Part 4: Promoting Your New Channel

Tip Number 1: Intelligent Spamming.

Spam is shit, there’s no other way to say it. Nobody likes to see “Come check out my video, leave like comment subscribe please trying to grow my channel thx” 

It’s rude, lazy and just plain annoying. But when done right with what I call ‘intelligent spamming’, it can really boost your channel and you don’t come off as such an arsehole. 

This isn’t a gaming channel, or a comedy channel, it’s a composing channel which is a VERY hard channel to grow. You need all the help you can get. I genuinely believed that people would like the music I was writing, I wasn’t interested in money or anything like that I really did just want people to hear what I was doing.

If you don’t believe in your music, or you’re not making an effort in your videos this won’t work.
What this does is give you a window to be seen, a very short window and if you are good and people like you, it will work wonders for your channel.

Intelligent Spamming;

1. Go to a relevant & very popular video

If it’s a piano channel you’re going to go to the big piano videos


The videos that are popular in this niche are

Michael Ortega’s ‘Sad Piano Song (this will make you cry)’

Aidan Gibbons sad piano animation

2 Hour relaxing piano music for studying

Mozart’s Requiem etc. Just look for any above 1 million views. 

2. Make a relevant comment not a generic copy and pasted “come check out my channel leave like subscribe comment trying to grow my channel thx”  All this will get you is dislikes or abuse on the video you spammed, nobody wants to see this on a video.

Say something like, ‘This piece is lovely, I really liked ‘X’, I gave me a really ‘X’ vibe. I write piano music too, I really wish it would get this sort of attention I really think if people heard it they’d like what they heard… anyway beautiful piece, ‘X’ is a great artist.”


That will go down a thousand times better than the generic one, you’ve shown you’ve listened to the music in the video, that you’re not just there to spam. You’ve made an effort and that goes a long way, you’ve shown you’re a real person, not somebody who only wants to get views.

A gaggle of spammers who have gotten a lot of views from a successful spam session. 


Be honest and say what you really think about the piece. Make sure the spam part is smaller than the compliment to the current video.

3. Make several YouTube accounts (or use friend and family accounts) I had 13 when I was first starting.
Go to the video and click like on the comment you just posted with each account. Check to see it has the +13

4. Come back in a couple of hours. If your music is good your comment will have 100+ likes

This happened to me every single time, I would come back and sometimes the comment would have 200+ likes. Those 13 or so likes you gave it got the ball rolling, it moved the comment up and allowed people to see it. Then they wanted to go see what the likes were about, then they heard your music. Even the people who hate spam will have to give you props. 


5. This is the most important part. It’s also the part all spammers fuck up.

You’re most likely going to get a comment along the lines of

“I saw your comment on X, love your music glad I checked you out.”
If you don’t reply to this comment then you’ve wasted your time.

This is the equivalent of going up to a girl you like, successfully flirting with her, taking her back to your house.

Then ignoring her until she leaves…

200_s

Once you get them to your channel SEAL. THE. DEAL.

Answer their comment, don’t answer it generically. Be as sincere and human as you were on the video you ‘intelligently’ spammed.
“Thank you for listening, I thought you’d like it, I mean you already liked X so I’m glad that you decided to come over =D I’ll be doing plenty more like this”
There is a very good chance that this person will click subscribe, like and will become a loyal fan.
I still talk to people who if I had not answered their first comment wouldn’t still be commenting today.

I went from having 1 or 2 new subs a day to 50 subs a day whenever I did this.

WARNING

You will still get the odd person who doesn’t like what you’re doing, you may attract a dedicated hater. These are really hard to shake off.

If you do it too often people will see your comment, recognise you and will conclude you’re insincere. Use this sparingly or it will backfire.

