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isuckatcomposing

Is it bad to make a melody based of a chord progression?

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Posted (edited)

Is it better to:

make a melody, then make the harmony.

or

make the harmony, then make the melody.

It seems lately that I've been making my pieces follow a chord progression that I like, then make a melody, its just easier to find a melody than to make it out of thin air.

But the melodies seem to be kinda bland. But it is more structured.

Maybe I'm just a mediocre composer....

What are your thoughts?

Edited by isuckatcomposing

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, isuckatcomposing said:

make a melody, then make the harmony.

 

Yes. Melody is the essence of music, and all that chords are is the simultaneous occurrence of 3 or more different melody lines.

Every tune implies harmonic changes beneath it, and you can hear where these would occur on stressed beats. From there, it's just about identifying which harmonies would not only be consonant, but which ones would work for what you're trying to achieve contextually, voice-leading, etc.

If you start with a harmonic sequence, the resulting tune will become subservient to it; always working within the confines and pull of established chord tones. Remember that melody came before harmony in history, so it should be subservient to melody and not the other way around.

The reason you are struggling with this, is because you haven't developed your ability for phrasing or thematic structure yet.

The latter can be learned by reading up on things like "sentence and period" structure, which is the organization of motivic patterns and developments in a phrase of usually some multiple of 8, as well as contour: the shape of the melody.

The former is largely intuitive, and comes from developing not just your ear, but muscle memory and sense of rhythm. This is best done by listening to a lot of music, and learning to play music as well. A strong knowledge of voice-leading will also help you. It will also help to develop your voice and singing ability because most strong tunes are easily sung. This is basically, as instrumental ability and respect for the craft among a lot of modern composers has diminished, what has been lost in a lot of modern orchestral music and the like.

Melody and its phrasing are directly related to language due to the structural similarities between them. In fact, in the past, singing was used in Scandinavia to call cattle down from the high mountains. A call and response; the cows hear the singer and the singer can hear the cowbells — both of which would carry well through the fjords and mountains.

Curiously correlated, is the standard for orthography, vocabulary and general communication in the west is on a serious decline due to technology.

https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/the-decline-of-communication-due-to-technology.html

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171108-the-uncertain-future-of-handwriting

As an aside: I have no studies or anything to back this up, but it's my personal observation that a lot of the best tunesmiths out there, tend to also be very well-spoken individuals, with strong written communication ability to boot. 

 

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw

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I agree with @AngelCityOutlaw but with some second points.

Depending on the type of music you want to do the melody is the most important thing or not.

There are many styles in which it has a secondary role, or none.

On the other hand, I agree to a certain extent. I believe you can start with a chord progression and make the melody afterwards. Chords progression can, and should be, interesting. Not always the same four chords.

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On 10/7/2019 at 12:30 PM, Luis Hernández said:

Not always the same four chords.

Yes I totally agree with that, the only thing that I am willing to repeat is the full circle of 5ths progression.

But I always try to use different chords, and if not, change the inversion.

Thank you for your comment. 

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Use your instinct. 

I don't know what means you use to compose - my first sketches are always in pencil on paper - but if you're playing a few interesting chords and even a fragment of a melody suggests itself, a motif, pencil it somewhere. 

Likewise if you're jotting a melody, harmony might suggest itself in your mind. Ok, you don't want to interrupt writing the melody but try to recapture it as early as you can and jot it down (even just the bass might help - or treble if the melody is in the bass. Basic chord / triad numbers if you can).

Once you get some practice it gives a lot more spontaneity to a work. We develop our ways of working as we go.

.

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I think It would be interesting if I made a video of me showing you my composition process.(edit: looks like I made a video....)

Sometimes I will write something on paper, but most of the time, I use the computer.

 

 

Edited by isuckatcomposing

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The easiest way to do it is to start by determining the succession of chord roots that will appear in your composition. This succession of chord roots will form the main melody that the listener hears. After that, it's a matter of embellishing the main melody with notes that support rather than contradict it (otherwise you're changing the main melody to something other than what you intended) and which ideally will have some melodic value of their own. One can try reversing the process by adding the chord roots last, but in that case there will likely arise points where you have to make awkward melodic choices because the accompaniment you've written will only support certain notes as the roots.

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