How to compose "sad" or "emotional" music?


(Kobold Geomancer) #1

The A/V teacher asked me if I could make a song for our school’s “Shattered Dreams” program that remembers students who died from drunk driving accidents. I’ve made music for the school before (I made the song they are gonna play at our graduation), so I took up the offer. The issue is that, I am supposed to create music that evokes a kind of somber/sad tone in the audience (it plays right after the “accident” happens in the presentation). I am struggling a lot with this, especially since I don’t have a lot of background in traditional musical composition.

What kinds of tips would you guys recommend, in terms of composition, effects/eQ/production, and even like some philosophy do you guys have to offer?


(idem345) #2

I am struggling a lot with this, especially since I don’t have a lot of background in traditional musical composition.

Me neither and that’s why I say you should consider samples. If I was asked to compose such a track I personally would rely on samples from royalty free sources like sample Cds. There are some really good libraries around like Spectrasonics Bizarre Guitar (ambient guitars a bit similar to the music in Making A Murderer) or Twisted Textures by BT that feature really good ambiences and effects with cinematic and emotional moods, all that go well with Trip Hop-ish beats.

Don’t be afraid to use samples if that means reaching your goal. I know many producers are very shy and skeptical about doing so, but consider that people who hear your track are mostly casual listeners and they will remember the track for what it is in its final form, nobody will ask or care how you got there. If you’re interested I can sort you out and send some examples!?


(Neurogami) #3

Use minor chords. Worth learning about if you don’t have any music theory knowledge. (That and the difference between major and minor keys.)

Simple major chord (e.g all things being equal sounds bright and happy) : C E G. On my PC keyboard this is Z C B

Simple minor chord (e.g all things being equal sounds "dark: and unhappy) : C Eflat G. On my PC keyboard this is Z D B

This “flattening” (i.e. shifting a half-step down ) of that middle note creates the minor chord.

Work out a basic chord progression, shift some of them to minor chords, see what happens. (Not every chord needs to be minor.)

Also, sad music tends to be slower.

*Emotional* music, not limited to sad, is a much tougher nut to crack.

Reverb tends to give music some ambiance.

The tricky part is not going overboard where the fx and such start to sound gimmicky or a parody of a genre.


(Bit_Arts) #4

The A/V teacher asked me if I could make a song for our school’s “Shattered Dreams” program that remembers students who died from drunk driving accidents. I’ve made music for the school before (I made the song they are gonna play at our graduation), so I took up the offer. The issue is that, I am supposed to create music that evokes a kind of somber/sad tone in the audience (it plays right after the “accident” happens in the presentation). I am struggling a lot with this, especially since I don’t have a lot of background in traditional musical composition.

What kinds of tips would you guys recommend, in terms of composition, effects/eQ/production, and even like some philosophy do you guys have to offer?

This reminds me a lot of what I wanted to do 25 years ago, when a good friend of mine was killed in a car accident. Back then I wrote this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r40N8g1tDUc

for an amiga music disk.

My advice: forget about f*cking music theory. Try to get your mind into the situation you’re going to melodize. Get into the mood, try to pick up the feelings related to the situation. And then compose, arrange, produce with your heart and listen with your soul. And all the rest will happen by itself. Yeah, that might sound quite cheesy. But it’s the simple truth.

The most moving sad music imo is the music transporting authentic sadness instead of music theory.


#5

D minor, the saddest of keys…(so they say anyway :slight_smile: )

This topic reminds me of an idea I had sometime ago with the SDC 93 samples. I was trying to write a more emotional piece myself. I improvised recorded live a piano part theme. Didn’t turn out well (like so many and so much of my dire ability with music), but it may help to give you some ideas. There is no mixing either, so that’s utter rubbish, but I saved it because I quite liked the phrase of patterns 28 and 29 :slight_smile:

Edit: Looks like me and BA has posted at the same time … BA with a good Amiga mod and some good advice :slight_smile:


(Rex) #6

For solemn, mournful music you can’t go wrong with harmonic minor in any key, or one better Phrygian dominant. Don’t worry about over complicating the theory side, just wikipedia the scales and make markers on your keyboard to play around with. The major 7th added to to a minor scale really gives a bitter-sweet flavour almost like a ray of light that disappears back into darkeness. You can play A Harmonic Minor with all the white keys on a piano except one, just substitue G for G#.

As everyone else is taking the opportunity for a bit of a plug, here is my most recent song written in B Harmonic Minor to give you an idea. Apologies it’s all live instrumentation recorded in Pro Tools but it did start out in Renoise with a multi-sampled harp and wobbly dubstep bass line but I sensed myself jumping on the band wagon so decided to go a bit more roots/dub style with it and do it live:

https://soundcloud.com/max-shuter/hellhole


(Beatslaughter) #7

My advice: forget about f*cking music theory. Try to get your mind into the situation you’re going to melodize. Get into the mood, try to pick up the feelings related to the situation. And then compose, arrange, produce with your heart and listen with your soul. And all the rest will happen by itself. Yeah, that might sound quite cheesy. But it’s the simple truth.

The most moving sad music imo is the music transporting authentic sadness instead of music theory.

