How do you compose?

Discussion in 'Education' started by the real Pict, Jan 14, 2020 at 4:40 AM.

  1. the real Pict

    the real Pict Kapellmeister

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    I was intrigued enough,by some responses in another thread which shall remain nameless, to post this thread.How do you compose music?Do you use notation?Do you use a DAW or tape or some other method?
    Do you cut and paste loops?Do you use acoustic instruments?How do you go about assembling a finished piece of music?From beginning to end how do you make it happen?I for one would find it really interesting and educational to know how other people approach writing ,arranging ,assembling, and finishing pieces of music they are working on from inspiration,building and to conclusion no matter what genre.Do you compose by ear or do you use a theory based approach or some entirely different approach?
     
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  3. Lager

    Lager Kapellmeister

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    The genuine answers to these questions are not simple at all. If you want the exact answers, you yourself need to have a PHD in music. Even it doesn't guarantee that you can be a promising composer. PHD would mostly grants you analytic mind.

    Composition is another story...:wink:
     
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  4. Lager

    Lager Kapellmeister

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    Bro! You think that I'm kidding? No, not this time...:rofl:
     
  5. Trurl

    Trurl Kapellmeister

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    It depends... sometimes I get ideas driving around or something, and I hum them enough times to try and get it tuck in my head until I get to the studio to put it down. I rarely use the voice recorder in my phone unless I really really like it because I figure if it's not interesting enough to remember later it's not really worth it. But I bet 90% of the time I just sit down and start playing until I go down a path that seems interesting, and I record it for later development. And yes, I compose by ear. I have never made a decision based on what theory would suggest is the "right" thing to do- at least, not as a deliberate choice.
     
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  6. Lager

    Lager Kapellmeister

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    The golden formula for POP and other similar isotropic music.:thanks:
     
  7. digitaldragon

    digitaldragon Audiosexual

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    Please explain "isotropic music".
     
  8. Trurl

    Trurl Kapellmeister

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    That's as may be but I don't think much of what I write would qualify well as pop. I sense the spectre of another legendary member lurking behind your words... :rofl:
     
  9. stoiximan

    stoiximan Producer

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    Make an 8 bar loop with drums,bass,voice,synth even add effects.Let it play on repeat and mute parts on and off and soon the composition idea will come but listen with your heart not your ears.
     
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  10. Lager

    Lager Kapellmeister

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    Isotropic:
    (of an object or substance) having a physical property that has the same value and invariant when measured in different directions

    In music it simply means, if you pick up different moments of it by chance and listen to them, they almost sound the same.






    And this guy alludes to a handy example for isotropic music process, thanks man!
     
  11. Ad Heesive

    Ad Heesive Platinum Record

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    Nice question from OP. Impossible to not join in.
    I liked the way you listed a variety of (just example) approaches and this hints at how I'm sure many people might answer, i.e., they explore many approaches and enjoy whatever delivers creative results - no rules, no creative restrictions, just whatever delights you.

    This really should be a 'no arguments' thread - it's really just asking "what works for you?"

    @Lager, I don't think the OP was asking for, or expecting, deep theoretical or psychological answers, just describe the pragmatic stuff that actually happens when you compose. Those details can be scruffy and complicated but still very simple to describe.
    (and @Lager - you know me - my answer won't be a tweet :winker:)

    My simplest 'one-liner' answers would be...
    • find it - either in my head or by messing around with a chordal instrument (fretboard or keyboard).
    • develop it - via a chordal instrument
    • produce it - in a DAW.
    But that 'produce it' stage doesn't start to happen until I have some kind of live scruffily-performable complete sketch of the whole thing. If I can't play it on some instrument (even badly) then, for me personally, it ain't ready to start producing. But that is a milestone stage of sorts, that's when I regard the composition phase as mostly done.
    The production process itself almost never seems to work the same way twice. I won't bother trying to describe my personal creative chaos for that part of the game (ranges from... 'record it all in one live take', or 'feed it into a band', or 'tinker by myself in a DAW forever until insane')

    For one weird second I thought @Trurl was reading my mind and writing my answer for me.
    @Lager called this "The golden formula for POP and other similar isotropic music."
    I think it's the exact opposite. I think what @Trurl describes is a very sound strategy for avoiding isotropic output and hanging on to individual creativity.

