Where do you start when you're ready to create a song from scratch? The answer depends on the song, what you need to arrange, and whatever inspires you the most for that song.
Answering a few fundamental questions might help point you in the right direction:
Let's start with the first question: Why are you writing this song? If your goal is simply to practice writing music, then whatever you come up with will work. But if you have a specific musical goal in mind, it's important to stay focused on that goal as you work. Setting a musical goal and following through may seem like a basic concept, but it's easy to get distracted when you're writing music. Before you know it, the sentimental tear jerker instrumental piece you were writing for your mother's birthday turns into a heavy metal, nosebleed-inducing ode to the electric guitar.
The first part of this lesson also has a goal. You're going to arrange a song that captures the essence of techno 80s music. In fact, the song title will be simply Techno80s.
The answer to the second question is that this song has no lyrics, but you're welcome to write some and record them after the lesson.
For the purposes of this lesson, the answer to question three is that we're not starting with a melody or riff in mind. However, when you are working on your own, you might want to look for a loop in the Loop Browser to start with. If you do have a preconceived melody, that's always a good place to start.
Finally, the last question: Will the song be melody-driven or rhythm-driven? For the Techno80s song, let's make it melody-driven.
Understanding Melody and Rhythm
What's the difference between melody and rhythm?
Melody is the plot, or story, of a song. It's the memorable part that you hum to yourself when you think of the song, and it's the part other people will remember as well. If you think of the theme song to your favorite movie, you are thinking of the melody. Melody is usually played by the lead instrument, or lead vocal, just as the lead storyline of a movie is played by the lead characters.
A melody-driven song means you write the melody first, then add other tracks that work well with the melody. Songs with lyrics usually use the vocals as the melody line. Most of today's popular music is melody-driven.
The song Homecoming, which you worked on in Lesson 2, was melody-based. I wrote and recorded the piano melody first, then added the other instrument parts.
Rhythm is the pulse or heartbeat of the song. Rhythm can be played by one instrument or many different instruments. Rhythm is felt as much as it is heard, and it dictates the pacing of the different instrument parts. Rhythm is usually set by the drums and followed by the other rhythm instruments, such as bass, rhythm guitar, and keyboards. The rhythm of a song may be faster or slower depending on the song's tempo. A slow tempo song might be a ballad with a slow and easy rhythm. A fast tempo song might be a rock song with a driving beat.
A rhythm-driven song means you write the beats, percussion, or rhythm parts first, then add other instrument parts that fit well with the rhythm. Rhythm-driven songs are often used to score movie trailers (previews), and fast-paced promos or commercials. Rap music is often rhythm-based, but it depends on the song.
The songs Eyewitness and SciFiShow, which you worked on in Lessons 1, 2, and 3, were rhythm-driven. In both cases, I wrote and recorded the rhythm tracks first, then came up with a melody to fit.
Now that you understand some of the basics of melody and rhythm and the need to start a song with one or the other, let's explore some of the fundamentals of music arranging.
Preparing the Project
Open the project 6-1 Techno80s Starting located in the Lesson_06 folder.