Section 7A: Chords That Fit Together (Major Keys)

BASIC ROCK / POP / FOLK / DANCE / SINGER-SONGWRITER CHORDS

MAJOR KEY TIPS:

Chords I, IV, and V are commonly Major Chords.

Chords ii, iii, and vi are commonly Minor Chords.

Chord V can be V7 (“dominant 7”) (example: G7 in the key of C major)

Chords I and IV can be Major 7ths (example: Fmaj7 and Bbmaj7 in the key of F major)

Common “cadences” (endings) in Major key chord progressions: V to I (technical name: Dominant-Tonic) IV to I (technical name: Subdominant-Tonic) ivm to I

Extra chords that are slightly out of key (but still usable) can be found in RC’s special extended scale “Major+Minor Set”. These chords include:

II (major variation of chord ii) III (major variation of chord iii) ivm (minor variation of chord IV) vm (minor variation of chord V) bIII (example: Eb major, in the key of C major) bVI (example: Ab major, in the key of C major) bVII (example: Bb major, in the key of C major)

Suspended chords (commonly sus2, sus4, 7sus4) can be placed anywhere. Sus2 chords can be followed or preceded by the majors OR minors they came from (example: Dsus2 to D major, or D major to Dsus2… and also A minor to Asus2… or Asus2 to A minor). Sus4 chords are usually followed by the majors they came from (example: Fsus4 to F major). Though you can mix and match them however you like, and you can throw in a random Suspended chord wherever you want for some tension (sus4 or 7sus4) or a “neutral” sound (sus2).

“Dominant” chords usually are found on Scale Degree V (in Major keys) and Scale Degree v (in Minor keys). They can also be found anywhere in a musical composition (depending on the complexity). Variations of “Dominant” chords include (starting with most common): “7th”, “9th”, “7(b5)”, “7(#9)” , “7(b9)”, “7/6”, and “9(b13)”

“Extended” chords (7ths, etc) can be used as long as they match the basic type of chord/scale degree they get extended from. For example, in the key of C major, the second chord of the scale is always Dminor. You could throw in a Dm7 chord instead of the regular Dm. Likewise, you can throw in a Dm9 chord instead of Dm. As far as majors go, you can use Fmaj7 or Fmaj9 instead of F (in the key of C major). This is basic chord/harmonic theory, and it’s very useful!

Just pay attention to the tables shown in this chapter, to see where you can use “extended” chord types (extended chords are common in jazz, R&B, ambient & electronic music, indie rock… really any styles outside of the typical rock/pop world). You can also try different scale types (outside of Major, Minor, and Major+Minor Set). RapidComposer has HUNDREDS of different scale types that use extended chords frequently. As we’ve said throughout this manual– don’t be afraid to experiment!

Section 7B: Chords That Fit Together (Minor Keys)

BASIC ROCK / POP / FOLK / DANCE / SINGER-SONGWRITER CHORDS

MINOR KEY TIPS:

Chords i, iv, and v are commonly Minor Chords.

Chords III, VI, and VII are commonly Major Chords.

Chord v can also commonly be V (Major) instead of minor (example: E major in the key of A minor)

Common “cadences” (chord progression endings) in Minor key chord progressions: v to i VII to i iv to i

Suspended chords (commonly sus2, sus4, 7sus4) can be placed anywhere. Sus2 chords can be followed or preceded by the majors OR minors they came from (example: Dsus2 to D major, or D major to Dsus2… and also A minor to Asus2… or Asus2 to A minor). Sus4 chords are usually followed by the majors they came from (example: Fsus4 to F major). Though you can mix and match them however you like, and you can throw in a random Suspended chord wherever you want for some tension (sus4 or 7sus4) or a “neutral” sound (sus2).

“Dominant” chords usually are found on Scale Degree V (in Major keys) and Scale Degree v (in Minor keys). They can also be found anywhere in a musical composition (depending on the complexity). Variations of “Dominant” chords include (starting with most common): “7th”, “9th”, “7(b5)”, “7(#9)” , “7(b9)”, “7/6”, and “9(b13)” - “Extended” chords (7ths, etc) can be used as long as they match the basic type of chord/scale degree they get extended from. For example, in the key of C major, the second chord of the scale is always Dminor. You could throw in a Dm7 chord instead of the regular Dm. Likewise, you can throw in a Dm9 chord instead of Dm. As far as majors go, you can use Fmaj7 or Fmaj9 instead of F (in the key of C major). This is basic chord/harmonic theory, and it’s very useful!

Just pay attention to the tables shown in this chapter, to see where you can use “extended” chord types (extended chords are common in jazz, R&B, ambient & electronic music, indie rock… really any styles outside of the typical rock/pop world). You can also try different scale types (outside of Major, Minor, and Major+Minor Set). RapidComposer has HUNDREDS of different scale types that use extended chords frequently. As we’ve said throughout this manual– don’t be afraid to experiment!

Section 7C: Basic Rhythm Theory

RC's Timeline IMAGE

1.1 means “Bar 1, Count (or Beat) 1. 3.4 means the 4th Count (or Beat) of Bar 3 (etc). The thinner grid lines (on the track) show that RC’s Grid is set to “1/4” (16th Notes).

Manual Rhythm Generator (Phrase Inspector Window) IMAGE

Since RC doesn’t use traditional notation, the “diamond” shapes are found on the notes 1 and (2) and (3) and 4 and (as seen in Chapter 2). Note that the Grid setting is the same as the Timeline screenshot above (the darker lines show the downbeats).

