In a nutshell. All music was once new. That's our motto here. And as composers we are here to bring new music, our own, into life. In doing so we can each capture the events as our lives unfold. And after some years go by, when we reflect on an old song we wrote, it'll take us back to those times and we'll remember the 'how where when and who of it.' And it's the same for all the Americana songs we have, that each one has its own history, a composer (s), that will take us to that culture and era of the times. Today, our compositions will reflect what we've learned and what music we totally get and dig to listen and dance to. It's super natural to want to emulate and recreate our own version of this art.

Compose a new song. For just like anything else in life, composing music has its own tricks and shortcuts too, and as we learn them, and an idea comes along to inspire a new song, we can quickly begin to shape it up. For example, knowing the 12 bar blues form and shaping a lick or phrase into a four bar phrase ... and by repeating it three times ... voila, we've got us a new blues song :)

3 / four bar phrases = 12 bar blues song

We then start writing additional verses, tell the tale. We've now written a pure Americana blues song :)

Other tricks to composing ... ? Well, we could write more blues songs, make four bars into eight, make eight into 16, 16 doubles to 32. Sequence an idea into any length of measures. Find a cycle of chords to filter any motif through. Find a riff and vamp on it till something shakes loose, giving a new direction to explore. We can write parodies. Use written poetry to suggest musical colors and a rhythm. Use a film / video to suggest backing tracks of music. There's many many tricks and ways to shape an idea into a composition / song. Cool ?




Voice; love song or tell a story? This first distinction about the song we want to write gets our thinking moving in two similar yet unique ways. Most songs are about love. And in their telling, carry all of the ways we speak of it. These we call its narrative.

In first person, such as 'call me crazy, but I love the way you ____.'

In second person, such as 'you once loved me, but now _______ .'

In third person, such as 'his / her love was filled with joy and ______ .'

And in stories, we use use the same sorts of 'person' to tell our stories, such as;

First; 'I lit out from Juno I was trailed by 20 cows.'

Second; 'You must find a way, to understand _____ .'

Third; 'The crowd went wild, when _____ .'

Cool ? So while we can mix and match any and all to get the balance we need, there's a lot of song's that don't. And in maintaining that viewpoint in the song we're writing, is often where our challenges begin.

Instrumental songs. In writing instrumental music, depending on the instruments we have, our melody line is sounded by an instrument. Now we've the challenge of finding the right instrumental 'voice' to convey our intent for the song. All the same compositional elements are involved with vocal tunes and instrumental tunes, but this distinction for some is a complete game changer. As in; write in one style or the other, write in one style and dabble in the other, or write in both styles and find ways to solve all the puzzles that will come along.

Movie score are mostly instrumental sound scapes, yet in musical theatre, we need both vocal songs to tell stories and instrumental music for the in between the scenes and to set the mood for the dialogue of the story. Needless to say, there's a lot to consider, and there's some of us that really really really love ... that there's 'a lot to consider.' :)

Have a nice idea for a song ? Cool, for that's the spark to set the work of composing in motion. The 10% inspiration followed by the 90% perspiration of the work to bring it towards a finish.

So any idea for any kind of song will have its own rhythm too. And if we sing or play it over and over, it'll usually reveal to us what's next to come. These we build into phrases and link phrases together into forms. Forms become songs, and we'll feel their ways balance out our idea. So we put our idea for a song into a form, and 11 times out of 10, it'll let us know what fits it best.

Songs will write themselves to completion, it's all about balance and art. And that we each get to determine. And other times a song's puzzle gets solved further on up the road; next week, month or year. It's not that every song we write is different, but in a sense they are, and we need to balance patience with work. To keep trying to find the right piece to complete a song, while realizing that it might take a LOT of searching to find it. We can set a song aside, go on to other things, but when the puzzle piece comes ... along we'll know it :)

Been composing ? So if you already compose music and want to advance your skills, there's a few suggestions here to get started. If brand new to composing, there's a 'start' discussion for beginning. While in libraries and bookstores around the world there are shelves of books about 'how to' compose and about the folks that love to do it, those in the know know that learning to compose is simply a matter of doing it. And in this 'doing it', we learn the craft, learn the things we need to create our music and over time and the compiling our songs, evolving our own artistic signature.

What if ... ? What if the musical art we're hearing in our imaginations hasn't been invented yet ? Well then we'll just have to compose it yes ? So what follow in this discussion are ways to encourage our own ideas into musical compositions, and even present them as new works to new audiences, for lest we ever forget that ... "all music was once new."

If there's a category of our musical studies that embraces the principles of 'nunchi learning', searching for a composition's 'puzzle pieces' to get it all balanced nice, composers of all styles might concur that composing our own ideas into music to share is

"Let me learn by my own mistakes."

Tamzen Crocker

So the following discussion is really for those who now are first venturing to put pen to paper and tell their stories with the Americana musics. Here, we create a cornucopia of composing ideas; an 'A to Z' survey of the various 'silent architectures' that frames a canvas for our music storyboards. But if you need a suggestion for a groove, a hook, a melodic idea or even directed composing exercises, then read on. As you do, click around to other discussions and explore there, click forward from there even if your curiosity is piqued by something yet unknown to you, then click right on back, pick up the pieces and keep on truckin' right here :)

Nearly every song I've written or know of has its form. Form in music is what shapes our ideas into songs. And once formed up, we've our arms around the critter and can fill in missing pieces of its puzzle. And while there's a half dozen or so set forms we most often use in our Americana styles, there's no boundaries if our idea needs a bit of wiggle to get into shape. For as we delve into the library of our songs, we'll find every coolness imaginable that will enlarge our sense of form. And if it 'breaks some rules' and works, it works. So if you be a newby in this realm of composition, get hip to how we most commonly 'form up' our Americana musics, for even a rudimentary sense of musical forms begins to create an 'inner balance of artistic sense' for shaping our ideas.

wiki ~ Picasso

Is everything in our life part of some sort of sequence? Chances are if we look at aspects of our day to day we'll find a sequence or cycle of events that have a definite beginning and a closing or end point. Of course this can be the same in our musics. For in our major components of composing; form, rhythm, melody, harmony and story line, there's often a cycle or sequence of events that creates the beginning and end of our songs. Awareness of life's 'cyclical phenomena' :) is the simple point here. And as we recognize the cycles of events in the music we love, we strengthen our own abilities to shape our own ideas into songs easily shared and enjoyed.

'... So ya have a nice idea ...' Say YEA I do and it goes like this ... :) And want to make it into a song. What's next? Is it words? A riff? A couple of chords looking for some words, a riff, a hook? Have a collaborator in your composing process? Someone interested in music that you can bounce ideas off of ? Even get an opinion too ? No? Now worries. Yes? Cool, sharing is caring. And this is what bands do right? Right, they write songs together ... hmmm good to know :)

wiki ~ "All music was once new."


Gots' to start somewhere :) So you want to compose your own music? You have stories, ideas and themes to develop into songs. Cool. Easy do really. The crazy part in composing is just usually starting, the initial juice to overcome whatever inertia might be hanging around. And like most if not all things in life, once we start in on something, the coolness and magic of the adventure generated by the 'process of doing' just keeps us going.

And then farther up the road, there's the supercharged magic of when the good ideas for songs come along because we've diligently work at something over the years; we've now the experience and know-how to arrange ideas into masterworks. For those who stay hungry, open and ever on the lookout for their next idea, a melody, a hook, motif or even just a sense of feeling, somehow to be expressed in music, will always have this composer's curiosity juice and often a front row ticket into the musical universe theatre we share together :)

Having composed a bit me self, and had a wee bit of success a time or two performing me own songs, this in staged showcases with other composers, and after four decades or so in the music biz, what I know to be true about composing is this;

'... that everything I've ever heard about the process of composing, from writing and producing my own and hanging with writers and producing theirs, to reading a stack of biographies of my heros over these last few decades, in countless newspaper interviews and magazines, from anywhere and everywhere really, is that all of the anecdotes composers love to tell about the 'how' of writing their songs ... are true' :) For ...

