Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

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

#16 Post by RenZero » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:25 am

redeyesblackpanda wrote: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...
+100!! Agree 100% with that :lol: I'm totally like you in that way. I have to feel in the right mood, too.
I don't think I have a way of how to start composing, I just write what I feel by setting me into the atmosphere of the song I have to (or I want to) make. Sometimes I play random notes and after fixing errors I create chords and patterns, then put them in order for the song to sounds nice and continue creating it by trying to combine different patterns in the best way possible ^^

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

#17 Post by Sam12 » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:52 am

Most of the time I will decide first what I want to write/compose. I listen to several tracks as reference, then I sit on my MIDI keyboard, jamming around on few first chords and melodies. If I hit something that I think it's right, I will then record it in my Cubase Studio. Sometime I start with pure melody on a string instrument with nothing else accompanies it. Sometimes I start with the bass line first, building the foundation, before filling in the main theme.

I rarely finish my composition in one day because I will just let the next notes coming in the next days, if I'm lucky. :lol: I always stop when I think I know what the next notes to come. If I don't, I just continue writing while expecting that I might get what I am searching. 8)

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

#18 Post by retribute » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:25 pm

Personally I start with either a keyboard melody that comes to me in a "spur of the moment" style moment or I listen to other pieces or songs that have a similar mood to what I wish to create. I then notate, and hopefully it turns out listenable XD
EDIT: It usually starts with the melody or the chord sequence, and very occasionally a rhythm.

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

#19 Post by Lone Maestro » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:40 pm

From my experience, planting yourself on the piano bench and plopping a set of piano keys into your field of vision isn't the best way to work :/

This may sound difficult for beginners, but one can easily "discover" a tune at unusual places (Usually when your mind starts to blank out during the day or when you are having those moments when you don't know just what to think about) This is, or course, given the assumption that you already have enough expertise in music to actually be thinking abou composing.

One of the weirdest things I've encountered over the years is not having the slightest clue about where the music I create come from (or where and what I was doing when it came to me). Which goes to show how spontaneous composing can be.

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

#20 Post by Shoko » Tue Jan 08, 2013 3:14 pm

For me, it can vary a lot.

When I sit down and focus to create music, I think about what the peice is for. If it's a character theme, would this peice be relaxed, frantic, triumphant, self-pitying, loud, cold, ect... Then I usually find a melody that goes with that and a good instrument that describes the person, and continue from there. The first melody doesn't need to be the main part, since I just keep building from there.

Often times, though, I'll just be playing with making music after deciding to make some and things just sort of come together! I listen to it and think (what does this remind me of? What could this theme work for?) and start composing/adjusting it according to the thing i'm thinking it'll go with. Most of the time this is for ambient peices, or background music for my platformer.

The most natural and fluid way to compose for me, though, is definetely hooking up the keyboard. It awakens a primal "this sounds right" instinct where I'm not afraid to use the black keys, keep the beat perfectly, ect. I use this for things that really stand out, like the main theme of the game or a dramatic peice.

And lastly, there's getting a melody stuck in your head and repeating it over and over until you get home to put it into the comp, or recording a song by singing and replicating the notes. This by far makes really cool, elaborate music without almost any thought at all for me, cause I just sing what sounds awesome to me and throw in whatever cool background effects along the way, and it comes out GREAT. The only downside is that it's time consuming, for now at least.

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

#21 Post by EscalanteMusic » Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:14 pm

When I'm writing for something, the VERY first thing I think about before starting is what I want the piece to FEEL like. If it's for a VN or something like that that has a scene to it, what does the scene convey, and what does it want to player/viewer to feel?

After that, I just analyze what builds that type of feel and orchestrate to that thought. (EX. A melancholic scene = Ambience, piano, light strings, etc.)

Any help at all?

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

#22 Post by Arin the Eloquent » Sun Sep 01, 2013 10:38 am

Firstly, the thing you should realize, and in fact everyone should realize, is that you should be writing during the day when you are most alert. After you've had a nice warm cup of coffee to get the caffeine going. Right after that long walk in the morning with the sun blazing in your eyes and on your skin. Reveling in anticipation about that phone call or text you're inevitably going to receive that day. It doesn't matter how you get your alertness; just know that you should be writing when your senses are heightened and you have a clear idea of what you want to put down on pen and paper (or program). And this goes for all methods of writing, like shorthand, screenplaying, article writing, and such; it doesn't necessarily have to be just music.