    One personal difference for me, compared to what @Trurl wrote
    Re: ideas that start solely in your head rather than while playing. @Trurl said "I rarely use the voice recorder in my phone unless I really really like it because I figure if it's not interesting enough to remember later it's not really worth it."
    Nothing to argue about there, (all personal preference) - but I actually do the opposite and record the earliest versions that I can, as soon as they pop into my head. I find that, even just a few hours later, the subtle 'feel' of what originally popped into my head may have drifted away. I might think I'm remembering it OK, but actually I'm not - it has changed. And 'just sometimes' that original feel is the best part of what I initially heard. That 'drifting feel' aspect is something that I have to pay attention to all the way through a recording process. Sometimes the evolving feel is all improvement, but sometimes I go back and listen to a really old early crappy sketch and realise that my recording process has killed the nice feel that it had (and I have to start again).
    Also, about capturing ideas that pop into your head... For me, it's mandatory to have a portable recording gizmo by my bedside. I've even managed to record ideas in the middle of the night, and in the morning I can't even remember doing it, yet alone remember what it was. I have what (for me) is a priceless collection of recordings that sound worse than a whining constipated dog, but there are still ideas in there that I later really enjoy developing.

    So, the most important summary for me is (as @Trurl said)
    the core of the entire process is led 'by EAR' and not by any theory rules.

    So, that 'elephant in the room' - the role of music theory (just for me personally)
    (Plagiarising my own comments from elsewhere...)
    I could never regard composition as formulaic, - "follow these rules A,B,X and watch what comes out". It's always more like, "theory goes in; has some weird impact on what's going on subconsciously and might eventually have some equally weird impact on what my subconscious music generator does next".
    I also find theory useful because my mental analytical skills are too scruffy. I can hear stuff in my head pretty well but if I try to just mentally analyse what I'm hearing - it's very unreliable. I need to go to a chordal instrument, either keyboard or fretboard, and make it happen. It doesn't need to be played well, but dabbling with the instrument is the only way I can remove the vagueness and let me accurately describe what I've been hearing. That 'describing via an instrument' is very helpful to me and the more theory I know, the better I get at that.

    The nearest to contradicting myself on this is... I have occasionally also done this... I've learned an aspect of theory and thought something like "So if that's true then I wonder what this (thought experiment) would sound like" and so, I've gone to a piano or guitar to find out - and been pleasantly surprised by something interesting. Then a few weeks later I find my subconscious inner music generator spitting out something that I can trace back to being a wonky, flawed version of whatever that music theory experiment was. I'll take an event like that as an occasional accidental bonus.

    My attitude to music theory is very simple...
    • I personally think music theory is brilliant. I love it. It helps me a lot. I would definitely study it even if I wasn't a musician.
    • BUT - No-one will ever convince me that music theory is 'essential' for the many thousands of past, present and future brilliant musicians who very clearly demonstrate that they have outstanding musical competence and really effective musical knowledge without understanding any musical abstractions whatsoever.
    Oops - that's far more than tweet length - but then so is making music. :wink:
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020 at 8:23 AM
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  12. johnw

    johnw Member

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    I find some sound I like, play something and I start from there . Music is music , if what you have composed is ok for you and of course other people , that is music . Remember at beginning , music was one man with a stick and a shell . That was music too ...
     
  13. Fudsey Plange

    Fudsey Plange Audiosexual

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  14. Lois Lane

    Lois Lane Audiosexual

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    It starts with an emotion, something that ignites a flame of a feeling within me. It could be either a sweet thing that enjoins me to smile or it can be something that resonates with my shadow and which draws a scowl upon my heart. I have found through the years that I like the challenge to thread the needle and to meld the antagonists into an homogenized blur that hits upon characteristics of both in order to grok my experience, to embody this chosen momentary reality.

    The process continues with a sound that can well from my throat or how my feelings translate to an available instrument, be it a piano/keyboard /software vsti instrument, a guitar, ukulele, a bass, dulcimer or percussion instrument (other than the piano). I don't neccesarily record right away unless I'm in the studio (loosely termed) and in front of the keyboard controller and rarely do I hum or sing into my phone while out and about, but should do so more often.

    Melody and lyric many times come through me simultaneously which is really very cool. I prefer a guitar against my body to work out the ebb and flow, the rise and fall of the song. If it doesn't gel right away I will play it again and again until it does.

    Birthing a song is a joy and I get high loosing myself within myself. Besides making love, this is as good as it gets.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020 at 9:31 AM
  15. mrpsanter

    mrpsanter Audiosexual

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    Since I don't have any theory background, I never use notation software.
    Most of the time, I start with a few chords but sometimes with a breakbeat instead. If I believe that it sounds interesting, I take it from here and add some bass or pad and so on. My songs are the result of many layers and it usually takes a few weeks to complete because I always do many non music related things at the same time.
     
  16. Thankful

    Thankful Platinum Record

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    Aha! That would explain a lot :bleh:
     
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  17. coldwatrr

    coldwatrr Noisemaker

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    I am recording songs myself and i am also making trap (the hiphop genre) beats.

