Composing (as opposed to automatic modular music)

Discuss everything related to production, recording, composition, etc.

Moderators: Kent, Joe., luketeaford, lisa

Koekepan
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 540
Joined: Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:50 pm
Location: PNW

Post by Koekepan » Tue May 14, 2019 11:38 am

To mention the Beatles and Hendrix is a little misleading.

Hendrix didn't come from a theoretical background, but he did have the influences of a well-shaped cultural backdrop on which to draw. Blues guitar was his obvious influence, and he was unusually good at it (and devoted to it). He had copious ear training, and in his chosen form he was fine. If you'd asked him to write a cantata he'd have turned you away.

The Beatles didn't have a theory background either, but, especially later in their collective career, they had ready access to a real musician in the form of George Martin, and he greatly influenced a lot of their work.

Idunno
Common Wiggler
Posts: 123
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2019 6:18 pm
Location: England

Post by Idunno » Tue May 14, 2019 11:43 am

Koekepan wrote:To mention the Beatles and Hendrix is a little misleading.

Hendrix didn't come from a theoretical background, but he did have the influences of a well-shaped cultural backdrop on which to draw. Blues guitar was his obvious influence, and he was unusually good at it (and devoted to it). He had copious ear training, and in his chosen form he was fine. If you'd asked him to write a cantata he'd have turned you away.

The Beatles didn't have a theory background either, but, especially later in their collective career, they had ready access to a real musician in the form of George Martin, and he greatly influenced a lot of their work.
How is it misleading? Hendrix might have relished composing a cantata. "I dig Strauss and Wagner, those cats are good, and I think they are going to form the background of my music."

And Bach might have had trouble composing a psychedelic blues to rival Hendrix.

The Beatles would have been fine without Martin. He did add something, but not their talent. He didn't produce the Let It Be album and there's some great tunes on that.

There are countless other examples of great musicians who didn't study music theory. For instance, Brian Wilson had no formal training, wrote all of the orchestral arrangements and vocal harmonies on the Beach Boys tracks, and might have made a good stab at a cantata.

.

peripatitis

Post by peripatitis » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:51 pm

I don't think it is very easy to survive an educational system as a creative person and tbh I don't believe most do. .
The way i see it is that you have to sacrifice part if not all of that creativity in order to be taught.Some times though, creativity is all you have...

There are some rare cases where you can catch a glimpse of an internal fire in their work and they stand out. Their mind opens up even more while studying but it is also obvious they have a compass there to drive them where they need to be, but the rest just get absorbed into mediocre efficiency. At least that is how I've experienced this.
Now of course this can be said for everything. In order to learn how to speak for example you need to "forget" how to create a million different sounds with your mouth and focus on the few of the spoken language.
But art and the need for art is more innate and perhaps more fragile.

When I listen to music i've composed back in the day where i would be ashamed to call myself a composer and i am amazed at how creative, unhinged and willing to follow my instict i was. I was obviously missing direction but then again it felt like I was going somewhere, I just did not know where.
Watching Nathan Flake's video from that post a few pages earlier in the thread, it felt a bit like that. "Just going", musical instinct.

Now everything is measured, calculated, "explained". I think a big part of Art education is about explaining yourself and although it is a useful skill out there, i am not certain it always helps.
There are times where i feel i can be the best teacher in the world, but this is never ever wanted for me :)

But i might be wrong, perhaps it is not that you exchange "talent" for knowledge, perhaps at some point you might loose the Need.

User avatar
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 7922
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:46 pm
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Post by Dr. Sketch-n-Etch » Tue Jun 25, 2019 2:02 pm

My new fave, Laura Nyro, didn't read music or know any theory at all. When describing what she wanted to the session musicians she worked with, she spoke in poetic language and colours. Luckily there were one or two producers who could decipher what she wanted, and with them she made a few masterpieces.

Her piano style is pretty rhythmically and harmonically rich, and pretty hard to replicate, so having no theory certainly didn't hold her back at all. Even without any training, she earned the respect of musicians such as Miles Davis. Plus, she had all the music in her head when she went into the studio, and could just rip through it (sometimes over and over again) and sing while playing the piano (in fact, she played better while singing, and vice versa -- that's very rare). Perhaps not having to rely on visual cues made her a stronger natural musician.
Composting the drones will ensure the survival of the elite.

User avatar
naturligfunktion
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:07 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Post by naturligfunktion » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:17 am

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:My new fave, Laura Nyro, didn't read music or know any theory at all. When describing what she wanted to the session musicians she worked with, she spoke in poetic language and colours. Luckily there were one or two producers who could decipher what she wanted, and with them she made a few masterpieces.

Her piano style is pretty rhythmically and harmonically rich, and pretty hard to replicate, so having no theory certainly didn't hold her back at all. Even without any training, she earned the respect of musicians such as Miles Davis. Plus, she had all the music in her head when she went into the studio, and could just rip through it (sometimes over and over again) and sing while playing the piano (in fact, she played better while singing, and vice versa -- that's very rare). Perhaps not having to rely on visual cues made her a stronger natural musician.
Im gonna check her out right away. But I suppose it is quite rare that someone is such a "natural" musician. This is an ongoing discussion between me (a not so trained musician) and my girlfriend (which is very schooled) whether it is possible to be a good musician without any formal training.

She argue that no one can make music isolated. Jimi Hendrix, as mentioned above, was building upon a long tradition of blues. He was, in a sense, trained. So where (was?) the Beatles, with the help of George Martin. I agree. It is hard to say, I think, that the Beatles only had talent. Just look at the progression through their albums. The music is (in my opinion) becoming more complex, more clever, funnier, edgier overall better, resulting in one of the best album there is Abbey Road. Whether or not they studied music in the traditional sense, they did work with music, they did get a deeper understanding as a result. Abbey Road was not an album, I believe that just "happened". It was a result of plenty of work and well thought out ideas.

Then again, I do not agree to the statement that more music theory = better music. Sometimes I think that (for some at least!) to much theoretical knowledge can hinder the creative flow. We were jammin the other day, in D major, and I played around with the guitar, trying to sound cool like Neil Young, and I did this pull of, hammer on, country type- thing resolving into a E major (not a minor, which theory says it should be). It sounded pretty cool, and it worked well being that the progression was based around E to A, and sometimes to D, so it was basically a 2, 5, 1 and the 2 to the 5 was a dominant 5th - progression thing which sounds good. Point is that every time I make one of these stupid things, she becomes in awe, wondering how I came up with it. And when it comes to ideas, I try not to think, rather to feel, and when the idea is there, theory can be excellent to flesh out the rest of the song.

The thing I ponder, then, is if I have this playful approach as a result of not knowing much of music, or if it is just a thing I do. I have only recently started to learn theory, and it has been great (I love it) but I am unsure of how much I do want to learn.
A new track for your enjoyment

User avatar
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 7922
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:46 pm
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Post by Dr. Sketch-n-Etch » Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:38 am

To understand Laura Nyro's genius, listen carefully to this song (my favorite song at the moment, without question):

[video][/video]

This is the title track from her undisputed 1969 masterpiece, New York Tendaberry, which she wrote and recorded when she was 21 years old (she already had two amazingly good albums under her belt by then). All the tracks are basically just her singing and playing the piano, and various instruments were overdubbed later to fill out the texture.

Listening to this song, which I've characterized as a "Symphony for Woman and Piano," it's almost hard to believe that this is just a young woman singing a song and accompanying herself on the piano, but that's all it is. There are no other instruments in this piece. Listen carefully to what she does on the piano. A couple of things are apparent -- the fairly unconventional chord choices she chooses, and the strange rhythmic things she does. A good example of the latter is in the section where she sings "sidewalk and pigeon, you look like a city, but you feel like religion to me." The piano is playing slow triplets against this vocal line, which is in 4/4 time. That's a pretty advanced technique for someone without any theory, and pretty difficult to pull off when singing and playing at the same time (which she was).

WARNING: This piece has a couple of fairly severe dynamics changes, so don't make it too loud in your headphones.
Composting the drones will ensure the survival of the elite.

User avatar
dubonaire
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 7135
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:45 pm

Post by dubonaire » Thu Jun 27, 2019 1:08 am

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:To understand Laura Nyro's genius
I was reading an old interview with Michelle Phillips from the Mama and the Papas. Michelle Phllips actually did a lot of the footwork to make Monterey happen.

According to Michelle Phllips when Laura Nyro performed at Monterey she was aware some people were talking during her performance and she thought she heard booing. Apparently she was gutted, lost confidence and never quite recovered from the experience. Years later Denny Doherty and Michelle Phillips heard a recording of the performance, and the booing was actually someone calling out "I love you". This happened shortly before Laura Nyro died and they never got the chance to tell her.