Then, you'll obviously want to build a skeleton of the type of music you want. A simple eight note rhythm to cover two or four bars is probably more than enough for a simple underlying piano line. Once you've done that, just start writing chords. Find the I and V in the key you're working with and build what you can from that. If you need help with that, there's always a few downloadable chord charts and/or chord generators that aspiring musicians can use to help them along.

Mood and feel of the song are subjective, and shouldn't be the main aspect of your piece until after you are finished with it. Finishing making the rhythm. Finished placing the chords. Finished placing all of the harmonics, trills, glissandos, and rolls that your music warrants. Then, if you're working with a DAW, find the best key that fits the aforementioned mood and feel. Sometimes, changing a key around can give you an entirely different perspective on the mood of your piece, and what you're going for.

Blindly placing notes will get you nowhere. Do you ever wonder why teachers in English classes ask you to write an outline before you write a rough draft of your theme? It's because they want you to be alert, and have a sharp wit before going in and writing what you ABSOLUTELY have to write. Same with music. Writing a skeleton of the music you want to create will almost undoubtedly save you a lot of time and frustration.

Now, for me, I work with symphonic pieces a lot that require lots of movements, and each one of these movements is supposed to have a unique feel to it. Therefore, you must write skeletons of each movement or phrase before assembling it all together, wrapping it back around into a main ouverture or motif. A lot of 18th century composers used this method, and it worked for them, so there's no reason it shouldn't work for you (unless you're not classically trained, in which case why do you bother making music?).

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

#23 Post by trooper6 » Sun Sep 01, 2013 12:21 pm

Arin the Eloquent wrote:Firstly, the thing you should realize, and in fact everyone should realize, is that you should be writing during the day when you are most alert.
*snip*

Firstly, the thing that you should realize, and in fact everyone should realize, is that every one has a different work process. There is no one right way to compose, or do anything. The important thing is find out what works for each person as an individual.
Arin the Eloquent wrote:Now, for me, I work with symphonic pieces a lot that require lots of movements, and each one of these movements is supposed to have a unique feel to it. Therefore, you must write skeletons of each movement or phrase before assembling it all together, wrapping it back around into a main ouverture or motif. A lot of 18th century composers used this method, and it worked for them, so there's no reason it shouldn't work for you (unless you're not classically trained, in which case why do you bother making music?).
Um...that last statement is really messed up. It is classist and Eurocentric...and a lot of other messed up things. You know who wasn't classically trained? Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, Count Basie, Billie Holliday....and I could go on and on with this list. There are so many people who are foundational to world of music we live in...people who are innovators and inspirers...and they didn't have classical training. Sometimes because they were black in the US under segregation or slavery and they weren't allowed, sometimes because they had other traditions they came from, sometimes because they cared about music other than classical.

As I sit here finalizing my syllabus for The History of African American music and for The International Jazz Age, I see pages and pages of really important music made primarily by people who didn't have classical training. Their music mattered. I'm glad they bothered.
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#24 Post by Arin the Eloquent » Sun Sep 01, 2013 3:43 pm

trooper6 wrote: *snip*

Firstly, the thing that you should realize, and in fact everyone should realize, is that every one has a different work process. There is no one right way to compose, or do anything. The important thing is find out what works for each person as an individual.
This was merely a statement reflected from my own personal experiences plus a bit of research. Whether you believe it or not is subjective, and of course, everyone has a different work process. I'm not disregarding that. However, scientifically, (and it has been proven by Oscar Collier and Fran Leighton, the dynamic duo of writers whom I aspire to be as a writer), when you should write is definitely when you are most alert. Everyone has a time and day, and that's when you should be using that opportunity to put your thoughts down on paper with that majestic pen (or those fingers) of yours. Then, you can use that same technique when it comes down to music. If you don't believe me, try it sometime and see for yourself.
trooper6 wrote:Um...that last statement is really messed up. It is classist and Eurocentric...and a lot of other messed up things. You know who wasn't classically trained? Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, Count Basie, Billie Holliday....and I could go on and on with this list. There are so many people who are foundational to world of music we live in...people who are innovators and inspirers...and they didn't have classical training. Sometimes because they were black in the US under segregation or slavery and they weren't allowed, sometimes because they had other traditions they came from, sometimes because they cared about music other than classical.
While I agree with what you are saying, and the composers you listed have made a huge, earth-shattering impact on the foundations of music as we know it, they simply couldn't compare to how people like Bach revolutionized the Baroque Period. Composers who leave lasting impressions and techniques for use to follow for generations, hell, centuries later than when they originally printed their music are the true pioneers and revolutionizers (I'm making it a word) of that time frame. I'm willing to bet in fifty years you won't ever hear of Bessie Smith or George Gershwin, but we'll still be talking about Mozart like he was a true innovator of music, because that's what he was.

