 3 or 5) can create an unconscious need to hear it.
The most direct melodies stay in the scale without many accidentals.
When writing out of key notes use them to change keys.
These ideas apply to tin pan alley tunes and pop not necessarily straight ahead instrumental music.
 

·
SOTW Columnist and Forum Contributor 2015-2016
Joined
·
3,890 Posts
Develop the melody first, then experiment with the changes after IMO. Lots of options depending on how the melody goes...often times simple is better. Be sure to share once you write one!

- Saxaholic
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
2,243 Posts
I'm curious; these tunes feel very 'modern' in that manner of SP tunes. They hit me less like 'songs' and more like 'compositions'. Is that how you see them? They seem to me to consist more of 'movements' than a verse/chorus/bridge (etc) 'song' structure.
Well, I was a member of and wrote music for Snarky Puppy during some very formative years of my life, and Mike League and I have a lot of similar influences. Same for the other guys in that group who write tunes, like Bob Lanzetti, Justin Stanton, etc... we all kind of bonded together in school over our similar influences, so it makes sense that we'd share a lot of musical values when we write.

Playing a lot of Mike's music actually opened my head up quite a bit to thinking about compositions in a more big-picture, storytelling kind of way. The tune isn't done until it actually accomplishes a journey of some kind and makes a feeling happen. There are a billion different ways to do that, but a lot of younger writers just write a few cool ideas, use it as a vehicle to shred, and miss out on the whole concept of a whole piece of music as a compelling story in itself. I tend to write in sections, usually at least three per tune, and they do repeat, but with dynamic building, textural changes, things like that. I do end up finding my own formulas that creep in, and that's ok, but I also often prefer the tunes in which I surprise myself with form and don't really know what's gonna happen until editing it down into something useable!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,473 Posts
The analogy with storytelling reminds me of something I read about how writers create fiction. A writer was describing two basic writing styles they had observed, Some writers knew exactly what story they wanted to write and sat down at the keyboard to implement their plan. Others had no plan and just let everything evolve as they wrote it. I think one of the writers said when they sat down each morning to write they would think “I wonder what my characters are going to do today?”

So far I’ve only managed to write a few nice phrases that don’t really seem to go anywhere. Even though I’m not trying to tell a story or express anything it seems it would help to have a purpose or theme to guide me even a simple thought like “it was a strenuous hike up the mountain but once I got to the top the view was gorgeous “
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,473 Posts
Finally found a place to start — 25 or so years ago a friend and I were in a goofy mood and started singing a silly song while driving in his car. The melody stuck in my head. I can’t get lost trying to make it overly complicated because (1) it’s just the simple kind of thing you might hear a 5 year old sing to themself and (2) I want to keep it the way it is to memorialize a fun afternoon with a friend.

Not sure how to figure out what chords will fit but it can’t be too difficult
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Top