I just thought you might find that rather sad story interesting.

User avatar
naturligfunktion
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:07 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Post by naturligfunktion » Thu Jun 27, 2019 6:51 am

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch That was a fantastic song, many thanks!
A new track for your enjoyment

calaveras
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 3495
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:02 pm

Post by calaveras » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:12 pm

One of the approaches that I've utilized a lot is to brainstorm an idea on some machines. Usually a drum machine and some kind of melody robot. Like the X0Xbox, Analog 4 or a synth with it's own sequencer like the OB6.
The beat I will hear in my head, but the melody I often arrive at by trail and error. Or by taking a conventional melodic motif like 12 bar blues, and mangling it. (12 bar blues in thirds and 6ths instead of 4ths and 5ths, 3 beats per measure).


From there I record the result into a DAW, while playing over it on a stringed instrument, synth or percussion.

Then I do kind of a destructive composition process. Where I chop up the recording, throw away clunkers or just repetitive long stretches. Try and make an arrangement that builds or at least goes from point A to B.
Then I get stuck for a week or a month. Trying to hear what it needs next. A fuzzy bass? Maybe a contrapuntal synth?

I'm really big on intuitive process as opposed to logic or method. I don't like when I produce stuff that sounds to hackneyed or formulaic. I want it to tumble out of my subconscious, not be drawn on a line.

User avatar
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 7922
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:46 pm
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Post by Dr. Sketch-n-Etch » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:05 pm

naturligfunktion wrote:Dr. Sketch-n-Etch That was a fantastic song, many thanks!
Glad you liked it! Spread the word.

Now, as far as the OP is concerned, I would suggest listening to Morton Feldman. Try something like "Piano and String Quartet" from 1985. This is what completely intuitive composition sounds like. It requires intense concentration and doesn't rely on any systems or mechanisms. This stuff is inspiring me to try my hand at composing.

[video][/video]
Composting the drones will ensure the survival of the elite.

User avatar
thevegasnerve
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1139
Joined: Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:02 pm
Location: Colorado, USA
Contact:

Post by thevegasnerve » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:17 pm

calaveras wrote:
I'm really big on intuitive process as opposed to logic or method. I don't like when I produce stuff that sounds to hackneyed or formulaic. I want it to tumble out of my subconscious, not be drawn on a line.
I really relate to this statement. Its the foundation for how I operate for better or worse and is partially driven by watching my father paint/sculpt, etc.. I don't think in truth there is a superior way, it comes down to what the artist/musician wants to achieve.. I think there is an artist in each one of us, some just find access to that part of themselves more naturally..

User avatar
dubonaire
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 7135
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:45 pm

Post by dubonaire » Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:06 pm

thevegasnerve wrote:I think there is an artist in each one of us, some just find access to that part of themselves more naturally..
Absolutely!

The Grump
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 535
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2016 6:17 pm

Post by The Grump » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:32 pm

I've tried a lot of different methods, and the few I come back to are either starting with thre notes in my head, or noodling with my synths or my bass until three notes or a sequence of three tones that interact with each other in a way that moves something in my emotions, and then I'll record that, and build on it.

A rather amazing technique that my friend, Emma Catnip taught me was to either find or make or modify a bunch of tones, and then listen to each one, fondle it in my hands (if you will), play with it a bit, and then assign it to one of three categories: Beginnings, Middle, or Endings.

That can also be easily applied to a set of chord changes, or a series of notes that could be used as a melody. In fact, if I'm being smart about things, every sound I cook up gets tossed into one of those boxes. I may use it immediately, or pull it out later for use with "just the right thing" when it comes up/out.

In short, what that does is already have me thinking about arrangements before I'm even consciously composing a piece, and at least to me, the arrangement is every bit as crucial as the initial conjuring of sounds. It forces me to actively listen to each tone and critically decide if, how and where/when to use it.

Sometimes, I'll use the aforementioned method of sitting down at the keyboard, and not look at all at where my hands are placed, set a nice sawtooth patch or something simple for rich chords, then just play some changes and if I hear a transition between two or more that I dig, I'll keep them and either record them into a sequencer or notate and chart them.

Hell, sometimes I'll just speak a phrase or randomly sing it, usually three or four notes, and again, I'm off. Hope this helps someone.

