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#1968285 - 10/03/12 03:51 PM Where is the melody?
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
We have a question coming in about melody writing. Stay "tuned" . . .

(Yes, pun intended.)
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968290 - 10/03/12 04:09 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Figure this was meant for me, haha.

Posting what I had typed up in my other thread:

So I've posted on here before about a similar subject.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post1961162

I've been doing A LOT better on getting theory down. Still working on getting the keys I want to work with down to muscle memory, but progress is being made.

I've messed around with trying to write some of my own stuff. I'm starting to run into the issue though where everything just sounds...really similar to everything else, if that makes sense. I just can't seem to make a melody, for the most part. I can make some good progressions on the bass end, and have come up with some pretty good sounding harmonies. I just can't for the life of me come up with a melody though.

I have a good ear for harmony, but don't really have a good ear for melody it seems like. Anything past completely basic I just can't seem to come up with. I know there's tons of books out there on things like tones, melody, composition, counterpoint, etc. The issue is that I'm about as strapped for cash as you can get right now. Even throwing $15-20 down on a book right now would just be too much.

I'm determined to learn this stuff. Composition has been my goal from day 1. I've searched Youtube, google, etc, and just have trouble finding resources on this subject. I don't think I've listened to anything but piano music (literally) for months (Just to note, I actually LOVE listening to David Nevue, Ludivico, etc, so I would have done this regardless). I do sit down and practice this daily, but I just don't seem to be making any progress at all on the melodic side of things. I watch these "learn to compose piano music" videos, and they'll say to just use the notes of the scale, but when I try that it just doesn't seem to come out very well.

I guess I'm just frustrated. Not having a teacher and not being able to afford books hasn't really hurt me too much until now. Hopefully this post made sense, I'm sure I started ranting at some point =/

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#1968305 - 10/03/12 04:40 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: dbush2765
Figure this was meant for me, haha.

Yup.

I will be willing to help get you started, but need quite a bit more information. Not to play Twenty Questions, but these will let me and others here know where to start =>

[1] Do you have the ability to write a few notes on manuscript paper, and then display them here? (If not, that is O.K. - we will just have to proceed in a different way.)
[2] How familiar are you with rudiments: keys, scales, intervals, chord construction?
[3] You mentioned your capacity to write a progression of chords. Could you give me a sample? (Just chord names or symbols will be fine.)
[4] In one of your posts, you made mention of a couple of New Age composers/players. Is this the sort of stuff you would eventually like to write? Others??

Ed

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#1968321 - 10/03/12 05:04 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Oh, no worries at all on the questions! Anything to help out smile

1. Off the top of my head, no currently. If it's needed, I'm sure I could find at least a basic program out there that would at least let me write out some stuff on the PC. I'll look into this once I'm off work tonight and see what I can come up with. I should be able to record on the PC soon, at the very least. I have a digital piano (good quality, it's 88-key, touch sensitive, etc.), so all I need is the cable to hook up.

2. I know my keys fairly well. I've spent time looking over the Circle of 5ths, so it's at least familiar to me. I don't have them all memorized yet, but if you told me to play the key of F# Major or Minor, I'd be able to build the scale and figure out the chords. I guess that's where I'm at with scales as well, I can build a major or minor scale from anywhere on the piano. I actually have a whiteboard above my piano with some basic notes on chord construction, though I'm starting to commit those to memory as well. I can build a major/minor triad, 7th, etc. I'm working on chord inversions now, actually. I have to think a bit on how to play them, but I definitely know how to, just gotta commit them to memory.

3. I'm trying to remember some of the chord progressions I've been playing with off the top of my head, but I'm having a hard time remembering. Nothing too complicated yet though. For major keys, mostly just your standard I-IV-V-I, maybe through a VI in there somewhere (with inversions, of course). For minor keys (love, LOVE the sound of minor keys, by the way, heh), I haven't really gotten anything set in stone yet for that. When I get a chance to play later tonight, I'll write down the progressions I've been using. I figure that doesn't make sense, but I've been doing a lot of "Hm, like that chord, it'll sound good if I go down/up" and just play like that, sticking to the key.

4. I would love to eventually write that new age-type of music, for sure. I just love listening to Nevue, Ludovico, Yiruma, etc. I spend hours at work most days just surfing through Youtube "related video" links just listening to different original compositions that have that similar new age sound, if that makes sense.

Thanks a ton for the help, hopefully my answers helped a bit. If you need more info, ask away smile

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#1968335 - 10/03/12 05:22 PM Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
For tonight, while at the piano (if you choose to . . )

[1] Invent a five-note melody.
Capture it on paper. Note name, duration, whether the following note goes up or down. Five notes only. Make sure all five notes are not just successive tones in a scale.

