Tune Writing for Special Occasions (Part 1)

Alistair Brown Ayrshire_Bagpiper_Logo

In April earlier this year, I ran a Giveaway contest on my Facebook Page for someone to win a new tune, written for specially for them.  This is my ‘Give Us A Tune’ Service that I offer to Wedding Couples.


A few months have passed now since the draw.  Lauren, the winner, had her Wedding over the summer.  I’m delighted she was able to play the written tune at their Wedding Reception.  


From time to time I have couples asking about the Service, how it works, and what is involved.  So I thought it would be good to give a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how I went about working with Lauren to write the tune that she wanted for her Wedding.  And as well as that, it’s also a nice time to let you hear some of the finished music.


But first…


Why do I offer a Tune Writing Service?


As well as being a bagpiper, part of my work involves writing and producing new music and tunes.  I write in a range of styles, for media projects as well as traditional tunes commissioned privately for special occasions.  I think with the emotion that music can convey and evoke, a new tune written for someone is the perfect way to help celebrate those important milestones in life.


Whether it is an important birthday, a special anniversary, a retirement, or a wedding.  A newly written tune is such a unique way to mark the occasion.


Because of this, the tune writing service is one that I really love providing for people.


In the beginning: the first stages of writing a new tune


So my starting point after Lauren had won the Giveaway (after saying Congratulations to her for winning, of course) was to ask if Lauren had any suggestions for the style of tune she might like.  


Alistair Brown's practice chanter lying on top of practice music, that has been printed as a gift for someone's weddingThis is where I begin with everyone that commissions me to write a new piece of music.


In the case of a tune that is to be written for a wedding, for example, if the couple* would like something to walk into their Reception to, they might like an uplifting tune in the style of a March.  Or if they are looking for new music to be written for their First Dance, they might ask for a romantic Scottish Waltz.


(* I say ‘couple’, but sometimes it is a parent or relative that commissions me to write a new tune for the couple.  For ease though, I’ll continue to use and refer to ‘couple’ in this post.)


Some couples also like to suggest time signatures for the music, and themes that they would like the music to reflect.   


Tune commissions are a collaboration


The process of commissioning new music is a collaboration, which is part of what I enjoy so much.  In the case of a wedding commission, I am taking the ideas, themes and suggestions that a couple brings, and use those to write a tune that I think will be in keeping with their day.  That is why I really love it when couples have clearly thought about the tune they would like, and come ready with ideas to suggest.


And that is exactly why Lauren was amazing to work with on this.  Having spoken with her partner, she came to me with the idea that they would use the tune during their Reception as they entered for the cake cutting.  She thought a March (6/8 time) would work well.  Perfect!  


And, more than that, Lauren also suggested that the tune could be named in memory of a close relative.


This was all so helpful for me, as it gave me head start for the writing process.  Right from the get-go I had boundaries to work within – and I mean that in the best possible way!  


I find it can be hard to sit down and write music for someone if they haven’t offered any suggestions, as I have no clue then what style they might be like or what they might want to use the music for.  As I mentioned, I think of the whole process as a collaboration, so Lauren helped me in a big way.


Writing a new tune


This is where I fire up the creative cylinders and get to work.  And this is where those boundaries are useful.  They give me something clear to aim for.


My methods for writing a new tune


How I wish I had a ‘tried and tested’ way of writing new music!  


Sometimes, I can sit down and start playing the chanter or piano and an idea just quickly forms.  After a little time and some more playing around, the idea can build into a fully formed melody.


I really like those days!


More often, when I sit down to write, I will have an idea or two for part of a melody.  It could be something that I’ve been whistling to myself for a few days.  Sometimes I’ll hear a chord pattern or melody I like on the radio and I start sketching ideas around those.  The information I receive from the customer usually helps give me a few ideas straight away to start working on.  Often a tune will start to emerge from one of these ideas quite quickly.

Alistair writing a commissioned bagpipe tune on the practice chanter

Other days I can have a more-or-less fully formed tune written in my head.  It might be whirling around there all day.  This usually happens if I am out walking or having ‘down time’.  Then later, as soon as I sit down to try and play it, I draw a complete blank.  Can’t remember any of it.  Inspiration just disappears.


Because I never know when inspiration for a tune might strike, I try to always keep my mobile phone on me.  Thank goodness for voice recorder apps!  


The one pitfall to this can be finding somewhere quiet to sing or hum into my phone.  Or at least somewhere I won’t bother folk.  It usually works out, but it can draw some worried looks from anyone passing!


Earlier this summer, I had received a commission one afternoon and that night as I was reading to our daughter at her bedtime, inspiration decided to strike.  


With a child half asleep, this was a classic case of when the phone and voice recorder solution is a non-starter.  Luckily on this occasion I was able to get bedtime finished and then get to my phone!


How I wrote Lauren’s tune


As I mentioned earlier, Lauren was really helpful from the start.  Although I was able to provide some options and suggestions, she had a good idea of the kind of tune she would like.  As well as that, she knew what she would like to use the tune for.  As I’ve mentioned, this is all great to know.


Lauren had also told me who the tune would be named after, which again is really helpful to know as I find it makes the writing process much more straightforward.


Based on this information, I had an idea for a first part of the tune quite early on.  After recording the initial idea on my phone,  I was able to work up that basic idea on the chanter.  This involved trying different variations of the tune and rearranging sections.  After 40 minutes or so of doing this, I had Lauren’s tune.  


Final words


In the next blog, I will cover the next stages of going into the studio to record the commissioned tune.  I’ll also talk about some of the other special ways to customise the special gift of music.


If I can help with anything, please use the comment section below or feel free to drop me a message.  I would love to hear from you.

Alistair Brown in his home studio where he writes his music

Alistair J. Brown

Composer for Film & TV

I am a composer for film and tv productions and other online media content. I love helping to bring stories to life with the  emotional power of music.

Helping you to tell your story with music.

Alistair J. Brown
Recent Posts

Have a look at some of the services I offer.

Supplier Spotlight

I work with a lot of amazing businesses.  Here’s one you might like to check out.

This is the heading

Share This Post