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Making Music - A Beginner’s Guide To Composing Tips & tricks on how to compose a song

#1 User is offline   JpQ Icon

  • コーヒー先生
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Posted 26 January 2017 - 09:11 AM


Yo! コーヒー先生 JpQ here, hopefully you enjoyed my latest composition for SHOCKING★TRUTH, The Answer, if you're interested on the composition of the shortened version of トナリにいる ~ Near You , bear with me for a moment while I do my best trying to explain what happened and why, and what are the consequences.
This is my first time writing a guide in English, so feedback (whether positive or negative) would be absolutely wonderful!

Who is Sensei?

Finnish multi-instrumentalist composer of SHOCKING★TRUTH who loves coffee, arranging songs and teaching music theory.

Attached files and links you need for this lesson

Folder containing Midi and sheets
Near you Full version SoundCloud
Near You Short version SoundCloud


This post is about creating a song. Now I won't tell you directly how to make a song and try to make you follow it without thinking about anything. No, I'll focus on giving you the tools to songwriting. The most important thing when you're making a song is that you have TIME! That is what everyone who makes songs needs, good time to make songs! Time to be alone and nobody disturbing you or you disturbing anyone. Something to record with and notepad is always a plus (phone for example).

This guide comes with a Dropbox link to a midi file "Near You Short Ver", so you can use it as your own little sandbox, play around, change notes, see what happens and how it affects the song (You can also keep on track on what I'm talking about a little bit better, starting from rhythm section).
If it starts to sound really awful or weird in a bad way, you can always go back to the start by opening a new file in your workstation and opening the .mid-file. Midi is completely free to use, though I'm licencing its usage under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND).

First, keep in mind that everyone has their own way to songwriting, meaning that the order I do or explain things in, shouldn't be your main focus on this guide. If you don't know where to start, here's some ideas on what to do first:
-Chord progression
I'll cover most of these in this guide, in the order I made the song.
Remember, this guide is meant for you, a vocaloid tuner. Therefore I do my best to try keep terms such that every Piapro/vocaeditor user would understand what I'm talking about.

Table of Contents

Let's take a quick look at the construction of this guide. It will consist of 7 different chapters (and two extra chapters, one between chapters #2 and #3 for intermediate theory and second one between chapters #6 and #7 for rhythm of melody). To help you navigate, you can find the content of each chapter from the headlines.

1. Basic Theory and Terms

2. Chord Progressions
More theory on chord progressions.

3. Structure of the Song
Song construction in overall.

4. Rhythm section
Rhythm guitars, Bass and Drums.

5. Lead & Support Tracks
Riffs (which includes synths and lead guitar-riffs)

6. Lyrics
Short guide on ”how to make lyrics”.

7. Vocals
Adapting lyrics in melody,
”Why doesn't my melody sound good?”.

If you think you know your theory, you may move onto the fourth chapter right away, and come back to the first one if you find something you don't quite understand. Also, my sincerest apologies if you find me mentioning H when I mean B or mentioning B when I mean Bb, I'll try to keep in Piapro's terms, but I grew up with germanic system.

1# Basic Theory and Terms


2# Chord Progressions


2.5# Scales in theory and in action


3# Structure of the song

4# Rhythm section

5# Lead & Support Tracks


6# Lyrics

6.5# Rhythm Melody & Lyrics

7# Vocals

How are we feeling? Previous two chapters actually didn't reveal that much about making melodies? Oh no, we have to fix this! Here's some tips from Sensei!

-Start with the 1st, 3rd or 5th of the root note and go upwards or downwards the scale in steps and every now and then skip a note in the scale.
Keep in mind that every now and then, playing the same note in row is ok. For example 廢墟少女 ~ Cinder Ella has lots of repeated notes in verses.

-Check the rhythm section. Do the rhythm of the melody based on that and see if it collides with the lead & support section. Adjust the rhythm to give the melody its own space.

- A good melody line is simple! Sometimes it's easier to make the melody with ¼ or 1/8 length notes and then change some into 1/16 later.

-Don't jump too far from the note melody currently is at! If you make a jump from C3 to A4, it may sound awkward and the singer might have problems finding the right note.

-Sing it yourself! When you have finished a melody, or are struggling with a certain note, try singing it yourself. If you think that it's a bit hard to make the jump or if the rhythm of the melody is difficult, make it simpler! Try something different!

-Take breaks! Can't make that beautiful vocal line? It's impossible to play that riff with your saxophone? Take 10 minutes off from the song and do something else. Read what's happening in VO! Take another peek at this guide, maybe you missed something! Write something about how this guide doesn't work and how I wasted your precious time! Add some feedback so I know these hours of writing didn't go to waste! Okay now go back to the song and try to take a different view on it. What if you use the same note again? What if you go downwards instead of upwards? Take a look at the midi and see how I did certain things; it could help you get a way around the problem.

- Don't force yourself to copy your idol Yes, your favourite producer makes fantastic (Insert genre here), but what if you try composing something that just comes out naturally instead?

- Don't be afraid of ”Composer's Block” You just can't get a grip of composing a new piece? It happens to everyone, you'll get over it! Why not try arranging other people's songs for a while? Now this would be a good way to learn from your idol!

- How does Sensei do it? If you haven't checked out my compositions/arrangements yet, they're oriented more towards Chiptune/Rock styles, meaning that instruments I frequently use include: Guitar, Bass, Drums, Saw-, Square-oscillator and of course a Vocaloid. That means that rather than spending full day to design a synth, I spend that time trying to get as good sound as I can get from an amp. As a composer I'm a morning person. I always compose during mornings, even if this meant that I need to get up 5 am to get time for composing before work. I wake up, get any instrument I feel like playing and start composing. I try making a chord progression or a riff first usually. I don't tend to think about lyrics after I just woke up, so I focus on those afterwards when the instrumental minus melody is done. I'll think about the atmosphere and tone and what I want to tell with the music and what the song tries to tell me when I'm listening to it. I tend to spend the afternoon managing song-files or recording, while in the evening is spent recording stuff I wrote in the morning and writing lyrics. After the clock hits around 20:00 I stop doing all the composing/arranging/lyric stuff and do something else, like reading light novels, checking VO (It seriously takes me 2 hours to write a single sentence over here), playing games, go to pub– anything that gets my mind away from the songs is good enough since it just becomes a burden if I keep thinking about it all day long every minute of the week. Ah, no sorry I don't know any witchcraft to help make songwriting easier.

That's all folks! Thank you for reading, whether it was the whole wall of text or just a single chapter. I hope this guide was helpful and answered some of the questions you had in mind. If it didn't, take a minute and respond with a post or PM me a question! If it did, let me know!
I'm glad if was able to be of help!

コーヒー先生 JpQ

#2 User is offline   Ame-san Icon

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Posted 26 January 2017 - 10:57 PM

I need this. Thank yooooouuuu

#3 User is offline   Hatsune-hakase Icon

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 01:35 AM

Nice guide! Some people might want a little more knowledge of music theory, like knowing how to build chords, so here are some other resources that I recommend:

MusicTheory.net is a great site with lots of lessons and trainers for basic music theory.

The Music Theory subreddit is a good place to ask any music-theory questions, because there are lots of people there who can answer them.

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