Improving keyboard technique for modern music

Discussion in 'Education' started by Beth Hart, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. Beth Hart

    Beth Hart Guest

    Hi everyone! Total newbie here. Long story short. I've had piano lessons since I was about 7 which was a while ago and I recently bought Logic for my Macbook with the aim of recording original compositions.
    It's a big jump from sight reading to getting what's in my head into the computer, so a friend told me about this site and I've been looking for tips on getting creative with writing. I see that MMJ2017 seems to be the authority here, but I don't think that's what I'm looking for. I want to be able to create clear concise, catchy beats and melodies. I write lyrics and sing too and hope to record in future when I get some more equipment.
     
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  3. Paul Pi

    Paul Pi Platinum Record

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    Well, it depends what's in your head.:woot:

    Most people start by generally emulating artists who've influenced them... and find their own voice along the way. To some degree, the flavour of music rattling about upstairs will influence how you approach the creative process. For example, if you're heavily into groove-based music, you're gonna spend some time bulding up a rhythmic elements (BD, snare, percussion, bassline etc), and then map embellishments, chords, arps, counter grooves/add. tunes & vox/harmonies after. However, if you're most of a singer-songwriter, then maybe you firstly lay down a basic 'guide' piano/vox (to a metronome or pre-build groove/loop) and afterward build-up basslines, better beats, proper piano/vox/guitar parts, exra riffs, block pads, breaks, farmyard sounds etc along the way...

    I find generally the best approach to writing music/song is to approach it side-on... so, rather than sit down and say "Now for my next masterpiece..." (like mozart did i daresay), i duck the pressure and instead fire up my DAW (cubase in my case) - with a basic piano, pad, bass, drum template - and then go make myself a coffee/have a smoke. A few slugs/tugs later... i'll then nonchalantly approach the rig and improvise/noodle/meditate on the keyboard until something comes through & catches my attention - could be a tiny phrase, chord progression, saucy riff or awesome synth patch, whatever - once it's turned up, i'll refine/jam/evolve whatever it is for a few minutes... and get that in the DAW, so as not to forget it later!... TOP TIP: I believe Logic Pro also has a retroactive midi recording feature, which basically means that if you were so 'in the moment' that you can't remember precisely what you've played (as often happens), you can still recall the performance (midi) for analysis/editing after the fact... VERY handy indeed on occasion, though you'll probably need to record it again later (unless you were playing to metronome) because you'll have all kinds of headaches syncing to sequenced beats etc otherwise... for me it's about taking that moment and organically adding/evolving additional elements (rhythmic and/or harmonic) from there...

    For example, here's a little idea where i was feeling my way round the piano and semi-randomly come across a flow that i liked. Luckily i was able to retrospecively recall the midi, then i chopped-out the crud, cleaned up the bum notes, tidied-up the structure and finally added a piano 'melody' (for vox, it's not finished really). Then i messed about on some compression, eq, reverb, (subtle) delay etc. Whole thing took maybe 4 hours 'composing' (read: 15 mins jamming, 3h 45mins dicking around with midi...) and another few hours on the 'ambience'/sound... I was going to put more layers (bass, strings etc) on it, but really sometimes LESS is more imho.

    Anyways, i hope it helps (or at the very least made some sense)!

    Oh and welcome to AS! :)


    p.s. if anyone reading this fancies a go at some lyrics/vox to replace/augement the 'melody', pm me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  4. Beth Hart

    Beth Hart Guest

    Thanks for that. It's a real help. I like that idea of approaching side on. After years of formal piano it's hard to form a sequence in my head of how to relocate the piano not to be the lead instrument. I will listen to tracks I like and try and deconstruct it. Making beats and bass lines seems like a huge learning curve but maybe I'm just scaring myself. Logic has so many options of instruments it can be overwhelming.
     
