All good stories deserve embellishment.

wiki ~ Gandalf of J.R.R. Tolkien

In a nutshell. "Songs" are their own energy and magic, and as such, deserve and truth be known, love to have a title. And while sometimes a song's title is the easiest part of its writing, oftentimes it is not. So, we get a working title, a temporary one, that fits the bill until the right one comes along. And then there's the doing :)

"Composing is doing." To compose, anything really, is to create something. And this creative can happen anywhere, with whatever is at hand. The idea and process of composing can be a daunting endeavor to begin, but like all life, once in motion, it generates its own momentum to keep going. Might need help now and again, but everything does. And in finding help we so very often make new friends whom we can help too.

The first few ideas here are about our lyrics, the words, phrasing, the storylines and hooks. We then scoot right back to the metrics of music, numbers of pitches in various groups, and the common aural colors they provide. Along the way through the groups of pitches, we pair up our song ideas with another song we already know that has the same number of pitches.

We then emulate that tune, or not, to compose a new or just create a parody of it. As composing is about doing, once we complete a couple of songs, our juices kick right in and we begin to know our own process. Then we just do, we compose our songs and be curious about whatever else is about our own composing.

For once we walk a mile or so in a composer's shoes, have written a couple of tunes, we know. And when we read about other composers talk about their 'process', we can dig it, we know of the toils. Also, just make a list of pieces of art you dig and research their creations. For ... 'every picture has a story don't it.' And every song too :)

We start with one melody line, like in the old old old days, then add another, then another etc., till we get to four. Once we've four melody lines grooving along together, they usually start to sound more like chords. One melody line on top supported by chords. This build up is today's way for just about everything Americana for the last 100 years or so.

Start ~ composing lyrics. Already writing lyrics? Cool. Then just 'keep on keepin' on as the saying goes :) A cool think about lyrics is that they do not need anything else to be created. For in essence, words on paper mean a lot, and always have, for as long as we've been writing. Aim to rote up what's in writing, its yours, sing them aloud to prepare to share your song.

Write your words into the form they naturally follow. Groups of lines in a verse. Repeat of the hook. Write it out the way you will want to sing it. Editing is easier with more space to work with. Get started ...

Maybe into the way waybac and learn a song with 500 year old lyrics to get started ... ?

Or by writing a few verses of parody of ur fave song ?

Start ~ composing instrumentals. Are you composing music without lyrics? Instrumentals ? Cool. Start here by organizing your song ideas into an instrumental form for a song, and include traditional component parts. This way we get to form up and a road map too ! Here's a listing of some of the basic 'parts' of a 'well crafted song.'

Intro. Got an intro? Write one. Get its rhythm going in its style, jamm along and find a chord, riff, hook of pitches.

Play the main melody / chord progression / length of phrase.

Is it a 4 bar / 8 bars / 12 bars / 16 / bar phrase ? Repeat it a couple of times ?

Have a second melody ? A 'middle 8', bridge, chorus idea? Chords to back phrase ?

Repeat the first melody again ?

Transition to solos ? May with an interlude ?

Soloing / solo over form of song / main melody changes / counter melody changes ?

Is there an ensemble, in unison section ?

Recapitulate, restate melodies and other themes.

Outro same as intro music ?

Add a coda or tag ? Band ends song with cool lick that everyone plays together.

Have a place to start now? Cool yea, there' a lot to this composing, writing instrumentals, songs with lyrics, the arrangement of the various parts. Then, if possible, there's the production and distribution. Lot's to do, it's all hard work and fun along the way. Ya finish one, enjoy it, then just roll up the sleeves and start another. Within finishing a couple of originals, you'll be up and full on your way for the duration, learning what you need about whatever as you go along :)

Need a motif to spark it off ?

Start ~ Find some chords for your song. In starting out, a lot of songs get their start with a voice. We sing the melody and words. As the melody strengthens and gets its rhythm and timing going along, we'll the add some chords. For adding chords to our voices, really any instruments made with strings has worked all along. So which chords do we choose for Americana songs?

