indent-We've all, at some point, tried our hands at making music, whether it be for a game, a friend, or just for fun. We've all, also, gotten tired of not getting the right sounds out of that music, either settling for something less than desired, or just scrapping the entire thing. What went wrong? Why couldn't you make it work? The biggest problem in small time music composition on the GMC, and elsewhere, is a general lack of musical knowledge. Not to say no one knows anything or that those that don't know nothing; most people do have a small amount of musical knowledge and practice at their disposal. But what comes of this trial-and-error style of composition? Well, for one, these play-by-ear composers can often find themselves stuck in a situation, unable to find that ever important next note; Or maybe you find yourself forever getting stuck while trying to merge multiple parts together while they just refuse to harmonize. If you ever find yourself at a loss for what to do next in your composition, are just starting into the realm of musical composition, or maybe just want a general reference to make your song writing experience that much easier, this guide is for you.
Back to the Basics:
indent-Bear with me for a moment, as there is no better place to start in a guide than at the very basics of what you're explaining (leaves little room for ambiguity), so here we are. Music is, at its core, made up of individual tones called notes. In Western music, the most common form (and kind you will by composing, trust me) there are twelve different notes, respectively named C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, and B. A few of these listing may confuse you, like the '#' and 'b' symbols, and why in the world there are some listing with two named. Allow me to explain. In the chromatic scale (which contains all of the notes), there are seven base notes denoted with letter named, C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. But, wait, there are five more notes, right? (12-7=5) Yes, there are, and these five notes are made by adding either a sharp sign (#) or a flat sign (b) to a certain note; these signs either raise a note's pitch half a step (a step being the distance between two notes), which is done by a sharp, or lower the note's pitch half a step, which is done by a flat.
indent-Now that we've got the basic notes, sharps, and flat out of the way, you've hopefully noticed that in the note list, a bunch of sharp and flat notes are grouped together. These notes are called enharmonic notes. An enharmonic note is a note that is exactly the same as another another note: C# and Db, for instance, are enharmonic. Every sharp note has an enharmonic flat (the flat of the note above it), and every flat note has an enharmonic sharp (the sharp of the note below it). From the list, you'll also notice that there is no B#/Cb, nor is there an E#/Fb. These notes are enharmonic with C and F respectively and are not commonly used.
Figure 1.1 - All of the notes.
Scales and Harmony:
indent-Now that you've got a working understanding of what music is made of, we're going to take a look at how to put these pieces together. As you can see, when listing the musical notes, I always started with C. C is the base of most tonal measurement and theory. Why is this? To understand why C is such a popular note, we need to go into the next grouping of notes beyond chromatic (all 12 notes, if you don't recall): diatonic.
indent-A diatonic scale is comprised of seven notes. If you haven't seen the connection yet, there just happen to be seven notes when flats and sharps are excluded. The reason for C's fame is that the diatonic scale, when started at C, contains C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. This is called the C major scale. Scales are named after the note they start on, or the root, so a major scale starting on A would be the A major scale. Every scale has different notes, but the C major scale is the only one that contains no sharps or flats, making it the easiest to work with and remember. If you look at a piano, all of the white keys in the entire keyboard are part of the C major scale. But how is this, if scales only have seven notes? Every time you reach the end of a scale, the next note is a higher version of the first, or root, note. This is called an octave. So, for instance, if you played C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, you would have played two octave of the C major scale. Now instead of trying to drill into your head all of the scales and how to find them, I've provided you with this nifty little diagram.
Figure 2.1 - List of all major scales (use enharmonic to find unlisted scales)
indent-Now that you're down on scales, harmony is coming right on down the road. Basically, a harmonic note is a note that goes with another note (and sounds good). Chords are made of harmonic notes, in most cases the 1st, or root, the 3rd and the 5th. What are these strange things? Well, the 1st, or root, is the base of the chord. It's also the note that the chord is named after (so, a chord with root C is a C chord). The 3rd of a chord is the third note of the roots scale. So, for a C chord, the 3rd is E (C, D, E... Just count up the scale). The 5th is derived in the same way. The 5th of a C chord is G. So, a C major chord is made up of C, E, and G notes all played in unison.
indent-Knowing how to construct a chord also helps with multiple instrument harmonies. So, if you have one instrument, maybe a violin, and another instrument, a trumpet, for instance, and you want them to play separate parts at the same time, but don't know how to make their parts harmonize, look at the notes of a chord. Say your violin is playing a C in measure one, so, you look at the notes of a C chord: C, E, and G. You can pick the C, or the E, or the G for the trumpet to play, and it will harmonize, creating a C major chord. In the next measure, you may have the violin playing an A and two D's. Well, to find the trumpet part, look at the A and D chords (A chord: A, C#, E; D chord: D, F#, A). In short, for harmonizing parts, the easiest method is to pick notes from the root's chord.
Example 1 (Listen) - Violin and Trumpet Harmony
Figure 2.2 - Here's what's in the example. A violin and a trumpet harmonizing.
Edited by Freelancer Studios, 15 January 2009 - 05:17 PM.