Music Theory and Harmony

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EllenDXY / Ellen - 4mo+5dy ago
Hi Kompozers What do you think leads to a better song? Writing a melody over a chord progression OR writing chords over a melody. (The melody can be a vocal and/or an instrument) Why? And do you have a preference?


   

5 people like this: snuffles, miclesmusicproductions, Mapleman, BraddersBass, liljoe6string

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sriracha   commented 4mo+5dy ago


I usually have chord progressions first, melody second. I've done it the other way around, but not too often. I did a bebop tune called "Birdland" that worked out that way. Given the genre, the chord progressions where pretty much SOP and in my head as I worked out the melody, etc. so I don't know if that really counts. I've written tunes to singer's acapella melodies before as well. That can work if the singer hears the whole picture in their head and I then can "hear" that in the melody. But I find that much more difficult. As to which results in a better song, I think that is going to be composer specific...I generally feel that building the framework and adding melody makes the strongest, but the onus of making it work is on whoever creates the melody. I read back over that and huh...that was a lot of words to say "It's subjective". :D

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sriracha   commented 4mo+4dy ago


I would note that harmonic structure dictates melody - even in atonal music.

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LeRoc   commented 4mo+5dy ago


I've done both, and don't have a strong preference. So yeah, it's subjective.

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BraddersBass   commented 4mo+4dy ago


I have always done chords first followed by melody however my last song on compose I did the other way found the melody and build the chords around that! So either way works for me but I have come to think the hook is in the melody not the progression. Do you think it?s related to primarily playing an instrument of being a singer! David

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sriracha   commented 4mo+4dy ago


It's funny - I don't write melodies for my songs as I'm not a singer and I want singer's to feel like they are in control of that part of things. I do think of my guitar parts as hooks in most cases as the way I tend to play implies melodic content. So I think there are different types of hooks in a song.

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leightwing   commented 4mo+4dy ago


My understanding is that by and large, most songwriters work with a harmonic structure to start, which in large part explains the popularity of "top-lining," and in my opinion often leads to very predictable results and is the reason that most popular music bores me. It's very hard to work with a melody first to create an accessible song with interesting harmonies ..UNLESS.. the melody is super simple and/or clearly suggests what the harmony should be. My songs tend to be more harmonically complex and texturally driven, so I almost always start out by working out a pretty clear harmonic roadmap. That said, I try to be sensitive to the lyric and I'm always looking for ways to "text paint" a word or phrase by adjusting or straying from the blue-print. It can be as simple as changing a chord or adding a 2/4 measure, etc., but sometimes it can involve a complete harmonic overhaul. It's hard to do this. For instance, when a lyric inspires a melodic phrase that doesn't fit the template, my first instinct is to change the lyric, and I have to force myself to let that idea drive a new harmonic path. This is next-level stuff for me. It's just not intuitive. However, it should also be noted that my intent is not to write popular music. One of the things that has helped has been working with a lyricist. When the lyric is already written it has a way of forcing the issue, especially if the number of metric feet per line is not symmetrical, or even consistent.

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EllenDXY   commented 4mo+4dy ago


Hey all, thanks for responding. I agree it's subjective, like almost if not everything in music. I usually start with a chord progression too and then add a melody (or melody phrases). Singing topline is fairly easy for me. But nowadays I force myself to start with a melody (and basic rhythm ) first. It is difficult and this does not necessarily result in better songs, but I do feel the result is more interesting. And at the same time, it is also very educational for me (learning and applying music theory). It's a pity that so few "just vocals" collabs are started ...

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leightwing   commented 4mo+4dy ago


I'm a singer as well, and though I'm happy to just work on my own songs, I keep listening for a "song" to sing on - if only to be part of the community and help out other musicians. But all too often what I find posted is a groove with a set of chords looking for a top-liner. Sometimes the form is not easy to pick out, and it's almost never clear where or what the original poster wants for melodic phrasing, placement of cadences, etc. These posts are essentially instrumentals that have no melodic content. The irony is that they are presented as "songs" by supposed "songwriters" But they are not songs. (Look up the definition). I'm sorry to be blunt, but you get what you pay for. Most of the resulting songs that come out of them are awkward and uninspired, unless the top-liner is both an exceptional singer and lyricist. Even then, it's a crap-shoot, precisely because I believe the best songs are conceived with both harmony and melody in concert. Now, on rare occasions, I see lyrics presented, and even rarer, somewhat of an outline of where they should go. Almost never is there a guide track with the melody played or even sung (it doesn't have to be professional). If you're a songwriter, you should at least be able to write and record a melody, or the outline of one - with or without a lyric. You don't have to be a singer to do this. The singer may change every note - that's ok ..sometimes it's a register issue. Or the lyric takes the phrasing to a place that you didn't expect. That's ok too - but please, throw the singer/lyricist a bone! Sorry to rant. Hah.. I guess I'm just jealous because I'm not (or refuse to be) a top-liner.

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EllenDXY   commented 4mo+4dy ago


I hope you're not jealous of me, because I don't consider myself to be a topliner ;) I agree 100% on what you are saying (typing?) here. If someone really wants a singer on the track, he/ she should invest some time and effort in these things. But that's a topic for another discussion.

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miclesmusicproductions   commented 4mo+3dy ago


I think there should be no rules in music and only imagination is a limit. Breaking the rules has created new styles, genres, and unusual ideas led to unique, interesting productions. I think chord progression first might limit your options for melody but there is no rule I guess.