Your First Music Composition Lesson – For Beginners
Articles Blog

Your First Music Composition Lesson – For Beginners

September 25, 2019

– Students, Tim here from
Lessons on the Web, once again. And we’re going to turn
our brains into music mode once again today, and we are talking about how to write a simple
song, as you can see. So, as we get into how to
actually write the song, or before that, rather,
we’re going to talk about some things you need to know about to fully understand this lesson. So, the first thing is
that songs have a melody. We’re looking at this first measure here, and melodies are read from left to right. (plays C-D-E-F notes) Pretty simple. Now, obviously melodies are a
little bit longer than that, but usually the melody
is the part of the song that you will remember, so like… (plays melody from Jingle Bells) Or… (plays beginning melody
from Beethoven’s Fur Elise) You know, all of those things. (plays melody from
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony) Those are the melody of the song. And, like I said, they’re
read from left to right, and now you get into
the second measure here, and the harmony. Harmonies are read up
and down, and usually, well, actually, we’ll talk
about that in a second here. Let me circle it for us. So this would be the harmony. So it’s what you have
on the bottom, you know, going up and down vertically,
plus what you have up top, in kind of a vertical column. Melodies mostly use steps, which is moving from note to note. So, notice how we’re going from E. Oh, let me change the thing back for us. It’s going from E to F to
G to A, right in a row. (plays E-F-G-A notes) Well, that’s called stepping, so you’re just going from note to note. So you’re going from A to B to C to D. That’s stepping. Even if you’re going backwards,
from C to B to A to G, and then so forth, that
is also stepping as well. Keep note that songs mostly use stepping in their melodies… Okay, another thing to note
is, melodies can also skip, which is moving every other note. So, notice how they’re all in the space. (plays F-A-C-E notes) All spaces, or they can all be lines. (plays E-G-B-D notes) Those are skips as well. You can skip up. (plays E-G-B-D notes) Or you can skip down. (plays D-B-G-E notes) And then, keep in mind that
songs will use some skips, but not nearly as many
skips as they would steps. And then the less common
one are the leaps, which, a leap is just a huge jump (plays F-F notes) in the notes for the melody. So, they can be, if you are
familiar with your intervals, a leap is a fourth, which is, (plays fourth notes) you know, a note and four
notes away, and above. So, it encompasses a lot
of different intervals, but just know that a leap is a large gap, and know that songs, when
you’re writing songs, to use very few leaps. It is appropriate to use leaps sometimes. And actually, they can
be used very effectively, but you don’t want to have all leaps. (plays a series of leaps) Then your song will sound too disjointed, and it won’t make much sense. So, harmonies now. Another thing you have to know about. Harmonies are indicated by chords. And as I said before,
chords are read up and down, in a vertical column. (plays F-A-C and F-A-C chords) So, there we have a harmony. The harmony is a chord. Now, like I said before,
if you have a chord, (plays F-A-C chord) and a note above that chord, just a single note, (plays single note repeatedly) that note above in the treble clef, like over here for instance,
is also part of the harmony, because it’s read up and
down in a vertical column. Songs use a combination of chords, known as chord progression. So, as you can see down
here, I have, or we have, a bunch of different types of chords. Now, you can have the
same chord repeat again, and things like that. You can see the chords
either in root position, meaning they’re
evenly-stacked, like this one, or an inversion, like this one, where they’re not evenly-stacked. (plays chords) They kind of have a space
there, somewhere in the chord, and the combination of
chords you use in a song is known as your chord progression. So, that’s something we’re gonna need when we write our first
song on the staff here. So, for the song we are using today, we are using a simple,
one-four-five-one progression. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, the thing is, if you
write out a C Major scale, which is all of the bottom
notes of these chords here, in this measure. (plays F-G-E-A-B-C notes) F-G-E-A-B-C. That makes (plays F-G-E-A-B-C) the C Major scale, and what we’ve done is, we’ve built chords on
every one of the notes. (plays chords) So, the one-four-five-one
progression is one, (plays C-E-G chord) and then you go up to the fourth (plays F-A-C chord) chord, which is F in this case. You got five, which is G in this case, and then back to one there. So, you got one, oops– Four, five, and one. Now, keep in mind that
songs will often use these, but not in that exact order. They can bounce around. So, say, you can go like,
one-four-one-five-one, four-five-one, something like that. You don’t always see them
strictly as one-four-five-one. A key tells you which notes are sharped or flatted in a song. So, here we can see that
we have a key signature. And a key signature, you know, you have the same one written in the
right hand and the left hand. And a key signature will tell you which notes are sharped or flat. In this case, we have flats,
and we have four of them. We have B flat, E flat,
A flat, and D flat. May be wondering how I figured that out. Well, if you replace where
the flats are with notes, just think about what
letter that note is on. So the first one is clearly on the line B, so that means that B is going to be flat throughout the whole song,
unless it tells you otherwise. Now, let’s write our song. First, we’ll pick the key of D Major. You can pick any key
when you pick your song. Just keep in mind that
you understand that key. I actually have a great lesson on keys. You can find the description
