Rolling the Dice (or Music by Chance)

Sometimes one just needs to write a song, right?   

The relationship between math and music is pretty amazing.   Back in the late 80's when I was studying the craft of orchestral composition I became fascinated with modern classical composers and twelve tone writing.   I had a great professor also who showed me the beautiful symmetry and clear mathematical influence in Bach's music.  It was then I started to experiment with different styles of writing.   One of my favorites was by rolling dice to determine pitch and rhythm.  The only problem was I didn't really like the way it sounded ;)  

Well, one thing led to another and I decided it would be just as easy to write "tonal" music this way.   I came up with this nifty little way to write songs.  If you are ever stuck on starting to write a song I suggest you try this.

1. Get some dice

2. Choose a key for the song.   How about C Major?

3.  Assign a diatonic chord to each number 1-6 of a die.  For example 1=C major, 2=D minor, 3=Eminor, 4=FMajor, 5=Gmajor, 6=AMinor

4. Roll the die and write down the chord - let's say for now one roll of the die will be one measure.  Do this for 12 or 16 measures.

5. Play it back.  sounds pretty good huh?  Tweak it any way you like to get it to sound good and symmetrical to your ear.

6. Assign a note from the C major scale to each number on the die. 1 =C , 2=D , 3=E, 4=F, 5=G, 6=A (add B somewhere if you'd like - remember this is just to get you rolling).  We will call this the pitch die.

7. Take the other die and assign a rhythmic value to each number.  For example 1=half note, 2=quarter note, 3= dotted quarter note, 4= eight note, 5= dotted eighth note, 6=sixteenth note.  Any combination of any note values will do. We will call this the duration die.

8. Roll a pitch die, Roll a duration die, write it down, repeat.  See what you come up with.  

9. Play through the melody you have just created and pick out what  you like and develop it.

I really like this method of sparking creativity and speed writing songs.   It's just like coding right?  A set language that you put together creatively to make it do what you want.

Send me some samples of what you come up with.   I always love to hear from you all.

Happy Songwriting, Happy Coding

Brian