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Author Topic: How did composers write melodies  (Read 1646 times)
marijn210999
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« on: July 02, 2015, 07:18:51 PM »

Hi everyone,

If I look at a Beethoven or Mozart sonata, I see very good begin melodies. However, when I'm composing a sonata, I give it up after Some days, because the melodies I come up with are stupid, boring and just not good enough to work all out. So, how did composers like then compose their perfect melodies?

Thanks
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Bob
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« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2015, 01:12:48 AM »

Two ideas I've heard.

Generating ideas from smaller things.  After a while I imagine it's tough to come up with new things.  But take one idea, like a 121 pattern, and then repeat it.  Expand it.  Vary it.  And then the end result has something that's unifying it.


Apparently planning it out makes it too static or abrupt/not smooth.  It may have been Mozart, but I remember reading one quote (or near quote) about them composing by letting the music flow.  They let it develop on its own, and then it happened to end up with a certain form.  That's as opposed to having the form in mind and making it fit that form. 

I had a teacher and I've heard from others that Mozart's music has a lot of melodies that are mixed and matched together.   It works, but there's not really a huge reason why the next section has that melodic line.  It could have been a different melody and that would be fine too.

I think Hindemith has a book on how to compose that spells out how to make good melodies and what makes something melodic vs. just a line.
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mjames
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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2015, 02:18:12 PM »

Two ideas I've heard.

Generating ideas from smaller things.  After a while I imagine it's tough to come up with new things.  But take one idea, like a 121 pattern, and then repeat it.  Expand it.  Vary it.  And then the end result has something that's unifying it.


Apparently planning it out makes it too static or abrupt/not smooth.

Different things work for different people. Some people have the ability (like me) to write down planned stuff. Scriabin composed his entire 5th sonata before he even wrote it down for godsake!
The mistake here is that OP thinks she can compose sonatas without understanding the very basic fundamentals of composition.

I liked one of your ideas though, unless you're a genius, you don't start improvisation by writing out long melodic lines. I believe that if you (OP) have the talent for it, it'll come to you when it does. What you need to do is to learn to work with "little things" and make proper use of them. Take some time to study miniatures ( a lot of them), look at what they did, and then experiment. Experiment, experiment, and keep experimenting. Eventually it'll start to click like it did to me. Writing out melodic lines is just not something you can do after reading it from a book. If that was the case, then everyone would be a composer.

You must also make sure that you have a firm grasp on "basic" harmonic theory.
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Bob
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2015, 02:53:14 AM »

Ditto for studying the tools.

Another idea I've heard is that improvisation ends up very different than composition, even with geniuses.  They may not have written something out, but they worked on it in their mind.  Things that are improvised don't tend to have that form still... which is an interesting idea if supposedly they're not fitting things into a form.

By 'little things' I meant taking any one thing, even a single note, and creating more out of it.  It's a way to generate more ideas that are still related to the original piece.  It could be something like taking the bassline and making those notes the first note of a new phrase.  Voila... A lot more material to work with that's still related to the original in some way.


For actually coming up with the ideas, I'm still thinking general shapes, some kind of easy pattern, like AA'B!, with a climax for a phrase form.  Actual notes generated from thinking melodically or harmonically.  And if it's a melody, there's something melodic about it that's separating it from just being a plain "line."
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dcstudio
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« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2015, 06:08:55 AM »



I improvise over a chord progression or form until I stumble onto something cool. Sometimes I will think of a poem or a phrase and use the cadence as a rhythm base.  I write music at the piano not at my desk--I write it down at my desk--well my pc nowadays.  Anyhow, I finish it first at the piano then write it down.   By the time it's finished I have played it so many ways and so many times that I couldn't forget it if I wanted to.  After 46 years at the piano, though my brain is pretty adept at remembering music.  It wasn't always that easy.

Legend has it that Chopin improvised the Opus 66 at a party and then went home and wrote it down--I get that... though it takes me quite a bit longer to finalize my far simpler compositions... I do pretty much the same thing. 
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ted
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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2015, 10:26:32 AM »

A really strong melody is a serendipitous occurrence with me, probably only a few over a lifetime. I doubt their creation is even related to musical knowledge, and certainly not to any theories. Plenty of famous composers, musicians of tremendous skill, seem to have come up with very few really memorable ones, while a comparatively untutored, musically naive player, with next to no technique or knowledge, fiddles about and comes up with a tune that sets the world singing. Some such people do it time after time. I suggest you ask a few living composers who have written striking ones. You would likely get diverse, vague and thoroughly incomprehensible answers because they don't really know themselves how it happened. 
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mjames
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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2015, 01:16:32 PM »

You would likely get diverse, vague and thoroughly incomprehensible answers because they don't really know themselves how it happened. 

Yeah, just by looking at this thread alone, none of us seem to completely agree when it comes to writing music. I think it's just best keep on experimenting until you *get it*, but other than that and studying theory, I can't think of anything else. Composition/improvisation is not something you can do after you read about it in a book or forum. You have to try it out yourself.
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dcstudio
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« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2015, 02:33:20 PM »

Hi everyone,

 melodies I come up with are stupid, boring and just not good enough to work all out. So, how did composers like then compose their perfect melodies?

Thanks

stupid, boring and just not good enough?  hmmm do you think the master composers believed their melodies to be perfect?  How about Mahler using a minor version of Frere Jacques for his theme--one melody based upon a far older melody...  or Mozart's variations on the Twinkle Twinkle little star melody... Berlioz using the dies irae in Symphony Fantastique---or the "going home" melody from the New World Symphony--and lest we forget--all the Liszt transcriptions...these are immensely popular pieces all based on themes NOT written by the composers...

my point is simply that even the greatest composers did not compose every single melody themselves--and they complained about their own works at times as well.

Rach hated the C# minor prelude
Tchaikovsky hated the Nutcracker Suite


just because you find your melodies worthless---doesn't mean everyone else will  Grin  stop being so hard on yourself...   
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roncesvalles
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2015, 02:36:07 PM »

This is a really good topic and one which probably does not have a simple answer.

The first thing I would suggest is for you to study melodies you like or find memorable.  Dissect them--what harmonies are suggested by them, how quickly do those harmonies change, how does the rhythm help the melody, how are dissonant intervals used to spice up the melody and generate tension?   There are countless questions you can ask about every melody, and they are all worthwhile questions.   Really study the melodies you enjoy and get as much information from them as possible.

My second point of advice would be to sing.  While at the piano, sing the notes that you are playing.   Like another user suggested, if you know poetry, now would be a good time to use it, using the words as your lyrics.  Start with a single note, playing it and singing it, and then try to let your voice, rather than your fingers, guide you to the next note.   I did this about a month ago.  I was wanting to set a poem by Mallarme to music, and I had a good idea for the first half of the first stanza, but my fingers couldn't quite find what to do next.  So I started singing and without any effort found a smooth countermelody.

If you already know where the sonata is going harmonically, this singing method is easier.   Simply play a progression and sing to it.  Use poetry, famous speeches, monologues from film or theatre, even the words of other songs to guide you rhythmically and expressively.  This method might take a little getting used to, but you might find that you have a natural inclination to singing melody that you might not quite have in your fingers.
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