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WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

Composing (as opposed to automatic modular music)
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Author Composing (as opposed to automatic modular music)
nuromantix
This is intended to be the opposite of the very interesting threads about approaches to generative music:

Those who compose notes, meaning you hear something in your head and play it, or write it down, or you hear something when playing on keys or on a sequencer, and then remember it, repeat it, make it into something....

ie. those not using random/stochastic/generative approaches.....

how do you go about composing a piece?
start with chords? start with a melody? a bassline?
play by hand? use a MIDI sequencer? use a computer?
how developed is the idea inside your mind before you start fiddling with gear?

I'd like to hear what you're doing.

I love "discovering" stuff through wiggling and playing with step sequencers, but my best tracks are all fairly well formed inside my head before I play a note......
CJ Miller
I like to compose, but not with notes or chords, as I don't particularly like or understand melody. I tend to start with math and some graph paper, or maybe some data visualization. Then, I try to realize some interesting relationships. This is all basically "rhythm", but most people do not recognize it as such. The most difficult part is usually when there is a divide between abstract events, and what they should sound like. For instance, if there are some pulses, what frequencies should the be? When I start with purely acoustic material this tends to not be a problem.

More ideas occur to me while I work, so it is not unusual for me to drop a project in pursuit of a better one.

Sometimes I have rendered my ideas directly on a computer with Csound, or collaged together in Logic. Or try to play them live with Max/MSP and a controller.or sensors. I often try to stay with live computer music, playing it in person, and not recording it. I have been doing more work on the modular, but spend most of my time building it. Rhythm work is much easier and tighter on the modular.

FWIW I don't think the dichotomy of "composed" versus "generated" works very well. A person could say that a use of probabilities is a loss of compositional choice. but one could say the same thing, for the same reason, with regards to being compelled to use regular meter or frequency ratios. Deciding that I am going to only use notes would also be giving up my compositional autonomy.
nuromantix
Thanks for being first to reply.

Re your "FWIW"..... when you split reality into two, of course the place you put the divide is arbitrary and there are always other useful ways of dividing things up. But in this thread I really wanted to ask the people who DO compose by rigidly deciding what events will occur at what moment (ie without using generative or algorithmic means).... asking those people about their thought processes.

Just because it interests me. Other ways of doing things interest me too but I wanted to make a thread about "composing" in the traditional sense, although it needn't involve "normal" scales etc......
vlk
I usually start tracks by getting an idea (a melody, a rhythm, a patch, an idea for a more generative thing, a more abstract concept,) in my head while doing something boring like getting the train to a job when I am still half asleep. Then, several hours later, when I get home, I try to realize that idea (ie whatever the idea is, that is where I start) as best I can, or as best as I remember. These days, that involves using silent way in a daw to control my small modular, which offers a lot of control. That said, I usually fail to accurately capture what I originally had in my head, but it's just a place to start anyway, so that's ok. And occasionally things do come out pretty much as I had in mind, which is nice too.
dijksterhuis
Apparently some of the stuff I do sounds very "film soundtrack composition type stuff" so I'll jump in on this.

The "soundtracky" stuff I was doing was all In Ableton Live 8's Arrangement view using Arturia's ARP2600V, field recordings and drum samples. Bloody amazing thing that Arturia emulation and highly recommended from. Only bad thing I can think of the inability of automate delay times… Oh well! FYI, I used to work furiously fast at the start of track to get something going, and clean up anything I considered rubbish later.

Field recordings and samples I work very similarly to this - http://youtu.be/GtSQzW2Ff5g?t=1m17s

If I'm starting a track with these, I would usually click through samples in Ableton Live and listen for "interesting things". That could be sounds that I think could be used for drums, so something like a penny dropping, or something that sounds very atmospheric, like a bus driving past my window. "Interesting things" is incredibly hard to define and is basically, something in the sound catches my attention and I run with it.