[2] Find out where in your mix of the I, IV, and V chords that elusive VI sounds best. Play around and capture on paper a couple of progressions using those chords that sound good to your ear.

Report back, and let's see where this takes us.

Ed
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#1968339 - 10/03/12 05:30 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
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Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Sounds like a plan!
I'll report back tomorrow with how it goes. I'll look around for some notation software tonight too and see what comes up. Worst case, I'm sure there's a scanner here at work somewhere smile

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#1968344 - 10/03/12 05:41 PM Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Others here will have a different opinion, but for me, I would not worry much about notation software at this point. If you have manuscript paper and a pencil, that is all you really need. When we progress some, the scanner will help. Meanwhile, it is "good exercise" to work these things on a verbal level.

I look forward to seeing what you invent.
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#1968474 - 10/03/12 11:59 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5245
Loc: Europe
I won't come in, since I think that Ed is doing a brilliant job. I just wanted to congratulate both, for finding a solution like this online! smile This is where PW really shines, no? smile

(And, btw, one of the reasons we keep coming up with the same stuff is habit: We are creatures of habit and this applies to creativity as well. Plus when you have limited experience (you mentioned that you have listened to almost exclusively piano music in the last few months) in something you don't have any further input to base your creativity on. )
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#1968485 - 10/04/12 12:35 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: Nikolas]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Hi Nikolas,

I appreciate your keen perception! (But go real easy on that "brilliant" part.) I would like the chance to work with dbush2765 just a little on a couple of motif development ideas. (Probably very similar to that which you might suggest.) Once he gets a glimse of how melodies develop, or can be "composed", I am hoping you (and others) will chime in to keep moving that along.

All too often it seems, aspiring writers come to the Forum for legitimate advice, and either 1) receive a flood of irrelevant, or hopelessly complex information, or 2) are sent to some automated, animated internet sites to receive their "education". A couple weeks later, they proudly return here with a YouTube posting of their first masterpiece, and we have seen how well that pattern usually works out.

Meanwhile, if YOUR work starts sounding more like Schuman or Persichetti, I'll be the only one who knows why!
Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968487 - 10/04/12 12:47 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
This was just what I came up with over the course of the night. Needs a ton of work, but I'm always hyper-critical of myself too. Ignore the rests thrown in everywhere, still trying to figure out this program just adds them in automatically.



Also, I've always had trouble with sheet music. I can read it just fine, but writing it myself is a lot harder than I thought it would be!

And thanks again for all your help guys. I can't wait to get advice on what I've got so far. Even now I'm feeling incredible for just writing what I have. Already seeing improvement!


Edited by dbush2765 (10/04/12 12:56 AM)

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#1968512 - 10/04/12 01:48 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York

Originally Posted By: dbush2765
. . . I just can't seem to make a melody, for the most part. I can make some good progressions on the bass end, and have come up with some pretty good sounding harmonies. I just can't for the life of me come up with a melody though. . . . . . I have a good ear for harmony, but don't really have a good ear for melody it seems like. Anything past completely basic I just can't seem to come up with.


Originally Posted By: LoPresti

[1] Invent a five-note melody.
Capture it on paper. Note name, duration, whether the following note goes up or down. Five notes only. Make sure all five notes are not just successive tones in a scale.

[2] Find out where in your mix of the I, IV, and V chords that elusive VI sounds best. Play around and capture on paper a couple of progressions using those chords that sound good to your ear.


I’m glad to see that you are getting familiar with music notation software. It appears like it might still be doing some of the “writing” for you . . .
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
. . . I would not worry much about notation software at this point. If you have manuscript paper and a pencil, that is all you really need.


We seem to have a bit of a disconnect among what you originally asked, what I suggested as a couple of first steps, and what you have actually done. Are your “five notes” for your melody Eb, Db, Bb, Ab, and Gb, and in that order? Or are they Eb , (up to) Eb, Db, Bb, Ab? Did you get anything done with the chord progression? I guess I am having trouble relating exactly what you posted to what I suggested.

Ed
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968581 - 10/04/12 08:49 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Sorry about that. I was working on the five note progression and it just kind of turned into that. I started with the Eb , (up to) Eb, Db, Bb, Ab, and just kind of kept going with it, and just had the harmony go down, down again, then step back up. I can go back and redo it though if you need me to. I guess I messed up on the chord progression part, I should have been more strict with that.

And I wrote all of this in a notebook as I was playing it and just moved it onto the notation software later, note for note.