Don’t do it on the same video too many times, if it’s really popular newer comments will push it down. But not only that the owner of the video might call you out which could be embarrassing for you and will attract bad attention. You don’t want a big YouTuber calling you a spammer.
Although a very nice big YouTuber replied to me when I did this more than once on their video they said;
“I have no problem with self-promotion, YouTube is a very competitive place. I listened to your music and you play with grace and sensitivity. Good luck.”
What a lovely guy. But that’s rare for somebody to be so nice about it, there’s a bigger chance of them saying “Stop spamming my videos!”. (I would never call somebody out on spamming I always check out a video if somebody asks me to. Some people will be nice but it’s risky doing it too much)

Tip Number 2: Find a promotion channel.

There are channels dedicated to promoting up and coming composers. EpicMusicVN, EpicJenny, ThePrimeCronus and MrEpicOst are a few.
Some of these channels have over 200,000 subscribers. If they decide to promote your music then you will definitely see an increase in subscribers.
I’ve had experience with MrEpicOsts and ThePrimeCronus, both great guys.

The Prime Cronus

MrEpicOsts

Don’t be disappointed if they don’t promote your music straight away.

You might need to refine your sound a bit more or perhaps your genre and style isn’t what they usually upload. In my experience these promotion channels have a wide variety of pieces so I doubt you’ll run into this problem. I’ve also noticed a lot of them (especially ThePrimeCronus) promote composers of all experience level. Which is great.

When I had around 100 subscribers ImmortalMage contacted me (who were a huge channel at the time with 100,00+ subs) and asked to upload my music. When they did I jumped up to 500 subscribers within a week, I met MrEpicOsts on the video they promoted and I asked him if he would like to upload my music which he did and that led to me getting another 100 or so subscribers in a couple of days (at the time I was getting 6 subs a day so that was huge at the time).
So these things can snowball like that.

It’s rare for these opportunities to come to you though, you’ve got to shamelessly contact people and ask. Don’t be afraid to ask to collaborate or to be promoted by promotion channels.

If people don’t reply or say they will do something and don’t, don’t worry about looking desperate or being afraid of annoying them. Pester, keep asking.
This is your channel, your career.

This is a unique career, you’re completely on your own. You’re the artist and the manager, this is the business side of what you do. It’s time to take off the artist hat and put on the manager hat and secure those gigs for your artist.

I can’t stress that part enough though, forget your pride, don’t be afraid of looking desperate, or get embarrassed for asking. You have to be your own manager, managers don’t get embarrassed asking for things.

What To Avoid

Avoid Reddit. Some people might post your music to Reddit, in that situation it usually works out well. But if you try self-promotion on Reddit you will almost certainly find yourself that dedicated hater. super-computer-nerd-580x348

This guy is committed. He will subscribe and dislike your videos the second they go public. I picked one up from Reddit when I used to only get 10 likes or so per video. The second I uploaded the video it would have a dislike, this guy kept it up for 5 whole months, every day.

Video Titles

This isn’t really promotion it’s video optimization. Ensuring your video has the best possible chance of being found.
Find yourself a default layout for your titles. You can’t have Johnplayspiano.mov. Nobody will ever find that. You’ve got to ask yourself what you search when you’re looking for this type of video.
Before I started YouTube I used to always search ‘Emotional Piano Music’ or ‘Sad Piano Music’, so I made that my default. If you search something then you can bet that others search the exact same thing.

I have no problem with you using my exact layout but there is a problem with doing that. The person with the most engagement will move higher in the search engine. Which means your video will likely be on page 16 and whoever ventures to those pages? Copying others will most likely be counter-productive, the best thing to make your title what you search in the search engine.

copycat

Once you’ve got a good title you’ve got a good chance of being found from searches and if you’re being promoted by a promotion channel you’ve got another source of traffic, and on top of the intelligent spamming you will start to see those channel gains.

 

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Part 3: Starting Your YouTube Channel

Picking Your YouTube Name.

The first thing to do is to pick your name. Be careful with this. That shite band you like now might not seem so cool in a couple of years. When you’ve made it big and you’ve got a ton of subscribers and the channels racking in millions of views a month you don’t want to be regretting your name choice.