after you’re done this lesson, or if you want to check that out now. And the key, as we said before, tells you what sharps or flats. So you need to understand that if you pick the key of A Major, you have to know that that
has three sharps, F, C, and G. Now, you can look that up if you want, if you don’t want to
memorize it right away, and that’s totally fine. But just make sure you understand what notes are supposed
to be sharped or flat, because it will be a disaster,
it will be very problematic, if you do not follow that. So, the next thing you want to do, is you want to write out the scale. Now, once you write out the scale, you can build chords on
every note of that scale. Now, one thing I want to tell you about, is remember that we have our
key signature to worry about, has two sharps, F sharp and C sharp. So the sharp will be here, on the F… (plays F sharp) And then also here, (plays C sharp) with the C. So it’s F sharp and C sharp. (plays scale in D Major) Do not forget where those sharps lie. Then we build the chords on the scale. (plays series of chords in D Major) And then, of course, you are going to pick the first chord for the song we are, the fourth chord, the
fifth chord, and then also the first chord again,
since that one is the same. It’s just an octave
above as the first chord. So, we’re gonna write that
one-four-five-one progression. We’re gonna mix it up a little bit. We’re gonna do one-four-one-five,
and I’ll tell you why in a few minutes. And we’re gonna write those as whole notes in the left hand, so as you can see here, this next step takes up
these next four measures… Okay, so now we need a
melody in the right hand. The safe bet is to start each
measure with a chord tone. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, we have the chord
below in our left hand, (plays chord) which is down here, obviously. And a chord tone is just any note that belongs to that chord,
so if it’s a D, F sharp, or A, (plays D, F sharp, A notes) it’s a chord tone. I just chose what’s called
the root of the chord, (plays D note) so D, so that’s playing it safe. That just means that
when you play that note, (plays chord) it’s going to sound consonant, which means it will blend very
well and sound very pleasing. So, that’s what we’ve done so far. We’ve just picked, basically, (plays chord) the root of each chord. (plays series of chords) And there we go, although that last one, I did not pick a, a root note or a chord tone, so that’s why it sounded a little bit off. (plays series of single notes) So, like I was saying, if you want to play it safe, pick a chord tone. I think I’m actually gonna
just keep it at A there, because that belongs
into that chord there. You got A, C sharp, and E. (plays A, C sharp, and E notes) So, A works perfectly. So, we actually have… (plays series of chords) And there you go. Doesn’t sound too bad yet, but it doesn’t really sound like much, does it? So, we will then fill out
notes to fill out the melody. So we have the same
notes that we had before. We have the D from the before. (plays D note) We have the G from before. (plays G note) We have the A from before. (plays A note) And we have another A again. I made it a whole note this time. And anytime that you write, music is often written in two-
or four-measure increments. We call these musical phrases, and then those phrases can be put together in what’s called a period, which is like a complete musical idea. So, just keep in mind that usually, especially for your first song, let’s stick to two, four-bar
or four-measure pieces. So, as you find out,
once we finish this part, we’re only halfway there. So, here we have a melody. What I did to fill out the melody is, I used mostly steps, right? So we had the D from before, and I just kinda went up and down by stepping, (plays series of single notes) and… (plays series of chords) Doesn’t sound too bad! Then, the next measure,
same kind of thing. (plays series of steps and chords) Then, the third measure. (plays series of steps and chords) You know, nothing is (plays single note and chord) skipping around a whole lot. Now, the thing is, is that I could’ve added a couple of skips
and a couple of leaps, and it probably would have
added some more interest to it. Actually, like right here,
let’s see if I can add a leap. (plays series of notes) Change this into a leap,
let’s see how that works. (plays series of steps, leaps and chords) Yeah, not bad! (plays series of steps, leaps and chords) I’m just, kind of thinking
of what might sound good. So one thing you also want to do, (plays series single notes) is kind of play around with your song. Find out what sounds the best there. And I think, (plays series of steps, leaps, and chords) I think I’m gonna change this A, actually, up an octave here. (plays a series of notes) So, like I said, don’t
be afraid to play around, and make sure you have the
type of melody you want. So now, it sounds like this. (plays series of steps, leaps and chords) Sounds a lot better, just by
adding that leap in there. And then, actually, there’s
a skip right at the end. But mostly steps, remember that. So, we’re only halfway there. However, for the second half, we’re gonna copy the first half. It says “hopy” there. Copy the first half, and
change the last measure to a one-chord. Now, the one thing you want to consider is that when you have
two, four-bar segments, the end of the first four-bar segment, right, right here, you want to end on a five-chord. Meaning that, you know, that’s
the fifth note of the scale, you’ve got a chord on that. (plays chord) In this case, it’s A. (plays chord) Now, why do we do that? (plays series of notes and chords) Because doing that, (plays series of notes and chords) kinda makes it sound like
the song’s gonna continue. However, if you end on a one-chord, now let me play it, just
changing the last chord and the last note. (plays series of notes and chords) And sounds very final,
ending on the one-chord. So, if you ever want the song to sound like it’s completely
finished, end on a one-chord. If you want it to sound
like it’s going to continue, end on a five-chord. Obviously, there’s a lot
more to writing music than just this. Remember that this lesson is all about being able to write your
very first song on the piano. So, here we go. We’re gonna write a song
from scratch right now. So, what should we do? The first thing we need to
do, probably, is pick a key. Another thing I didn’t really
mention a whole lot about is time signature. I didn’t really want to
get into that too much, ’cause remember, this is
supposed to be our first song, so we’re just gonna pick four-four. So, the first thing we need to do, really, to just kinda break this
down, is write out our scale. So let’s pick a key… Okay, we’ve picked the key of F, with one flat, B flat. And the next thing we need
to do is draw out a scale. So we know– A scale, by the way, is basically all the notes that exist in a key, just put in music-alphabetical order. So, there we go, now we have our scale. Now we’re gonna build triads
on each note of the scale. Okay, there we go. Now we have our A-chords. Remember where the flat is. It’s over B flat. So, any chord that has B in
it, will be B-flat instead. Okay, so looks like
we’re gonna be using our simple chord progression, one-four-five, and then back to one. So that, basically, equates to F Major, (plays series of chords) B Flat Major, C Major, and
then F Major once again. And remember, you don’t have to use that exact chord progression. So, the first thing we’re gonna do is, we are going to draw out an F. We’re gonna draw out our
chord progression first, in whole notes. So here we go… (plays series of notes) (computer keys clicking) (plays series of notes) (computer keys clicking) (plays series of notes) (computer keys clicking) So, there we go, now we have our chord progression in whole-note chords. Remember this is the first
half, the first four bars. That’s why I ended on a five-chord here. You may be wondering,
“Well, that doesn’t look “like a five-chord.” Well, that’s because
I put it an inversion. That’s something a
little bit more advanced, so don’t worry about that. If you just put a, you
know, C chord there, that will work just fine. Okay, so here we go. We need a melody now. So, for our melody,
remember we’re gonna just draw in some chord tones, as
the first note in each measure. (computer keys clicking) So here, I have no idea how it got that. It’s doing really crazy stuff tonight. Okay, so you have F there, and then here, let’s just say we can choose
between B Flat, D, and F. I’m gonna choose F again. Here, I’m gonna choose A,
’cause I chose F before. Now, this is oversimplifying things. Like I said, you may be
watching this and thinking, “There’s a lot more to
writing music than just this.” Of course there is! But, remember this is our first song. So, the next step is to write
in the notes in-between, by just kinda like
stepping, making a melody. You know, you can actually
play around with it. (plays series of single notes) On the keyboard, to see what sounds good. (plays series of single notes) I kinda like that. F-G-C-A. (computer keys clicking) (plays series of single notes) (computer keys clicking) (plays series of single notes and chords) I kinda like that as a half-note, so I’m gonna change that into a half-note. Just kinda walking you through (plays chord) what my thought processes are. (plays series of chords) Actually kinda like it
moving to a G, a half-note. (plays series of single notes) And here, let’s see… (plays series of single notes and chords) I kinda like that, so
I’m gonna go with that. So, like I said, noodle
around on the piano. (plays series of single notes and chords) If you are good at piano, or
whatever instrument you prefer. (plays series of single notes and chords) I don’t know, I’m kinda liking, mmm… (plays series of single notes and chords) I’m gonna do that, go with the F. I like that the most. And I’m actually going to
just put a whole note here, ’cause that’s a very good– A whole note, by the way, at
the end of a four-bar phrase, is a good idea sometimes, when
you’re writing simple music, because it really feels like, (plays chords) you know, that’s the end of a passage. But there’s still more to go, since you have that sound
of the five-chord going on. So, what are we gonna
do to complete the song? Well, like I said, this
is a very easy example, so we’re actually just
gonna copy and paste it. And then we’re gonna change the last chord to be a one-chord again, so
I’m probably just going to… (plays series of single notes) One… (plays series of single notes) There we go. And I’m gonna make the
final note an F as well. (computer keys clicking) (plays melody) So, that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna change, you know– And by the way, when you copy the section, if you decide to do that to make it easy, you can change some of the
notes on the second go-around. It will make it sound, probably,
even a little bit better. (plays melody) (computer keys clicking) (plays series of single notes) Yeah, let’s try that. So, I’m gonna try the whole thing now. Hopefully, I can see the whole thing. Here we go! (plays piano melody) And by ending on that
one-chord, it sounds final, nice and finished. The final thing you wanna do
when you write your first song, is we need to put a double
bar line at the end of it, because that signifies
that the song is over. You can also do repeats, or
start a whole new section. Obviously, a lot of songs go, or piano pieces, also, go a lot longer than four measures or eight measures. Hello, students! If you enjoyed this lesson,
and you want the notes to go along with it, as
well as some relevant videos that I think would give you a
better grasp on writing music, I really highly suggest you
check out the annotation here. If you don’t see it,
then there will be a link in the description for you. So, check that out, will get you to that page. So, thanks as always, and I’ll
see ya in the next lesson. Thank you so much!

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Nice work my friend, i'm crying ;_;
    i do compositions too, check out my latest REACH:

  2. Did you do a video on common terms and things like that for music? I think that would be helpful for new composers as well. By the way, would you care to check out some of my videos on composition to see if there''s something that I'm missing? Thanks!

  3. I just created a piece of music that doesn't sound that good. In my channel. I didn't use any of the music theories, is that why it doesn't sound good?

  4. wow, best tutorial and explained clearly and simple,
    i watch many different video but they all keep talking without explaining
    the principle , and it generate a confusion

    you do have a talent man, great job, keep the good work

  5. i have a melody in my head but i just cant write it down because i dont know the notes im hearing can u please help me i mean how composers know what they hearing in their own head how they identify the notes when they had them in thier heads plzzz help me with this

  6. as i am on this journey
    i'm starting to realize
    writing for me comes from capturing what
    inspiration that comes though when i play on the piano
    for me its more about capturing in the moment

    and that can be done in many ways, but writing and composition
    its a medium that exists on paper

  7. Hey! Great beginner's video! However, when you wrote the composition in F+, I noticed the starting melody note in each of the four bars were 1-1-3-5 (F-F-A-C) rather than following the combination pattern of 1,1,4,5. Could you give a little explanation for that?

  8. I started composing and writing songs when I was 12, all on
    my own, nobody even knew. I kept composing but sadly I stopped
    writing lyrics and I started again when I was 15 and now I have
    more of a hang of it (I couldn't get access to any sort tutorials either)

  9. I've been searching for video tutorials and lessons for better composing. Been writing for years, but still started here with the basics. This really helps. I may have to try this approach in the future.

  10. I watched this video and realised the most fatal flaw in my composition so far…

    No wonder I always find a hell ton of difficulty continuing my phrases…

  11. What's music writing software are you using? I think it's awesome you can just draw in the note with the mouse in the computer will render it!

  12. Wouldn't that be a V, not a IV? (I'm just learning, so I'm not saying you're wrong.) 
    But I thought, after the root note (or the I chord,) the fourth key would be the V chord. No?
    Or, were you maybe just mixing up the words because its four notes away and all of this is confusing AF? LOL 

    Anyway- Great tutorial. Thank you for taking the time to make and share this with us!

  13. piano roll for me 😀 (ain't got the patience and memory for notation) – but I'd like if there was a way to write music using simple letter code instead…
    Here is a great example I found:

  14. Now i know a lot of things in melodies and notes thnx to u man….u r great man….from Algeria 🇩🇿

  15. Just looking for some tips for piano, im a begginer and just started, also came up with this song, i cant read music aswel, just looking for some help thank you

  16. Hi I follow you , and try to Wright a few cords and melody , the thing that don't help to much it's the paper chase ,, can you let me and others know what app your have ,,to put down your notes and cords ,, would be a great help , regards, stan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *