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Thread: Riffs and Arranging

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    Purpleb is offline Junior Member
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    Riffs and Arranging

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    I just had a couple simple questions. The questions I am about to ask might sound like I don't know a thing about music theory at all. But I actually know a lot (not as much as a lot of others out there, but a decent amount lol). More on the classical side. I am interested in creating rock type songs. All the questions are really based around riffs using all there different scales (pentatonic major/minor, mixolydian, phrygiran, etc...), an how they relate to other instruments in the mix/arrangement.

    -for example say you have a riff in A minor pentatonic scale.

    1. Does all the other instruments: bass, keyboards, synths, melodies/vocals, etc... have to relate to the A minor pentatonic scale?? i kind of know they have to relate....but how much??

    2. Say the riff (in A minor pentatonic) is playing A C E, can I have the melody/vocals or basically anything (bass/keyboards/synths/pads etc...) playing A major A C# E melodies, chords, riffs, or whatever with/along side the A minor pentatonic riff??
    Would that be stupid and the C in the riff would not sound right with the C# of the A major?? is that unusual to do it that way?? is it more common to just keep everything in A minor pentatonic so it all sounds/blends better??

    thanks a lot.

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    if it sounds right it is right.
    “Saints fly only in the eyes of their disciples”

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    Chili's Avatar
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    you know, in blues, you can do an Am pentatonic improv in the key of A and it works. Any other styles, may not be so lucky.

    In Rock, you can play power chords which is just the root and the fifth and not worry about a major or minor third. Improvise over a chord progression like that however you like.

    I'm no expert, that's for sure, but you'd be safe to keep everything in the same key. You can venture out, but if it doesn't sound right, it ain't right (to paraphrase EZ).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Purpleb View Post
    1. Does all the other instruments: bass, keyboards, synths, melodies/vocals, etc... have to relate to the A minor pentatonic scale?? i kind of know they have to relate....but how much??
    Not always entirely. There are the various modes. In laymens terms you play over a progression technically in a different key while being mindful of the root of the progression within that key's scale. But I'm guessing you probably know that, as you mentioned a couple of modes earlier on, so I'm not really sure why I'm typing this.

    The way I perceive it, if you're your playing part 1 over part 2, they might not need to be in exactly the same key/scale, but you should probably be able to find a clear path from one to the other. Kinda related but distant relatives if you get what I mean.

    Depends a lot on on what you're shooting for anyway.... if you're playing jazz...well...

    There are a whole bunch of other factors too. For example, the nature of a progression and how it relates on the chord scale...lots of stuff like that.

    Thing is, I find personally that if I considered all of those factors everytime I wrote a tune, I'd spend more time writing equations than playing music, so overall I'm gonna give a +1 to 'if it sounds right, it is right'. Even if you play by the 'rules', you won't know if it sounds good until you try it. Music is very much about ideas and experimentation. It's good to know the theory behind what you're doing, but it's not 100% neccessary and sometimes it can just plain get in the way.
    Last edited by legionserial; 09-16-2009 at 02:25.

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    mjbphotos is offline Been Here, Posted That
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    The best songs can ignore classical theory such as keys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mjbphotos View Post
    The best songs can ignore classical theory such as keys.


    Do you listen to noisecore perchance?

    A lot of good songs may not have been written with theory in mind, but I'm sure theory applies to a vast majority of those songs. At the very least most songs are in a key of some kind.

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    gcapel's Avatar
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    Wow, a thread about song writing. The most important part in home recording.

    I can't answer your question. I know two or three scales that I couldn't even give the correct name of what they are. I am a trial and error type song writer.

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    legionserial's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcapel View Post
    I am a trial and error type song writer.
    Best way to be really. It's bad enough that people don't listen to what their mix needs when they're mixing, and just look at the numbers instead. The day people start writing songs the same way is the day I disassociate myself from music.

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    Although, i think it is cool to come up with your own formula to put a signature on your material without every song sounding the same.

    Song writing is ultamately freedom to express yourself. Do what you think is best and suffer the consequence.

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