  5. Paul Pi

    Paul Pi Platinum Record

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    With EDM / pop, it's often a case of distilling your approximate piano/guitar parts into essential midi block chords/riffs - and using those to trigger arps, pads, samples etc.. the final arrangement (bass lines, beats, breaks, buildups, samples etc) natually drops into place along the way... seriously, there's 1000s of youtube vids of bods breaking-down the workflow.

    Rome wasn't built in a day. Just get in there, familiarise yourself with logic, follow a couple of tutorials on essential recording/editing tools and then let your wild hairs run free!
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  6. Lois Lane

    Lois Lane Rock Star

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    Since you already can play the piano the transition is really about laying what is in your own head compared to expressing what is in someone else's. That can take a little time. Some amazing classically trained musicians just can't transition, like Itzhak Perlman. But then Yo Yo Ma can play just about anything now. Ron Carter was classically trained and is a monster on bass. Rick Wakeman is another and an impresario on keys. They say that if you can hum it, you can sing it, so start humming away!



     
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  7. Matt777

    Matt777 Rock Star

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    Hello, and welcome to THE forum ©No Avenger AUDIOSEX forum :wink:

    A lot of good tips from @Paul Pi up there :yes:.. but I miss some information from what you've written that would help us to help you. What kind of music do you like (and probably want to write). You don't have to be specific, in fact be as open as possible. When you say catchy beats/melodies, I presume mainly "pop", that can of course comprise influences from electronic/dance to classical and all in between.. some examples of artists that you favor would be helpful.

    Piano is a great instrument for music composition. And it's sound remains popular through hundreds of years. And from it, it's an easy jump to a synthesizer or sampler and/or keyboard of any type. As a piano player myself I would ask you this - can you play a tune that you have in your head?
    Some guys here may disagree, but in my opinion you should get rid of the obstacles in your way ASAP. At least at the beginning I would use loops for beats. Use your left hand as bass foundation or start building the bass line over your drumloop. Otherwise you will lose to much time getting any results and then the frustration kicks in..;) After that experiment with your melody over that, add chord progression. Keep it simple. (Of course, you can always do it the other way around).

    If you are stuck, a good exercise is to make a cover of a song that you like. Choose different sounds, sing where the lead line is, make it your own. Or pick a e.g. classical piece that you practiced and make a pop song from it..

    Just don't be scared! Post your music. Ask anything. Nothing will blow up AFAIK. There may be some nasty comments - every artist should get used to these. There are no "wrong" notes, no "wrong" chords, no "mistakes" in music.. and btw, MMJ2017 is no authority here, lol. Use "music theory" just on a "need to know" basis.. (again, ask when stuck). Instead, make music!

    Good luck! :wink:

    Edit: corrected the possibly copyright-infringing and :yawn: greeting msg :chilling:
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  8. rah

    rah Ultrasonic

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    that's quite a nice melody.

    hope if you ever add to it, you release it here..
     
  9. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    Hi and welcome to THE forum.

    I think there are several points to be taken into consideration:
    • To get into the computer what's in your head is, on principle, pretty easy. You either need an electric instrument to record the audio or a master keyborad to record MIDI notes and then some vstis to make the notes sound.
      The Old Masters wrote music for a complete orchestra only with a piano. For strings, brass, woodwinds, choir and even for percussions. To some extend this still works today. You can play bass, melody, pads and with your skills probably even arpeggios with a piano first and assign these tracks later on to different modern sounds in your DAW.
    • To learn how to make modern music I would separate the musical content and the sounds.
      Take some songs of your favourite genre and play the different instruments on your piano. This way you learn what they are doing.
      The more difficult part is to find and adjust the different sounds. For this I would suggest to work with presets which are as close as possible.
      Tweaking synth sounds precisely takes a lot of time and you'll probably need some help with it (for the next few years :winker:).
    • Then of course, there is the whole automation (mainly filter and volume), drops and risers aspect which belong to the sound design and mixing department.
    • Next there would be the drums. As @Matt777 correcty said, this is pretty difficult and since it would afford another couple of years sticking to drum loops is a good idea, unless you find someone to collab with, ofc.
    • Last not least there's the mixing aspect. I'm sure you'll find it hard to believe but this will take another couple of years.
    So my conclusion is, if you want to compose and arrange focus on these and look for someone who's good at producing and maybe even mixing modern music in the way you want your songs to sound. Otherwise you'll need years to learn sound design and mixing. Each of these is as difficult as to learn how to play an instrument.

    And don't forget: never give up and have fun. :yes:
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  10. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    Did you copy this way of writing from me? Then I'll pm you for the royalities. [​IMG]

    Or did I copy it from you? :unsure: Then don't pm me. :rofl:
     
  11. Matt777

    Matt777 Rock Star

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    No, no.. I admit, it's yours, duh. I had a feeling you'll come nagging here, when I wrote it down. FFS it's on every second thread you're in. :bleh: My lawyer says it's a common phrase that can not be © -ed.. well, we will settle that in court. Till then I hope my proxy/VPN/tor network via some satellite above mother Africa will keep me safe.. :unsure: :rofl:

    I will PM you anyway. Desperately need some help mixing down a piano room recording w/ 6 mics (3x2)..
     
  12. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    [​IMG]

    Piece of cake, just mute four of them and phase align the remaining two. Works perfectly, believe me I know what I'm doing. [​IMG]
     
  13. Beth Hart

    Beth Hart Guest

    Hey guys! Thanks for the ideas. I'm getting into the drum loops and attempting some improvising while I hum along. I can't say it's a huge success. Freeing myself from such rigid structure is harder than I thought. I've tried reading MMJ2017 and his musical theory and I don't understand what he's trying to achieve. He repeats himself over and over and provides nothing concrete as a direction for spurring creativity. He seems to be the musical theory guru for creating modern music but I'm getting nothing of any use from his views. Examples of my aims are Bjork, Imogen Heap, London Grammar.
     
  14. Beth Hart

    Beth Hart Guest

    Is it ok to admit I still love Goldfrapp and Massive Attack?
     
  15. Satai

    Satai Platinum Record

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    You were trained to sight read music notation and be a piano player. That's how it is with classical music education for most people.

    Writing, recording, mixing and releasing your own pop songs is a whole other ballgame. It's so disparate that you might say your training had nothing to do with it whatsoever, even though it's confusingly all called "music". That's why the main thing you need is the modesty to be able to let go of your training when needed to learn this completely new thing right, without always trying to fit square pegs into round holes (piano).



    This vid might be of interest to you, just to see how one guy with piano training goes at it on a more professional level, and builds things FAST, which is the most important skill to focus on getting. Aim to perfect workflow till you're in the ballpark of this guy, as you can see it's nothing fancy at all, most of it is built by loving the process itself and keeping at it till the workflow is muscle memory. You need to be producing little ditties fast, every day, nonstop and without being judgy toward them. Slowly the ditties will evolve into your future pop songs. Good luck
     
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  16. Beth Hart

    Beth Hart Guest

    I think I've found the template that may guide me from what I comprehend into new discoveries.


     
  17. Radioactive Fallout

    Radioactive Fallout Ultrasonic

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    Catch whom?
     
  18. Futurewine

    Futurewine Rock Star

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    you have to let go your keyboard and start learning fl studio. modern music.
     
  19. Lois Lane

    Lois Lane Rock Star

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    @Beth Hart

    Can you sing? If not, then begin to. It might help define your leading melody as you compose a piece.
     
  20. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    vs
    :unsure:
     
  21. Beth Hart

    Beth Hart Guest

    I haven't heard of fl studio is it better than Logic Pro x? How can I let go of my keyboard? It's the only instrument I play and what do you mean modern music? What artists are you meaning? I am not attempting to be Taylor Swift.
     
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