Instruction manual - Pizzicato 3.6.2 EN760 - Revision of 2013/05/29


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Composing music (4)

Subjects covered:

Melodies and rhythms [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

In this lesson, we provide you exercises to stimulate inspiration by creating melodies, rhythms and instrumentations. We will use the chords progressions made during the previous lesson. You can also use progressions from the Chords library - 3.piz document located in the Music folder (in DataEN).

A melody is a succession of notes played by an instrument. A melody is often made by musical sentences alternated with rests. We often speak of a voice, by analogy with the singing human voice. With each note of a melody, a rhythmic value is associated and specifies the duration of the note.

Just as for a chord, a melody will use the notes of a tonality at a given time. When several voices are played together and with different notes, they form a chord. The notes of a chord can indeed be played by different instruments.

  • Drag the chords folder into the Score 1, in measure 1. The chords appear in the measures.
  • Organize the chords notes so as to form melodies. The only modification you can make is to move one or more notes by one or two octaves up or down (it corresponds to a vertically motion of the note by 7 positions on the staff). Use the following rules to improve the progressions and to create melodies:
  1. Create melodies with a maximum of consecutive notes, i.e. melodies which go up or down by one position on the staff. A melody will often be made of consecutive notes alternating with more significant jumps.
  2. Give an independence to the 3 or 4 melodies. For that, prevent all voices from moving in the same direction. Use contrary movements, i.e. a voice which goes up while the other goes down.
  3. When a note is common between two successive chords, try to keep it within the same melody (for example the second note of the two chords). You can also tie them.
  4. Try to specially take care of the upper and lower melodies, because they are particularly well noticed.
  5. When using the V-I cadences, preferably use the fundamental note (i.e. the note on which the chord is built) in the lower melody. It tends to reinforce the sound effect.
  6. Once you are satisfied with the result, you can create a new document and drag this score in it to save it. Then, start with another progression. Do that until you can do it easily, without having to search too long.
  • Drag a chord folder into the last staff, first measure. Drag also the whole note rhythm. The chords appear.
  • Using half notes or whole notes, create a melody based on the chords notes. Place these notes in the upper staff. Take all the advices given above to create melodies. Take care to separate the pitches from the two melodies, so that they are quite distinct while listening. Be guided by the sound result and correct so that you like it.
  • 4 quarter notes,
  • 1 half note + 2 quarter notes,
  • 1 dotted half note + 1 quarter note,
  • 1 half note + 1 quarter note + 2 eighth notes,
  • 3 quarter notes + 2 eighth notes,
  • 2 quarter notes + 4 eighth notes.

You can use passing notes. You can also imagine other rhythms and use them.

Each element added to the exercise will give you more freedom of expression. One can imagine lots of exercises to develop the composition technique. The chords, the melodies, the rhythms or sonorities all can be used as a starting point for musical inspiration. There are often one or two elements which form the beginning of a musical idea. By singing some notes and you find that they sound very well. You encode this small melody and try to find which rhythm could reinforce it, which chords could support it and which instruments could make it more expressive. Step by step, you work out the score, you structure it, you repeat several times the main theme with different instruments families and various accompaniments, you introduce secondary themes which are related to the main theme, etc. This is called the development of a musical idea. Most traditional repertory works are based on such developments of a starting idea.

Generating melodies using libraries [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

When you have a chord progression, you can find rhythms and melodies elements in the Melodies library.piz and Rhythms library 44.piz documents . Here are the steps to help you exploit them to compose musical scores and accompaniments:

Instrumentation and effects [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

The choice of the instruments very much affects the sound result of a score. With the instruments view, you have a very easy tool to try sonorities. You can play a passage and test various sounds of instruments to locate the one which sounds best.

Also exploit an equilibrium of sound volumes. The instruments view provides a configuration where you can separately regulate volumes, balances (right/left position), reverberation as well as other effects. Use them to enrich the instrumentation.

Also use the nuances symbols (F, FF, p, MF, cresc., decresc…) to create intensity contrasts. Modify sometimes the tempo according to what you want to express. Use the various tools palette.

General rules of composition [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

Here are a series of practical tips that you can use to compose.

  • Find or invent something to communicate. That can be almost anything. Take the most banal or most original ideas and write on paper in some sentences what you want to express. That can be "today is all right and the small birds are singing" or "my cat has just made a very elegant jump. I would like to express this jump in a musical form" or "holidays on the beach, I will remember and express it in music". You can also take emotions and express them through a musical score. Take for example: apathy, sorrow, fear, anger, trouble, interest, enthusiasm, joy, serenity. You can also take two emotions (negative and positive) and compose a score which expresses a progressive transition between the two. There is an infinity of things which you can communicate with music. Also think about the public or the people to whom you would like to communicate this message. If you want to communicate something to young children, adults or teenagers, the implemented means of expression will be very different. So that your message goes through, you will need to take into account the reality of your public's way of life.
  • With your subject and your public well in mind, seek an element which expresses this message. It can be a rhythmic cell, one or more chords, a melody, an instrument sound,… To find it, no mathematical formula exists. You can stimulate your inspiration by thinking about the subject and by testing various rhythms, sonorities, melodies, chords or all combinations of these elements.
  • Be free especially do not destroy your ideas before even expressing them. A reasoning of the kind "Perhaps this rhythm will express this very well and…, oh no, nobody will understand it anyway and they will believe that I am hopeless in music and… bla, bla, bla" will only make you stop composition.
  • It is probably the most current barrier for a person who begins in art. The fear of being ridiculous, of looking clumsy or not "talented" prevents many people from starting out in art. Do not hesitate to express yourself, even in a clumsy way at the beginning. It is normal and you should not be expected to create an extraordinary work after the first hours of composition (though it could arrive, you are perhaps more talented than you think…). With practice and perseverance, you will manage to express what you want. Nobody never published the first composition exercises of Mozart, Bach or Ravel. They also made their beginnings (and they did not have a computer…).
  • As soon as you have one or more elements expressing your message, use them and develop them. If the element is a rhythm, find which melody could reinforce the effect of this rhythm, while keeping the expression of your message. Seek the chords which could support it well. Test and listen to various sonorities of instruments. Build in this manner your score. At the beginning, do not make it too long (8 to 16 measures). Gradually, you will be able to increase the length, because a long development of an idea requires practice and a good control of the composition techniques. Develop the starting idea by keeping in mind your message and your public, which will increase the coherence of the all.
  • a chords progression which harmonizes the melodies,
  • similar, opposed or inverted rhythms,
  • similar, opposed or inverted melodies,
  • chords, rhythms or melodies repetitions,
  • a synchronization or an opposition of various rhythms,
  • sound effects (percussions, synthesizers sounds…),
  • rhythms, melodies and sonorities which answer each others,
  • contrasts of intensity, rhythms, melodies or chords.
  • etc.

These links establish a coherence and obtain the agreement of your listener, because he can in some way predict it and it helps him to understand your music and to receive your message. By understanding your music and receiving your message, the listener will be able to like and appreciate your music according to his tastes.

PS: Send us your compositions sometimes. We will be very happy to listen to what you composed with Pizzicato!

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