Hans J.C. Bakker
Melody & Harmony

Melody & Harmony

MHUST; the Melody & Harmony Ultimate Songwriter Tool – you too can become an AMC = Alphabet Music Composer!

Are you looking for a simple and effective tool to start composing your own song?; Don’t look any further, because the solution for that is my Melody & Harmony method, based on The E Music Theory. With this tool, you’ll find all the help to let you get inspired and write beautiful and new songs.

The quickest way from here to start composing is to decide which mode you’re going to use (mostly Ionian, so go wild this time, and choose a different mode), then decide in which key the song is going to be (and for all you experienced guitarists out there: for once please choose a different key than E (major)) and then finally click on the root note of that key and/or mode in this diagram:

PS, If you don’t know what modes or keys are, don’t worry: underneath I will lead the way!

The Mode Selector

Flats/SharpsZone numberΔ DeltAurLydianIonian/ MajorMixolydianDorianAeolian/ Natural minorPhrygianlocrian
6♭/ 6 #6Ges/FisCesGes/FisDesAsEsBesf
5 #7BEBFisCisGisDisais
4 #8EAEBFisCisGisdis
3 #9ADAEBFisCisgis
2 #10DGDAEBFiscis
1 #11GCGDAEBfis

Not sure what to do first or next?; read these general remarks to start feeling solid ground under your feet again. And don’t worry, music is meant to be fun, relaxing and exciting at the same time, and most of all: if you can whistle or clap your hands, everybody can make it!

What is music?

Music are organized sounds that usually contain a rhythm, melody and/or chords.  Rhythm in music means that those sounds come and go at certain times in mostly recurring patterns. The drum kit or percussion is most often used to give this collection of pitched and unpitched rhythmic sounds of a song a basic groove. But you can also play percussive on another instrument or with your mouth by playing/ singing/ beatboxing (etc.) (un)pitched sounds in a certain rhythm.

A super cool example of percussively accompanying yourself with chords, plus melodies etc. is done by Kent Nishimura on YouTube. On his own he manages to (re)produce or cover an entire (known) song with only 2 hands, on typically 1 instrument, his guitar. There is a tight groove and various rhythms, there are chords that sound, and he also plays a complete arrangement on top of that, including bass lines, (guitar) riffs, solos and of course the main melody. What he can do can inspire you, but also put you off, so only click on his name above if you think you can handle it 😉


Melody sounds are regularly also rhythmically placed in a song, but these notes do have certain tuned frequencies, usually in the well-tempered tuning system. In short, this system means that musicians in most of the world, on all instruments tuned in this way, can play all existing pieces in all 12 key signatures with each other, without changing the essence of the piece when transposed.

Melodies and chords (a consonance of at least 2 different notes) in a piece usually use a common root note and/or scale, for example the major scale. Scales are unique collections of tuned notes, called Aurs (pronounced as ‘hours’) in this theory neighborhood.

& Harmony

Harmony comes from the Greek and means to join together. The whole of the vertical (chords placed at a certain moment) and the horizontal (a group of melody notes that are played separately and thus sequentially over a certain time), analyzed at any given moment of a piece, form its harmony. For example, a C major chord is played and while it is sounding, the melody plays over it a few notes of the C major scale;  the harmony at that moment is then C major. So you can make the harmony as difficult or easy as you want by bringing more or less (deviating) notes together. But I do have some more tips and advice about that, for example on my poster (which you can buy here) or elsewhere on this site, for example after you have chosen a key and/or mode in the diagram above; the most important is that if it is necessary for the melody, then the harmony must follow.

Practical tips to start composing

Usually, when you want to compose your best song ever, you don’t want to worry too much about the theory behind it; you want to put feeling in your composition, because that conveys the message best. That is why computer-made music does not yet have a large market share, but I do want to change that, and I explain that further on our Ambition page. For now, first a short inventory of what music usually consists of:

  1. A melody, or theme
  2. A chord progression
  3. The instrumentation, including how and on what the song is recorded and/or played (back), and finally
  4. A division into intro, verse(s) before or after (a first) chorus(es), a return of 1 or more verses and/or choruses, possibly interrupted by solos and/or a bridge, and a summarizing ending of the song by usually repeating the chorus a few times and then finally the outro.