Essentially I do a range of things depending on what I like the sound of, like -

o Cutting the samples up for stutter - my favourite thing to do. Randomly clicking the mouse on a point in the sample and pressing Cmd + E and moving shit about.
o Moving samples off grid in a "human but not human" fashion.
o Pitching samples up to make the "drum samples" have a "melody".
o Applying FX w/ automation to certain bits of the sample, spending some time getting the "curves quite right".
o Hard panning using automation - great for messing about with the listener's sense of space.
o Duplicating the current channel and pitching all the samples up an octave, moving them about slightly off the grid and then pitching a couple up differently.

Whilst I'm doing this, I'm also thinking of what other sounds I think would work with what I've got already and searching through samples for extra bits. I think that thing that sort of sounds like a snare hit needs a bit of hiss on it, so I go find something that sounds like white noise (but isn't!). Goes into a new channel. Start messing about a bit if I want to.

AndÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â¦à ¢â‚¬Â¦ breathe…†…

Synths - If I'm starting with this, I'll usually play a 4 bar loop in via midi keyboard with a very basic patch, just so that I know that the melody I'm working with sounds good. I focus on a nice 4 bar melody and nothing else. THEN I WIGGLE. It may not be "true" wiggling as it's in the computer, but I either (a) know what sound I want or (b) discover something that sounds awesome and I want to use, so whatever. Just fuck around for 10/15 minutes basically un till it sounds all right. Any more time than that and I start thinking, "oh I can use that knob turn later, and that one!" and I get completely distracted and lose interest after 2 hours of twiddling with knobs seeing what I can do.

Duplicate those 4 bars. Loop the new 8, move stuff around in the second half of the phrase so that it (a) sounds completely different to the first 4 but (b) makes sense with the first 4. This basically involves moving midi notes up and down until it sounds good. Great thing with Ableton is the fact that I can loop 5 bars, the 6 bars, then 7 bars then the whole 8. That way you get a progression with the melody.

Duplicate these 8 bars, do the same process again, keeping in mind that the traditionally key parts of the phrase to change and have variation on are bars 3, 4, 7 & 8 - rule of 3! Do the same after you've finished with those 8 (duplicate, fiddle with) and you've got 32! Then fuck about with the synth a bit, play with some automation. Record it in via a midi controller or using the mouse to draw in using automation curves. If recording in, clean up by deleting all the random points you don't need (most of them) and smoothing it off somewhat - not completely though, otherwise it sounds monotonous and flat!

Create a new channel with either a synth preset I think will work, or a duplicate of synth 1, or a completely fresh start. Do the same process as above. When you end up with 32 bars for synths 2, duplicate the whole thing and delete the first 32 bars of synth 2.

Get the idea?

Then you've got to be aware of what you're doing with each section, e.g. "for the next 32 bars do I want to add a new synth or do I want to go on a mental fucking drum solo?" Then you keep going, editing, creating new bits that work with the old bits, deleting the old bits if they're shit and replacing them with good new bits.

Repeat all the above until you either give up, or have a song.

tl;dr


Create 4 bars of something
Duplicate those 4 bars.
Fiddle around with bars 7 and 8.
Duplicate those 8 bars.
Fiddle around with bars 12, 15, 16.
Repeat until bored.
Make the "breakdown bit".
Add cowbell and go make a cup of tea.
dijksterhuis
Wow that was really therapeutic…!
nuromantix
Well I was wondering why hardly anyone replied..... I guess most people on here are into "patches" more than "traditional composing".

....but on the other hand when I try and put into words what I do when writing music, it's very difficult to pin down.

It's 99% feeling/hearing, not much thinking.

I do know a little theory which has usually felt like a thing holding me back rather than something really useful. Taking that a bit further in recent years and studying jazz a bit has opened up some more interesting compositional doors but mostly I am always looking for techniques that help me to break habits and find unexpected sounds. So I do stuff like transposing each synth to a different key so that it's not so easy to play the "right" (ie boring) notes over whatever's already sequenced. Or I experiment a lot with fragments of chords, a couple of notes in each hand, trying to find interesting sounds that aren't just 7ths, 9ths etc.
I deliberatly try lots of notes that I think will sound "wrong" to find the ones that sound wrong in the right way. I play 3 or 4 note chords in the right hand over the "wrong" bass note.