Once the inspiration to compose one's music takes hold, its magic is then usually turned on 24 / 7. For ideas can come along anytime, anyplace, anywhere from anyone (songs seem to be non-respectors of banker's hours). Our trick as composers is just to be open to receive the incoming and hopefully prepared in some way to jot it down, so as to be able remember its pitches, rhythms, words etc., to capture the magical feel of the original idea, its motif and the emotional qualities it captures. And then to write this song to a point where we say, 'it's done.' The rest is as they say it is, just the rest :)

wiki ~ recording device / smart phones

In the following entries please forgive my pairing of true superstar songs with my own ideas, but with legal copyright as it is, this is the easiest way to go. This first entry which follows is a good example; for what I know is true was once also true for Roy Orbison.

wiki ~ copyright
wiki ~ reading biographies

Happens quickly sometimes. It is true that some tunes write themselves for us. Life happens and an idea comes along and 20 minutes later it is done and ready for the presses. An Orbison biography, long lost to this author, claimed that "Oh, Pretty Woman" was sketched out in about 20 minutes. My own song, "My Skye Is Blue" wrote itself in about the same amount of time after my parting from a distraught and unreachable love.

wiki ~ "Oh, Pretty Woman"

Or not ... Other works start as one super cliche riff inspired by say a vanilla, 'E' minor barre chord and three months later, the last piece of the puzzle slips into place.

The musical form shapes the tune. Sometimes we get a catchy hook and just plug it into a prebuilt form; instant tune ... we love that :)

When there's no way to remedy. Too true that a time or two in life an unfixable heartbreak comes along for us or ones close, and it inspires an inner searching to somehow find any semblance of silver lining to the whole affair. In this setting, our own true story somehow writes the music; the aural conveyance of the heartfelt passion of just being us and connected to one another.

Wiki ~ "Tears In Heaven"

For the joy of another. And when a song is inspired by the magics of another, who reminds us that we each have a poetry to share, and that capturing the magic renews our joy in the process of composing. Which personally is often viewed as a puzzle of any number of pieces, even a riddle of words that shapes the whole of it, seeking that mobile like balance that somehow helps gravity show off its ability to 'float along on this air.'

wiki ~ "Lovely Rita"

Love songs. There's songs inspired by love. And these songs have no known bounds in their dimensions to include everyone and everywhere love goes. The extra spring in our own step that energizes our quest to the musical capture of love's own energizing magics.

wiki ~ "I Just Called To Say I Love You"

Capture some history. That events in our day to day histories of our lives inspire us to capture these moments and create a music that can always take us back to the moment in history, the moment in time when we wrote the song, to commemorate an event or era of our own sojourn.

Capture a mood. That just for fun we write music and songs that look to capture and convey a mood; of a joy or sadness, the suspense of waiting on a thing, the longing of heart that can pulse through such varied aspects of our lives; of love, family, friends, community and events associated with these pillars of our own lives. We find ourselves on any day, to compose a 'present' for the 'gift of that day.'

wiki ~ "Blue Sky" (song)

Help ! And maybe someone says ... hey will you help me write this song, these words to a song, this poem, this piece of music, this collection of songs, this album, this musical show, for this concert, for this gig or that gig, for this ad or that thingamajig to make folks take notice.

wiki ~ "Your Song"

More love songs. And then there's the best-est reason again we as mere mortal musicians have written songs; because we are simply in love. From our earliest ... what is that feeling ... to the deepest sincerity of admiration and trust of another being, love is the true inspirational catalyst that has always been around, a composer's own muse, fickle as it may be at times, but forever bound none the less :)

wiki ~ "Silly Love Songs"

As academic composition exercises. So can we simply choose a melodic color and write a song based on how that color makes us feel? Sure why not? The seven modes might be a good start in this process. Harmonic minor is surely provocative. A valence further out brings us to the Klezmer grouping, even more unique in its play of half step locations. Explore and conjure up some lines, surely the rest shall follow.

As a study of forms ... And can we do this with various musical forms? Surely. We've done this from the top of this section; gradually adding bars to make for longer phrases. The 12 bar blues is probably the easiest as it is in a simplistic realization, on four bar phrase repeated three times.

As a study of ... We, especially as students, can compose to better learn a musical color; even just a unique group of pitches or harmony, an exciting or traditional rhythm that has stayed with us historically all along, even to create, emulate and master a challenge as best we can as set forth by those we admire that are our contemporaries or that have come before us. To recreate or model after the masterpieces that we each hold dear, music that we and we alone can know, that sincerely know reaches the depths of our own souls that stirs the passions of our lives.

wiki ~ Beethoven's 5th

So it begins. Where to start this amazing, career long process of searching and creating and expressing yourself ? Well, like most of our main discussions in this work, we'll take an additive approach to the building of our knowledge process. So, it'll be measure upon measure, adding bars to and gradually building up the length of our ideas into songs, and at some point you will just jump from the nest and fly on your own.