I second this, the best advice you can get for such kinds of music. I would add maybe, try to stay minimal with instruments, it often works better than a fully loaded song, unless you have vocals to support it. I did this piece when my stepfather died a bit over a year ago and i found out my mother is very ill. The title “Last Path To Immortality” basically means the last struggle to the point of being remembered by your family, friends and so on. Here is also another kind of short minimalistic piano piece with a very personal background. If you’re not so good at playing your melody live, try locking the scale in Renoise and just jam away and try to find some main chords for a start, leave gaps inbetween. Then go over your recording and start again by adding another layer of added melody bits filling in the gaps, repeat that till you’re happy with the result. That way you don’t have to play a whole melody at once but can focus on small parts of it.


(Zer0 Fly) #8

Do you like doing stuff by ear? Or from creative imagination? And are on a tight deadline?

Yeah, then forget about trying to learn the music theory in 2 weeks, it won’t work out. Classic a-b-a-c ton.-dom.-subdom. song in minor will sound like a kindergarden version of trying to be as sad as a silly cartoon for 3-year-olds can get.

My Idea would be: just listen to a shitload of good songs that are roughly into the direction of style you’re looking for. Watch for parts, sounds, and atmospheres that seem to fit. Then put everything into that strange blender in your head, push the start button, forget about the exact originals, and nail down your own custom spiced version of it “by ear”. From material you already got, or sample cds or whatever.

If you are gifted with a little spontaneous creativity of your own & enough experience in tracking from driving your own styles in other categories of music, this might work out alright, and even without the result being even close to a rip-off of your model songs.

Had to rise an eyebrow at the image of having…this video and then the cheesiest artificially-sad tune ever possible to remember the dead-too-soon ones? Well, try to give them dignity and respect also. Just as a hint, or else it might just seem clumsy or too alienating to some.

Also sometimes very simplistic stuff might suffice to enhance a mood in a setting and visaul images. No need for full orchestra. Minimal with single notes, very easy and subtle rhythm section, and in a simple scale with right timbre (i.e. dark timbre instrument, maybe at times audibly detuned as modulation to emphasise the uneasy feelings) and right sound design (i.e. subtle wind like elements, heavy but damp reverb that won’t swallow stuff on certain elements) can very well work if the visual image interlock in the right way to create the overall emotional picture.


(Robbie S) #9

What OopsIFly said… when I make emotional songs I go for simplicity. Two or three instruments at a time. Sometimes it takes a while before you get that melody down. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time on just one riff before it felt right and being able to move on to the rest.

Either way, it all comes down to how you feel. A sad, or emotional song, doesn’t necessarily have to be one way. This is the hardest part; what may sound sad to you, may not sound sad to someone else. But if you treat it with respect and make something truthful, it will be perfect.

Not much help there, I know, but it’s a tricky music style to get down. I’d go with the flow and make something that I feel will fit.


(TheBellows) #10

Minor chords, warm long notes of strings (cello or violin), gentle plucks (Enya) and minimal percussion. Sounds sad to me at least. :stuck_out_tongue:


(lettuce) #11

Here is a song about a motorbike racing champion who dies in a crash…its from the film “all about ah long”…its a seriously sad ending, great film.


(ABįSƧȔš ṼØȊÐƎ) #12

may I also add, Renoise also has a scale section in the sampler, which once selected on sample etc, predefines notes in that scale :wink:


(TheBellows) #13

may I also add, Renoise also has a scale section in the sampler, which once selected on sample etc, predefines notes in that scale :wink:

And if you turn the phrase on with only the basenote and no loop, it will force change which ever note is written in the pattern editor to match the scale.
If phrase is not on, it will only let you write a note within the scale, but still play which ever note is written.


(random) #14

the drummer :smiley:


(gentleclockdivider) #15

Call me a wuss , but I shead a tear at the ending of ’ 12 years a slave ’ ( directed by steve mcQueen , soundtrack H Zimmer )

Fantastic movie btw


(TheBellows) #16

Call me a wuss , but I shead a tear at the ending of ’ 12 years a slave ’ ( directed by steve mcQueen , soundtrack H Zimmer )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh-2VYAiJSQ
Fantastic movie btw

Spoiler alert? I haven’t seen the movie and that sounded like an important part of the movie, so i’m not sure i should watch it?


(gentleclockdivider) #17

Spoiler alert? I haven’t seen the movie and that sounded like an important part of the movie, so i’m not sure i should watch it?

Well it’s based on a true story , he was unrighfully enslaved for 12 years then eventually comes home .

It’s not really a spoiler at all .


(GUEST:::El°HYM) #18

Just search for that longazz #flatearth thread in here & then open a new song in renoise… :walkman: #protip


#19

Just search for that longazz #flatearth thread in here & then open a new song in renoise… :walkman: #protip

Funnily enough I actually found myself trying that El°Hym. Didn’t really come out too emotional however. Taking the high ‘singing’ line from Vic’s song and dropping that into the bass part, upping the tempo a touch made a little #ditty :walkman:


(GUEST:::El°HYM) #20

I read on #Quora that all of his ep’s & also the compo songs in the renoise - forums were act.made with reason & ableton, which is #blasphemy :walkman: still also a bit #sad, though :yeah:

Funnily enough I actually found myself trying that El°Hym. Didn’t really come out too emotional however. Taking the high ‘singing’ line from Vic’s song and dropping that into the bass part, upping the tempo a touch made a little #ditty :walkman: