Songwriting and Composing Melodies | Lauren Buchter | Skillshare

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Songwriting and Composing Melodies

teacher avatar Lauren Buchter, Composer for Film and Television

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Using Chord Progressions


    • 3.

      Composing Melodies


    • 4.

      More About Melodies


    • 5.

      Crafting Effective Lyrics


    • 6.

      Orchestration, Arranging, Additional Elements


    • 7.

      Music and Dialog


    • 8.

      Closing Thoughts


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About This Class

What makes a song or melody heroic, romantic, sad, or uplifting?

In this class, you’ll learn a few tried and true techniques for creating memorable melodies, as well as how to create a song which tells a story. Using a “creative brief” for our project, you will have an opportunity to create a custom piece of music the same way as many working composers do for film,TV and advertising every day! As a composer for film and TV, I’ll share with you some tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Some prior knowledge of music and ability to record music for the final project is helpful. All students interested in developing skills as songwriters or composers can benefit from this class! Beginners welcome!

Meet Your Teacher

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Lauren Buchter

Composer for Film and Television


Composer Lauren Buchter is an ASCAP 2014 "Composer To Watch". Her music can be heard on various primetime network TV programs including: ABC's "World News with Diane Sawyer", NBC's "Dateline" and ABC's "20/20". She has composed original scores for many films, including the 2014 Student Academy Award winning film, "Above the Sea". Recently, Lauren completed work on the score for "Cherry's In Season", a feature-length documentary slated for release later this year.

Equally at home in the concert world, Lauren has composed new works for such ensembles as New York Youth Symphony, Kalistos Chamber Orchestra, Musica Bella Orchestra of New York, Symphony Singers, Esterhazy Quartet, pianist Kimball Gallagher and soprano Pamela Stein Lynde. Her commissioned works for dance have seen perfo... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi, My name is Lauren Buchter. I'm a composer. I work in film, television, dance, concert works and podcasts. Some of the projects I'm really excited and proud of include Above the Sea, which was a short film that won a student Academy Award. I also contributed music for an interview with Malala, You Soft Side by Diane Sawyer. For me, I love to compose because I I feel like it's the easiest way for me to express emotions and feelings without using words. I love collaborating with people, and it's always a special moment when you're able to translate what a director collaborator is trying to say musically. In this class entitled song writing and composing melodies, the goal is, by the end, you'll have completed your own song or composition. I'm gonna walk you through some fun steps of building your court progression, creating your melody. Writing personalized lyrics by the end will be able to make a fantastic project that you can post to the gallery that will include a fully completed song or composition of your own . Thanks so much for checking out this course, and I think you're gonna love it. 2. Using Chord Progressions: Welcome to lesson number one for this lesson. You'll need the ability to record so a microphone would be useful or a music sequencing software. And we're gonna learn how to build courts at to create a custom piece of music. Here I have digital performer open. That's my sequencer of choice. We're going to be creating a court progression using four chords Their thesis aim four courts that you confined in Adele's new song. Hello. And I'll be showing you different ways that you can modify this court to create an entire song from just four courts. Okay, so here we go our cords air gonna be e minor. They're gonna be see they're gonna be G and they're gonna be D So I'll play you the four courts. Okay, so now we have our four chords that we're gonna be working with. We're just gonna use just these four courts going to give you a few different techniques for how to make these courts more interesting. So the first court we have is the e minor chord. And if I want to arpeggio eat this court, that simply means that I'm just playing each note separately, starting from the root or the first note, the the third, which is our Jeanne and the B, which is our fifth. So all courts are made up of the's types of things. And so too are pet. She ate the cord. All we're gonna do is play them one at a time. So here's my e chord. Here's my e quarter Pesci ated, and I can even add in the the active the toppy. So I would have gives it kind of a nice rolling sound. You could do this on any instrument that you have at home. So here we go. Four chords are Petchey ated. So it already is sounding a little more interesting than our original just playing single courts. So another interesting thing that we can do is we can try experimenting with the range of this court. So if we start thinking about octaves, which just means the distance between the same note, it's eight steps away. So this is e. This'd e an octave up. So I'm just going to be experimenting with using a range of octaves. Uh, this gives you a lot of space. It's very nice to use this in a film score or something similar where you wanna have a lot of space to your music. So here we go. Four chords playing with the octaves. See here there's a bit of some residents, some space. Uh, already it's sounding a little more interesting. So a final step I'll leave you with this just to do what's called Comping. All I'm doing is playing each chord four times, which would essentially be quarter notes. Uh, this is nice. It gives you what they call pace. You get a lot of requests and briefs about having things feel like they're moving. It's nice if you're playing with a band. It's a very simple step. Already, it's making the court more interesting. So here we go comping cords. This could also be useful when you're thinking about your chorus or um, building in your piece gives it a little bit more energy. So that's the end of our first lesson. Hopefully, you've learned some new and fund tips and tricks for creating chord progressions, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you've come up with 3. Composing Melodies: Okay, here we are in lesson to In our first lesson, we looked at chord progressions, which could also be thought of as our rhythm guitar and for this lesson will be looking at melodies. So whether you're a lead guitarist, a singer, a pianist, any other instrument that you want to use this your lead. Uh, this is how we're gonna be thinking about creating a melody that goes on top of what we just did. Hey, here, we're going to talk about building melodies, so ah, very simple trip that I think is useful is we look at our courts. So we had the the minor chord in our first lesson. So I'm gonna go ahead and just play an e minor scale for you so we can look at all the different potential notes that we could have part of our melody. So we have e f sharp G A B C. Okay. Okay. So very simple. First part of the song that we could do is just to go from octave too active, which just means eight steps were going from one e up to the next D. So we'd have show you on the screen okay, case Our 1st 1 is going by octave. And here I'd like to go from octave to octave and then just do a descending scale. I think that would be really nice. Beautiful opening with our court progressions. So here we go. Uh uh. Okay, So you have a nice descending sound. It's a little bit sad. Another thing that we can think about is how to build the sound up so I might have another section with the melody where I want to have the melody rise. So again, I'd like to start with my team. I really like this. This is the root of the cord. I like to come back to the snow. Uh, works very well. So here I'm going to show you by step. And when I returned back to our home, our route r e. So I did a combination of sums by step for the melodies as well as a couple skips Always returning back. T e I also used the d, which is our leading tone. That just means it's leading us back to our roots. And it's a really nice thing to do at the end of a melody. You could also just leave it there. Kind of gives a sense of anticipation. So if we put these two together, we have a nice juxtaposition where one is ascending, one is descending. So again from the beginning, we have the operative with the descending scale. Okay, Now I have my second melody where we're going to go up. So it's a rising melody thing, My leading tone back Teoh to start our next four bars. So that has a bit of a more hopeful sound. It's nice to have that as a juxtaposition. Another fun, useful technique that weaken dio gonna use whole keyboard is to utilize octaves. So it's similar to our comping from earlier, so I could just simply play the melody with the octaves. This is really nice. Also at the end of a piece. You hear this a lot in various bands like to utilize this music of once the film I like a lot uses a lot of octaves, so here we go. Okay. Huh? No. Uh, okay. So that gives you a couple ideas of what you can do with the melody? Um I guess the most important thing to take away from it is to look atyour courts on. You're gonna want to look to see which notes you have available. Um, and to also think about four bar phrases so I can show you how are melodious going to interact with those four courts. So we have. So again, this is just utilizing things that we learned in less than one and lesson too. And already we're starting to build a song. 4. More About Melodies: So let's take a look at our court progression. How are Melody is going to, uh, he informed by the court progression and interact with it. So we have this really nice, a minor court and the way that I started with my melodies, I just wanted to do the octave. So we have I could also do the same thing for the melody each time with whatever the court progression is. So if we're going from E minor to C T gene t, all I would be doing is just playing the Octavo off each hoard. I'm just gonna move this so we'd have Okay, so that could be our melody. That could also just be an added element. But when you start to think about, uh, what goes well with our progression, these are the kinds of things that will always work because there are route. Um, so in the beginning, I really, like just sort of establishing that were in the key of e minor. So my melody is basically going going up? Well, first So first we have the descending a minor scale thing, f sharps emphasizing our corn. First time that we're getting that f sharp. So something also to consider is the voicings. So every single cord you can play, what they call in different inversions or positions. And all that means is just moving the bottom note, uh, to the top. So, for example, we have our g minor chord. I'm just gonna move this e minor to the top of the court. So it's now the same exact chord E has just moved a step Oh, or an octopus Rather going to do the same thing with that g gonna move it up. So we're gonna have being a and Jean Okay. And then we So that's another position. And now we're right back to what we had one octave below. So something also to keep in mind when you're doing your court progressions is to look at the courts. Which notes do they have in common? So we have an e minor court way. Also the C chord. I've decided that I like having that see up here. I think it has a little bit of a nicer note sound to it. So it's also easier for my hand than having to go like this. So we have the minor course sorry. The a minor core to the same warned and anything within here is gonna work for our melody. So that's why this e minor descending scale goes very well with this. It's all same notes. They're all related to each other, So same with RG CORD. I've just introduced that f sharp because we're in the D. That's really nice to include that for your melody. That's kind of emphasizing this other cord. Um, this is also a major chord. It gives a little bit of a hopeful feeling at the end, and then we go right back to her sad e minor. So things to think about when you're creating your melody is to think about how are these notes interacting with the courts that you have available and to look at? Um, if you're introducing a new chord, how might you emphasize that chord with your melody? So I hope that's been useful for you 5. Crafting Effective Lyrics: welcome to lessen three. And this lesson we're going to be learning about writing lyrics and I'm going to show you Ah, song that I wrote on dshea a You how I crafted lyrics to interact with the melody in a very effective way. So hopefully by the end of this video, uh, you'll have a different understanding of the way that melodies and lyrics interact with each other. So let's take a look at the video. Okay, so I've had my introduction. I'm now using our Petchey ations. This with the guitar, have added some additional elements. Other guitar parts. This is where we have the build on. Now I've changed keys Singer comes in and I also created my hook. Where we have the voice over the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character. Hook is a very useful thing for a song on. I also chose not to have lyrics here because I did not want to compete with the voiceover. If you're writing for any kind of film or television commercials, anything with dialogue, the dialogue is always the king, so you want to just kind of pull back and make sure that you can hear whatever that is that they're trying to say. So that was a really nice way to still have my melody going without competing. I have simply just took away the lyrics. So let's just take a look a little bit at this melody that we just had with the singer. So I had K. My lyrics were the nights unknown through Dark and Costa Winding Road to Home. What I tried to think about is the way that the lyrics could interact with the melody. And so especially with the word home, I thought it could be really beautiful to think about how to bring that word back at the end into our key. Um, it gives sort of a double meaning because you're returning home, but you're also returning back home to your key, so it becomes very effective. So we have through dark and coast, a winding road to home, and we're in the key of G. So it's really nice. So this is sort of a nice thing to think about when you're writing lyrics that, um, you think about what you're trying to say and you think about ways that you can speak musically that emphasize those lyrics. So we've looked at an example of creating lyrics with your melody. Um, the most important thing is just that you that you try, um, lyrics are so beautiful because they are literally telling a story more so than just what your music is saying. So when you think about writing lyrics, uh, right, from what you know, the most important thing is that you that you try, that you speak from your heart, they're not necessarily gonna be perfect. But that's the way that we get better at this. Now it's time for you to try writing your own lyrics. Three only way that we get better is that we try something, even if it's a little bit scary. Um, and if the melody comes first and then the lyrics happen afterwards, that's great. If you want to write lyrics and then uh, match it up with your melody that works to songwriters, use so many different methods. Um, some songwriters, when they're writing a melody, will hear words that start to come out as they sing or they play their instruments. So whatever is the best way for you to get that lyric out. You just use that. Um, if you want to make up a story in your head that you want to speak about, then absolutely. Whatever you find is a useful tool. The most important part is that, um we start to get creative now and you create your own lyrics. You can think about it this way. I didn't wait until I finished all of my schooling to start writing songs or compositions. The most important thing is that you try and you will get better as you go along. Um, I'm really excited to see what you come up with. Um, don't be scared. It's gonna be great. And I'm looking forward to hearing your lyrics. 6. Orchestration, Arranging, Additional Elements: Okay. So in our previous lessons, we learned about creating our court progression. We then looked at how to create a melody as well as lyrics. And in this listen, I'm just gonna be showing you a few ideas and techniques for adding additional elements and orchestration to really fill out your song and make it yours. So we're going to start thinking about adding additional elements to your song. So I've decided that I would really love to have, um, a cello supporting this melody on dso Um, when I goto right this cello part, I'd like to stay very close to what the court progression is. Have something very simple. I'd like to start the cello part with the we're going to go to a C chord. I'm gonna go to G. That G is included in that CAE court. I'm gonna stay on G for the G chord that comes next. And then I'm going to go to the f sharp because I like emphasizing that for our d accord, I'm going to go back to D just briefly, which is our leading tone to bring us right back to E. And you'll see it forms just a very nice, um, pedal. Everything else will sort of develop over it. This is just kind of like a nice, solid, um, way to state. These were the courts that were in. This is the melody. This is the song. I'm also gonna be using this thing called a mod wheel to help with my cello performance. So here we go. - Way , - way , way. Okay, so, um, challenge just repeated did the same exact thing It worked through the whole song. We're just using those same four chords. And, um, the beautiful thing about music is it's no different from, um, building a table or building. Um, cooking something. You're just adding little elements and building blocks. And so the song now is starting Teoh develop. And we're just adding these little elements to make it more unique so we can think about adding additional elements on top of that as well 7. Music and Dialog: Okay, So in this video, I just wanted to give you a brief overview of writing to picture. If you're working on a filmer TV program, how to effectively write music that doesn't get in the way of dialogue. So here we go. So Marshall should get in your have really good with. Okay, So I've waited for dialogue to finish. I bring in my melody, which is the cello theme movement of the melodies happening again. After the dialogue, you could agree melodies out dialogue. So here's the melody. So I tried to think about ways that the melody and the dialogue can kind of tell the story together. So she repeats her lines on the cello kind of excess echoes. That was its melody. Okay, so I also tried to be very conscious about not changing the melody too much while she's speaking so that you're not as distracted because dialogue is the most important thing for there's no dialogue kind of melody. They see each other pushing h. We hold on this, they finish the dialogue. Title track comes in way, so that's just a brief example of creative ways that you can write around dialogue ways that you can think about how you're interacting. Dialogue, if you think about dialogue, is just one more instrument, uh, has its own musical sound. Then you can sort of think about ways to interact, um, and avoid it when you need to, so that's it. 8. Closing Thoughts: Okay, so here we are. We've made it through to the end of the lesson. I hope that you've learned some useful things. The most important thing is that you just get out there. It's baby steps. Um, I didn't know what I was doing when I first started writing music. It was a lot of trial and error. Um, and the most important thing is that you keep working on it. It's a craft like anything else. It's its own language. So your final project is going to be completing a track. We've walked through all the steps, so you're going to start off with your chord progression Adger Melody lyrics If you're singing a swell Azaz, adding a few additional elements as you go, um and then please upload them to the gallery. I've loved listening through what you've been sending, and I'm looking forward to hearing more, So keep writing