Please to always remember, that there is no right or wrong in any of this, the equilibrium of parts sought for a song is simply each our own sense of creative balance, for we are each our own 'uniques' ya know ? What is right for you in your composing is right for you, just be open and go with your instincts. For if you stay with 'it' you'll find your 'it.' And perhaps try to always remember this idea; for when Dick Cavett asked Americana maestro Duke Ellington what was his fave of all the songs that he had written, he responded ... 'the one I hope to write tomorrow' :)

Ellington / Cavett

Also, there will be plenty of time and opportunity for critique when you begin to share your works, if indeed you do begin to so. Go easy and on occasion remind yourself that composing is a fickle friend indeed; all of us composers have our difficult moments to struggle through. When you create a piece you like; celebrate a bit. And when the missing piece of the puzzle is absolutely nowhere to be found ... ?

Take a break, walk around the block singing your tune so the universe maybe will provide it, sing it to your favorite tree even (always nice to have an audience for new works in progress). And if need be, just struggle on with it all till you find it, (and now there's that word 'it' again :) Or find something that work 'for now' till the perfect right thing does come along, which it should at some point, if we don't ever quit the music; we just never know when the right lick will come along.

wiki ~ the universe

In my own work, there's still spots in tunes that 'ain't quite right' for years now, yet not enough to derail the piece from being played. I mean who really knows anyway. You'll know, and when you've something good, you'll probably want to share it with your friends, thus the critique process begins.

Have an idea for a rhythm? A one idea, repeated and looped into a rhythm is a nice way to start things off. These next might easily become vamps with a chord or two and a couple of pitches. Here's a couple of one bar rhythms repeated by style. Example 1.

The 'big 4' does it all somehow somewhere in all of our Americana musics :) Next up the ever steady 12 / 8 and its triplet core. Example 1a.

The '12 / 8' feel is tricky but the triplet rules the day for advancing cats :) Next up the pure pure Americana of the click-ity clack of the railroad track, Jack !Ex. 1b.

wiki ~ "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie"

Have an idea for a bossa or samba flavored dance groove? Here we move into '2' and hope the drummer has a good n' fast bass drum pedal to play an essential 'anticipation accelerator' of the 16th note before the downbeat; a wee nudge that helps the dance dance :) Example 1c.

Reggae consistently fills the dance floor yes? So along with 'drop 1' there's this gem. First found it on the drummer's hi-hat magic. Example 1d.

And now adding in reggae's '1 drop' in a one measure phrase. While most often found in a four bar phrase, here initially as a one bar loop. Example 1e.

wiki ~ '1 drop'

Make it a two bar vamp. All of these last one bar ideas will double up into two bars. Once there we can add a chord or two and create the two bar cycles we often call a 'vamp.' While not so sure where this term comes from, we can find these critters every in our music. Well maybe not in kid's songs or folk so much. But in the blues and forward, vamps wiggle into all sorts of spots; as intro's, outros, between choruses etc. So artists use them as a sort of coda between events even, give the music a chance to settle down before the next section.

So can a two bar vamp be a whole song? Sure why not. In today's spoken word and hip hop, often that is all that may be needed to musically carry the message forward. Most often though we add in additional 'sections' to our vamps to create more interest, a contrasting idea etc. We often find a two bar vamp section hooked up to a bridge and just more involved music to tell our stories. Top 10 hits include "Spooky and "Light My Fire", both which feature a solid two bar vamp for the lyrics paired with a bridge and contrasting melodic idea and words.

wiki ~ vamp
wiki ~ "Spooky"
wiki ~ "Light My Fire"

Double two into four. So we double our measures yet again, giving our phrase a chance to blossom. Four bars is generally big enough to stand alone for composing a song. No surprise to find songs for children that are four bars in length but even they too are rare. The three pitch kid's classic "Hot Cross Buns" from the old days is four bars. Composing children's songs perhaps?

In composing in other styles, the four bar phrase is probably most common, for it stacks up right nicely into the most common of our Americana larger song forms; the 8 bar classics, the 12 bar blues form that gave rock and roll its first hits back in the early 50's, 4x4=16 bars which then doubles itself into 32 bars.

Melodies. In composing, writing a melody is a most common way to start a song. An idea comes along for a song say from a couple of words strung together. While some melodies just write themselves, which we love and is pretty rare, others take work, often a lot of work to get right, or 'close enough' to work for representing the original idea.