Because you can go in a lot of directions with these ingredients, I prefer to use the terms Intro, Main, Plain, Bridge and Outro in this theory;

  • Intro is that part of a piece that it actually starts with. So first you have no sound, and then suddenly you have a mostly musically sounding sound that introduces you to what is to come
  • Plain is then the part of the piece that, while telling you most of the story of the piece, is not necessarily the part and/or the message the composer wants you to say about: hey, I recognize cq know this piece! Plain can therefore be all fill-ins (excluding Intro, Bridge and Outro) in one piece to lead you to and from the main thing;
  • Main is the theme of the piece that stays with you the most, that you sing (along with) or whistle, for example, and that probably was also the aim of the composer
  • Bridge is often played halfway towards the summary and/or climax of a piece and is often relatively different from at least Main and Plain. But, as the word says, it can be anything else too, also a solo, just as long as it creates a bridge between other parts in a piece. Strictly speaking, Intro and Outro can therefore also be a kind of bridge, except that you recognize them by where they are in a piece, all the way at the front and at the end. And finally, an
  • Outro can also be composed in a piece, and is often different from the Main, Plain and/or bridge. Sometimes it’s just a fade-out (or with the Intro, a fade-in), where changing the volume makes the piece end or start.

And now you can start composing, but how do you go about that?; Check these boxes:

  • Do you have a melody (theme), chord progression and/or piece of text in mind?: if so, tick this box and go directly to the third box. If not, also see the next box;
  • You indicated that you don’t have a concrete idea for a song yet. There can be 3 reasons or explanations for that. You: 1. are not inspired yet, 2. (think you) are not capable enough for it, or 3. don’t have the optimum MO (modus operandi) for songwriting developed yet; all 3 problems can be solved with the solution for option 3: develop your own optimum MO here in Alphabet Music City!: In addition to learning with my music theory method and regularly practicing chords and scales etc., you also just have to play and tinker around with your instrument or voice many times. After a while you will see that there are always some ideas, riffs, melodies and/or chord progressions bubbling up in you. Don’t forget that the same goes for any lyric ideas you find this way. Example: if it’s a rainy day, just start singing “It’s raining outside, and I don’t have a song to sing, ….” etc. Or when it’s a sunny summer day and the birds are singing, try to whistle what they whistle, because it’s their natural MO too! And, boom, you now have a melody. Cleverly borrowing from those who came before you is something you can also try; by figuring out existing songs and solos, mixing up what you have learned and only selecting what you like, and all that in combination with what you have come up with yourself, will sometimes give you a push in the right direction. Exchanging ideas and jamming with other musicians could well be your MO too. But the best advice is: you’re not going to write a hit when you only think: “I Have to write a massive hit now”; instead, think of the people, animals, food, cars or other things you like or love, think of how they make you feel or about the last encounter/ conversation you had with someone and write that down. If you just had a fight, the feeling/ theme of your song could be anger or regret. Anger is usually loud or big, and regret is small or turned inside, etc. At least that’s how I write my songs, because I don’t care if I’ll ever write that ultimate hit, just as long as they’re a “hit” for me! Back to you;
  • Always, and I mean always write your ideas down, buy a memo recorder and record any small idea, before you forget it! The next time you have forgotten to do that and try to reproduce your idea, you might be in a different mood or your guitar or voice is/sounds out of tune etc., and the whole exciting eureka feeling is now gone forever. And so is your potential hit! After a quick search with the term ’songwriter tool’ in the App Store I found several apps that can help you with writing and rhyming text, recording and organizing your ideas and even finding chords, scales and grooves for them; the problem with that is: those applications are not yet featured in my method and app (hopefully soon), and thus they are not structured in the way my theory and M&H method is organized; on the Ambition page I will invite those parties to the party too, because we want to build the largest music platform of the world, but preferably by collaborating, instead of just competing! The only competition here is to try to write the best song;
  • Try to identify and inventory what (chords, melodies, text etc) you have and write the individual parts you have now on separate sheets. Why separately, you might ask?; well I often found out that parts I thought were the Plain, for instance, turned out to be the Main and vice versa, or the song turned out to have a completely different structure all together. In this part of the process, you don’t want to pin yourself down too much, because you might not even know if the song is going to be an instrumental or what the theme of the melody or text is about…
  • Now is the time to knit everything together and try to fill in the gaps. If you’re an intermediate to advanced musician, you now could go to 1 of the 12 Zones you can choose in the diagram above. Because, if you know your way around your voice range and/or instrument relatively well, you probably know what key and/or mode you’re in, which chords and/or scales you (want to) use etc. But, if you keep being stuck in 1 key, phrase, chord, idea or something else, there are still a few boxes for you to check here;
  • Do you have any other seemingly non relating musical ideas laying around?; try to incorporate them! Sometimes songs have to stay simple, using as little ingredients as possible, but sometimes the opposite or a different tactic works. Take the song Layla, by Eric Clapton, which uses a lot of different parts, with a lot of chords, solos etc. I don’t know the story behind it, but it could have been created this way. Still no concrete project or inspiration now?;
  • Put all your notes of this effort away for a couple of hours or days – of course only after you’ve recorded what it sounds like until now – and try something else or some completely different tactic. You could listen to the songs or artist you admire the most, and try to find out what has obviously worked for them, for them to intrigue or inspire you; what is it that they do that draws your attention? What ”tricks” do (you think) they use for that? Etc. But, on the other hand, I’ve heard the famous bass player Marcus Miller tell a story that one day he and his music friend decided they would not copy and paste from any other artist anymore; they now only had to do their own thing and create their own sound. Both tactics have pros and cons, because you want to play what works, but still sound different enough from the rest, to get noticed, and maybe one day…inspire others that way. But,
  • if all this hasn’t helped you write your best song yet, the only remaining thing to do, is just to dive in the deep end; so, click on just any root note, from just any mode in the diagram at the top of this page, and you’ll see, there’s still light at the end of the tunnel! Good luck!

