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Deathshade View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Prog composition techniques
    Posted: January 12 2016 at 16:34
Hi everyone! Hope you're all doing good.

I'm trying to write some prog metal stuff. I'm aiming for a full length album actually. I was wondering if there are any composition techniques generally used in prog. So far I'm mostly writing by feel. I usually write in natural and harmonic minor, but lately I've been fond of the diminished scales (both whole tone and half tone), so I'm trying to include diminished parts in my songs.

I was wondering if there are any specific techniques used in prog composition. I don't know if my songs can really be defined as prog, but I incorporate stuff not conventional to other genres, like uncommon time signatures, and I particularly like switching between scales and modes (and keys sometimes) during a song. My stuff so far is all instrumental.

I notice in prog the songs are usually long with many parts, transitions and changes, albums are concept albums (not sure how I can accomplish this with instrumental music), and song structures are complex.

Anyone has some advice?
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Magnum Vaeltaja View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 12 2016 at 18:13
My advice would not to be hung up on whether or not you think your album is "prog" enough or "has enough concept". Don't throw in key changes and time changes because you think prog needs them, add them because it works to bring out the power of the song, whether it be for humorous effect, dramatic effect, romantic effect, to calm the listener down, or to keep the listener on the edge of their seat. Play what you think good music sounds like and play it with all the passion and energy you have otherwise it'll just sound contrived. 

Also, not all great albums need to be concept albums. Some of the most beloved prog albums are just collections of not-necessarily-related musical ideas that artists were toying around with. Yes' Fragile, Gentle Giant's Octopus, Camel's Moonmadness, etc. And to tie in with this, longer =/= better. Sometimes short and sweet is the way to go. Sometimes artists accomplish more in a 3-minute song than a 13 minute one and sometimes a 35 minute album takes the listener on a broader journey than a 90 minute double album.

So just write and record whatever makes you happy to hear when it's done and I'm sure it'll sound awesome. Smile
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Deathshade View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 12 2016 at 18:49
Originally posted by Magnum Vaeltaja Magnum Vaeltaja wrote:

My advice would not to be hung up on whether or not you think your album is "prog" enough or "has enough concept". Don't throw in key changes and time changes because you think prog needs them, add them because it works to bring out the power of the song, whether it be for humorous effect, dramatic effect, romantic effect, to calm the listener down, or to keep the listener on the edge of their seat. Play what you think good music sounds like and play it with all the passion and energy you have otherwise it'll just sound contrived. 

Also, not all great albums need to be concept albums. Some of the most beloved prog albums are just collections of not-necessarily-related musical ideas that artists were toying around with. Yes' Fragile, Gentle Giant's Octopus, Camel's Moonmadness, etc. And to tie in with this, longer =/= better. Sometimes short and sweet is the way to go. Sometimes artists accomplish more in a 3-minute song than a 13 minute one and sometimes a 35 minute album takes the listener on a broader journey than a 90 minute double album.

So just write and record whatever makes you happy to hear when it's done and I'm sure it'll sound awesome. Smile
Thanks, that's some really nice advice! :)

Though I'm putting in time changes because there are some odd time signatures that I actually like, though to be honest some of it is indeed forced. I'll refrain from this from now on. And with key changes, I just sometimes like modulating up or down a whole tone for the feeling it has (modulating up sounds to me like "hope" or something, and down sounds like something is wrong, so I incorporate them accordingly, sometimes according to my mood).

Thank you for your advice. I realized I was indeed hung up, and this could have been hindering me actually.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 13 2016 at 05:00
That's great advise indeed!
I could add that influences from classical composing techniques (think of form, orchestration mostly) can work out very fine someyimes.

Also to answer one of your questions: you can actually make instrumental concept albums if you like. Perhaps your tracks represent stories which have an overall theme or a sound that returns every now and then.
The possibilities are endless!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 24 2016 at 00:45
There's something I'd add up.

Using a tool like Ableton Live would allow you to keep track of your ideas. If you're using MIDI instruments, you could incorporate electronic elements to your ideas.

Do not overthink unless you're using math rock elements intentionally. Being minimalistic in some contexts is much better than having 4567 notes in 10 sec of music.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 24 2016 at 13:54
Can only agree to the advices given. Just write what comes out and what you like. Use ideas which are the best for the song.
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The.Crimson.King View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 24 2016 at 15:51
Sometimes a concept album will just shape itself out of shorter pieces with a common theme.  When The Who's Mgr told Pete Townshend to write a 10 minute song back in '66, he said it's impossible...pop songs are 2:30 by definition.  The Mgr said, well if you can't write a 10 minute song, write 5 2 minute songs and link them together LOL

Seriously, a great way to approach a concept album is write a musical accompaniment to a story and have a 2 or 3 minute piece of music tell each section of the story Wink


Edited by The.Crimson.King - March 24 2016 at 15:51
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