    I use FL Studio so i produce everything in a DAW.

    For Beats I do it like this:

    I just start like sometimes I dont even have a vibe I just start and open up the DAW and select the BPM, I mainly do stuff above 140bpm. Next I pick a scale. I learned over the time which scales I like the most and which I myself used for my songs.
    Than I open up any VST/Instrument/whatever I feel like using and than I just look for a sound I like. Once found I open up the Piano Roll and just start clicking in the tempo of the melody using one note. Often for this I use the root note, so if I am in A Major I just press in notes in Pitch A. Once i have my tempo/rhythm/bounce figured out, I start moving notes. I do this until I have sum that I like. I make all my decisions based of my feeling. Like if my heart tells me to use a 5th there or a second i just do it.
    Now I got like my basic melody going, depending on the sound and my feeling I might add chords or other variations to it.
    Lets say at this point I have my first melody going. With chords, top melody and all that. Now I add more Harmonies by using Instruments which fit the vibe I just created with the first Melody. I always use at least 4 VST/Instruments/Sounds for one Melody. Ill go up to 8 sometimes tho.
    At this point I might copy the MIDI of the first melody i made or just play in new harmonics which fit the movement and overall vibe, again at this point i am feeling it and I just do what i feel.
    Now I got my entire melody finished having used like 4 sounds, now ill add effects to add character. Effects been added time to bounce out the entire melody as loop.

    I never add drums in the same session as I made the melody. I always make my own loops. Because I put in more effort when making loops than just killing shit in one session and I like using a schedule. So i might make melodies from monday - thursday and make beats from friday to sunday.

    I than pull in my melodies and add drums as good as I can, but I like just making melodies and sending them out to other producers.



    For Songs I do it like this:

    I sit down and start listening to beats, I have my go to producers so i pull their stuff up. I rarely listen longer than 30secs I know when I want to pick a beat. Now I got a beat I just pull it in my DAW and find the Key of it using Hornetsongkey. Now I turn on my Reverb and Delay Send, put on Autotune and at this point I am going to record EVERYTHING i come up with. I freestyle everything and just go off feeling at this point and I am also looking for beautiful words which just fit. I am just punching an freestyling the entire song. Now I got the entire song, i save the project export the song with no mix and close the Project. I dont mix my stuff in the same session. Because at this point I might feel inspired to make more songs and thats what I do. For me with music I need to go off the vibe and the feeling and I need to utilize a vibe as much as I can.
    The next day I relisten I might trash all the songs I might finish all of them. Sometimes u get too euphoric about what u just created and u listen over and over and might think its fye but rly its trash so the next day relisten is a key for me.

    I been making music since 1.5 years now so I am still figuring stuff out daily. With beats i started 11 weeks ago. I am learning music theory cause I really enjoy learning about it. It is just very helpful to me altough sometimes it is just pain to study it but I believe it helps my creativity and being able to stand out. For me my creativity and my ability to stand out are my biggest keys to create anything music related. Like I approach every Melody, Beat and Song with the mindset: "Alright I want to do something crazy, something not common, something that stands out.

    I would describe my melodies as very coloful, happy and bright. Same goes for my Songs altough I made some sad Lil Peepish/rock typish sad songs, but they had their own space and it was just the way I felt at that time. I like to make colorful music more tho, because i am colorful person and I like to be happy haha

    EDIT: Also don't be afraid to quit stuff. With melodies, If i realize i cant come up with something or I cant think of a harmony I just close the project. Also for both Beats and Songs, I need to be showered, have cologne on and a full outfit including shoes and accessoires.


    I am from Germany so please excuse poor grammar or spelling mistakes.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020 at 3:34 PM
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  18. Zenarcist

    Zenarcist Audiosexual

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    All of them, and many more! :guitarhero::drummer::metal:
     
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  19. phumb-reh

    phumb-reh Kapellmeister

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    I follow the Zappa method and I'm not going to argue with him, I quote:


    (from "The Real Frank Zappa Book", pgs. 101-102)
     
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  20. Zenarcist

    Zenarcist Audiosexual

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    I use an 8 bar intro, 16 bar verse, 8 bar prechorus, and 12 bar chorus as my template, with region markers so that I can focus on any section. I used to start off with a single 8 bar section, but it wasn't expansive enough for my liking.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020 at 2:17 PM
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  21. zero-frag

    zero-frag Kapellmeister

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    Usually a piano melody. I pull up Kontakt with Cinepiano and come up with something then build from there.

    But sometimes it will come from sound design. Say i spend 10 minutes getting this cool synth or guitar sound and it will generate some ideas.

    Sometimes I even start with the drums first.

    But most of the time I just play random nonsense for an hour then I give up :D
     
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