Fantasy Novel

Fantasy Novel
Read a fantasy novel written by me and my brother!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Whole New World

Fantasy World Instrumentation

This is probably one of my stranger posts, but then again, I haven't posted in awhile so I'm making up for lost time. My main reason for posting this is I haven't seen anything like this on the Internet and I think it's important enough that it needs to be covered. Besides, I also like composing fantasy music, so I thought it'd help me as well.

Anyway, in this post I will be discussing what types of instruments to use when making fantasy music for dwarves and elves, borrowing from the soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and my own music.

1. Dwarves

Dwarves are a strong hardy people who dig tunnels, mine caves and dwell in mountains. This should be reflected in the instruments chosen.

[Horns] A safe choice with dwarves is horn instruments like trombones, trumpets, french horns, and other types like this. The low horns especially can make your music sound dwarvish. For an example of this, listen to this wonderful music from the Hobbit soundtrack called Over Hill

[Drums] Loud bass drums and anvil hits are excellent instruments to use for dwarf music. Make full use of them. For an example of the anvils, listen to Song of the Lonely Mountain from the Hobbit. The anvil hit comes in at 1:10. See if you can hear it.

[Strings] Beautiful strings are another wonderful instrument to use. Though the strings might not actually take over the whole melody, they are great to use for the chords and for a supporting melody. Listen to my composition called Dwarf Prince for an example of dwarf music that does have strings in the melody line. The strings supporting melody line comes in at 0:33 and takes over as the main melody line at 1:05. The strings don't stay in the melody line the rest of the piece, though.

[Choirs] Male choirs and voices are also great for dwarf music. Listen to Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold from the Hobbit for an example of this.

There are definitely other instruments which can be used in dwarf pieces, like the harp which is featured in Dwarf Prince, but these are the main ones. I hope you feel more inspired to try your hand at making dwarf music now.

2. Elves

Elves are an intelligent, nimble people who live peacefully in their forest homes (providing nothing disturbs them that is). The instruments for them are dramatically different than the ones for dwarves.

[Choirs] Female choirs are a wonderful choice for elven music and give it a beautiful, ethereal atmosphere. For two examples, listen to the Lothlorien Theme and The Passing of the Elves from Lord of the Rings.

[Strings] Rich, full-sounding strings are common in elven music. Unlike dwarf music, strings more often take over the melody line.
[Harps] Beautiful, gentle, and flowing, the harp is an amazing instrument to use for elves. Listen to my elven piece called Secret of the Elves and Rivendell from Lord of the Rings as examples of this.

[Flutes] Flutes can also be used in elven music and give it a beautiful, heart-wrenching sound. Listen to my piece called Elven Lands for an example of this. The flute comes in at 0:37.
[Horns] Though not as common as the other instrument choices, trumpets, french horns, and other higher-sounding horns can be used for elves. Horns are especially useful to use for elf battle music or other music involving elves in war and give the music a more majestic and regal sound. Listen to The Elves Arrive at Helm's Deep and see if you can hear the horn, noting how its inclusion makes the music much richer and more fit for a battle.

These are the important instruments to use for elven music and I hope they will inspire you to create your own elven tune.

I know this didn't cover nearly all of the fantasy creatures, but this is enough for this post. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Popular Chord Progressions

Great Chord Progressions

Composing music has much to do with finding the right chord progressions. If you're a budding songwriter or a seasoned veteran, I'm sure you thought a lot about what chords to use in your song. Here are some from popular songs that you could try.

1. Vanilla Twilight

This first chord progression from a popular song by Owl City is fairly simple. C major, G major, A minor, and then F major. This chord progression is very common and useful. Beginning and ending with major chords makes your song sound fairly happy, so that's one reason why this song by Owl City doesn't sound very sad in spite of its sorrowful lyrics. If you need a somewhat happy chord progression mixed with a minor tone, choose this one.

Listen to 0:00 - 0:18 of Vanilla Twilight. Notice the chord progression is repeated 3 times and then it changes to C major, G major, D minor, F major for the ending. Also, while I'm on this song, notice the 2 key transpose starting at 2:24 and how it changes the feel of the song, making it much more majestic.

