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AndySlatter Envato team says

I thought this might be an interesting exercise for AudioJungle authors, and again your input will benefit the community. We could do this with many genres, but for now, thinking about corporate video/ business/ motivational type music, as a composer how do you approach writing music which conveys a feeling of success, positivity, achievement, winning, integrity? (etc).

How do you approach this, do you have a method? Do you feel that certain instruments or combinations of instruments work best? Do you favour a particular style or genre of music? Are there particular chords or scales that sound positive or happy? Is there anything to avoid?

Over to you, fire ahead!

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StainofMind says

I tend to use “happier” combinations of instruments, or instruments in general. The “lighter” instruments, sometimes they tend to be higher in pitch. Harp, flute, piano at times, etc. I also use a major key, for the most part, with no dissonance in my chord changes.

It’s very versatile, and not always correct, but for the most part I find that lower instruments convey darker atmosphere. Sadness, depression, and even tension and being scared. While the higher and lighter instruments portray happier things more easily.

Always exceptions to the rules, but that’s my opinion on the subject.

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garethcoker Envato team says

A quick analysis of many of the best-selling tunes in this category reveals the following:

- Major key.

- Fast tempo (faster than 120 BPM )

- Strong bassline (the bass being the only real low-end instrument used)

- A preference for using piano chord patterns and/or acoustic guitar patterns.

- Dotted rhythms (shown best in Tim McMorris’ best-selling song Give Our Dreams Their Wings To Fly and Albertodc1977’s best-selling song Positive Thinking. Other tracks do this as well.

- Extensive use of triads (common in all pop music really). A couple of major/minor 7th chords as well.

- Repetition. If you have a good idea, repeat it – again, common in all music – all the way back to Bach and further!

- Any instruments which have an ‘organic’ feel tend to work well here. Again, both Tim and Alberto’s tracks do this well. Tim’s track has the hand clap and foot stomp rhythm, which is always successful. Alberto’s track uses either a ukelele or a mandolin and it just sounds really ‘alive’. soundroll’s track Troublemaker does this really well as well.

- soundroll’s tracks are interesting, because a couple have a really good ‘indie’ vibe to them particularly A Way To The Top. Also ‘Feel Good Journey’ fuses the indie-rock vibe with an electro element, which also works really well.

These are just my observations. I don’t really do much of the corporate motivational stuff, but if I were to do them, the above is how I would approach it compositionally.

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AndySlatter Envato team says

Great analysis guys! It is really interesting to hear people’s perceptions of what makes a particular genre.

I can’t add much more to that, I’d certainly start with a major key, I also think that for a more traditional (or perhaps cliched) style geared towards corporate video a combination of french horns/strings with pop/rock drums and other contemporary elements, maybe overlayed with some electric lead guitar can help to produce a sort of triumphant/”going places” vibe, of course one has to be careful not to end up sounding too cheesy with 80’s electronic drum kits and cheap french horns or it could sound like one of those customer releations training videos!! :)

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AndySlatter Envato team says

It might be too obvious to talk about how to approch music for horror or suspense, so what about stopping short of that, how would you approach music for a serious topic? Thinking about stock audio rather than writing to a particular brief, how do you create something that sounds serious without being too dark? Something which has tension but without being scary? the kind of stuff that could be easily used in a documentry or on a website about a serious issue?

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TimMcMorris says

The best way for me to write a “happy” track is to actually be happy in my every day life. A good composer can fake it and write regardless of their personal life dealings, however there is something about the reflection of emotion in music from someone who writes from what they actually experience – regardless of genre.

Good music is more felt then heard. I am not saying corporate motivational or pop music is the “best” music at all – what I mean is, there is something that is present in certain songs that go beyond chord progressions, keys and rhythms.

There is an element in certain songs that bypass the brain and go straight to the heart – this will cause a person to buy your song when they weren’t even looking for it. It will also cause someone to buy your song who wasn’t even looking for the style you presented, but purchases your music to create a project around, rather then for the project they were looking for.

