View Full Version : Instrumental music
04-28-08, 01:10 AM
Lately, I've been listening to A LOT of instrumental music, because I find I can get 'into' it better. Not sure why, but it just triggers something within me emotionally that music with vocals rarely does. I never really understood how to actually construct an instrumental piece, so I've completely avoided it, but lately I've been getting really bored of learning other people's solos. It all just seems really complicated, because when I listen to my favorite artists (Marco Sfogli, Andy Timmons, Guthrie Govan, John Petrucci mainly) I don't really notice much structure. It all seems to flow together nicely, and never gets old. If anyone can offer up any tips, it'd be greatly appreciated :)
04-28-08, 04:52 AM
Writing instrumental music is no different to writing it for a vocalist really.
No matter what style of music your writing, there will allmost always be some structure to it. Realizing the structure might not be quite so obvious in some cases. Generally though, once your ears are attuned to the ways songs are typically structured you will hear the logic in more abstract arrangements.
Some typical structures to listen for;
Firstly you typical radio/pop music will appear along these lines.
Alot of Rock music tends to follow these structures as well. Often they will include instrumental solos at some point though.
Jazz Standards follow a simmilar form. Often they will be 32 bars in length with an 8 bar bridge in the middle. The head (the main melody) will be the first thing you hear, then you will get instrumental solos for 32 or 64 bars per instrument then back to the original melody/head.
Sometimes they will have an extended intro or verse before they play the head. There are also, at times, an extract from the head which is repeated before leading to an outro or 'coda'. These type arrangemtents are seen more in big band arrangements though.
Classical music is also known to follow the latter descriptions among other forms.
Unfortunately my 'solo rock/metal guitar' collection is a bit thin so I cant draw on many examples to show the differences in how these guys approach thier own compositions.
One thing I have noticed in my experience with these type players is that they love vamps. Sometimes it will be Modal sometimes just a simple progression. Having said that though, the form can seem a bit directionless if they take a really long solo over a couple vamps strung together. Unfortunately this is the reason I walked away from that type of music at one point.
Anyway. I would recomend you have a stab at writing a simple chord progression. Maybe 8 or 16 bars long. Then try write a catchy melody for it. Catchy in the sense that when someone walks past and hears you playing it, they will be able to walk away humming it. Having said this, it needs to be simple... considering most people cant hum 16th notes at 200bpm ;)
Once the melody is over you can start working on solos. If at some point you feel sick of jamming over those same 16 bars of chords. Try come up with another 8 bars that will flow nicely from the original progression. Then go back to the original progression. And so forth.... eventually winding up back at the melody you began with.
I know that all sounds well and good on paper but actually doing it is another thing. Thats where the creative forces come into play.
So yea, My tip is to listen carefully to the songs you like, and listen for repetition. I guarantee you will find some kind of structure eventually. Try and come up with your own ideas that follow these structures, or any of the ones I mentioned. Most importantly though, make sure your enjoying yourself. Because when your having fun, your much more likely to make breakthroughs and discover new things.
04-29-08, 02:51 AM
Great post from Mike there. I don't have much to add in addition.
To pretty much echo, I'd also highly recommend actively listening to you instrumental inspirations over and over. Those artists you listed, especially certain ones, heavily use melodic themes in their music. And those themes in themselves are part of the song structure. Listen to how they tie their themes together throughout the different parts of a song.
And like Mike said, when constructing your own instrumental piece, first just work on a simple, yet prominent melody. Once you have that down, layer some cool chords under the melody. Record it. Listen to it. And think about how that melody makes you feel. What story do you want to tell with the melody? Thinking about stuff like that can help you figure out how you want your song structure to support that main melody.
That said, don't think too hard about anything. Play something you like, then just tell a story with your guitar.
Lastly, practice practice practice! Your songwriting will get better the more you do it. :)
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