Riff or Melody?

Mark Badham posted this 16 October 2015

Writing songs everyday is difficult musicians say melody first... then the riff.. l start with a riff it's just the way l like to begin a possible song. Especially now with the help Levi's Chord encyclopedia dvd only just getting to grips with this but l hear and feel the difference in my guitar playing already.

How do you start to create a song?

Fretmagic6

0 Votes
11 Comments
Order By: Standard | Newest | Votes
Jack Daniels posted this 21 October 2015

I guess it really depends upon whether the song is purely instrumental, or is it a song with singing (with a theme) where the guitar has its specific parts.

I think Levi would agree with this, learn your circle of fourths and fifths. The circle's design is helpful in composing and harmonizing melodies, building chords, and modulating to different keys within a composition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circleoffifths

0 Votes
Chromaticlord posted this 21 October 2015

i would start with a good riff and build over that once you got the riff written down things start to fall into place.but saying that you need melody for lead lines over the riff so i think both is essential.you could write a clean intro part that leads into a riff too.i would go back to old skool writing like bands like black sabbath led zep deep purple lynyrd skynyrd cream etc etc.

0 Votes
Levi Clay posted this 21 October 2015

I wouldn't agree about the importance of the circle of 5ths actually. I mean, obviously you should know it, and I use it for practicing scales and arpeggios to remove bias - it's great for that. You should absolutely know it, yeah, but don't expect it to yield many results beyond the Beatles or Beach Boys

As a song writing tool it breeds predictability. I was classically trained, and part of that was the study of classical composition. You learn all the tricks employed by all the great composers then wonder why everything you write sounds outdated. It took me YEARS to move away from that (I've only just got to a place where I use my ears more than my head) but when you do it's for the best.

"Modulating to different keys within a composition" is something for the classroom. If it sounds good, it is good.

Thanks for the comments on the Encyclopedia, I've done so much of that stuff now mixed with ear training that voice leading is a big part of the way I compose. So I may start with a riff, but there's often a line in there that I can draw from to find the melody. I write a lot of big chords with notes on top that you want to sing if that makes sense?

0 Votes
Levi Clay posted this 21 October 2015

Also, the circle has nothing to do with building chords or harmonies - it's purely a relationship between keys, and by relationship I mean it merely shows you which keys are the closest to the one you're in.

Last edited 21 October 2015

0 Votes
Jack Daniels posted this 22 October 2015

Levi, I'll gladly defer to you when it comes to musical education and theory. It's taken me years for my ear training to jibe with my fingers and fretboard, I seemingly "Learned The Hard Way Everytime" - Jim Croce. When discussing chord progressions and choices of chords with my jazz guitar buddy, and what helped him to evolve and diversify musically, he stated that having a knowledge of the various chord forms, and at least 4 positions for each of those particular chords up and down the neck helped him tremendously. The "Mel Bay Rhythm Guitar Chord System Book" was and still is amongst his favorite educational books that he ever came across on the subject.

0 Votes
Jack Daniels posted this 22 October 2015

BTW Levi, I'm not trying to take away from or to detract from any sales of your LL educational material as I know you've got things well in hand on that front. :thumbsup:

0 Votes
Jack Daniels posted this 22 October 2015

You gave me a great idea Levi, why not expound on the Circle of 5th's/4th's in an iGuitar Mag column of yours? What I mean by this is, to do a cursory introduction to the Circle of 5th's/4th's, and then discuss the why's and wherefores of (why/how) it doesn't necessarily work for modern (composers/guitarists) and your suggested alternative ideas that would work better for modern musicians within the context of present day music.

Whether you do it in a column, or in an instructional DVD format, no doubt you'd garner interest and a following.

Last edited 23 October 2015

0 Votes
Levi Clay posted this 23 October 2015

When discussing chord progressions and choices of chords with my jazz guitar buddy, and what helped him to evolve and diversify musically, he stated that having a knowledge of the various chord forms, and at least 4 positions for each of those particular chords up and down the neck helped him tremendously. The "Mel Bay Rhythm Guitar Chord System Book" was and still is amongst his favorite educational books that he ever came across on the subject.

I'm still failing to see what that has to do with the circle of 5ths? That's learning a lot of chords, that can never be a bad idea.

The circle is nothing to do with chords, it's about a relationship between keys.

As arpeggio practice when I wake up I might play

Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 (D7) Gm7 C7 Fmaj7 (G7) Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7 (C7) Fm7 Bb7 Ebmaj7 etc

that's ii-V-Is moving up in 4ths with secondary dominants added

it brings balance to my practice

0 Votes
Jack Daniels posted this 27 October 2015

I caught you (understood you) on the first go-around. As you can see my post that you're commenting to speaks nothing of Circles eh?

Last edited 27 October 2015

0 Votes
robert poyser posted this 17 December 2015

writing from riffs is OK but developing a vocal melody on top can be challenging. if its a get up and bop track then yes Riff go for it.

But if it's a pop/country/rock intie ect song type song, I start with simple chord structure and put a melody on top, you may need to change the chords around a bit to fit the melody, then comes the words to fit the melody. then back to the chords and mess with the rhythm and riffs, and fills to compliment the vocal melody and add excitement, key look for a hook either in the verse or the chorus and milk it a bit. the hook can be musical or vocal or both. then arrange the sections of the song i.e a mid eight, intro, outro (typically: into, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, mid/lead, verse, chorus outro, get off). arrangement can be anything realy take a few songs you like and note down their arrangement, yep they are all different, I bet, unless they are Status Quo :-))

But if it's a meaningful song, then the words come first then a melody and from the melody you take key notes from the beginning of bars and pop a suitable chord structure (maybe a chord change mid way through the bar). above all the chords should support the melody and not dominate.

0 Votes
TiEsQue TiEsQue posted this 18 December 2015

I usually start with rhythm or a lyric and things develop from there.

As for what theory helps most, I think the most important thing is to have an understanding of basic song structure (verse, chorus, bridge etc) and each element's role within the song. It's also very helpful to know your diatonic chords ie to be able to harmonize the major scale in chords, which will give you a basic toolbox of chords to draw from. Of course if you keep it diatonic all the time things can get boring, but knowing what chords "sound right" within the key is a good starting place. Knowing some cool chord voicings also makes things interesting so you're not just playing the same old root position chords everyone learned from a Mel Bay book in the first week of playing.

0 Votes