It’s your brand and it’s important. Making it memorable isn’t necessarily the be all and end all. You wouldn’t believe how many times people have messaged me saying “oh I’m thinking of making a music channel on YouTube I’ve just got to pick my name.” And then they come back with what they think sounds cool there and then “MidnightRider” “RenegadeStalker91” “xXRogueSnakeXx”


Don’t pick a name like that, be honest with yourself are people going to think “I’m looking for some music oh look at this channel, Renegade Stalker I bet he writes good music” No, they are going to think that your channel is about arse rape and stalking.

Make sure your name is either relevant to what your channel is or simply relevant to who you are… If you actually spend your time stalking or riding around at midnight then go ahead. But I recommend keeping it simple and normal, something that is clear and people know what the deal is.

If your counter argument to this is ‘oh but wait a minute, all those huge gaming channels like JackSepticBalls, PewDiePie, CupQuake and StampyLongCock all have bullshit irrelevant names.’ That’s true they do, but they are the exception, they make up 0.00000001% of the YouTube community. For every PewDiePie there are millions of other gaming channels with long inane names that make no sense with under 10 subscribers because nobody can find them.

Of course, your name won’t make or break you. But it will have an effect on your channel even if small.

Another thing is that down the line (especially in music) you’re going to want some sort of credit and appreciation from others for what you’re doing. You want to be able to say ‘Yeah that’s me who’s done this…’ Not MidnightRider123. I was very close to picking SolidSnakePiano for my name and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I didn’t. I still love Metal Gear Solid but people know me as me, they know I’m writing the music and my name is clearly all over the place. That’s a bit of a selfish reason but still take it into consideration. 

Avatar and Channel Art

 

When you first start YouTube channel you will see this

Channel art.png

Everyone else however will see this 

slide_325288_3115111_freeHow your channel looks to the World and all its inhabitants before avatar and channel art. 

.

Having an avatar and channel art will make a tremendous difference. Even if you don’t have any videos there’s still a chance somebody might subscribe to you because you’ve grabbed their attention.
A way to make channel art is to download Sketchbook Express free from the app store or Photoshop.
I use Sketchbook Express, it’s like a small scale Photoshop, and it’s free so it’s our number one choice.

Your Channel Art

Option 1: Get Somebody Else To Do It.

Head over to DeviantArt to find an artist who does channel art. You’ll be spoilt for choice and the talent of some of those artists is staggering. Most will do exactly what you ask for a price.

Pros

They will most likely be much better than you.

They will most likely have better equipment.

Cons

You will have to pay.

I heard you moan through the screen.

tumblr_m1z0kuf8tj1r4zr2vo1_r1_500
You. Tighter than a camels arse in a sandstorm. 

The artist might not have you high on their list of priorities (Usually depends on how much you pay) The only way you get away with not paying is if you’re giving them some exposure, and the only exposure you can give them is on webcam, which they most likely aren’t interested in anyway.

Prices vary but from what I’ve seen you can get channel art done for as cheap as $20.00. There may even be cheaper.

But if you have absolutely no money we can look at Option 2.

Option 2: Do It Yourself

The cheapest way.

Pros

Cheaper.

You can learn how to use the software.

Don’t have to deal with anybody else but yourself.

Can do exactly what you want.

Cons

You might suck.

You will need to learn how to use the software.

It will take up time.

 

Making your own channel art.

The artwork has to be 2560 x 1440youtube-channel-art-template

https://jonathan.porta.codes/images/posts/2013/04/youtube-channel-art-template.png <copy the URL and save this to your desktop.

Drag the image from your desktop onto your Sketchbook Express app.

It will open a project with those exact dimensions. I think that image is pretty self-explanatory but I have no idea who’s reading this so I’m going to explain it.
That red area

Is the most important part, there you need to fit your name and whatever else you’re planning on putting there, because that’s what people will be seeing.

example1

Piano10 move2

Here’s how we see it on YouTubeScreen Shot 2016-01-03 at 17.06.20

 

The actual making of your channel art is up to you. Try not to be too adventurous, make sure that a clear message gets across. If you lack the knowledge and resources then keeping it simple is a very good way of disguising that. A classy font over a white background can look professional. Make use of the Layer Editor (almost all picture editing software have this layer option)

SKETCHBOOK 2016-01-03 at 17.10.52

Use the second layer for text, and the first for a static image. If you look at my channel art again Piano10 move2
that was done with 2 layers, the first layer was the picture of the twirling piano keys, the second layer was the text on top of that image.

You can get loads of free fonts from http://www.dafont.com

 

Your Avatar

Your channels looking good right now, you look like a real YouTuber just without videos. You’ve probably even got a few people curious. A line’s forming. All you need to do now is get your avatar.

Take a picture of yourself or you could pay an artist to create an avatar for you or if you happen to be a good artist, a good drawer or anything like that maybe you could create your own character for your avatar.

Here’s an example of an avatarIMG_6187Ripley’s avatar. 

Next entry I’ll give you some tips and tricks to getting more exposure, views and subscribers during your time in the dark period of your YouTube career (Pre-1000 subscribers).

 

Part 2: Recording Equipment

The Three Essentials

  • DAW
  • Video Editing Software
  • MIDI Piano

I know what you’re thinking, money. Not everyone has it.

giphy

If you do then this is all going to be a lot easier for you. But if you’re like the rest of us, you don’t have two penny’s to rub together (or cents)

You’re financially challenged, insecure, afraid of spending and have a friend everybody likes more than you.. you’re a Weasley.  

ron-weasley

You’re going to need to spend some money. I will tell you the cheapest possible avenues, and remember even if you have no money, at least you’re not ginger…

 

DAW

Your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) will make uploading and recording much easier. You could record acoustically but the problem is you need microphones and the option to edit out mistakes is gone completely, you also need total silence.
So unless you’ve got tons of cash, live in a cave and are so good at your instrument that you won’t be making any mistakes, you will want to be recording digitally.

 

Logic Pro X

icon128-2x

This is what I use. It’s reliable, extensive, user-friendly but not to the point of being unprofessional. It’s easy to navigate and you can do all your recording no problem.

Price – £149.99

If you want a reliable DAW that you won’t need to change and will remain enough no matter what your experience level then this is perfect.

You will need a Mac to run Logic Pro X

 

2000px-Cubase_logo.svg.png

Pricey pricey Cubase. It’s not as user-friendly, but it’s arguably more professional. I’ve used both, I used Cubase for three years while studying music technology at college and the only difference I can really remember is that it was uglier. I created my own piano VST in Cubase but I’m fairly certain that could also be done in Logic Pro X.

There will be other features and I’m sure it probably is more professional. But for what we want (recording for YouTube) it’s unlikely that we’ll be using these more complicated features.

Price – £406.00

The cheapest

tumblr_lz7fl02syr1rnr4rko1_250

Garageband

garageband.png

Reliable and user-friendly. I suppose people will tell you this is as unprofessional as it comes. Ignore those people. I remember this guy who had money, he went out and bought Pro Tools 9 which was the most expensive software at the time. He had no clue how to use it and did the most basic of things on it, he would’ve been a lot better off if he had just got himself Garageband.
This is worth thinking about. You are using this to record your music and Garageband is perfect for that. It will detect your VSTs and has a decent default library with pianos and a wide variety of orchestral instruments.
Some sound synthetic but it’s not a bad place to start. For my entire first year on YouTube I used Garageband.

My version of This Land using Garageband and Garageband’s default library. 

My original Homeland using only Garageband default library. 

Price – Free with most Macs or £3.99
flstudio-logo-1200-80-755x425

FL Studio is the cheaper alternative for PC.