2. What Makes You Beautiful

This second chord progression is taken from One Direction's famous song. Here are the chords: E Major, A major, and then B major.

Listen to 0:00 - 0:38 of What Makes You Beautiful. For this section the chord progression is the same, but then it changes slightly with a minor chord and a few other changes. Still, throughout most of this song, the chord progression is the same. Even with such a simple chord progression, this song still became extremely popular, so there must be something to it. Perhaps it's because this chord progression is very happy-sounding and positive unlike the first one, which had a minor chord in it. 

3.You Belong With Me

This third chord progression from the verse of Taylor Swift's song is D major, A major, E minor, and then G major.

Listen to 0:08 - 0:36 of You Belong With Me. It's easy to tell that this chord progression isn't as happy-sounding as the other one, and I think the E minor chord in it makes it sound even sadder than Vanilla Twilight. This chord progression has sort of a wistful, hopeful, mysterious feel to it

That's all for now. Have fun composing music!

Overcome the Musical Barriers

Composition Motivation

Composing music can be very challenging, for both the novice and the expert. However, their problems are very different. While the beginner struggles to come up with any melody or a good melody, the expert struggles with trying to create different-sounding piece. These difficulties will be dealt with in these following 3 tips which will hopefully help you improve your composition skills.

1. Listen to Music

This might sound trite or unimportant, but this is one of the most valuable tips to a composer. By listening to music, your mind installs new chord progressions, new note patterns, and new rhythms without you even knowing what's happening. To the expert, this is one of the best ways of getting out of the rut of making boring and similar-sounding pieces. To the novice, this can help them to understand how good songs are made and how to create them.

A clarification should be made, though. Don't just listen to one type of music. To get the full benefit of this tip, try to listen to many styles of music. For example, even if you hate classical music or instrumental music, give them a listen. You will likely pick up new information to furnish your songs with.

2. Just Try

This is another critical tip. Even though a lot of people may have talent, they won't ever know because they won't ever try for long enough. They'll give up after a few attempts and tell themselves and others that they just weren't cut out to be a musician. This unwise excuse can often cost them a lot in life and it happens with far more than just music. Some people tell themselves they'll never be good at a certain sport, and you know what, it happens. They never are good at that sport. Self-fulfilling prophecies can be very dangerous so try not to make them--at least not the negative ones.

3. Connect with Others

There is a lot of great music advice out there and there are a lot of composers who would love to help you improve your skill. Get connected with blogs, forums, or chat rooms that discuss music composition and your knowledge of music will definitely improve. If you are shy and don't like to meet new people, just try it anyway. You never know how much fun you'll have and how much your life will change for the better.

That's all for now. I hope you have fun composing. Remember, never give up!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Artist's Toolkit II

Themes & Motifs II 

Here is the second part to the first. These tools are more advanced but, applied carefully, can give your music a powerful edge and make it worth remembering.


1. Notes Change

Playing the exact same melody every time to signal a motif may get old after a while. Besides, themes may darken, brighten, become more elaborate, or change in other ways depending on the mood of the movie. Thus, it is useful to sometimes change the notes of the motif while still making it recognizable to your audience. This may be more challenging than it sounds.

2. Mode Change

Classical music uses this a lot. The most common one being transitioning from minor mode to major mode or vice versa. Other changes could be from major mode to lydian mode, lydian mode to mixolydian mode, or minor mode to phrygian mode. Of course there are many other mode changes which sound good. Finding the right one is the trick. Also, making the motif still recognizable is very important.

3. Rhythm Change

Depending on the mood of the theme you're showing, you might want to change the rhythm of the motif so that it better conveys the new mood or atmosphere of the movie. This change in rhythm is not the same thing as changing the time signature, although it may incorporate it if you are going for a dramatic rhythm change. The easiest way to do this though, is just to change the timing of individual notes while still sticking with the same time signature. For example, you could turn half notes into quarter notes, while turning eighth notes into quarter notes to keep the balance.

4. Segmentation

Another technique to use for motifs is to split your melody into pieces and fill it with new musical material. For example, you could play 1/3 of your motif melody, then break off into a new part before finishing the other 2/3 of your motif. Alternatively, you could split off into new material every 1/4 of your motif. Depending on the length of your motif, this process could take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. This is not a very common technique, but if used masterfully could give your music an interesting edge.

