Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

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Kindred87
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Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#1 Post by Kindred87 » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:11 pm

Each time I sit down in front of my MIDI keyboard, preparing to compose a new song, I always wonder, "Where do I begin?" I sometimes think that hitting random notes will do something, other times I try to create chords first. Though no matter what I do, I always end up creating something and I never recall how I did it xD

So in an effort to slake my thirst for this lost knowledge, I'd like to know where you guys start when composing. Do you steal excerpts from Bach? Do you have your cat run across the piano? Bonga rhythms? Where do you begin?
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#2 Post by yummy » Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:29 pm

I'd say I start to compose when I feel like I'm able to grasp the ambiance I'm trying to convey. Since I don't stick to one style, I'd say it's more in the rhythms, like drums, drum machines, bass and sometimes using piano chords.
I used to begin with strings, but the more I composed, the more they felt out of place. Sometimes I began with the English horn, but with same results.

After a few measures, I try to introduce a main theme, played with two or three different instruments. And generally this part is where I have difficulties.

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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#3 Post by Kindred87 » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:54 pm

Ah, you strike me as the type of person that thinks a lot about a music piece, about what it defines and what it entails. I always respected people like that, but I never really got into it myself ^^

By the way, thank you very much for posting. I was starting to wonder if any other composers even browsed this forum ^^
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#4 Post by redeyesblackpanda » Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:09 pm

I have to feel in the right mood if I'm going to compose. I'll often start humming random stuff. Most to the time, I stop feeling inspired before I get anything down, and it's lost. :|
I have a bit of trouble continuing what I've started if it's interrupted, so when I finish a piece, it's normally because I spend a large, uninterrupted piece of time writing it. I have a lot of partial pieces that I've never finished...
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#5 Post by Kindred87 » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:36 pm

Ah, I can relate to the mood scenario, as well as the humming. I actually began composing by humming melodies and trying to replicate them on the piano, though it never worked. I eventually stopped trying, and stuck to humming original music as a way to entertain myself when I wasn't around music. If you want to compose by coming up with music in your head first (note-for-note), before getting it down on paper (Real or virtual) then it's recommended that you get into ear training; the ability to hear a piece of music (Note, chord, interval) and know exactly what it is. Ear training of course takes A LOT of hard, dedicated work. I tried it but didn't get very far, but it's alright in my case ^^

See, when I compose, instead of creating the song, I more or less discover it. This isn't to say that I'm a random composer, but I don't work on a piece with intentional direction. Lately however, since I'm becoming familiar with music, I'm able to hear a continuation of a melody in my head, or know that a certain segment should build up, stuff like that. But for the most part, I'm still letting the song compose itself, so to speak.

And the uncompleted compositions...oh man, I've got tons of 'em! Though it's usually because my harsh level of self-criticism deems a piece unworthy, and not because I can't finish it. ^^
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#6 Post by redeyesblackpanda » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:41 pm

Yeah. I don't exactly have ear training, but I can recognize notes and [replicate them on my violin / write them on a page].
I've tried recording myself playing or singing random stuff, then tried to write it down, but it takes a lot of time and I guess I lose interest.
I do the same stuff as you when composing. I don't really plan... (I can't help but think that I should, but I don't)
I'm hopeless with the piano, so I use the violin. :lol:
Unfortunately, that means that I have a bit more trouble writing chords/harmonies.
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#7 Post by JDarryl » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:28 am

I put on some music (Angel beats OST, School Days OST, 5 OST, stuff like that). At first I play along on the guitar, then I just do my own thing within the same key. Sometimes I only get 2 notes out of it but that's usually enough for me to build upon.
In the final product these 2 notes (or how many it may be) are probably never heard from again, kind of strange.

Apart from the atmosphere or a feeling I want to create I usually don't think about it too much, not in the beginning of a song at least.

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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#8 Post by DrathFox » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:28 pm

Based on my experience as a musician for years I'll provide my thoughts on starting a composition in many different methods.

Mainly the first idea before you start is, what is the music for? What kind of scene are you wanting to express, would it be a dramatic battle scene, is it a funny comedic scene? is it a serious discussion through characters to provide hidden keys of the story's plot? This will certainly determine the style / genre of the music you wish to make. Each genre has certain 'unwritten rules' to follow, I think it's just a matter of listening to many different styles of music to pick up and understand that spectrum.

Learn to play a song or two, they don't need to be difficult ones. Once you practice them and can play them well enough you could improvise and change the song into something different and eventually you'll end up with a new piece that you can re-write to your feel.

If you currently do play an instrument (in my case a piano) then one can learn a few Keys to play, such as they key of C and key of D as an example. At this point you can improvise playing Key of C for a moment then switch your playing to another Key, at this point it tends to change the mood or you get a different feel. This method I often use when I don't have any melody in my head and just want to experiment until I hear sounds that give some feeling that I can continue off of. Most can find this one a bit difficult to do but I guess it's a natural talent if you practice and get comfortable with the instrument(s) you play freely.

Another way to compose is if you're using software to write music I will try and make a lead first, something that feels as it is singing then you can build the base chords off of the lead every 1/4 beats or so for a natural start. The rest is determined by what kind of genre you'd want to go for that will dramatically change the style of how its played. Each instrument is a character, they have their own accent. Keys give a tone and Scales give an accent as well, they help shape what mood you can express. And also each note holds a story of its own, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sorry if a lot of this doesn't make sense, I'm just providing based on my thought process and experiences I have had over the years with it.

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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#9 Post by Nightydreams » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:42 pm

Music composition is a strange thing and a fickle mistress at best.

When it comes to methods for composing music there are as many as pebbles on the beach. Personally I don't really work well with sitting still and thinking for long periods of time. If i'm composing music I NEED to be sitting infront of an instrument at first, whether it is the violin or piano. Then I let my hands play for me, striking chords and creating sounds both farmiliar and unfarmiliar, the ones that sound wrong are discarded or filed away for later use. I let my hands play in a process of elimination to find the right sound, I don't need to find the right chord, or the right combination of notes I need the right sound. When I find that sound then the real composition begins.

With sound in hand I stretch it and compress it to give it a length and width, some sounds work longer than others. With size set I then work on finding notes and smaller sound that work with the overall idea. When all is done I then combine it all to form music. This music is then thrown into a music program and the world is at peace.
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#10 Post by Kindred87 » Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:28 pm

Thank you all for the additional posts! :D
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#11 Post by ZackParrish » Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:29 pm

I usually get an idea in my head and try to recreate it as closely as possible... although sometimes the outcome is slightly different... or sometimes very different from the original "plan". That's just how I do things now though, 10...15 years ago I'm sure the process was much more "guess and check" instead of having more of a keen insight into what I am trying to accomplish. I still run into situations like that now whenever I plunge into writing a style I'm not entirely familiar with... like say for example... someone says "Write me a Mambo!"... I'd have to spend a couple of hours listening to all kinds of different mambo music to have some sort of idea where to begin. Had to do that for some country themed music recently... was torture I tell you... listening to country music over and over again to analyze the different nuances that are often heard.

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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#12 Post by yummy » Sat Jan 14, 2012 7:10 pm

I think there's one topic about composing that has not been discussed over.
Remixes.

It is a blatant example about how to change a theme's atmosphere, by changing keys, rythms, adding instruments...
Although some might think it's not that hard, it's still a field of creation.
I made several remixes along the way and maybe that's why now I'm more familiar with electronic music than before.

Once, I did a remix of a piano theme and turned it into a symphonic movement. Just like Zack, I used to listen to the original song and orchestral compositions before the final versions set in.

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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#13 Post by Kindred87 » Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:14 pm

yummy wrote:I think there's one topic about composing that has not been discussed over.
Remixes.

It is a blatant example about how to change a theme's atmosphere, by changing keys, rythms, adding instruments...
Although some might think it's not that hard, it's still a field of creation.
I made several remixes along the way and maybe that's why now I'm more familiar with electronic music than before.

Once, I did a remix of a piano theme and turned it into a symphonic movement. Just like Zack, I used to listen to the original song and orchestral compositions before the final versions set in.

For some reason, I feel that your post belongs in this thread - http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewto ... 48&t=13455 -
O.o
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#14 Post by Lennonhead » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:19 pm

I sing in the shower...

Generally, I try to come up with a melody, or at least a riff. Most of the composing actually comes along when I've actually started to work on it. There is little pre-planning for me, thus there's a lot of room for me to change the song if it doesn't sound right.

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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#15 Post by Ziassan » Fri Feb 03, 2012 7:36 am

It really depends on the reason behind the piece of music : An asked work, for an defined ambiance ?

Most of the time I just compose for pleasure, inspired by my current mood or something I wanted to try.
I often put randomly instruments, VST, some things, and work totally over the pen ; if I try to make schedules and plan before, all my motivation vanish quickly.

Since I compose to "clean my mind" and leave my work when it's done I have like ~300 work-in-progress at differents states, from the "just 20s of piano" to complete and almost finished works.

Maybe because I play 90% improvisation on my keyboard.
But after a year of improv-composing it works well and I create some automatisms, some sets of instruments I like to use together, some atmospheres, things like that.


In the "compose phase" specifically, it's often first put a bunch of chords to ease the work. But it's not what give the best result.
The no-methode (put notes, chords, instruments in no order) is definitively the best.
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