Price – £55.00

Consider Buying a Mac

I really recommend getting a Mac if you’re going to be composing and uploading to YouTube. If you’re a beginner this will be made so much easier if you get yourself a Mac. A lot of the lower end software comes free with Macs (DAW, Video Editing Software) It’s all connected and easy to get onto YouTube. It may cost a lot for your mac (Cheapest are usually around £400) But it’s so much easier to do.

Pros and cons of getting a Mac and comparing prices.

Pros

  • Your current laptop is unlikely going to be powerful enough to run all of your new recording and video editing software.
  • Free video editing software and DAW (iMovie & Garageband)
  • Simplicity

Cons

  • The price

 

A Mac will set you back but on eBay and other sites you can find a decent Macbook Pro for $449.00.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 21.05.53

I just had a quick look and found that straight away, I’m sure there’s probably some even cheaper. It might seem like a lot but there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a lot on your DAW and Video Editing Software if you don’t have one of these.

Which brings us onto

 

Video Editing Software

This isn’t as difficult because in my experience they are all pretty similar. All you really need (If you are doing what I do, static image with music in the background) is the ability to put an image and some music over it.
All of these allow you to do that

  • iMovie
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Sony Vegas Pro

I’ve only used iMovie and Final Cut Pro, which I think is similar to the difference between Garageband and Logic Pro, Final Cut is like an upgrade to iMovie, the interface is almost identical.
I’ve not used Sony Vegas Pro or Adobe After Effects but from what I’ve seen they have a ton of great effects. Those two are the higher end video editing programmes, from the looks of it you get what you pay for.
iMovie is free with most Macs and if not it costs around £10.00.

Final Cut Pro costs around £230.00 but apparently there are free cracked versions online.

I can’t write as much on video editing software because it’s not really my field. But I know a bit about them and you can find them around online, just look for  ‘Final Cut Pro Cracked Full Version’ on YouTube, you will go through a lot of fakes and dead ends, most will take you to a never ending survey but eventually you will find the real deal, a good indicator is the amount of likes on the video and have a read of the comments. Never enter your credit card details or sign up for anything. General rule is if something doesn’t start downloading and you get redirected more than once, give up and try another.
If you’re the really honest type though you could just drop £230.00 on it or get iMovie. I’m not sure what the cheap PC equivalent to iMovie is but I found this;

A list of video editing programmes for Mac and PC, some are free. http://www.iskysoft.com/article/imovie-alternative.html

The good thing about Final Cut Pro and iMovie is there’s a ‘Share to YouTube’ button. They are both for Mac, it’s like I said before it’s just much easier doing all of this with a Mac.

MIDI Piano

I said in the last entry to get familiar with the piano even if it isn’t your primary instrument and this is one of the main reasons why.

The first thing you want to make sure when looking for your digital piano is that it has USB connectivity. You don’t want to be messing around with MIDI In Outs

MIDI1                    MIDI interface diagram, bullshit that you don’t know or have time for. 

 

With USB connectivity you just plug a 1.8m to USB 2.0 (which is a Printer cable) from the piano to the computer and it’s done. Your computer will most likely recognise it straight away. If it doesn’t you just install the driver (which are always online).
But most times your DAW will detect it the second you plug it in and you’re ready to go right there.

I made a big mistake when starting out. I bought a piano that I didn’t really need. I got the Yamaha DGX 640

DGX

It’s a good piano but it was £640.00. Which is £500 more than I needed to spend for what I needed. If you’re not planning on performing live (I don’t mean infront of a camera I mean infront of a live audience in person) then you don’t need a piano like this.
From the picture you can see one glaring problem with this as a controller… It only has one mod wheel. Which was a pitch bend wheel, so you couldn’t control string dynamics or anything useful, all you could do was bend the pitch.
It was a performance piano. What I should’ve got is a basic 88 key MIDI controller keyboard.
With a keyboard like this you have USB connectivety and much more control over your DAW.

best-88-key-midi-keyboard-controller

I’ve made a slight mistake again though, I bought the first one (m-audio), the keys aren’t weighted so it doesn’t feel like playing a piano and it’s made it impossible to play all the samples in the VST’s (limited amount of dynamic range) You can pick these up for around £100.00 (sometimes less).