5. Reverse Notes

Reverse the main melody of your motif or reverse sections of it. By reversing I mean to make your notes go in the opposite direction. For instance, if you motif uses E D C G F E D, you would reverse it to D E F G C D E. This might be too extreme for you. If this is the case, you can only reverse a few notes while still keeping most of the main theme. In this case, E D C G F E D becomes C D E G F E D. If used right, this technique is very powerful and will definitely keep your motif from becoming stale or overused.

6. Instrument Choice

If you've already established an instrument which is mostly used whenever a character or theme is shown, then you can use this one. For example, a flute may often be playing in the background during a scene featuring a certain character. This instrument becomes part of the motif for your character. Whenever a flute is played, your audience would connect it with the character. This technique is useful but dangerous. After all, if you did this for every one of your character motifs, you wouldn't have many instruments left to use for regular themes. Some characters may be stuck with their motif being a snare drum or a wind chime. One way to get around this problem is to use instruments in only certain cases to represent a character. For instance, a solo flute may represent a character, but when a flute is played with other instruments it may not. Alternatively, a piano played along with just a violin may represent a location or theme while a piano played by itself or with other instruments would not. Knowing how to make the best use of this technique is critical and will wondrously improve your music.

That's all for now. Have fun composing!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Artist's Toolkit I

Themes & Motifs

Almost every movie needs to have themes and motifs in them. There are various kinds of them, some being about different characters, others about locations, still others about certain themes or other types of things that the film composers want to convey. The Lord of the Ring's movies are a great example of this. It's really fascinating to study the soundtracks. It couldn't have been easy for Howard Shore to weave together so many intricate puzzle pieces into a complete whole.

Five basic theme techniques will be discussed as follows. This is not an exhaustive list, these are just a few that came to my mind.

1. Tempo Change

One of the simplest ways to change a theme is to slow down or speed up the tempo. This isn't a very powerful tool, but it can be used to bring about a slight change in the theme. It can be really potent if used in combinations with some of the other tools.

2. Key Change

Another great tool to use. This is especially useful if the previous music for your movie is in a different key than your original piece and you want to make a smooth transition between the two. It's also useful for creating more of a dark mood by key changing to a lower key, or making it more majestic, by key changing to a higher key. 

3. Instrument Change/Addition

By adding instruments or changing which instruments are used, you can dramatically alter the sound of your theme. Sometimes the theme might come in with flutes, other times with brass instruments, other times with the piano or a combination of instruments, depending on what mood you're aiming for.

The Crown Prince, one of my compositions, is as an example of this. Listen to the first 22 seconds of it and get the feel of it. Then skip ahead to 1:34 and notice the different feel. Believe it or not, the melody line for the tuba is exactly the same, but now new instruments are added which change the whole atmosphere of it.

4. Chord Change

Even if the main melody stays the same, just by changing the chords, you can create an entirely different mood. If you're motif is major, for instance, turning it to minor for a rather depressing or sad scene in the movie would work very well.

Arcade Fire's song Abraham's Daughter is an example of this tool. Listen at 25 seconds until 38 and note the dark, foreboding sound of the piece which utilizes only one minor chord. Then listen to 39 seconds until 52 and notice the more hopeful sound of it which is caused because it uses other chords, particularly some major ones.

5. Harmony Addition 

By adding harmony to your motif, you can greatly improve and beautify it. It's very useful to use when embellishing a theme for a more powerful part in a movie. Try it and see the results.

That's all for now. Keep composing!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Atmospheric Conditions

Music's Aura

Every music piece has a certain mood or feel to it. Just like every great novel we've ever read had at least one underlying theme to it, every music piece needs to convey a certain mood or atmosphere. Some moods are weaker than others, some are forcefully powerful, and some may even be hard to define, but the moods are still there.

It seems best to me, when starting work on a song, to come up with both the mood and the name for it. If you can do these two things, composing the song should come much easier. However, if you are the type of person that just makes the music and then comes up with a name, that's great as well.