User avatar
joeTron
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 37
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2015 5:34 am
Location: Miami

Post by joeTron » Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:24 pm

I need a keyboard,pencil and paper first before doing anything otherwise I'll just meander all over the place and never finish anything. I'll map out a super simple chart, like a skeleton for the sole purpose of forcing an Intro-A-B-C song form or whatever. After that I'll mangle, twist, destroy, burn ect. ect. Cutting and pasting jam sessions is another way to go no doubt but it just doesn't work for me.

User avatar
naturligfunktion
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:07 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Post by naturligfunktion » Tue Sep 03, 2019 9:49 am

Since I bought a guitar this summer, my way of composing has changed a bit. I think this also is attributed to a growing interest in music theory.

Previously my method has been pure exploration. I usually had a feeling which I pursued, fiddling with a sample, a drum pattern, a synth hook, the modular or some combination until I found something interesting, which I then recorded. Several takes, with slight variations. After I choose the best bits, I figured out the scale of the piece, and from that I added chords, melody, dynamic, transitions etc. When I had a solid groove it was time to arrange and then I worked in a very linear fashion, staring with the intro, middle, drop and end. This was a very fun way to make music, but it was difficult to experiment with harmony as I was locked to the scale of the initial jam.

Now I play the guitar. I like to warm up playing scales up and down. During practice some chords turn up and then it is just a matter of playing until I have a chord progression. It's quite random. But I like to start simple, either taking the chords from a song I like and change them, or just play really simple progressions. Then it is really easy to spice things up. Yesterday I watched a video on the II - V progression, so I will try that today. Before that I read about the power of the Dominant 7 chord, so I have abused that way to much to change keys all the time.

Anyway, when a progression sounds interesting, I write it down. After playing around with it for a few days, I try to add a melody by singing but that is very difficult. Im very envious of previous posts, where people have a melody in the head that they then can realize on paper. That seems amazing. I need quite some work to get there. But after I have the chords written down, I record them to a groove. Then it is a matter of arrangement. The difference with this approach is that I feel a bit more free. It takes far longer before I record something, so it is easier to explore an idea for a longer time. When it is just the guitar and my notebook, it is really easy to change things, because it doesn't matter. When it is recorded, it is a bit more difficult. But it is also more rewarding, seeing an idea turning into a song.

A thing that has remained constant between these two approaches is that I need to take a walk before I start. It really gets me going, walking (he he), creatively speaking.
A new track for your enjoyment

spew_boi
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:38 pm
Location: Auckland

Post by spew_boi » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:18 am

I tend to start with maths (not the module)

I'm always interested to see what happens when one voice is running a a pattern of 5/4 and the other voice in 21/4 (or 3 bars of 5 and once bar of 6). If this were the case it would take 5 full repetitions of the 21/4 melody to begin its cycle in time with the 5/4, which would have played 24 times.

Odd meter is a great way to conceptualise rhythms, melodies tend to reveal themselves

Honestly one of the most fun ways to create a sequence so it remains interesting for a long period of time.
I sold my drums and three guitars just to twiddle with knobs..

User avatar
Mick24300
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:06 am
Location: France
Contact:

Post by Mick24300 » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:10 pm

For me, inspiration comes naturally.
I try to use many music supports (Old advertisements, movies, documentaries, series, emissions, listening to the radio...) to find inspiration to begin or to complete or when I'm processing on a composition.

I compose on PC (for the moment), with a MIDI keyboard, only play by hand. I prefer to put in my music this "alive" style in my music instead of using patterns. But I can use sequencers or arpeggiators if I want.
My softwares are Arturia V7 Collection, Kontakt and Reaktor.
I can start to compose with a drum line, a bassline, leads line or strings line, and I try to complete the rest of the track with the base that I've made.
I have so much vintage instruments on emulation that it's difficult for me to find the right ones to put my idea on notes.
For recording, I use the "re-recording" processus, with only Audacity.
I'm making post-processing for all instruments one by one, before recording one after one.

It's too simple for someone, good for other people. Anyone can have his opinion ;)

(Sorry if my English is not really good :/)
"Contemporary music is research music that dialogue with the public." (François De Roubaix, 1975)
https://soundcloud.com/mickael-jaeger-hardy (old account)
https://soundcloud.com/mickael-nesprias (current account)

User avatar
ETP
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1847
Joined: Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:01 pm
Location: Austria, Innsbruck

Re: Composing (as opposed to automatic modular music)

Post by ETP » Mon Feb 17, 2020 9:49 am

Where is the follow button on my android mobile?

Anyway, push this thread

Post Reply

Return to “Production Techniques”