Edited by dbush2765 (10/04/12 08:58 AM)

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#1968604 - 10/04/12 09:58 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2728
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I'm going to chime in here. Composing a melody can be done in many ways but I find hearing something in my head initially is the best place to start. The second best place to start is singing. The reason is because both methods tap into the brain's hearing centers and not a motor area. When playing the piano we tend to play what we know. When trying to hear in our heads we tap into what we've heard, but we've always heard much more than what we can play and there's much more to work with there. I get the sense that this melody and progression were composed at the piano. It's okay, but I think you would have found more creativity inside your head. One last thing composing a melody implies no accompaniment, just a line of individual notes. That's not what you provided us here.

Try hearing a melody all by itself in your head then write it down. Go to the piano for help figuring out the notes if you must, but not to help you devise the melody itself. We're only asking for 5 notes, since a melody is a single note line that's what we mean, literally just 5 notes. If your answer was C,E,G,F,A in quarter notes that would be okay.

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#1968605 - 10/04/12 10:08 AM Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Hi, dbush2765,

Perhaps a little more explanation from my end?

I was hoping to work on the melodic aspect specifically, since that seemed to be the focus of your post. Of course, in real music, everything (melody, harmony, rhythm, form, instrumentation) all work together, but when one is learning, it is usually best to first isolate elements. Actually, you have already done that, by asking about melodic development in particular.

Here is something that may not be as obvious to you: The basics are critical. Anyone who has ever composed anything of lasting value was working from a solid foundation of THE BASICS. A very, very few individuals are sort of born with these basics inside of them. The rest of us must work to acquire them. This does not occur overnight, nor during this week, nor this month, and probably not during the first year. To become a real composer is a long-term endeavor. And here’s the important thing: the sooner you acquire those basics of composition, the faster, and surer your progress will be.

So here is what we have so far:
Eb *dotted half-note* => (octave up to) Eb * half-note * => Db *eighth-note* => Bb *eighth-note* => Ab * dotted half-note *
(I took the liberty of changing the duration of a couple of your notes.)

Let us leave that I – IV - V chord progression for now, since that will probably change based on your melody.

It can be a nice bonus that you have the music notation software with which to work, as long as it does not do things like put you in 4/4 meter while your melody is in 3/4 prolation, or have your melodic period end after 7 measures, while your harmony is decidedly in 8 bar phrases. That sort of stuff is going to get in your way at this stage.

However, if you are able to place the five melody notes, as I have described them, on a staff, using 3/4 meter, starting on the first beat of the first measure, then do that and we can work from there.

Ed
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#1968609 - 10/04/12 10:18 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: Steve Chandler]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
I get the sense that this melody and progression were composed at the piano.

Hi Steve,

The five black notes, and ONLY those five? Pure coincidence I suspect! I always wrote in at least six flats when I was learning . . .
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968616 - 10/04/12 10:28 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Yeah, looking back, I did get quite a bit ahead of myself. I do need to learn the basics, for sure. I'm going to just forget about the notation software for now. You're right on it, it most likely will just end up getting in my way.

And I did actually write that while sitting at the piano. I love the Eb Minor key, it was one of the first keys I started really working on once I knew what they were. I feel more comfortable in that key than some of the easier Major keys, honestly. If it would be better in the end to switch keys though, just let me know, it's no biggy at all smile

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#1968622 - 10/04/12 10:39 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Nice work so far, dbush2765,

I am kidding around with Steve, but his advice is absolutely bulls-eye on. The very best stuff comes out of our brains, and not out of our fingers.

I do like your revision to:
Eb *dotted half-note* => (octave up to) Eb * half-note * => Db *eighth-note* => Ab *eighth-note* => Bb * dotted half-note *

I am asking for this particular duration of notes because I believe it “lays well” and we will be able to move forward with it smoothly.

While you are contemplating these notes, in the new order, (either in your head, or on the piano) does this little group seem more like a statement to you, or more like a question?
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968624 - 10/04/12 10:42 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
You know what, I was going to sit and try to think about it, but "question" was the first thing to pop into my head as I was running through the notes in my head. I feel like if that's what popped in first, why try to over-think it, right?

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#1968634 - 10/04/12 10:57 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Right.

So we have sort of a start to a conversation here. We have this question:

Eb *dotted half-note* => (octave up to) Eb * half-note * => Db *eighth-note* => Ab *eighth-note* => Bb * dotted half-note *

. . . is there more to this particular melodic question, or is it fairly complete as it is?
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#1968645 - 10/04/12 11:20 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I would say that it's fairly complete as it is. I can't think of anyway to expand further on the question itself, at least right now.

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#1968679 - 10/04/12 12:55 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: dbush2765
I would say that it's fairly complete as it is. I can't think of anyway to expand further on the question itself, at least right now.

Good. For whatever my opinion is worth, I like it the way that it is also.

You may already have guessed this, but the next step, if you choose to, is to write a nice, "complimentary" answer to the question. I would advise spending a little more time on this part, perhaps by trying a few different ideas, and then selecting the "best" answer.