....that's some of the techniques to do with pitches, ie. melodies and chords and so on. As far as rhythm goes, I have no idea what I do. I tend to put a kick on the 1 and usually a snare on 2 and 4 but beyond that I never think about it, I just do it. Even with the techniques I've just mentioned for pitched sounds, it still just boils down to "i'm looking for what sounds good, and also new to me".

I guess for a lot of people who can do it, composition boils down to that: I don't think about it, I just get on with it and after a while it's done.
Bonobo
I think for most people its a mixture. I'm making techno rather than the abstract modular style music. The genre has rules, some of which it can be fun to break, but a lot of it you stick to.

I have an idea in my head of the feel or atmosphere of the track, is it more funky or driving? Quirky or menacing? Tight or loose? Is there a hook or all in the groove?

From there I play with the gear, tweak it toward the feeling I want, and hopefully end up somewhere near at the end.
stk
I compose/write music. I love starting with a ghost of a thing, a fragment or a glimpse of an idea, and running with it, letting it lead me down paths and through labirynths and hopefully out into full realisation. The feeling when you cross the threshold between idea and actuality is indescribable.

Anyway, how? It can start as a number of things. A single melody, or a chord, or a looped bit of guitar, or a vocal idea, or a weird artifact from an effects chain, or.. You get the idea. And as often as not it starts in the mind, whole walking around or dodging traffic on the bike or whatever.

And then working with it, with the emphasis on "with". Push too hard and the wisp gets lost in ego, don't push enough and it flitters away. That bit, I reckon, is the essence of creativity - learning how to move with an idea and gently coax it into a situation where it may be captured so that others may experience (a version of) it.

I'm deliberately leaving out specifics hecause they are useless, beong completely tied to personal preference and environment and workflow. It's the braod strokes that really matter.

I believe the most important thing is:
Be open to the idea. Ideas are everything, everything else is technicalities

Fwiw, For context I don't really make techno or modular jams or whatever. If yr interested you can check my stuff out thru the lis in my sig.

Cheers
mojopin
nuromantix wrote:
So I do stuff like transposing each synth to a different key so that it's not so easy to play the "right" (ie boring) notes over whatever's already sequenced.


I like this idea. I will try to make myself write in a key that is not what I normally use to get away from muscle memory but this is great. I think some keys and registers just work. But I like that I can keep the same old boring key but compose additional parts in a new fake key.

Anyhow, I don't think the theory is holding you back. Come on! Most people don't get as far as you. I do think you should only rely upon it when you get stuck and don't know where to go. I don't bother analyzing my music unless I have to. Then I realize, oh, I am in an odd meter..odd that I didn't realize that. I was too into the groove to care or notice. So, don't worry, it just sounds like you are trying to find your voice. I have a great working relationship with myself now, that, like STK, who is also experienced, won't bother getting into details. But listen to how he very much is a composer. Any preplanned idea before the performance or execution is composition. I, too, work things out in my head. Doing the dishes is great for coming up with killer melodies. Meditation for when trying to work out the next section of the song. Then of course, good ol' playing on your instrument until something sounds good. Go down every path of inclination and see where it leads. Use all your ideas but also have the nerve to strike down some of them. Then you will be a master.
stk
I'll just add that being able to play, even to a rudimentary level, an acoustic instrument is really helpful for quickly trying out ideas (melodic, harmonic, even structural) without getting distracted by instrumentation and timbre.

I've been really enjoying using a student-level nylon sting guitar for this lately.

I also think that that playing an acoustic instrument (where the mind/body connection is so much closer) helps develops musicality (and your own artistic voice). Of course that's a subject of some contention, especially on a synth forum.
nuromantix
Mojopin..... I don't think theory is holding me back any more, but for many years I was stalled at a level where I knew about 6 types of chord (major / minor / maj7, min7, dom7, dim) and a few scales and was really heavily stuck in very predictable progressions and changes.

Studying a bit more has helped that go away, but equally, inventing techniques to force me away from habits has also helped.