I promised you I would explain what modes and keys are;

Usually, a song is in 1 or sometimes more of the 12 possible major (Ionian mode) or its relative natural minor (Aeolian mode) keys. When you play a song in a different mode than these 2, usually the chords don’t change, but only the order they are played in and the appointed Home Chord (HC) do. This means that when you want to write a song by only using the white keys on a piano keyboard, you automatically will use modes based on the C major scale. Note that a piece in A natural minor also uses the same scale, but the HC now is the A minor chord, instead of the C major chord.

The 7 notes of the C major/ A natural minor scale are called C, D, E, F, G, A and B. If you then choose the C as the root note for your HC for the song you’re going to write it means that you’re now composing a song in the C Ionian mode. But if you use the same 7 notes, but select the A as the root note for your HC it means that the song is in the A natural minor key, thus the  A  Aeolian mode. The remaining 5 notes D, E, F, G and B of this parent C major scale can also be used as the root note of your HC and the modes that are formed that way respectively are called D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian and B locrian.

Like the C key, there are 11 other major/ natural minor keys with their own key signature; these are displayed in the Zones I use. All 12 keys have their own 7 major scale notes, all with 7 possible different modes you can appoint. In total this adds up to (12 x 7 =) 84 modes of all the possible major scales. That sounds like a lot, but in practice the 12 Ionian and 12 Aeolian modes are used the most; the remaining 60 possible modes are more exception than rule.

AMC; Alphabet Music City

It has to be said that there is more than 1 way you can notate each of these same major/ natural minor keys, but they will all still sound the same. The C Zone [0/12] starts off with no flattened or sharpened notes on the staff. From this Zone, going to the left in Alphabet Music City, each Zone gets an extra flattened note, until 6 out of the 7 possible notes are flattened. Going to the right, starting in the C Zone again, each Zone gets an extra sharpened note, until 6 out of the 7 possible notes are sharpened; both of the 6th Zones you end up going in both ways are notated differently, but sound the same. Counting from the center C Zone [0/12], beyond each 6th Zone, the key signatures are notated differently on the staff, but still sound the same as 1 of the shown 13 Zones in AMC. The conclusion is that both Zones numbered as [6] sound the same, and thus effectively are the same. But the 6th on the left is called the Ges Zone [6], and the 6th on the right is called the Fis Zone [6]. The only thing that makes them different is their key signature on the staff. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to know how to read and use sheet music in AMC!