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One thing I loved about speaking with Arthur Breur in our recent episode (catch it here) was the feeling of endless possibility he has when writing music. He has so many ways to get started with a song,

Are you interested in writing a song/piece of music? Do you feel blocked getting started? Or maybe you’ve written something you like, but don’t know how to keep it going? Here is a summary of some techniques he uses to get started writing a song, or to make a song more interesting.

Let’s PLAY!

Check out our interview on Spotify (it’s also on any other platform including youtube).

Arthur builds a melody using several techniques:

1. Translating Letters to Notes: Arthur associates each letter of the alphabet with corresponding musical notes. It’s straightforward from A to G, then further letters repeat the process (so H-I-J would be A-B-C again). He can translate entire words or sentences into notes, resulting in a unique motif for a melody. “I had a whole sentence [about a word of the day, Smergadine, which means very green] and I took the sentence note by note through this entire sentence and I created a piece of music for it,” he says. Take someone’s name, or a phrase, and see what happens!

2. Inverting and Reversing: Arthur says to always, always turn melodies upside down! You can also reverse them to explore different variations and potential new melodies.

3. Mathematical and Structural Consideration: Arthur considers the mathematics and structures underlying scales and intervals. For instance, he notes the frequency of motifs and repetition within a melody, as well as the overall arc and direction of a melody. He would also pay attention to where specific notes land for emphasis. He can then change any one (or more!) of these elements to see what it sounds like.

4. Creativity and Experimentation: Arthur emphasizes the importance of experimentation and creativity, even (or especially!) with something you like. For example, change or omit a note in a motif or melody. Ask yourself “What if I…” and see how it sounds!

5. Using Life Events and Dialogues: Arthur often draws inspiration from his own life events and dialogues in movies or shows. He "hears" rhythms and patterns in phrases, sentences or even the names of things or people, e.g., "And Soon The Bands Can Be Notified." These can then be turned into rhythms in the piece.

6. Feedback and Refinement: Arthur tweaks his melodies based on feedback from musicians and ensembles who play his compositions. This helps him refine melodies to make them more playable and musically effective. Get someone else to play your piece and give you their thoughts… or even just listen to their interpretation and you may hear things you would like to tweak!

Happy playing!

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