Orchestrating "Toodles"

In this episode, TC takes a sketch he wrote and turns it into a band arrangement using the guitar as his main instrument. Sounds interesting? Let's get into "Toodles" then!

Note: Please note that there are many musical demonstrations in the audio version of this episode, which are not accessible in the transcript.

Welcome, welcome all you smoking guitar players out there. I'm TC and your host for today. When we talk about the guitar as a composition instrument, that doesn't mean that we solely rely on just the guitar.

Creating the Melody or The Head

We're actually looking to use the guitar for ideas, and then we have to document those ideas using a program like Sibelius. That's the one that I use for all my compositions. You have to understand that composers have many tools, not just their instruments but also composition tools. And Sibelius is the one that I use.

Today, we're going to go through some step-by-step procedures and ways to think of gathering some ideas on the guitar, and we're going to program them in Sibelius so you can hear what they sound like in real-time.

So let's get started. The first thing is let's pick a genre. I would say a good one would be blues. Everybody loves the blues, especially players that can play blues. So let's start with writing the melody first, called the "head".

The "head" is a short melody that identifies the piece.

So, I will play a simple melody around a G minor triad for our head of this little blues. Let's call the blues "Toodles". When you do a composition, giving it a name is good because that's the beginning of the flavor. Okay, let's write a melody for Toodles.

[please listen to this episode at 2:30 min.]

That sounds like an excellent start. Let's add a little phrase or something that can take us into the soloing section of our new blues, Toodles. We want to be able to set the players up so that when the solo section comes, it's obvious. So here's an idea.

[please listen to this episode at 3:11 min.]

Okay, that sounded good—nice little form. But now, we must figure out how we want to harmonize it. And because we are Music Interval Theory guitar players, I will use a series of interval combinations that outline the G minor triad. And then we'll go into straight-ahead major chords.

[please listen to this episode at 3:56 min.]

Now, let's reharmonize.

Using the ICs for the Harmonization

The interval combinations and the sequence of the interval combinations are as follows. The first melody note is harmonized with a "4+2", then "6+1", "6+5", and "1+5". And that is the opening bar and the sequence of interval combinations I'm using for the main melody or head of Toodles, our blues tune.

Okay, I'm going to demonstrate the first interval combination, "4+2", and shift it around on the guitar, so you can hear how quickly we can develop new ideas using these interval combinations.

[please listen to this episode at 5:29 min.]

Awesome. Now we're going to use a composer tool Sibelius, which will help us orchestrate all of the ideas we figured out on the guitar using interval combinations. Our next step is to find a tempo for Toodles. This is going to be fun. Because now, we're going to apply these ICs in real-time.

Developing "Toodles" in Sibelius

And the way we're going to do that is we're going to program it in Sibelius, which means we will be using the left and right hand of the keyboard. Check it out.

[please listen to this episode at 6:21 min.]

Alright. I'm starting to like this little song Toodles. It's a nice head, and it's nice and short. We're going to start adding a few things. How about some bass and a little percussion. And let's have the bass walk a little bit.

[please listen to this episode at 6:50 min.]

Alright. Now, the next thing is to write a little blues section. In other words, just the kind of chord changes you might want to play while having someone solo. I'm a big fan of the octatonic scale and the harmonies that come from that. And as a matter of fact, some of those harmonies we are already using in the "4+2", the "1+5", and "5+1"s.

Those all come directly from the octatonic scale. I am also a fan of the Lydian dominant, and the Lydian dominant scale is great when playing blues. Between the Lydian dominant and the octatonic scale, you have almost every note available when you're playing solos. So, let's review a little bit. First, let's play the Lydian dominant.

[please listen to this episode at 8:01 min.]

Remember, "IC" means interval combination. So now, in Toodles, we're going to play a little blues progression, but we're going to use some of the extended-type ICs you get from these great scales. So the first one will be what we would normally call a I-chord and then go to a IV-chord. And if we were in the key of F, that would be an F dominant to a B flat dominant. Here's what they would usually sound like. And then, let's compare what it sounds like when we do the substitutes for those.

[please listen to this episode at 9:21 min.]

Now those sound just fine, but we want to add a little more color and subtlety to our blues. So now, let's use the extended scales, the polytonal ones that have the flat fives in them, that sort of thing.

[please listen to this episode at 9:52 min.]

Yeah, you can hear the rich and subtle textures that come from using some of these extended poly scales and the ICs that come from them. So in our little sketch of Toodles, the blues section, which is letter D in the PDF, is available for all members of the MITA academy. So if you learn these scales, you'll be able to find your little passing chords and tones and triads.

So now, we have our sections for Toodles, and we can repeat sections, extend them, solo over them, orchestrate them, all that sort of stuff. We've used the guitar to develop ideas by applying some ICs, interval combinations, little triads, and some scales and taking little ICs from those scales.


We've written a melody for a head and then orchestrated it using ICs. This has been a fun process, but let's listen to the whole piece now.

[please listen to this episode at 11:47 min.]

That's Toodles! Now we have a little tune with a head, a little form that we can play blues to, and the next process would be to have the band rehearsal. Since you have Sibelius, you can print out all the parts. It's a great way to produce your band tunes, have a lot of fun, and get results.

Because here at Music Interval Theory Academy, that's what we want. We want results. And we want you to find your sound, your spirit. That's what the academy is all about. And that's what we want guitar players to find, their spirit, and know how to orchestrate for the guitar and on the guitar.

This is TC saying "au revoir".


As you could hear, "Toodles" ended up being an advanced blues piece, but you know how TC got there. It was a structured process, and he took small steps at a time. Always start simple and build complexity around it later.

Author: Thomas Chase Jones