1. Emotional

Do you desire to make people sad when they hear your music? Often sad music is very beautiful, so this is a very good choice. Listen to The Call by Regina Spektor, and you'll see an example of this type of music. Certainly, the lyrics add to the emotional feeling of this music, but even just the instruments, the chords, and how the song is sung gives off a sad feeling.

2. Epic

Maybe you feel like writing a piece of music that inspires people and leaves them with a feeling of grandeur. If such is the case, keep your song's mood in the triumphant/epic genre. He's a Pirate by Hans Zimmer, showcases this mood perfectly. 

3. Mystery

Ever wanted to make a song which leaves your listeners with a sense of mystery and wonder. Give this mood a shot. With the added touch of solemnity, this Gregorian Chant song perfectly fits this genre.

4. Scary

Perhaps you always wanted to scare people with your music. If so, try this mood. Nazgul Theme from Lord of the Rings is a great example of this. Probably not a good idea to listen to this before going to bed though, unless you don't value your sleep.

5. Peaceful

Maybe you want to create a piece of beauty and relaxation. Try this mood. A River Flows In You by Yiruma captures this atmosphere perfectly. 
6. Magical

Have you ever wanted to transport your listeners to another world, another place. It's time to make use of this mood. This musical piece from World of Warcraft about night elves fits this mood with precision.

7. Happy

If you want to make happy music that's not annoying it might be sort of a challenge, but if you're a classical composer, you have a good chance at making this happen. Listen to The Prince of Denmark's March by Jeremiah Clarke and you'll understand this mood.

I know that's not nearly all the moods, but this covers some of the basics. Also, I know that moods can be combined to create some interesting complex combinations. Experiment with it to see what you can come up with. I'll be back with a post about themes & motifs sometime soon. Good luck composing!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Unlocking the Secret

Key Changes 

The world of composition really opens up when you begin to expand your horizons from simply playing in one key the entire piece to switching keys. Whether briefly, or lasting the rest of the song, key changes have a dramatic effect on your music. A carefully placed key change can bring your piece up to the next level. Do not overlook this composition secret!

1. Key Change (+1)

Changing the key up 1 half step (or 1 note) is a powerful technique to use. It's usually a dramatic change, because the new notes you'll be playing will mostly be completely different from the ones in the previous key. This key change is very useful for giving your piece of music that extra touch at the end.

For an example of this, go to this link to a musical piece I composed called Two Moons Inn. Go to about 2:08 and listen for the majestic key change. 

2. Key Change (+2)

By far the most common, the whole step transition gives your music a beautiful, epic sound. Works great in almost any case. The only problem with this could arise if your instruments or voices cannot reach the new notes because they're so high. Be careful of this. Otherwise, use this key change to add more power to a final chorus, bridge, or ending of your song.

3. Key Change (+3)

Think Lord of the Rings when you think of this key change. This is the key change used in the beginning of the song called the The Fellowship Theme. If you want to make your musical piece way more epic and triumphant sounding, use this key change. 

4. Key Change (+5)

Chronicles of Narnia uses this chord progression masterfully. Go to the following link and listen to this song called The Battle at about 37 seconds in. See if you can catch the key change. It's hard to catch due to the fact that this new key uses many of the same notes as the previous key. 

This key change which, like the previous one, is great for making great soundtrack music, is particularly powerful and effective when going from major to minor. Start with major and then, once you key change up, go to minor. See the amazing results!

5. Key Change (-2)

Very interesting key change. May have the effect of making your music feel like its sinking and that you're traveling deeper underground. Also, can have the effect of giving your piece a Celtic feel due to the fact that it's similar to using the Mixolydian mode. 

6. Key Change (-4)

The one word to describe this key change is eerie. Listen to this music piece I composed called Snow Queen's Palace and you'll see what I mean. Near the very beginning the key changes. See if you can spot it.

If you love to scare people with your music or if you just like composing music for horror films, this key change is certainly one for you to add to your repertoire. 

I know this didn't cover nearly all of the key changes, but, to be honest, I really am not sure what some of the other ones are good for and what they do. I hope to find out more so that I can post a follow up to this. Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope to catch you later with another post!