By "complimentary", I mean that your answer should reflect the mood of the question, not too much contrast, while finishing the musical thought. And, alternately, one can always answer a question with another question.

There is absolutely no rush on this. Take as little time, or as much as you like.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968684 - 10/04/12 01:03 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I get what you're saying. Yeah, I'll definitely see what I can come up with. I already want to come up with more of an "answer" than answering with another question. But who knows, that could end up changing as I start running through it in my head. Guess we'll see, I'll report back with progress on it smile

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#1968727 - 10/04/12 02:32 PM Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
I have been thinking of a way to incorporate Steve's most excellent advice into what we are trying to accomplish here at the moment..
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
Composing a melody can be done in many ways but I find hearing something in my head initially is the best place to start. The second best place to start is singing. The reason is because both methods tap into the brain's hearing centers . . .

While at your piano tonight, I might try this -- PLAY this nice "question" that you have composed:
Eb *dotted half-note* => (octave up to) Eb * half-note * => Db *eighth-note* => Ab *eighth-note* => Bb * dotted half-note *. . . and then follow that up by SINGING, or humming your possible “answer”(s). When you find one that you like, write the notes down, referring back to the piano if necessary. Once you have a few possible “answers”, pick the one you like the best, and let us know what it is.

If you need any hints getting started on possible “answers”, just let us know.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968732 - 10/04/12 02:42 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
That sounds like a really good idea actually, I think doing it like that will help a ton. I definitely want to see what I can come up with on my own before asking for where to go with it. I think I'll be able to think something up though smile

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#1968879 - 10/04/12 09:01 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
So I'm still messing around with this, and have been running it through my head all day. One line just keeps popping back into my head though, and I get an "answer" feel from it.

Eb (up to)=> Bb (down to)=> Gb (up to)=> Ab (up to)=> Bb => Bb

I feel like I could do more with it, but that might just be me overthinking it again.

I'll keep running it through my head and see how it goes, but any input you have on the above would be great!


Edited by dbush2765 (10/04/12 09:06 PM)

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#1968897 - 10/04/12 10:46 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Sand Tiger Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1017
Loc: Southern California
Excuse my interruption. ABC notation can be your friend. It is a "real" music notation widely used in folk music. Full arrangements are doable, and it is extremely useful for simple melody lines in text only format. Set the key, the default note interval and then the rest tends to follows. For many musicians it takes a few minutes to learn it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abc_music_notation

The other big bonus is concertina.net takes ABC notation in text format and converts it to dots and lines sheet music, so a person can store and edit their music using any text editor or word processor, and still share easily with other musicians.

http://www.concertina.net/tunes_convert.html
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#1968907 - 10/04/12 11:14 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: dbush2765
So I'm still messing around with this, and have been running it through my head all day. One line just keeps popping back into my head though, and I get an "answer" feel from it.

Eb (up to)=> Bb (down to)=> Gb (up to)=> Ab (up to)=> Bb => Bb

I feel like I could do more with it, but that might just be me overthinking it again.

dbush,

I like this answer a lot! It starts off with the same note as the “question”, agreeing with it, and then shows a different aspect. I would ask you to now place some note values with each pitch, bearing in mind that the question was in 3 / 4 meter, and lasted for three or four measures. That same rhythm almost fits the answer, too.

And I can not help making one further suggestion. For some variety and a touch of color, end this first part of your melody on a note that is not naturally in the key of Eb minor. Maybe try this:
Eb (up to)=> Bb (down to)=> Gb (up to)=> Ab (up to)=> Bb (down to) => D natural

This is very good work so far.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1968915 - 10/04/12 11:46 PM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I actually like that suggestion a lot! I'm about to head to bed, but I'll be able to think through the note values while at work tomorrow (I work in IT, promise I'm not slacking on the job!).

Just this little bit alone has already boosted my confidence quite a bit, I'm loving it!

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#1968937 - 10/05/12 01:02 AM Where is the melody? [Re: dbush2765]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
I am glad you feel good about the work so far. There is still quite a bit to do, but, with the same effort and attention, within the next two or three days, you will have composed a complete melodic idea that promises to be very enchanting.

I have an ulterior motive for suggesting you use that D natural as the last note in your "answer", so I am glad you are considering it. As in billiards, it will "set you up" very nicely.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1969064 - 10/05/12 11:10 AM Re: Where is the melody? [Re: LoPresti]
Happy Birthday dbush2765 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 52
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
So I was thinking something along these lines.

Eb *dotted half* (up to)=> Bb *half* (down to)=> Gb *eighth* (up to)=> Ab *eighth* (up to)=> Bb *eighth* => D *half*

I figure it follows along with the same timing setup by the question. Thoughts?

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