Have chords, wrote melody, sounds atrocious

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Milkymalk
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Have chords, wrote melody, sounds atrocious

#1 Post by Milkymalk » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:41 pm

Hi there. Let me get this out first: I don't actually play any instruments. I can read notes by counting the lines, and I know what keys are and what sharp and flat means. Other than that, music lessons at school almost exclusively consisted of singing instead of theory.
I decided to give it a try and write a few short and simple songs for my game myself using LMMS. I'm fairly imaginative with tunes and have a good sense of rhythm, so I thought why not.

First I got accustomed to the program interface and tried around a bit, producing two simple songs that are nothing really to speak of, but that I can use somewhere. Time to aim higher.

Now I found myself a nice loop of guitar chords (Pachelbel's Canon, for those curious ones) which by itself sounds good and have been trying to write a melody to it, but everything that sounds good in my head makes me want to delete it instantly when arranged to the loop.

While I'm aware that I can't expect to become a pro at composing in two days I'm wondering if there is some simple rule which notes go well with a chord and which to avoid. I would just read up on it, but quite frankly, I don't even know where to start.
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Ezri
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Re: Have chords, wrote melody, sonds atrocious

#2 Post by Ezri » Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:06 pm

Good luck learning how to compose! I'm not much of one myself, but I can play a couple instruments and am classically trained.
It's good that you know what you do already, but from how it sounds I definitely think you'll have to do a little more reading. I don't have any recommendations for that off-hand (this looks alright, although maybe a tad intimidating), but hopefully some other people on the forums do.
Milkymalk wrote:I'm wondering if there is some simple rule which notes go well with a chord and which to avoid.
In general, rather than working chord-by-chord I would suggest thinking more about the key of the whole song. In order to avoid dissonance, each chord (and consequently, each note) has to fit within the same key. For example, in C major there aren't any notes that would need to be sharped/flatted, so if you added one of those it would sound off. As long as you're consistent about this you should be okay, but you will have to pay attention to the individual sharps and flats that each key requires. (C major is nice because it's the simplest in that regard.)

I don't know if that was helpful at all (I don't think I'm the best teacher, lol), but hopefully it makes enough sense.
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Milkymalk
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Re: Have chords, wrote melody, sounds atrocious

#3 Post by Milkymalk » Wed Sep 24, 2014 11:20 pm

Ezri wrote:(this looks alright, although maybe a tad intimidating)
A little intimidating yes, but it was a good read, thank you! Although I already knew about the circle of 5ths, it gave me interesting background information. As I'm more used to maths and logical systems than stoically remembering stuff, it will probably help me a lot wrapping my head around this whole subject.
My guess now is that I have to set notes to chords they are a part of (or transponded whole octaves) if I want them to harmonize.

To give a better overview I attached two songs I made. "Serene" is one of the two songs I did earlier, "Relaxed" ist the unfinished one I am trying around with now (third try, I scrapped the first two melodies). They are in .ogg format, so I had to archive them to attach them.
babysteps.zip
two songs a total amateur did
(1.7 MiB) Downloaded 36 times
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Re: Have chords, wrote melody, sounds atrocious

#4 Post by MayPeX » Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:07 am

As for my personal input regarding melody, you could try looking at the Pentatonic scale if you haven't already.

For those who don't know here's a brief description.

The Pentatonic scale consists of fives notes within a scale. In Major keys it is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th notes. So imagine the C Major scale.

C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

A Pentatonic scale of this key would be the following: C, D, E, G, A and finally the root note C again.

A video to illustrate the scale.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sxIXTCUy9Q

Why is this important? The Pentatonic scale has been used extensively in Blues, Rock, Country, Pop and R&B. The scale is considered to be the easiest to learn due to how the notes all work together naturally. This is not to say you can play these five notes in any random order and have it sound like J.S. Bach, but you can play with these notes together without the worry having to resolve the issue of leading notes and other melodic problems. Even today the Pentatonic scale is used a lot in popular music.

It isn't the answer to everything, but it can be a good starting point for creating and messing around with melodies.

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Re: Have chords, wrote melody, sounds atrocious

#5 Post by laiktail » Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:41 am

Just one tip that could be useful. As a general rule, the melody and chord sound good together when the melody is a note that is part of that chord. For example, let's say you've got the C major chord. If you hit any of C, E, G, then the melody will sound "correct". But how you get to that note is completely up to you and then that's what makes it interesting. I wouldn't end a complete phrase without ending on a note outside the chord because it can make sound dissonant, but music is always full of exceptions.

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Milkymalk
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Re: Have chords, wrote melody, sounds atrocious

#6 Post by Milkymalk » Tue Sep 30, 2014 3:09 pm

@MaypeX & laiktail:
Thank you, those are useful tips. I hope I can get something done soon that sounds nicer than those examples I gave.
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