Another thing to take into account is most MIDI controllers don’t have speakers, so if you were hoping to practice out loud without firing up the DAW then I’ve got some bad news for you.
If you’re recording and uploading to YouTube then these are the best options though so have a look around but I really recommend getting a £100 range MIDI piano.

Once you’ve got your DAW, your video editing software and your MIDI controller you’re all set to get yourself on YouTube.

david-brent-not-cool-43

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1: Composing

Before you start your journey into the great world of composition there are two things to always remember;

  1. Being able to compose isn’t a ‘you have it or you don’t’ kind of deal. It’s a skill and just like any skill you improve the more you do it and the harder you work at it.

  2. Nobody is gifted. 

Once you get these two things into your head your ceiling disappears. Beethoven had two normal hands, a brain and still wiped his arse with his right hand. Beethoven, Bach and Mozart had nothing that you don’t, they were only human.

The thing that they all had was determination and eagerness for composition, people commonly mistake this for natural talent but that’s bullshit, hard work and dedication is the only way.

“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.” – Mozart

 

Not everybody wants to reach that level of course, the Mozart and Beethoven level. You might want to get a YouTube channel going and get a decent amount of subs and views. I promise if you do what I say in this blog with persistence and determination you will 100% without a doubt achieve that.

I’m self-taught so throughout this I’ll be using my own made up terms but I’m sure you’re going to understand them.

Your Instrument and Getting Familiar With The Piano

For composing and uploading to YouTube, the easiest way is through the piano. So put down that flute, shove that oboe up yo’ ass. It’s time to get familiar with the piano. Your clothes will remain on for this.

You don’t need to become Franz Liszt on the piano, and you’ll find a lot of what you already know on your primary instrument you can transfer to piano. I started as a guitarist and moved over, you have a head start if you play another instrument. If not though don’t worry just head over to the piano.

You at the piano acting as douchey as possible, realising you’re greater than 99% of the population. 

LANG LANG.jpg


Although not completely necessary, I do recommend reaching a certain level of competency on your primary musical instrument. That’s not saying that a competent instrumentalist will make a good composer, or that a good composer needs to be a good instrumentalist. But it will help you, if we think of it like you’re a carpenter, your instrument is your tool belt and the better and more knowledgable you about your instrument the bigger and better the tool belt. Knowing a wide array of scales, keys and chords will help you massively.

Remember it’s not essential, you can play your instrument at just an okay level and still be a good composer. You can put that glock back in the drawer.

Composing and performing are two very different things, you will need to practice composing to get good at it, there’s no way around that.

Piano serves as your orchestra, you have all the registers at your finger tips, all sections.

Which brings me neatly to

The Three Levels of The Composition

 

There are three core ‘levels’ to a composition.

Base, Bass and Melody.

Back to the ol’ faithful carpentry analogy, similar to building a house you have to lay the foundations first (The Base) then you reinforce it (The Bass) then you give it it’s shape (The Melody) and from these things you build up to create your house

Piano

The Bass in the Red

The Base should be played the Yellow area

The Melody in the Green

There are a few more lesser important levels in-between these three but these are the core. Putting these three together a piece can be made, a basic formula that guarantees a working composition. (I’ll elaborate on this below)

INSTRUMENTATION


You can file every instrument into these three levels.