If you can draw something from your own emotions and translate it properly into your music, you can also pull on the emotions of the listeners…pull them right to the “buy” button ;)

On the purely technical aspect of things for happy music I believe it translates into:

- Often times using acoustic (or acoustic sounding) instruments / samples

- A hook – you need a very memorable part of the song

- Get to the hook fast…maybe not right away, but your song should catch the listener within the first 10 – 15 seconds.

- Using guitar, I often use a capo with bar chords to bring the guitar up closer to the sound of a Ukulele

- The secret minor chord. Let me be a little metaphorical for a moment. In the relationships between which chords are used, I look at music like food in a way – where major chords are the bulk of the meal or better yet the food itself, however minor chords are the salt and pepper….used appropriately in the right place in the right amount will make the meal even more delicious…or add flavor to a bland dinner – too much however and you alter the food so much that it can even become inedible.

- Claps, glockenspiel, acoustic guitar, acoustic drums and various percussion, vocals (or “ooohs” “ya’s” whistling etc) are the perfect instruments for music used in TV / jingles. If you want to be used in TV productions this is ONE of the fast lane ways to get there….oh ya, you got to put them all together in a way that sounds good :)

- Like Gareth said, faster tempos, heavy use of catchy riffs….but catchy doesn’t necessarily mean massive repetition. Sometimes (with some upcoming work especially) I will write and only allow the chorus or “best” part of the song come through one time….you ever have a song where you just can’t wait for that “one part” to come along…and then you replay it over and over again because that one part is so good? – Yeah, that’s the one.

- Hit songs aren’t made by mistake…..we’ll, Ok there IS Rebeca Black, but other then that, everything is make by careful consideration. I study a lot of hit songs. I also watch a LOT of commercials. I would recommend that to everyone on AJ. Pick your genre and go find commercials, films or whatever your ideal is and find out what it is about that song that made it so attractive to the company or buyer.

That’s all for now!

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garethcoker Envato team says

A good composer can fake it and write regardless of their personal life dealings, however there is something about the reflection of emotion in music from someone who writes from what they actually experience – regardless of genre.

Good music is more felt then heard. I am not saying corporate motivational or pop music is the “best” music at all – what I mean is, there is something that is present in certain songs that go beyond chord progressions, keys and rhythms.

There is an element in certain songs that bypass the brain and go straight to the heart – this will cause a person to buy your song when they weren’t even looking for it. It will also cause someone to buy your song who wasn’t even looking for the style you presented, but purchases your music to create a project around, rather then for the project they were looking for.

If you can draw something from your own emotions and translate it properly into your music, you can also pull on the emotions of the listeners…pull them right to the “buy” button ;)

This is basically true for almost all commercial music, not just the happy stuff.

That said, I am a happy guy, but I get all the dark gigs :D .

For me, it’s always worked the opposite way, when I’m happy I counter it by writing something that isn’t.

Tim’s key point is though that ‘Good music is more felt than heard’. There really isn’t a magic formula for this (if there was, we’d all be doing it), but you can sure as hell increase your chances by doing the things Tim has described above. More often than not, it’s a combination of many of these things, and how well they work together.

P.S. Not sure about the metaphorical minor chord analogy Tim, but I know where you’re coming from. A study of how major and minor chords relate to each other (and how they are used in hit songs) will make what Tim says a little easier to take in.

P.P.S. The ukelele is REALLY popular right now….

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TimMcMorris says

P.S. Not sure about the metaphorical minor chord analogy Tim, but I know where you’re coming from. A study of how major and minor chords relate to each other (and how they are used in hit songs) will make what Tim says a little easier to take in.

haha, I hope you know I meant relating to happy music as we’re calling it, not all music in general. In totality, I prefer the mood of minor chords much more then major ones actually. If you met me in person I can seem painfully serious, uninteresting and quite introverted often times :)

But let me tell ya, all smiles on the inside!

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garethcoker Envato team says

Well, my soul is as black and dark and empty as they come :D

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ToivoMedia says

Gotta love the infinite complexity of music, and its capacity to reflect all the feelings in the world. It’s interesting how sad music can sound euphoric and joyful music can sound sad.

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