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List of Composition rules and techniques
last edit
Jan 1, 2022 3:24 AM

#1 axiom- it must compel you.

The three pillars:

  1. Must be compelling - hard to execute (technique, intention, etc)
  2. Must be unique - have a unique functional identity.
  3. Must sound amazing
  4. existential_636


  • Must explore some concept, some function, some identity
  • No two sections can repeat, there must always be variation
  • Try to condense it to as short as possible - to try and say what you have to say in as little time as actually needed
  • Must get straight to the point - No fillers, ambient intros, build ups etc.
  • Must explore the unknown. “I didn’t know that was possible”.
  • Be skillful, and aim for perfection, but also show venerability.
  • Must be interest on multiple levels of attention - to those only half listening, all the way to those who wish to dive deep - give them Easter eggs.
  • Take risks
  • Every section of the song must be your favorite
  • Every sound, synth and note must have a reason and purpose for being there, a function.

How can I facilitate this supposed “process” of where the best ideas seem to emerge by themselves? They aren’t premeditated. You cannot create something stellar by just contemplating it or trying something based on previous concepts. They seem to naturally arise from-not randomness- but from just “seeing what will happen” when you just give it a go. How can I funnel this process so that I can be faster in making it happen?

One of the things I DESPISE is composing music without the final tone, meaning creating demos that I know that I’ll have to rerecord and “refine” it. No, start with the final tone from the beginning. Immediate feedback. Its a huge waste of time and creative grayness to record with shitty tone. You feel less creative and motivated.

  • Have no preconceived notions on how/what its gonna sound like.
  • Seems like the chord progression drives a lot of the direction
  • Seems like the specific type of section/transition/nature of the arrangement is important too
  • Seems like once you have a sick idea or one stellar riff/concept, you want to explore the combinations of that riff.
  • Seems like you like to repeat and layer
  • Layering polyrhythmic countermelodies
  • Start with the best guitar riff/concept FIRST, and then arrange from that. No buildups.

A tentative function (either self conceived or stolen from a song) —> Chord Progression —> arrangement (guitar riff, rhythms, melodies, strategies).


  • Always complete the composition during the section, after outlining it. If you can, try not to move ahead before finishing the notes and rhythm, cause those might lead to something you mightn’t have if you had just kept going. No matter how painful or arduous. - okay im really beginning to understand the importance of this. FINISH THE MAIN PARTS OF SECTION BEFORE MOVING ON
  • Have fallbacks. So make something that sounds remotely good, and then change that, then change that, have a part that is good enough so that you feel like in case this doesn’t work, you have a fallback, will give you sense of security.
  • Mapping melody/progressions - drawing it out like a shape. It will help with function. Eg- in new Ava song, when the overlay comes in, its bette for it to be a 2 bar phrase that has different contours for each bar as opposed to one bar with symmetrical contours for every bar, because the initial riff is already that. You want to overlay something that elongates (or changes) the push/pull of the song.
  • Using drums to transform the function of a part. - whether its like Odessa by animals where its meant to be tensive, or groovy, or quiet.
  • There’s a feeling of spirality and flow.


  • Odd number of bars
  • Changing the underlying harmony while keeping the top motifs the same.
  • Starting with tension
  • Starting a chord or melody such that on the first repeat it sounds like that is the starting note, when on the second repeat, it’s actually not.
  • If you reprise to an original riff/melody, try playing the upper harmonization of it. Check out Aurora: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5skBr_96dPc


  • Don’t always just go back to the top to listen to how it sounds with a new bit, its taxing and takes up to much time, instead just see if it works or doesn’t.

Feedback and Updates:

  • Needs more variety. Not everything has to be harmonics all the time. Needs different textures and feels throughout the music.
  • I understand that you want to be unique and revolutionary, explore a certain concept, but you need to perhaps balance exploratory, unconventional, innovative material with more “conventional”(yet still amazing and driving) material. This would actually produce contrast and context.
  • Another thing is that I feel that unless the person doesn’t hear something mind-blowing in the first 5-8 seconds, he’s not going to listen to the whole song, he will switch it off.
  • all about that intro
  • explore a concept.

Usurpation is one of the best compositional techniques.