Here are a few examples

BASS

  • Cello ///
  • Pizzicato Strings /
  • Bass (duh) ///
  • Double Bass (double duh) ///
  • Bass Clarinet/Bassoon/Recorder Etc. /
  • Staccato Strings /
  • Piano ///

BASE

  • Piano ///
  • Strings ///
  • Harpsichord ///
  • Organ ///
  • Accordion ///
  • Guitar ///
  • Horns /
  • Harp ///
  • Xylophone /

MELODY

  • Violin ///
  • Piccolo /
  • Oboe ///
  • Pan Flute ///
  • Flute ///
  • Trumpet ///
  • Saxophone ///
  • Piano ///
  • Voice ///
  • Glockenspiel /
  • Celesta /

 

Some instruments don’t have enough strength to carry a level.
E.g. Horns usually can’t carry the base. A bass clarinet alone can’t usually carry the bass.

/ indicates that the instrument is weak and usually unable to carry a level
/// indicates that it CAN carry a level. So now you know what those are there for scroll yourself back up there and check what’s strong and what isn’t, I’ll wait…

 

The instruments that are weaker tend to be better for creating harmonies or reinforcing the level by playing the same thing that the strong instruments are playing (doubling).

So applying this, if we were to make a piece that has
Bassoon in the bass, horns for the base and piccolo for the melody the piece would struggle, the levels would have trouble defining and establishing themselves, it would lack strength.
Whereas a cello in the bass, a piano in the base and a violin in the melody would have clear definition, each level would be easy to determine and this would give you a clearer and much stronger piece.

Piano is a strong instrument at all 3 levels, it will work well as a solo instrument with no accompaniment. So you can play piano on all three levels.

You do have some leeway with these levels, you can deviate and move out of them slightly, the melody can go into the base a bit and the bass can go into the base a bit too, some instruments (like the violin) are actually meant to be played in the base level but it more suited to playing the melody.

Piano
BASS                                                BASE                                MELODY
Playing the melody in the base level instead of the melody level can only be done with a strong instrument. If a weaker instrument plays the melody in the base it will get lost or clash with the actual base.

Piano1.jpg

An example of the three levels in the piano roll on Logic Pro X played by a solo piano (simultaneously). 

Although this was played with only piano it could be orchestrated by playing each level with an appropriate instrument (this will be elaborated on in the arrangements section)

Putting your piece together

So you know what instruments you’re going to use for each level. The first thing you need to do is the base.

The base is a chord progression. Keep it simple, the more complex you make it the more complex the piece will get as you’re adding the other levels. Before you know it you’ve got something too big.

There are many basic four chord progressions. Some common ones are;

Example 1. Cmaj, Gmaj, Amin, Fmaj (I, V, vi, IV)

Example 2. Cmaj, Amin, Fmaj, Gmaj (I, vi, IV, V)

Example 3. Amin, Fmaj, Cmaj, Gmaj (i, VI, III, VII)

Example 4. Amin, Emin, Fmaj, Gmaj (i, v, IV, VII)

Mix it up if you want, but keep the start chord and end chord the same (or things may start to get confusing)

Keep it simple, stay in 4/4. Play each chord four times on the beat (count as you play or put a metronome on if you like, the steadier and more accurate you are with timing the easier it will be when you get to the other layers)

I started off playing in bands and I grew familiar with song structure and progressions. I structure my music similar to song. A basic song structure is Verse, Chorus, Verse (ternary form) thinking of pieces like this, in this ‘rock/pop song” way instead of thinking of them as classical pieces will make it easier and less intimidating to compose (and eventually you may start to see classical and other more complex music this way) which will help with learning by ear and if you decide to do arrangements. 

The progressions above will work well for the chorus, for the verses you should have something less defined that serves as a build to the chorus. A two chord progression would work.

E.g. (this is for Example 1 above) play C major to Amin in 4/4 for the verse, it will work well as a build to the chorus, your chorus will contain the most memorable part in the melody level, ‘The Hook’.

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Captain Hook, Earned his name from frequently dropping incredibly memorable and catchy tunes… and his penchant for hookers. 