But yeh, I'm not worried, or stuck, I'm not trying to find my voice except inasmuch as we all are, all the time...... I just wanted to have a little chat about how people go about composing.

Funny thing is, when I start to try and explain it, it's easy to write about tricks I use to avoid getting stuck, but almost impossible to say what I am doing when I am not stuck and it's all just working. The fingers just go without the conscious part of my mind seeming to do much of anything.
nuromantix
STK: agreed..... I often use the piano for coming up with more traditionally "musical" stuff. No controls to tweak, just make it sound good by using the right notes.
mojopin
yes, piano/keyboard is where everything starts. I want most of my notes and form mapped out before I hit the modular. I don't want to have to think about notes when tweaking..just nailing the perfect timbre.
extra testicle
nuromantix wrote:
Well I was wondering why hardly anyone replied..... I guess most people on here are into "patches" more than "traditional composing".

....but on the other hand when I try and put into words what I do when writing music, it's very difficult to pin down.

It's 99% feeling/hearing, not much thinking.

I do know a little theory which has usually felt like a thing holding me back rather than something really useful. Taking that a bit further in recent years and studying jazz a bit has opened up some more interesting compositional doors but mostly I am always looking for techniques that help me to break habits and find unexpected sounds. So I do stuff like transposing each synth to a different key so that it's not so easy to play the "right" (ie boring) notes over whatever's already sequenced. Or I experiment a lot with fragments of chords, a couple of notes in each hand, trying to find interesting sounds that aren't just 7ths, 9ths etc.
I deliberatly try lots of notes that I think will sound "wrong" to find the ones that sound wrong in the right way. I play 3 or 4 note chords in the right hand over the "wrong" bass note.

....that's some of the techniques to do with pitches, ie. melodies and chords and so on. As far as rhythm goes, I have no idea what I do. I tend to put a kick on the 1 and usually a snare on 2 and 4 but beyond that I never think about it, I just do it. Even with the techniques I've just mentioned for pitched sounds, it still just boils down to "i'm looking for what sounds good, and also new to me".

I guess for a lot of people who can do it, composition boils down to that: I don't think about it, I just get on with it and after a while it's done.


tbh, i was confused about the distinction between generative and composition. i mean if i run a generative program it's going to give me the same results every time if i don't change anything. it's absolutely " rigidly deciding what events will occur at what moment" and a case of "remember it, repeat it, make it into something.... "

there's nothing random about it, other than i don't care if i go off on a tangent because it seems more interesting. smile i often use generative stuff to make the big picture/macro-structure because it's an easier way for me to hear and feel music in the overall form. or i use it to figure out different ways to get from one place to another.
stellvia
Ok, I'll stick my hand up as the guy who has gone and done a composition degree (and is currently doing a PhD in composition) hihi Not that I think that it is necessary to have studied in order to compose (and there are many great examples of people who haven't writing some amazing music), but I certainly have seen the benefits of having some formal tuition - namely in the areas of theory and also to the wide variety of music I was exposed to during my degree, which really opened up my eyes to what is possible. The other (possibly biggest) benefit has been the aural training I've done, which has really helped with the whole being able to hear ideas in my head and actually write them down. This is still very much an ongoing process and I'm learning new things all the time!

I have several methods for starting new compositions:

a) Sometimes an idea will just pop into my head, be it a few notes or fragment of a melodic phrase, and often at the most inopportune time (usually when I'm in the shower or while driving). I've learnt to make the most of this and when said situation occurs will spend sometime going over these phrases in my head, to reinforce what I've come up with so I can write it down later, and also to see how far I can develop the ideas. This is something that has taken me a lot of practice (and will need a lot more), and I have occassionally being able come up with a significant amount of material that I can then write down and develop further.

