Delivering The Right Message

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Whether you are composing an instrumental piece or accompanying a vocalist, every tiny aspect of the music you compose from the choice of instruments, chords, melody lines and pretty much anything you decide to add plays an extremely vital role in setting the mood.

Understanding the Language

You need to know that music is a language and it communicates just as well as the lyrics of a song.

            Painting a picture or having a little story in your head might allow you to produce the kind of sounds you When I compose music for Dayve or my band, S!lent Screams, If I’m composing for a song for which we have lyrics, I would first make sure I am aware of what the lyricist had in mind when he wrote the song and try creating sounds that portray that image as vivid as possible.

madness of art

If I’m composing a piece by myself, whether I’m writing a riff which would potentially act as an accompaniment or even a solo or just instrumental kinda thing or whatever, I would first think of a scene and even if I’m keeping things simple and decide to scrap the idea of having a story, I would at the least decide what kind of a mood it fits and under what circumstances would somebody want to listen to the piece.

—Delivering The Right Message

Here are a few things you could use to help once you’ve finished the process of realizing what message you want to convey.

Choice of scale

This might sound funny to you but I personally believe that each scale has its own unique sound.

Now I’m not referring to the pitch but more of tone or maybe just the way you play it.

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This applies to every instrument but it is pianists would probably relate to this the most since each scale is played differently by using different fingering for the riffs you play.

Playing the same riff in a different scale just wouldn’t feel the same.

Same thing applies to vocalists.

Just because you can sing it in a higher or lower key, does not mean you should. Higher scales may have more or a bright element to it while lower, darker.

Choice of key and chords

This is probably the most obvious point and definitely something most if not all musicians know.

Songs in major keys and generally more positive even if the lyrics aren’t quite as “happy” and songs in a minor key, negative.

BUT, that isn’t always the case.

There are a lot of songs written in a major key that are extremely tearful not just because of the lyrics but because of the music too.

An example of this is “Yesterday” by The Beatles.

Although the song is composed in a major key, the music definitely stands as one of the saddest pieces of music ever written.

The iii major chord (In the case of a piece in C major, adding an E major chord) and iv minor chord (In the case of a piece in C major, adding an F minor chord) are the most commonly used chords to provide that feeling.

Choice of Time Signature

Time signatures definitely play a very important role in creating the desired vibe.

The most commonly used time signature is  4/4 but 2/4 (“I will wait” by Mumford and sons and “Russians” Sting are in 2/4), 3/4(“Amazing Grace” the popular gospel song is in this time signature) and 6/8 (“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica is in 6/8) are other commonly used time signatures that can be distinguished very easily.

Adding embellishments

Embellishments, although may be subtle, provide a huge impact of the way the piece sounds. Embellishments could be adding small fill-ins, adding extensions and alterations for chords, etc. Eg – Adding the major 7th or minor 7th interval or maybe even the 9th to the chord, sharpening or flattening certain notes of your chord and so much more.

I’ll give you an example in a song written by Dayve called “Pray for Spanish Eyes” for which I composed alongside him and played the guitar.

First, he showed me the lyrics of the song and explained the vibe he wanted to create.

We both decided that we would want the song to sound as ambient as possible.

The scale we chose was D major.

The reason was because it sounds brighter or darker than we wanted it too and also the scale was comfortable for Dayve to sing in.

The time signature is 3/4.

So, the verses of the song describe this girl whom the main character of the story is in love with.

So over here the chords used on the guitar were D, A first inversion and D(9). Adding the 9th to the D major adds to the ambient vibe and gives a certain sense to peace so in the context, it’s like the guy thinking about the girl, recollecting how beautiful she was.

In the chorus, we learn that the girl doesn’t love him back and the guy is trying to move on.

So over here I added the Bmin7 and end the chorus with a Gmin which gives a negative feel making it sound slightly but not too sorrowful just like the guy in the song may have felt and the same thing in happens in the bridge too where the songs talks about how he feels he wishes he was the one who the girl was in love with him instead of the one she is actually in love with.