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Tutorial - 'The Basics of Music Writing Part 1' by Mateui

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Kickin' music tutorial by Mateui


By Mateui

Can’t stand using the over-used “Victory” song from Final Fantasy in your game?
Do you feel the need to create your very own music?
Do you want to be original but don’t know how to?

If you answered yes, then this tutorial is for you. From here on you will enter the mystical world of music and will learn the basics of theory (Oh NO!) and composition, and will apply this to, (hopefully) create your very own music.

What you Need:

-A Midi Maker: (Such as Presto or Noteworthy Composer)
-Some Sense (Comes from your brain)

(For this tutorial I will be using Noteworthy Composer since, in my opinion, it is the best midi maker that I have ever used. You can download it freely from

Let’s Get Started:

Hopefully you have opened up your midi maker. Look around. There are many scary buttons, aren’t there? Don’t let them intimidate you, soon they will be your best friends.

The Basics: Staff/Clef/Time Signature

The Staff: The place where notes are placed to make music. Consists of 5 Lines and 4 Spaces.

The Lines:
-------------------- F
-------------------- D
-------------------- B
-------------------- G
-------------------- E
(HELPFUL HINT: Acronym for remembering the notes on the Lines:
E: Every
G: Good
B: Boy
D: Deserves
F: Fudge)

The Spaces:
(HELPFUL HINT: Acronym for remembering the notes in the Spaces:
There really isn’t an acronym for this, it’s just “FACE” spelled backwards.)

After the staff comes the clef. Depending on your music you can have 1-3 different types of clefs. They can all change the tone of your music. So experiment with all three, then choose the one you like best.

1. Treble Clef: You all know this one, the most widely used clef, slightly resembling a figure ‘6.’
2. Bass Clef: Resembles a cane with two dots by the right.
3. Alto Clef: Resembles a really fancy ‘B.’

After the clef comes the Time Signature. This will determine how many beats you get in one measure of music. (If you don’t understand, this will be explained later.)

The most common one, and will be the one you learn in this tutorial, is the 4/4 (NOTE: It does not resemble a fraction, I just wrote it this way so you could tell that they were on top of each other.

4 = 4 beats to a measure
4 = Quarter Note gets one beat

Question: What the heck is a measure?

I’m sure some of you would want to know this, so I will clarify it so you don’t get confused anymore.

A Bar Line (“|”) separates each measure so that the music could be read and played more easily. A measure is what is played between two Bar Lines. For example:

| this is a measure |

Got it? Good! Now where were we? Hmm… Ok, I got it.

The Basics (Continued): The Notes

Now that you know what a time signature is you have to know which notes get how many beats.

The Quarter Note: A filled black oval with a line either sticking up or down from it. In a 4/4 time signature it receives 1 beat, meaning that you can only have 4 in one measure.

The Half Note: A non-filled oval with a line sticking either up or down from it. In a 4/4 time signature it receives 2 beats, meaning you can only have 2 in one measure.

The Whole Note: A non-filled oval, with NO lines what’s so ever sticking out of it.

The Basics: The Rests

Since you now know the basic notes, you need to know how the stop the music for a period of time. This is where rests come in.

The Quarter Rest: Resembles an fancy zig-zag line. In a 4/4 time signature it receives 1 beat of silence.

The Half Rest: Resembles an upward hat. In a 4/4 time signature it receives 2 beats of silence.

The Whole Rest: Resembles a downward hat. In a 4/4 time signature it receives 4 beats of silence (the whole measure).

Repeating Your Music:

Eventually you’ll have a great song with many lines of music that are played over and over again. But your too lazy to keep writing the same thing again, right? If so, then you’ll need this next basic item:

The Repeat Sign: This is how it looks like: :|| (The second line is thicker than the first in reality.) What this does is tell the music to go back to the beginning when it reaches the repeat sign. When it reaches the repeat sign the second time, the music ends.

Ending the Music:

Were almost finished learning the basics of music theory. We just need to learn how to stop the song. We can’t use a normal Bar Line, as this would confuse the rest of the music. Instead the Double-Bar Line was introduced ending the musical confusion. (Not really, but it sounds more dramatic.

Double Bar Line: Looks like this: || (NOTE: The second bar in reality is thicker than the first, but I can’t show you that from here.)

Our First Note:

Phew, we finally made it. I have I haven’ t lost any students, with the theory lesson. Well, those of you who are actually still here listening to me (more like reading me) are now at the best part of this tutorial. (What am I saying, this whole tutorial is the best part!)

You will create your first simple song with my aid. Don’t worry it won’t be too hard. You already have Noteworthy Composer open, right? Good.

Go to File>New.

For now click on Blank Score, and name the song “My First Song”, Author: Your Name. Click ok.

You will now see a very small staff with a cursor blinking. You will use this cursor a lot since it tells the computer, and you, on which line or space the next note you use will be placed on.

First, click on the treble clef. It should be located on the lowest bar, on the upper screen to the farthest left. Click on. A treble clef will now be inserted.

You will now need to insert a time signature. Look around the bars on the upper screen until you see a button that looks like this: 4/4. Click it and a 4/4 time signature will be added to your staff.

Now we are ready to place some notes. Since this we be our first song we will make it an easy one that most beginners learn first to play on an instrument. What song you ask? “Hot Cross Buns!”

Click on the quarter note sign so that when you place a note, you will get a quarter note, simple? After you click on the quarter note, go over the staff with your mouse and click on the “B” line. If you forgot your notes, take a look and my diagram at the beginning of this tutorial.

When the cursor is on the “B” line, hit ENTER on your keyboard. Viola! A quarter note appeared!

Are you ready to hear your song? If yes, look on the toolbar for a blue play button. Hit it? Did you hear your note. If yes, then we can continue.

Finishing Our First Song:

Now, are you ready for a test? Hey! Don’t give me that attitude! You can’t have me all the time to tell you what to do, you know. Think of this as an act of generosity.

For the test, I will give you just the letters to the whole song. You will have to write the notes and rests into the computer yourself. To add a rest, pick what type of note you want the rest to be: Quarter/Half/Whole and instead of hitting ENTER, you hit SPACE.

To add a Bar Line hit TAB.

To change the instrument playing your song, right-click on your staff and choose instrument, and then select whatever one you like.

Okay, lets start the test:

(NOTE: For this test, a rest will be symbolized as a “*” )

“Hot Cross Buns”

4/4 Time Signature: B A G * | B A G * | G G G G | A A A A | B A G * :||

Congratulations! You have finished writing your first song, and are this much closer to becoming a composer. Experiment around with your own tunes, and maybe you just may create a hit new song.

When the Second Part of this tutorial comes out, you will learn more advanced basics, like Dynamics, Newer Time Signatures, Newer Notes, Tempo Markings, Sharps and Flats, and Much Much More!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, I know that I sure did. Until the next part, have a good time making RPG Music!
Extra: Rm2k