Interestingly enough, this method doesn't usually work when I'm in the studio, or in front of an instrument, as the sound/act of playing an instrument usually overrides what I'm hearing in my head and I will quite often lose the idea that I'm working on. This is why, when I have these ideas, I have to spend a bit of time reinforcing them in my head before I actually go to the instrument/computer to write them down.

b) My second method for initiating composition is very much the random inspirational jolt - sitting down at the keyboard and playing some notes without looking! I know this doesn't sound very reliable, but I can't count the number of times I've sat at the instrument and the first notes I've played have sparked a new composition!

c) The third method is similar to the second, but is more improvisational, sitting at the instrument and just jamming, whether it be with notes or sounds, until I come up with an idea for a piece. This doesn't always happen, and sometimes I'll spend ages jamming without coming up with any significant ideas, which can be a little frustrating if I'm trying to start a new piece. While this was probably the first major source of inspiration for composing, back when I first started, over time it has become a lot less reliable, possibly because I'm a better composer than I am keyboard player, and have to actively try and force myself not to improvise in the same set of parameters that I often do.

d) The fourth method I would consider to be the most 'mature' method of composition, and it has taken a lot longer for me to learn how to write this way. This is very much the 'planned' method of composing, working out a lot of the details beforehand - like structure, key, arrangement, mood, genre etc., before I start writing the actual notes. This often results in compositions that are more structured or coherent than those using the previous methods (though I'm starting to be able to incorporate the planned method as I write, rather than doing it beforehand) but sometimes lack the 'spark' from writing in other ways.

I'm starting to get to a point now where composing is a blend of all these methods, which I hope makes for better music overall, and a lot of these processes are becoming more and more subconscious the longer I do them.

With all of these methods (and especially the first three) I'll spend time working with the intial idea until I'm reasonably happy with it, and then either record it or play it until I'm comfortable with it under my fingers. I'll then spend time playing back the idea and listening in my head after it stops, to try and hear the next idea. Very much a 'call and response' type process, where the initial idea is the call and I keep playing it back and then listen for a response, and continue until I have a sufficient pool of ideas/motifs and start layering, structuring etc. Often all of this is happening in parallel, so I'm coming up with ideas I'll be adding new parts and structuring things, while simultaneously working out what comes next. This whole process can be both extremely quick or slow, depending on the circumstances, where I can crank out a mostly completed piece in a matter of hours, or it can take multiple sessions over weeks or months until I'm happy.

I've got my preferred methods of recording the process (be it software or hardware), but like others have mentioned, this is more applicable to your personal situation and what works for some may not work at all for others.

I believe composing is a very individual process, and can encompass an enormous range of parameters that the composer is manipulating, both consciously and subconsciously. To me, this would indicate that there are probably as many ways to compose as there are composers, and this has certainly been born out in my experience with working with others composers at university. It is certainly one of the less understood creative art forms (as indicated by the lack of research into it) but is fundamental to the creation of music and I am certainly grateful that I have some small measure of ability to create and record my own musical ideas thumbs up
mojopin
Cool. I could have written your post it resonates so much with me. I too studied formally for a few years. I think I mentioned that I come up with great melodies away from the piano. I too try and develop it as much as possible. This is probably because when you play it, you lose minor details and embellishments. You might start harmonizing it and lock it into a place it shouldn't be. Ear training is a huge thing that people don't learn and is tremendous. My ear isn't that great but I have never lost an idea I have heard, though sometimes I hear too much and so I just enjoy the music. Ever heard the 'heavenly choir'? Anyhow, lately I am happier by writing music at a much faster rate than ever (like working out the notes in a week; i used to spend years..) It keeps it fresh in my head and it comes through in the music. Also, people tend to like it more and I want to communicate with more people.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
I haven't done much composing -- too lazy -- but I do have one concrete piece of advice for anyone with that inclination: get yourself some sheet music software with MIDI playback capability. A friend of mine in Paris turned me on to Musescore. I downloaded it for free in my hotel room in Paris and composed a little piece right there on the spot. It took me all of 15 minutes to figure out the software and another 15 minutes to compose a stupid little jazz ditty. The way I did it was that I just wrote down more or less exactly what I was hearing in my head.

Here it is (feel free to play it, about 120 bpm in swing time -- I don't know why measure 12 came out so short -- the software isn't perfect, I guess):



Of course, you must be able to read music to use this technique. I find this discipline of hearing music and writing it down to be very therapeutic.
stellvia
mojopin wrote:
Cool. I could have written your post it resonates so much with me. I too studied formally for a few years. I think I mentioned that I come up with great melodies away from the piano. I too try and develop it as much as possible. This is probably because when you play it, you lose minor details and embellishments. You might start harmonizing it and lock it into a place it shouldn't be. Ear training is a huge thing that people don't learn and is tremendous. My ear isn't that great but I have never lost an idea I have heard, though sometimes I hear too much and so I just enjoy the music. Ever heard the 'heavenly choir'? Anyhow, lately I am happier by writing music at a much faster rate than ever (like working out the notes in a week; i used to spend years..) It keeps it fresh in my head and it comes through in the music. Also, people tend to like it more and I want to communicate with more people.


thumbs up Yep, I'm finding that my best melodies are the ones that I'm coming up with in my head. And more and more I'm realising how much my aural training has improved my abilities! As to the 'heavenly choir', I've found there a couple of different states when I come up with ideas in my head. The first is the one that yields usable ideas - usually when I'm in a distracted state (shower, driving etc.) and then I can consciously work with the ideas before writing them down. These ideas are usually a single melody line or the occasional chord or structure. The second state is closer to your 'heavenly choir' version, usually before I drop off to sleep, dreaming or just before waking up. In this state I can hear complete music (many parts and instruments) but still being able to semi-consciously direct the flow of the music. This is a really cool state to be in, but conversely very difficult to remember anything to be able to write down later, and I very much agree with the 'hearing too much so just enjoy it!' There's a further version of this state (which happens pretty rarely) when I'm in full dream state and hearing amazing music, but conscious that this is music that my brain is creating the music rather than playing back something I've heard before. What I'd give to be able to record this music! This dream-state music is really cool and shows what the brain is capable of doing when given full rein! This is fun!
nuromantix
Great post, Stellvia, rings very true with me as well.

If you have a nice melody, what happens next? Do you look for other monophonic lines to go with it? Or do you try and find a good underpinning chord progression? Is the chord progression already in your head with the melody? When I get melodies in my head, I almost always "know" what the right chords are going to be..... however, at least in the last 10 years I've come to realise that some other set of chords (maybe less obvious or more "wrong" sounding) are going to be more interesting and therefore "better" for me.

"extra_t" the difference is between YOU creating something deliberately, bit by bit, because you have a feeling for exactly where and what each note/event should be, versus letting an algorithm come up with it. Nobody's saying one gives better results than the other, just that for this thread I am interested in how people who do opt to make those decisions make them. If you're using generative stuff as a tool to give your ideas for "human" composition, we'd love to hear how that works as well!
stellvia
Hey nuromantix, glad you liked it!

One of the times I've tried to put my compositional process into words! It's something I'm really interested in (especially the psychology and musicology side of things) and did a bit of post-grad research into it a couple of years ago.

In answer to your question, what do I do next, it is very much an extension of the original process, either listening for the next section, or improvising in reference to the initial idea. Often I'll record or notate the first idea (as Dr. Sketch-n-Etch mentioned, notation software and the ability to read notation is a massive help!) and then play it back (as many times as needed) and try and listen for or improvise to find the next idea. Often I'll repeat this until I have a selection of ideas that interlock and then go about structuring them and reusing them to form a piece as needed. Sometimes I'll develop a chord structure (if that is what the piece requires) concurrently with the melodic idea, other times I'll write a whole series of melodies before adding a chord or harmonic structure. And other times the chord progression may come first and the melody after (this often happens when I'm improvising at the keyboard).

So for me, a lot of the time the process is listening for ideas and using them to build the next, and so on and so forth until I have the majority of structure/work done for a piece and then refine until I'm happy with it. Sometimes I'll hear a progression that goes with the melody, or just the progression itself. As you mentioned, you can have a sort of intuitive idea of what chords will work, what won't and what will be more interesting to use. A lot of that is done to a couple of things, what you've learned in and formal or informal training, a knowledge of how chords fit together in certain circumstances, and secondly, a lot of it is down to what music you've listened to, especially over long periods of time. You can become very accustomed to chord progressions that are used in whatever style of music you listen to, and will often use them, consciously or unconsciously in your own music.

