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    Songwriting question...

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    I have a problem when it comes to combining lyrics under a riff..
    What I really mean is that I got how the vocal melody is going to sound,and I have written the riff of the song,but I just can't combine them together..
    Am I supposed to change to power chords under each verse (following the vocals) and then continue to the refrain like that?
    I know it may sound simple as a question but I could really use every piece of advice I can hear (read)..
    Thank you all beforehand..
    Last edited by michalis; 05-08-2007 at 13:58.

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    Quote Originally Posted by michalis
    I have a problem when it comes to combine lyrics under a riff..
    What I really mean is that I got how the vocal melody is going to sound,and I have written the riff of the song,but I just can't combine them together..
    Am I supposed to change to power chords under each verse (following the vocals) and then continue to the refrain like that?
    I know it may sound simple as a question but I could really use every piece of advice I can hear (read)..
    Thank you all beforehand..
    Maybe you could try building chords under the vocal melody that you 've written. Play the riff in the intro and maybe in between verses. That way each gets a bit of the spotlight but doesn't compete against each other.

    On the other hand....if you can get the riff to flow smoothly under the vocals, you could play the two together. One of many examples - Walk this way by Aerosmith - it has a riff under the vocals that is similar and the two parts flow nicely together.


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    While Walk This Way and many other songs have a riff throughout the song (something perhaps most common in the hard rock/metal genre) - a more common approach, (in particular in pop and country) is to have more of a chord driven harmony structure to support vocal lines and then feature the riffs around the vocals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by michalis
    What I really mean is that I got how the vocal melody is going to sound,and I have written the riff of the song,but I just can't combine them together..
    Maybe you lucked out and have two songs?

    I'm out of my genre here. The only thing I can suggest is that you record the riff and rework a vocal that fits, or build some music to fit the vocal. Some songs are simply very sparse between riffs, allowing the vocal to carry the melody alone or with a sparse backing, followed by the riff with either a simpler vocal or no vocal at all..

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    Graft the vocal melody onto the riff. Think "Sunshine of Your Love" by Clapton, "I Want You" by The Beatles, or "Bitch" by The Rolling Stones.

    Crude, possibly, but effective. Alternatively, time it so that your vocals fit around the riff - "Jumping Jack Flash" by the Stones, or "Whole Lotta Love" by Zeppelin, in which the only vocals sung are over a constant part of the riff. In "Whole Lotta Love", the main 'movement' in the riff occurs before each line, and the words are sung over an unchanging E5 chord.
    [QUOTE=ez_willis;2773888]IMO, live, quality rock and roll musicianship peaked while recording The Last Waltz. [/QUOTE]

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    You can choose either option as described above; vocal over riff or riff around vocals (with chord accompaniment), but the real question is which will serve the song best. This is not a simple question, the choice you make lays at the heart of great song crafting.

    When I think of ‘Walk this way’ or ‘Paint it Black’ I think of both the vocal line and riff together reinforcing each other. ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ I hear then separately. There is no general rule that applies they are both techniques for reinforcing a ‘hook’ in a song.

    The riff if catchy can live by itself. If the vocals and riff do not reinforce each other then keep them separate. The chords are there to support the vocal, but not to over shadow it, in the way a riff could if it was clashing. Don’t think riff and vocal lines – think ‘hooks’ or multiple ‘hooks’!

    Is the vocal line (particularly in the Chorus) ‘hooky’, could it be served by being underscored with the riff – therefore do I need to change the vocal line so they work together. Alternatively if the vocal line is strong can I create a second riff to compliment that is based on the established vocal line. Then you get a riff, vs, ch+2nd riff and you’ve got hooks all over the place.

    What is going to serve your song the best? That the first question you have to ask. The rest is just crafting.
    [QUOTE=dhollmusik;3463888] That is irresponsible posting, and reads like scaremongering.[/QUOTE]

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    VM phrases

    The soul of a melody is its rhythm. The "rhythm" of a melodic phrase is defined by where the notes fall against the underlying meter. Meter of course is defined by where the stressed and unstressed beats are. Like "simple meter" would be "ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and". Now, where your melodys notes are against those types of patterns are the earliest and most primal indications of how your melody is going to effect the listener. This is BEFORE the pitches are ever chosen. The melodic rhythm against the underlying musical meter is crucial to how your melody will work.

