Music Technology - Context and Interpretation

When creating your own sound track, you are making choices on how to present your music to an audience, whether live or in a recording. You should always be aware of the context of your sound track and should aim to interpret the theme or subject. When you compose or arrange your own music, you are interpreting your ideas to others. Writing instrumental music can be challenging when setting the context and interpretation as you don't have words / lyrics to convey any messages or specific emotions.


To be successful

Advice or tips to help you


· Preparation

· Consider the background of the performance if you are going to compose an original piece of music

· Consider the context of the performance; you might need to consider the style, era and background of the given theme or story.

· Look for a digital score if you are going to arrange a song / piece of music

· If you are arranging traditional or contemporary music, you may find it useful to look for a digital score or MIDI file before you start as this could save you time in working out any melodies and chord sequences.

· Study the script if you are to going to compose a soundtrack for a play

· You should start by studying the script in detail to have a feel of the mood of each scene. You may find it useful talking to other members of the group to have their ideas of what could be included in a soundtrack and their suggestions as they will be acting / directing.


· Composing a song

· Decide whether to start with the melody or the lyrics

· This depends entirely on what comes easiest for you when composing. However, you may come up with a beautiful melody when improvising but find that the chosen lyrics don't fit. Others like to set the rhythm to the lyrics before starting to consider the melody.

· The important thing to remember is that your lyrics work, fit and make sense.

· Discover where to find lyrics

· There are numerous ways to source a set of lyrics when composing a song.

  • Use lyrics from a traditional or famous song.
  • Use words from a poem.
  • Compose your own lyrics.
  • Ask another person to compose the lyrics.

· Try to vary the verse and chorus structure in your song

· Songs are commonly recognised by having a few verses and a catchy chorus. Try to be inventive with your structure. You may decide to introduce changes in each verse or only use a specific phrase of the chorus when repeating throughout the song.


· Creating the right atmosphere

· Use music to create a happy mood

· Consider the following when writing a piece to convey a happy mood:

  • Use a major key.
  • Use an up-beat tempo.
  • Include a flowing melody that includes repetitive patterns.
  • Include short and dotted rhythms.
  • Use mainly treble instruments.

· Use music to create a dark / scary atmosphere

· Consider the following when writing a piece to convey a dark / scary atmosphere:

  • Use a minor key.
  • Include changes in rhythm and tempo.
  • Include angular melodies which have wide melodic leaps.
  • Include short and dotted rhythms.
  • Vary the texture and dynamics from one spectrum to the other.

· Consider in what other ways can the music contribute to the atmosphere in a play

· You can make the audience aware of which character will be returning on stage by giving specific characters a motif or introduction before they enter on stage - this technique is often used in pantomimes. The same idea is also used to remind the audience of which setting (scene) is coming up next in the play, i.e. the woods or the great hall.