For me, a lot of the challenge is trying to find new ideas/melodies/chord progressions outside of those I'm accustomed to, so for that I listen and research different styles of music to see how they work and then incorporate those ideas into my own compositions.

Hope this helps!
bratley
It usually depends on the mood I'm in, it's always the result of just jamming
Whether it be with the modular or playing a bass line for instance. As I tend to focus on material for the dancefloor it's usually drums first.
BendingBus
stellvia wrote:
I have several methods for starting new compositions:

a) Sometimes an idea will just pop into my head, be it a few notes or fragment of a melodic phrase, and often at the most inopportune time (usually when I'm in the shower or while driving). I've learnt to make the most of this and when said situation occurs will spend sometime going over these phrases in my head, to reinforce what I've come up with so I can write it down later, and also to see how far I can develop the ideas. This is something that has taken me a lot of practice (and will need a lot more), and I have occassionally being able come up with a significant amount of material that I can then write down and develop further.

Interestingly enough, this method doesn't usually work when I'm in the studio, or in front of an instrument, as the sound/act of playing an instrument usually overrides what I'm hearing in my head and I will quite often lose the idea that I'm working on. This is why, when I have these ideas, I have to spend a bit of time reinforcing them in my head before I actually go to the instrument/computer to write them down.


Brilliant post.

The painter Robert Henri talked a lot about this; why it's important to have an image in your mind of what you will paint, and hold to that image, without letting reality override it. He encouraged his students to paint from memory rather than with the subject in front of them. That way they would learn to capture their impression of the subject, which is what is special, not the dull reality. Anyhow your post made me think of that!

I work from ideas/imagination. Usually when the idea happens it's tempo and pitch; the basic rhythm, bass line, chords, and around two melody lines or abstract sounds. Instead of going right to the instrument I spend time reinforcing that in my imagination, trying out various alternate patterns and tempos in my head, and take notes (in the iPhone).

Only once I feel like I have an intention do I go to the instrument. The goal being to make a fast recording that captures the idea using only 8-tracks. That's the hard part; what the instrument naturally does will try to override what you want the instrument to do, resulting in a generic type of thing. So there's a lot of time spent stepping back and asking, is that really what I imagined or has it turned into a compromise based on what the instrument dictated?

Currently thinking about what instrument to use for sketches. When I played Voyager it was easy, since you have stored patches of your favorite sounds. Sketching things out on a modular is time consuming and that's not good because you lose the idea. I've been playing around with making the sketch in an iPhone app, so that tempo, pitch, effects and such can be easily tweaked until "the thing" is happening. Then dump that into the DAW and multitrack the modular using the sketch as a guide. The only thing -- messing around in a phone just isn't fun compared to the modular, but it does seem practical in that I've always got the iPhone with me when the idea happens.

Success for me is when the idea is fully realized. That's not just composition, it's recording, mixing, mastering, the whole thing. And there's lots of opportunities for the idea to be lost along the way.
nikmis
I go for a walk, preferably downhill, and think of it then. A melody with some harmonies. then sit at a piano and make it better. I then notate it mostly, although it changes a bit in recording. then to the jeskola buzz and modular synthesizer. I post it on the internet, 3 people listen, and do it again the next week.

but it all starts with a phrase, which can be just a melody or a something more complicated. Before I get to a keyboard to flesh it out, in my head, its probably about 20 seconds to a minute long.
cgorsu
stk wrote:
I also think that that playing an acoustic instrument (where the mind/body connection is so much closer) helps develops musicality (and your own artistic voice). Of course that's a subject of some contention, especially on a synth forum.


I agree, totally. It's like setting up and understanding the rules, so you know how breaking them might be good. Or not. I tend to like the "rules" then "breaking them" sort of order for doing things.
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