    If your melody note lands on a stressed count (masculine), that is a strong note. It feels like the note belongs there. If your melody note lands on an unstressed count (feminine), its a little unpredictable sounding. Variations within these two rhythm "counts" are all there is (aside from grace-note like slurs and stuff like that). Either your notes are ON BEAT or OFF BEAT. Study your favorite songs and draw a little diagram depicting where the musical counts lie (stressed and unstressed) and the mark where the melody notes fall in accordance to those beats. Take notice of how good writers try to keep things interesting. Most times in great songs, you will find that they use as much contrast in how things are constructed as possible. Meaning a verse with many masculine melodic notes usually can use a feminine or two in key parts of the melody, or in adjacent parts of the song. Just experiment with what feels "good" and learn how the greats did it and you will start to get a feel for how to vary your own melodic rhythms in interesting ways.

    Now, the next most important thing in melody after rhythm is melodic starting point. Meaning; "Where does the melody start with regard to the chord sequence?" There are only three variations which are before beat one of bar one, on beat one of bar one, and after beat one of bar one. There are no other ways to begin a melody, so choosing from those three is simply a matter of how you want to get creative and what feels best. Make a list of maybe like 5 of your favorite Beatles tunes or something and listen to when their melodies start in the verses and in the choruses and bridges. You will find that most great writers vary the melodic starting points from part to part to add variation and unpredictability to their songs. Remember there are only three starting points, so the variety comes in variations within the song itself.
    (verse melody starts ON beat 1 of bar 1, then chorus starts BEFORE beat 1 of bar 1, then bridge surprises by starting a bit AFTER beat 1 of bar 1) just for example, there are many many different possibilities with different results, all stemming from those three. How to know what you prefer? Study the melodic starting points to all song parts of your favorite songs and try those techniques in your own songs.

    Now as far as melody vs harmony (that means the chords you are playing) there are three speeds at which melody can move against harmony. Melody can move faster than harmony, slower than harmony, or at the same speed as harmony. Faster is the default and is most normal sounding. You know how it goes, you are singing a few notes for every chord change. The next variation is when melody moves slower than harmony. This is very exciting to the listener and has been done TO DEATH by both Radiohead and Coldplay. All you do is hold out notes while the chords change underneath. Its a dramatic effect and the audience will think you are some kind of genius and you will be rich like Radiohead and Coldplay. There are a million brilliant and potent variations within this trick that you should spend much of your time playing around with as practice. Find your own variations of this technique cause it takes average music and makes it sound above average. The last speed is melody moving at the same speed as harmony. This is a very bold and very noticable sounding trick that is rarely used. I personally have found that short spurts of this within a song works much much better than doing it all the time. It stands out. Its a high point in the song. You cant have all high points so use this one sparingly for just certain parts or the end of a chorus or bridge when you want to build up a release. Its what all the greats do so try to see if you can identify these three melody vs harmony speeds in your own favorite songs and try them yourself. Variations of the three within one song will go ten times farther than only one kind. Know when to change it up.

    Seriously, knowing what variations there are and when to change things up are where the illusion of "talent" lies. All of these things i just talked about make up the element of music called "metric concordance"- how the melody falls against the beat and underlying meter.

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    I got a bit lost in there, but I think you are talking about prosody. I could be wrong.

    In any event, another aspect to think about is that there is a natural meter in your speech. This can vary by dialect, or accent (yes, we all have an accent!). I heard of one composer creating a series of movements all based on speech patterns from different parts of the UK.

    It is possible that the vocal doesn't fit because the music demands an unnatural rhythm to the words when you sing it. I think this is the reason that so many people like to write music and lyric together. The answer? Change something so it fits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by michalis
    I have a problem when it comes to combining lyrics under a riff..
    What I really mean is that I got how the vocal melody is going to sound,and I have written the riff of the song,but I just can't combine them together..
    Am I supposed to change to power chords under each verse (following the vocals) and then continue to the refrain like that?
    I know it may sound simple as a question but I could really use every piece of advice I can hear (read)..
    Thank you all beforehand..
    what I do is originally treat the vocals as an instrument. I'll just mouth giberish to the accompanyment as if it was just another synth or guitar melody, after I igure that out, I'll start to put actual words to the nonsense syllables that I was mouthing. I heard that from some songwriters I respect and it works for me, then again, there are a million ways to write a song, you just have to find the technique that is right for you.

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