My only ways of 'working' a melody are really just two; sing the part over and over and find the pitches on my guitar. Second, run the lick on my guitar and just search for each next pitch in the melody, most often ... by singing the part and allowing my muse to kick in.

Sorry not to have more to offer hear but melody magic can be slippery and whimsical, yet can come on strong and be clear as the sunny day after a big snowstorm the night before :) Be nice to your muse and Muse will be nice to you. Like making friends? Exactly, be friendly :)

Need a nudge to get started for a melody? Here's a basic motif to get started if needed. Write a song by starting with these pitches. From the root pitch 'C.' Example 2.

Hopefully one of these melodic motifs sparks your creative to get something going. Actually sounds like a blues four bar phrase too. So if need be just sing the lick over and over till something shakes loose. Keep trying and it will. Rare to quit at something and still win. The rest? As we composers old and new, have surely heard a time or two; 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration :)

Harmony / chords. The vast majority of chords and their progressions or cycles in songs is in motion to Four. Why? Well, in many of life's events there's some tension and resolution. These we look to capture in our songs. Along the way we might need a resting point, to catch our breath a bit, before continuing on to resolution, and a resting place we call home; usually the One chord, our tonic key of the song. This tends to be true in most styles and in both the major and minor tonalities.

There's at least a dozen or so common ways to get from One to Four. Or to start on Four and find a way back to One. It is in this motion that so much of our music takes shape and there are a myriad of ways to strengthen or lessen our forward motion and arrival. Thus the artist, who crafts their music to tell about the 'nuances of life' and experiences in their stories. Here's 'three chords and the truth', in 'C', first major then minor, adding in some color tones. Example 2a.

Bass line stories. This next idea is pure Americana classic, fill the dance floor and jam on for a spell. In E, motion between One and Four, just a couple of major triads to tell the bass line story. Example 2b.

Sequence. The art of the sequence is one that has immortalized composers since the 1600's, when Italian masters sequenced everything they could get their hands on. In our Americana sounds, we also sequence just about everything in our music. In today's studio world of 'loops', sequence takes on yet again another facet for its replicating magic. So as the term implies, we find an idea we like and then create a sequence of replications to create the line. With the pitches of the relative key center of 'A' minor / 'C' major, here we sequence by; diatonic motion up a 3rd then descend stepwise with a four note group of pitches. Example 2c.

Is our own day to day life activities a sort of sequence? Surely if there's a 'routine' then we sequence our events. We as creatives can probably sequence any elements that come along. Folks just like us have been sequencing pitches since we had them. Sometimes the sequence is more in vogue than other eras. While this maybe true, the power of the sequence seems ever present regardless of the times or setting, style or tempos, in giving the players and their audiences a sense of aural direction towards and eventually to a destination. Knowing this we hone our craft to create all of life's emotions; expectation, mystery, full on blaring love, sadness and redemption, all while pondering the marvels of the universe. Very cool

Arranging ~ in a nutshell. Initially, there's two ways to look at this term in our musics in this discussion. First could be how we arrange the basic parts of our songs; form, intro, melody, verse / chorus, outro, coda etc. This aspect is taken up in the discussions that follow.

The second definition of an arranger is someone who takes a song for say a four piece jazz combo and 'arranges' that song for the combo to perform the piece with a string orchestra and horns. In this work, the arranger decides who will play what lines and then writes out all of the parts for all of the different instruments. They'll arrange the song for all of the different instruments to play together.

For those in the know you know this type of arranging is a lot of really good work, needing a lot of knowledge about all of the instruments involved to get a good sounding arrangement for the group to play. Range of instruments and where they sound best, voicings of chords for clarity with large ensembles, all leans us towards the idea of orchestration, and a whole 'nother dimension beyond the scope of this text. There's a pile of 'how to' books about arranging and orchestration, and for those interested, seek and ye shall find. Good arrangers can command excellent paydays in the biz.

Arranging a song. When we arrange a song, we're simply putting it's component parts in the order that creates a nice balance between things so that the story being told is revealed in the way we want. As in composing, there's a million stories in the biz about why a song's finished sound is the way it is. Most famous that comes to mind is about a keyboard player back in the early 60's who was playing organ on a track who for various reasons didn't really know the tune and did not have a chart. So his 'B3' chords we're a wee bit behind in time so he could ensure that he indeed, had the right chord. On playback, the leader of the session, who went on to be iconic in his folk / rock field and still is today, loved it. So we just never know how it'll all come together. The trick is to know when it we hear it that ... 'yea I dig that, that'll work just fine, let's go with it.' Man, there's 'it' again :)

wiki ~ 'B3' organ
wiki ~ Al Kooper ~ "Like A Rolling Stone"

More to the point ... So more to what an arrangement is; all things being equal, the arrangement of a song is a timeline layout of its entire length. So if the "B" side of a Capitol 45 is 2:12 minutes in length, our timeline layout of the arrangement might look like this. For example;

0 to 15 seconds
to 30 sec.
to 60 sec.
to 1:30
to 2:12
main melody / verse / lyrics
hook / bridge / chorus / refrain
return of main melody / hook

That we can also historically trace an evolution of arranging for an Americana song creates possible avenues to explore when arranging our own songs. Of course the trick here is to know what we're listening too as the song rolls by :) Author's note: this is probably a part of the reason why the brightest stars in our all our arts work with producers, directors, engineers etc., the 'specialists' of each elemental component of musical arts production, that 'knows' in depth about what we artists often call 'stuff.' As in say, 'what's that stuff?' Well ... :)

wiki ~ "B" side / Capitol 45
wiki ~ lyrics

A bit of history. Back in the 30's a 'well crafted tune' had everything and no plastic stuff either :) Well, maybe some bakelite. Regardless, depending on the setting of the performance of a song, basically how much time they had, an 'arranged' song could / would have a sparsely backed spoken word intro, then an instrumental intro outlining the song's melody, then the main melody presented. Backed by any number of different rhythm section configurations, everything from solo piano to string orchestra, think Hollywood movies here.

wiki ~ bakelite

Always with a set form and harmonic cycle, there's most times an instrumental interlude of improv; theme and variations of the melody, then the melody / voice / lyrics return, there's a written ending, then a coda, which is often simply a return to where we started; with some spoken word to close the story. Catch Dorothy doing "Over The Rainbow" from the movie to see this entire 'well crafted song / arrangement' idea in action, with video, from 1939.

wiki ~ "Over The Rainbow"

By the 50's the guitar was a solid, reliable electric instrument that could be easily heard and recorded. With pop music more into three chords and the truth, tunes caught the riff and turned it into a hook. Arrangements starting out as 12 bar blues changes, with a beat that hits on '1', rock and roll changed things forever for all the Americanos on the scene then till today. Each of our styles wanted a bit of the rock. Thus, folk rock, blues rock, country rock pop rock and jazz rock all sought to find a way into the excitement. In arranging, all of these styles brought along their traditional forms to create the flow for a song. Intro, verse, verse, chorus, verse, solo on two verses, vocals on chorus (bridge) last verse, outro tag and last hold.

Through the 60's and beyond the diatonic three and three / now six chords related by common key center pitches, opened up all of the styles and all of the arranging that could be done with the expanded resource. As the guitar sounds evolved through innovative gear; amps and stomp boxes etc., new genres of the style emerged and created their own ways of arranging their songs. Right on it, acoustic guitar intro followed by big crunchy chords, some serious unison lines with the whole band, and some crashing to close the piece. All is on the table really and examining the historical evolutions of the style / genre really help to get us started. Got a fave? Cool, spin some and find the coolness. Any ideas come to mind?

Today? Arranging has taken on the element of the 'sample.' That fully formed clips of music are inserted into original compositions being performed by the band. So like two or more bands playing together? So it seems. These sorts of montage pieces have incredible impact in many different settings. From concert halls to dance clubs, rooms fill to hear this new creative direction. No limit really and probably only defined just like a band playing their songs; the 'gig' will probably determine the arrangement of a song.

For example, calling / playing a tune like "The Truth Is", a 12 bar blues in a nightclub is probably arranged thus; a one or two chorus intro, run the words down, everyone in the band that wants can solo, run the words and hook down again, create a vamp to jamm on at the end, find the hook again then three times and out is standard. Bring this tune to a concert hall with no dancers and we're back to the 'well crafted' arrangement of the 30's; from the recitative to the tag, give everyone in the band full light to show their magic, either accompanying or as a soloist.

wiki ~ sampling
"The Truth Is"

So having a sense of the historical evolutions of arranging gives us ideas today to create our own works. There's the loot factor of course, how big is the budget if there is one and so forth. Regardless we can dream yes? So as with composing, arranging is doing it and being adaptable to getting the most from the resources at hand; instrumentation and quality of the musicians involved. Which though last included here, is most unmistakably the most important component we're working with. Got the talent to ... ? Sky's the limit !

wiki ~ bakelite
wiki ~ "Over The Rainbow"
radio dial
wiki ~ DNA
wiki ~ 'B3' organ
wiki ~ "Positively 4th Street"

Ah ... take your pick :) Enough verbiage eh ? So the two 'schools' of composing here follow in the model of a 'well crafted song.' Like an ice cream sundae with everything on it, well crafted means all the parts that have historically been included; spoken word intro, musical intro of melody / hook, main melody and words / verse, bridge / chorus, refrain, solo / interlude, back to main melody, take it out / 3 x's and out, and whatever else depending to make it well crafted in a historical sense. Then, there's what we need to make this one song really go ... So no intro? This song doesn't need one. Hook? This tune is just not that commercial. Solo / interlude? Maybe 8 bars, maybe (yea thanks :). 3x's and out? Nada, this song is 'art.' :) Need some horns? Sure. Back up vocals? Love it! Samples? Got just the riffriffriff :) 2 and 4 ... but of course and I digress.

So Motown collectively and the fab four, The Beatles, had more #1 / top 10 hits that the rest combined (I did not do the math on this sorry). So now a task as an arranger would be to survey what has worked in the past that might help shape your ideas in your future.

Review. So how does the '10% inspiration and 90% perspiration' hold up to your composing efforts? Everything from a 'done in 20 minute gem' to the three month 'when will this song be done' applies to all of us how love to compose, puzzle an idea together. We all struggle to find the right pieces. As in most, if you are into 'three chords and the truth', the story being told (lyrics) and maybe a hook are the keys. These three chords cover 12 bar blues songs, folk, country and rock songs and even a ton of pop tunes. So a lot of cool and super popular ground. There's the diatonic 'three and three' which mixes the principle One, Four and Five triads, of both major and minor, into the harmony mix. Three and three make six, so one more on Seven, where we diatonically find the diminished triad, the potential portal to the great 'beyond the diatonic' and the remaining five pitches and chords built upon them. There's a ton. With 12 pitches equal tempered and five core scale shapes, all this is projected equally from each of the 12 pitches ... 12 pitches as in jazz? Yep, the chromatic potential of all things Americana within the span of four frets or so. Imagine that :)

Thinking of becoming a songwriter? It's a great career and one that thanks to the internet today, really knows no global bounds these days. While the first rule of show biz probably holds true here too; 'must be present to win', once the connects are made there should be no problem working off site etc. In song writing and copyright, there's a chance for mailbox money too, which helps keep the lights on. Writing for movies, TV, radio etc., is a big big business for sure. There's a gillion tunes out there and millions more to be written :)

"In general, a lot of breakthroughs come from left field."

wiki ~ Jocelyn Bell Burnell

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

Find a mentor / e-book / academia Alaska. Always good to have a mentor when learning about things new to us. And with music and its magics, nice to have a friend or two ask questions and collaborate with. Seek and ye shall find. Local high schools, libraries, friends and family, musicians in your home town ... just ask around, someone will know someone who knows someone about music and can help you with your studies in the musical arts.

go to a public library and ask the librarian

Always keep in mind that all along life's journey there will be folks to help us and also folks we can help ... for we are not in this endeavor alone :) The now ancient natural truth is that we each are responsible for our own education. Positive answer this always 'to live by' question; 'who is responsible for your education ... ?

Intensive tutoring. Luckily for musical artists like us, the learning dip of the 'covid years' can vanish quickly with intensive tutoring. For all disciplines; including all the sciences and the 'hands on' trade schools, that with tutoring, learning blossoms to 'catch us up.' In music ? The 'theory' of making musical art is built with just the 12 unique pitches, so easy to master with mentorship. And in 'practice ?' Luckily old school, the foundation that 'all responsibility for self betterment is ours alone.' Which in music, and same for all the arts, means to do what we really love to do ... to make music :)


"These books, and your capacity to understand them, are just the same in all places. Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing."

wiki ~ Abraham Lincoln

Academia references of Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's finest resident maestros !


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