Section 7D: Basic Melody-Writing Tips

Melody is such a revered, and beautiful thing in music. A lot of well-written songs have some of the catchiest or most beautiful melodies (not just in lead parts, but behind lead parts, known as “countermelodies”). RapidComposer may not be able to pen your next top 40 hit, but it can certainly get you in the right direction, and even generate some awesome melodies automatically (We’ve come up with some great melodic phrases for our MIDI compositions every single time we’ve used RC since the Melody Generator was added, no joke. We are sure you’ll be able to come up with some great stuff, generatively). But let’s say you don’t wish to have RC generate melodies for you. Let’s say you’re using RC to come up with quick chord progressions and performances set to your settings (using Fingerpicking Generators, or the included Basic Piano phrases, etc, and want to come up with melodies entirely your own… if so, this section is for you!

Melody-writing for vocals

1. Think of how you speak, and the pitches you hear in the words you say. Some of the best vocal melodies come from the way someone speaks… and how certain words are accented or higher-pitched, depending on what you’re saying.

2. Remember to leave space for yourself (or someone singing along to your songs) to breathe! Melodies that are too “busy” tend to sound annoying or wander around aimlessly.

3. Use chord notes to start (the root note, the third (major if singing over a major chord, minor if singing over a minor chord), and the fifth). These three notes are the most-sung notes in nearly all popular songs.

4. Use scale notes (non-chord notes) in your melodies, to keep things occasionally tense and interesting (and let them move to more “stable” notes, such as the root, third, or fifth of a chord).

5. Basic vocal harmony is a melody sung directly a third above the main melody (these intervals change as the scale notes change… it could be a major third above, or a minor third above). If this seems confusing to you, look around the Web and you’ll find lots of information about how to sing vocal harmony.

How scale notes (intervals) create and release melodic tension

Exercise: let’s highlight the “loop” icon in RC, and fill our default track with the “Chord Generator (Whole Notes)” phrase. Select this Phrase in the Phrase Browser, then hit the letter F on your computer keyboard. You’ll hear a C major chord play whole notes for four bars and then loop… While this C major chord is playing… we’re going to sing (or play) different notes of the C major scale:

Play (or sing) the note C while this Composition is looping. Notice how you don’t have to “move” away from this note if you don’t want to. Obviously, it’s the root of the chord, so it sounds great. Now play or sing the note E over this C major chord.

It’s a nice sound, right? Of course (it’s another chord note). And, you know where we’re going with this… let’s now play or sing the note G over this looped Composition of C major. This “fits” too, and doesn’t seem to want to “move” anywhere…. these notes are commonly known as “stable” notes in melodies. So, we now know that notes that belong to a chord, are either called “chord notes” (or “chord tones”) or “stable notes/tones.”

Now here’s where things get a little more interesting…

While this loop is still playing, let’s play (or sing) different notes. Play/sing a D note. It needs to move. Where do you “hear” it wanting to go? Up? Down? Do the same with an F note. It’s almost universal knowledge that that F note over a C chord wants to move down just a little bit, to become an E (a chord note). Let’s try playing/singing a B note. Whoa, that’s tense!

Seems like it wants to move up, and quickly… right? (if it moves up a tiny bit, it becomes another chord note). What about an A? An A note can go in either direction… up a little more (to reach the C chord tone), or down a tiny bit (to reach the G, another chord tone). It can also move down a good amount (to E, another safe chord note).

This whole exercise demonstrates exactly why melodies need to “move”… if a note’s tense, you move it to a non-tense note (something from the chord at that exact moment the melody is heard). If a note sounds good where it is… move it, to create some tension! And then bring it back, to release the tension. It’s such a simple process, but oh my, the possibilities!

Harmonic music’s been around for several thousand years…… and even now, in 2015/2016, we still hear songs that introduce melodies we’ve never heard before. Out of the zillion songs that are out there, somehow, people write fresh ones… with melodies that might seem familiar, but are often different. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

How scale notes create and release melodic tension (visual diagram)

The diagram above tells us a lot about how scale notes need to move to others.

Let’s assume the diagram shows the Major scale, as most melodies come from said scale. Each dotted line is each note/interval of the scale. 1 is obviously the root of the scale, 3 is the third of the scale, 5 is the fifth… etc.

If we analyze this diagram, we find the following things to be true:

- From note 1, or its octave, we can go anywhere we want. - From note 2, we could move back to note 1, or up to note 3 (as we know, both of these notes are stable chord notes). - From note 3, we commonly want to either come down to 1, or up to 5 (to another stable chord note). - From note 4, the strongest movement is down to the 3 (though we could go up to 5 if we wanted). - From note 5 (the “fifth”)… we can go up, or down, but there’s a strong pull to chord notes (either up to the octave, or down to note 3). - From note 6, the strongest pull is down to note 5 (a stable chord note), but there’s another pull up to to the octave. - From note 7, the strongest movement is up to the root of the chord (note 1). Lots of tension, here. We could also move down to the 6, then down to the 5 if we wanted to.

This is just a very basic representation of how notes create and release melodic tension. There are so many variables to a melody… including what chord is underneath, what chord comes before that note and what chord comes after… if chords change slowly or change fast… the sky’s the limit. And then, if you want your melody to be sung… there’s another variable that comes into play: lyrics, and their emphasis on certain notes.

It’s crazy when you think about it, but hopefully this sheds some light on the magical, expressive science that is melody.