Start ~ Have a 'bass line story?' By playing through a song's chords we also get a bass line. This becomes our bass line story. Near every Americana song has one, and on these bass note pitches we build up our chords. And with a few different ways of building up the pitches, our spectrum of styles and genres evolve.

Diatonic chords / three and three. Hip to this idea of a 'diatonic 3 and 3?' That from the diatonic pitches we get two groups of three chords; the 1 4 5 triads, of major and minor? Within the one key center ? Cool There's a next evolution for ya here, same pitches, same triads, mostly that, we're just rearranging the pitches to help us puzzle up chords for our songs..

Diatonic chords / three and three. As our diatonic scale evolved in its tuning over the millennia, its ability to also create chords to support its melodies became manifest. With the arrival of an equal temper tuned 'piano forte' near the dawn of the 18th century, all was in place for diatonic harmony to continue to evolve in two essentials ways. First, composers now had all 12 pitches of the chromatic group equally available as both diatonic major or minor key centers as well as any color tone within any combinations of pitches.

Second, in its Euro home, there's the span of 150 to 200 years or so from the more diatonic 'inside' to outside.' Here in our Americana we rocketed to the linear 'free' in about half that time, 80 years or so. That old time radio used to do some amazing things in getting the music out there and get folks excited, probably still does :)

So the basis of the theory of diatonic harmony is created by building a three note triad on each of the seven pitches in the scale group. In the following chart we evolve scale to arpeggio and into the three note chords we term triads. Example 5.

scale numerical degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
Arpeggio numerical degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII
triads
CEG
DFA
EGB
FAC
GBD
ACE
BDF
CEG

Well ain't that a beautiful thing. So in a diatonic world we only use the pitches of our diatonic scale to create our diatonic harmony. Yes amigo mon ami, that is indeed the case and has been for a long four hundred years or so. Further on back if you're a lute player.

This now combined diatonic resource; a scale and its chords, is the musical basis for children's songs, folk, country, a lot of rock and pop and jazz. Everything but the blues? Yep, pretty much. Example 5a.

Run out of frets? So did I. Much easier on the piano. Is this why we oftentimes hear how the theory is perhaps easier to understand on a keyboard that guitar? Could very well be. There are lots of ways to slice and dice these chordal critters to suit our musical needs. We could revoice them to stay in localized position with different string groups. Maybe find ways to use more open strings or both. Let's give this another try in G major / E minor Example 5b.

Look familiar from just above in the discussion? Way better chord shapes to feed this bulldog.

Triads of the natural minor tonality. The following chart simply runs the same theory through the pitches of the relative, natural minor group. Exact same pitches now creating the minor tonal environment built upon the root pitch 'A', creating the relative natural minor scale and spelling out its seven diatonic triads. Same pitches as just used in the 'C' major chart above, we're just starting from a different root. Using just open chords. Example 6.

scale numerical degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
A minor scale pitches
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
Arpeggio numerical degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio pitches
A
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
chord quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII
triads
ACE
BDF
CEG
DFA
EGB
FAC
GBD
ACE

Easy enough yes? So ... same pitches reworked to create new musical settings. Any other ways to work and configure these same exact pitches? Of course for in theory we can do just about anything n'est-ce pas?

Create new puzzle pieces. Since 'C' can be our root pitch, let's explore and locate it as a '3rd' and '5th' in our other diatonic triads. In chart form, examine the letter names for the key of 'C' major. Example 6a.

scale numerical degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio numerical degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
One / C triad
C
E
G
.
.
.
.
.
Four / F triad
F
A
C
.
.
.
.
.
Six / A minor triad
A
C
E
.
.
.
.
.

Looks like 'C' is root of One. The 5th of Four. And the 3rd of Three. Hear their sounds. Example 6b.

Our melody note is 'C.' So if in the song we're writing our melody note is a 'C', the 'tonic pitch' of our song's key, we can build this pitch right into three triads within a key center. These become choices to support this pitch in the song. Nice to have options, especially ones that might better express the art from our heart.

Homework. So if we get this option with 'C', surely we get it for our remaining diatonic pitches yes? We sure do. Create some of your own pitch charts and work out the options. When U can, find a piano and play through these options too. Use that sustain pedal to get a feel for how each note of the scale plays against each of its triads. In 'C', all these pitches are on the white keys.

Crazy but true, most of what we hear on the radio today comes from these diatonic combinations, have for the last couple of hundred years. Totally diatonic, and just the seven pitches. Way awesome :)

And with the blues? Americana blues songs and blues melodies are based on its own unique set of five pitches. On guitar, original blues is 'pre-tuned' to open 'G.' So all we really need is a barre / slide for sounding the blue notes and core three chords for its 12 bar form.

And even with standard tuning, 'E A D G B E', pitches low to high, blues artists and composers can right along with one fingering shape for blue notes melodies, one shape for its principle chord. Both are fully movable, so the two shapes move up and down to cover all the keys.

And when blues moves on back to jazz ... ? Bingo kaboom bingo bingo :) Right back to the pure diatonic theory discussed just above, and jazz it up all the way through to number 15, the double octave cap of all seven diatonic arpeggios. Add in both diatonic and altered colortones galore. We'll be glad it's all diatonic related, as jazz theory get's a wee bit thick at times. And for blues into jazz guitar? Five movable scale shapes that loop, and each has a blues V7 chord or two. And the blues elevator are good start points. And the way we jazz up the 1 4 5 chord progression too.

Eight bars to tell a bluesy tale. All along in our collective histories, words of verse, of poems and lyrics, have been set to music with its rhythms and pitches. And as we start out in composing a song, we start in the now ancient strophic form, and use the same music for all its verses.

Write a 12 bar blues song. Have a song floating around up there that needs to be finished? Cool. Know what style you want it to basically sound like? Cooler. That's all it takes really to begin composing. With that much already going, we can easily begin to write our songs. Start by singing what you've got, in time please, and give Muse a chance to begin filling in your open measures, next words, melodies etc.

Review. Bingo kaboom bingo bingo :) Composing is cool because we get to make it all up as we go along. Then there's those songs and ideas that'll only go a certain way. And they write themselves. And we as a composer shape it into life. Then there's those songs we write to tell a story of an event that transpired in our own lives. So now we're historian too. Collaborate with friends and write for the theatre? Movies? Your band? A friend's band? There's all sorts of reasons we compose music. If there's a way to change the world with one song, then we really should write it.

Other 'theory' considerations? Take apart your favorite song for some of its compositional elements. Such as; key center, major or minor, form, chord progression, style, basic rhythm pulse, bass line story, lyrics.

"Don't let schooling interfere with your education."
wiki ~ Mark Twain
"We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery."
wiki ~ Samuel Smiles

“I have this hunch that minority folk bring a fresh angle on things and that is often a very productive thing,” she said. “In general, a lot of breakthroughs come from left field.”

wiki ~ Jocelyn Bell Burnell

“I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t have my writing, I haven’t even had a vacation in a long time. It’s been 17 years since I’ve been out of Hawaii. Desert sheikh, romance, kidnapping, that’s about all I started with. I just sat down one day and wrote the middle scene, the love scene in the tent. I amazed myself, I couldn’t stop writing. Impossible until it's done."

From NYTimes 12.23.2019

wiki ~ Johanna Lindsey

“I, very thankfully, have a few songs that will not go away."

wiki ~ Allee Willis

“A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity."

wiki ~ Toni Morrison

“The desire to reach for the sky runs very deep in the human psyche."

wiki ~ Cesar Pelli

“It's better to change your opinion than to persist in a wrong one."

wiki ~ Socrates

“"I think the reason it was successful was kind of a mixture of finally being prepared enough, finally having the experience required, having the fitness and the training, as well as a little bit of luck," Emily Harrington told NPR's Morning Edition.

"It's not what you become in life but what you overcome."

wiki ~ ?

“It's not about the song,

it's about everyone singing the song together."

wiki ~ Bill and Ted

“If you're not curious, rethink it all through."

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

References academia 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 own and finest resident maestros !