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Trapper Zoid

Favourite keys or chords to compose with?

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I'm curious as to whether the composers here tend to prefer certian keys or chords over others, especially in the case of composing for computer where there isn't the physical limitations of having to play an instrument guiding your key choices. Are there particular keys or chords you like to use, or do you use the entire range? At the moment I only dabble in music composition in a very informal way; I like to have breaks from the computer by playing chords and improvising melodies on my electronic keyboard. I've read a bit of theory and played music in the past (I used to play trombone too), but I'm mainly figuring things out by trial and error. When I was just starting out I generally stuck to the basic chords like C, F, G and Am (thus being in the key of C), but I've since incorporated a bunch of other chords into my improvisation repertoire. However I've noticed that my tendency of late is to move towards the chords with flats: Bb, Eb, Ab, sometimes Db. While I also frequently use sharp laded chords like D and E, I only very rarely use A, B and F#. Consequently my taste in keys is slowly getting flatter too: usually F or Dm, or occasionally variations on Eb or Cm. I'm just curious as to what trends other gamedev musicians follow in composition, and whether it's normal to have a favourite batch of chords to play with.

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I think it depends on the instrument and the style of music. For example, using an electric guitar to compose hard rock, it's really easy to stick with E G A and D. And then there's that F#m to C change ala "The Immigrant Song" that at one point in time was associated with devil worship (muhahahahaha [grin]). There's also a lot to be said about 7th and 9th chords and even 13ths and the minor variations thereof. Don't forget suspended chords. On a guitar there's a lot to be said for the various chord voicings - that is - shifting chord progressions up the neck using other chord forms. Try alternating between F#m and E starting at the 9th fret and working down towards the neck. Don't forget the D forms around the 5th fret and don't be afraid not to finger the 6th and 5th strings. One interesting thing to do is to take a scale and work out the chords that follow from it stacking thirds above the root note. Doing that with non-western scales can produce some interesting music. For example, the Double harmonic scale, aka the Gypsy, Arabic or Byzantine scale. And don't forget the arpeggios and the various modes.

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If you're playing equally-tempered instruments - and I expect 99% of the time that's true - then there's absolutely no difference between going from C to F and from C# to F#, or whatever. It's just a case of what is most suitable to the instrument you're playing, ie. the physical range or the timbre. More flats just means you piss off keyboard players, but it doesn't really affect the sound.

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Original post by Kylotan
If you're playing equally-tempered instruments - and I expect 99% of the time that's true - then there's absolutely no difference between going from C to F and from C# to F#, or whatever. It's just a case of what is most suitable to the instrument you're playing, ie. the physical range or the timbre. More flats just means you piss off keyboard players, but it doesn't really affect the sound.
There are theories (never actually made the time to go after them) that say certain keys emit certain feelings. E.G. Bb'd be good for saddish songs, C for happier pieces, etc. I wonder if that's true though...might ask my musicteacher sometime.

On topic: I find myself to compose a lot in G (1#), and I love the Gsus4 - G combination (or Csus4 - C, or whatever you want) at the end of a sequence of chords ^^.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I'm curious as to whether the composers here tend to prefer certian keys or chords over others, especially in the case of composing for computer where there isn't the physical limitations of having to play an instrument guiding your key choices. Are there particular keys or chords you like to use, or do you use the entire range?


The key of D major (Bb minor). Pipes and whistles are tuned to D, and most human voices seem to be able to sing in that key okay. What's a good tune without a bagpipe?

Chords: I, IV, V for a major lift, i, vi, vii for a minor fall. Funny that.

Composing for a computer without a physical instrument? Are you kidding? What are you going to do, use a mouse and the piano roll screen. Good luck. Use a proper input device.

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Original post by Kylotan
More flats just means you piss off keyboard players, but it doesn't really affect the sound.

That's why I'm bemused that my tastes are gravitating towards more flats while I'm at the keyboard!

Quote:
Original post by Bregma
Composing for a computer without a physical instrument? Are you kidding? What are you going to do, use a mouse and the piano roll screen. Good luck. Use a proper input device.

I meant that if you're composing for the computer, instead of for someone who has to play an instrument, then you don't have to worry about the musician's taste in keys. For example, if I were to compose for the trombone, I know that keys with flats are easier to play than keys with sharps. The computer doesn't care.

My current composition technique is a bit mouse heavy, but I start on an electronic keyboard and scoring to paper. Once I've got a paper draft I head to the computer. I used to be reliant on using mouse and keyboard input, but I've now got a simple USB keyboard for input (the 49 key M-Audio Keystation).

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Original post by Bregma
Composing for a computer without a physical instrument? Are you kidding? What are you going to do, use a mouse and the piano roll screen. Good luck. Use a proper input device.

You can do quite a lot with electronic music with just the mouse, once you get adept at it. Personally I tend to use guitar/keyboard/padkontrol for most of what I do, but if I just need to put in a simple chord progression then it's barely worth setting my keyboard up.

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My girlfriend is key synesthetic, so certain keys have a different associated image.

Which is probably why she hates mono-keyed pieces.

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I like D minor and F minor a lot. I also try to stray away from C for some reason. That key leaves a bad taste in my mouth :P

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