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  • John Mayer, seen here performing at the Pepsi Center in...

    John Leyba / The Denver Post

    John Mayer, seen here performing at the Pepsi Center in Denver a few years back, has some tricks up his sleeve when it comes to music composition.



Weddings are such … a thing.

Weddings can be full of fun, but they’re also a big deal. Six of them in a summer might make you want to take a swan-dive off a flatiron.

On the other hand, they’re also the perfect opportunity to say “screw it,” and to let it all hang out. But one foot on the wooden dance floor and you’re hit with reality: “Oh yeah, I haven’t danced in forever. What do I do here again?”

I liken the creation of music to an impromptu dance session. Break it down to the basics: What a well-dressed wedding dancer needs is a library of moves. You can’t just make up any movement and expect it to look cool, just like any old assembly of notes won’t necessarily sound like music.

I, of course, am speaking for myself on the dancing subject. And although in my younger days I was a member of a dance company and competed in hip-hop dance competitions in Florida, sometimes I am at a total loss over what to do and how to move. Fortunately I picked up some moves along the way. Back in the day, a few visits to Jacksonville-area gay club, The Metro, taught me all I needed to know about building a repertoire of dance moves. I still use the moves I learned there when I don’t have a choreographer to tell me how to dance.

But back to music. In last week’s column, I began a discussion about the elusive skill of creating music from scratch. A “palette of sounds” is how I described the necessary personal library of melodies, hooks and riffs that serve as ingredients to music.

In order to move forward past the blank sheet of music paper, you must already have an understanding of the language — or music theory, as it’s called. You also need a level of mastery over your instrument.

But beyond that, it comes down to assembling a unique combination of sounds from your personal library. Like in cooking, you need good musical ingredients to make interesting music.

One of my favorite resources on this topic is a lengthy YouTube lecture given several years back by John Mayer to an enraptured Berklee College of Music student audience. If you’re interested in learning to make your own music, you could do worse than to look up these videos of Mayer, whose seemingly simple songs actually carry a level of complexity that is absent elsewhere on the radio dial.

One nugget from his hourlong lecture is his advice to start with the most interesting chords you can find. He says an interesting chord will carry a song further than you think it might.

So don’t just stop at the Tom Petty progressions. Go further, and don’t be afraid to mix chords from other styles of music into your concoction. Mayer must have lots of tricks up his sleeve, but this is a really good one that will help you get started on your own beautiful composition.

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