You don’t have to structure the piece this way, you could just do the four chord progression all the way through which is a lot easier. A lot of minimalist composers do this (Ludovico Einaudi, Yiruma, Yanni, Philip Glass.) But you will have to work harder in the melody level to keep it from being boring. 

Don’t worry about originality. Everything has been done in some way or form. You can put an original spin and carry on from the greats and push the boundaries which could eventually turn into something new.
But you can’t just pull things out of your arse, it isn’t possible.
Beethoven based the 2nd movement of the Pathetique sonata on Mozart’s K457. There are identical passages in both pieces.
Look through the history of composition and music and you will see it in every era, the greats take from the previous greats. If Beethoven can do it so can you.

Once you accept that originality is impossible you will be a much more productive composer. You will start to develop your own sound anyway because of your tastes. You will be taking inspiration from a combination of pieces and songs that nobody before you has. Mozart never got to hear Rachmaninoff, Bach never got to hear Beethoven, Rachmaninoff never heard The Beatles. If they did who knows what we would’ve heard from them. You have a combination of influences that nobody else on earth has and that will make your music yours.

 

Now that you’ve got your base it’s time to move onto the melody or the bass. This isn’t Nazi Germany, you can choose which you want to do next. 

Most pieces I will do the melody last. I do recommend doing the bass next though because it reinforces the base and will make it easier for you to play the melody over it.

 

BASS

After I said this isn’t Nazi Germany I’ve made the choice for you and next is the Bass.

What you can generally do for that bass, this will ALWAYS work. Is play the root note of each chord in the bass. The root note is the first note of the chord. So back to those examples. We take the first one Example 1.

Cmaj, Gmaj, Amin, Fmaj, the bass could be C, G, A, F. That would work just fine, just one note using a bass instrument (a strong bass instrument) and that could be it for the bass. A single root note bassline will work well to support the piece, but if you’re only planning on having three instruments (one in each level) it’s a good idea to put a bit more thought into the bass. Even if it’s moving to the next note in semitones, or mixing the rhythm up a little (syncopation) or maybe arpeggiating the notes of the triads in the progression for the bass.
The bass is sometimes called the second melody, having a hook in the bass can have a huge impact on a piece.

Also remember that the more complicated you make the bass the more difficult the piece will be if you decide to add more instruments. You will notice that it will start to clash with other harmonies.

Melody

Here’s where you can set your piece aside from others. The melody is the most important part of your composition. This is the part that people will remember, or what you want them to remember. It’s our goal to have people humming this to themselves.

Being observant is crucial to being a good composer. Your melody says a lot about you and your powers of observation. What is it that you like about your favourite music?
Why do you always sing the same songs?
Is there a common element in all of these songs?

There will be, it’s your job to find it. Most likely it’s going to be something to do with the melody.

People like to hum and sing along to melodies, we could guess why that is, probably something to do with a primal part of us. Call and response, babies mimicking their mothers, cavemen sat around copying one another, language. It’s in our genes.
So with this in mind, humans vocal abilities should be taken into account, even if you don’t intend to have this melody sung, the more memorable melodies are singable (May or may not be a word)

Try to avoid drastic leaps, semitones are easiest to sing, so keeping your melody close together and most of the notes only one note away from the previous gives you a good chance of creating a good, memorably melody.
People say to use your ‘inner ear’ for making melodies, but we can’t rely on that witchcraft bullshit because we have a schedule to keep on YouTube, people are demanding to hear your music so you better not be relying on that magical inner ear.

General Tips;

 

  • Stay in the key of the chord progression. If you don’t know much about keys then just use the notes that make up the chords in your chord progression, it’s almost certain that all those notes will be in the key signature.
  • Start and end on the first note of the first chord (root note)
  • Don’t leap around, try to stay in one octave and make the transition from one note to another smooth by primarily moving in semitones.

 

 

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If you’re going to do all three levels on the piano then you assign each hand to the levels. The left generally does both the Bass and the Base whilst the right hand does the melody.