And you can take elements of classical music, bend them to your will, and make absolutely stunning pieces that have 21st century influence. Some western RPG developers, mainly the composers of the soundtrack to the Elder Scrolls series, use those techniques to create beautiful pieces. And I highly doubt they would be able to do the same when incorporating Jazz into the mix.

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

#25 Post by trooper6 » Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:16 pm

Arin the Eloquent wrote: While I agree with what you are saying, and the composers you listed have made a huge, earth-shattering impact on the foundations of music as we know it, they simply couldn't compare to how people like Bach revolutionized the Baroque Period. Composers who leave lasting impressions and techniques for use to follow for generations, hell, centuries later than when they originally printed their music are the true pioneers and revolutionizers (I'm making it a word) of that time frame. I'm willing to bet in fifty years you won't ever hear of Bessie Smith or George Gershwin, but we'll still be talking about Mozart like he was a true innovator of music, because that's what he was.

And you can take elements of classical music, bend them to your will, and make absolutely stunning pieces that have 21st century influence. Some western RPG developers, mainly the composers of the soundtrack to the Elder Scrolls series, use those techniques to create beautiful pieces. And I highly doubt they would be able to do the same when incorporating Jazz into the mix.
Bach revolutionized the Baroque Period for whom? He didn't revolutionize music in India at that time, or China. he didn't revolutionize music in the Baroque period for folk musicians. Indeed, there are even art music composers of the Baroque period who were not revolutionized by him. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven are important in no small part because the first musicologists were Germans and insisted that German symphonic music is better and more important than Italian Opera or French ballet music or British lute music or Russian choir music--i.e. that German culture is better than other cultures. They did this because they needed to create the fiction of a German national character out of a bunch of disparate smaller kingdoms, principalities, and duchies. But it doesn't make it universally true--that argument is a part of the German nationalism, not a statement of historical fact. Mozart isn't a more true innovator of music than Stephen Foster--whose music is still with us in the US 150+ years later, Bach isn't as important to Arabic music as Al-Kindi. Sure, composers for the Elder Scroll score use classical music influences, they also use folk music influences. The composers for the XIII score used Electronic Dance Music influences. Grim Fandango and LA Noir use jazz expertly. I played a Kingdom under Fire game whose score was all metal, all the time.

Also, just because you don't hear about someone anymore doesn't mean they weren't important. And just because you do, doesn't mean they were more important than others. You know who was really important in the development of western tonal art music? Palestrina. But Palestrina isn't nearly a household name like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven. Doesn't mean he wasn't important. And you know who we hear about all the time? The Beatles. But the Beatles were heavily influenced by US girl groups, many of whom we don't talk about as much. Doesn't mean the Beatles are better than US girl groups of the late 50s/early 60s.

"Classical" music is a type of music made in a certain context for a certain type of people. That doesn't make it better, more innovative, or more important than music made in other contexts for other people.

And by the way, I would totally take your bet. People will still be talking about Bessie Smith and Gershwin in 50 years. I know this for a fact, because I don't plan on being dead in 50 years and I am a Professor of Musicology and I teach Bessie Smith and Gershwin (among others) to 100+ students every year. There is the Society of American Music that will still be publishing, teaching, and talking about Bessie Smith and Gershwin...and if you just want to talk about the market? There is still money to be made off of Bessie Smith and Gershwin, and so they will continue to be around. We live in an age of recordings...and recorded artists are not going to perish so easily.
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#26 Post by Arin the Eloquent » Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:12 pm

I give. I am willing to concede this argument after you said that you were a Professor at an esteemed music society. So please forgive my rudeness and arrogance. You have actually taught me about a few new things concerning the history of music. And I shall also admit that some of my remarks were not in the best of light, especially my ignorance towards 50's/60's recordings. I have been under the assumption for a long time now that all music can be traced back to Classical, or even earlier, roots, and thus vouched highly for its "new style". You know more than I do, and it was wrong to think otherwise.

However, I am still standing by my original opinion on writing when having a high alert level, or when you are on edge about something. It stimulates the thought process to better cognitive thinking and skills. And so does a daily glass of wine for that matter.

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

#27 Post by trooper6 » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:16 am

Arin the Eloquent wrote: However, I am still standing by my original opinion on writing when having a high alert level, or when you are on edge about something. It stimulates the thought process to better cognitive thinking and skills. And so does a daily glass of wine for that matter.
I agree that people should be alert when working (though many people swear by a glass of wine, and wine hampers alertness, so I suppose even that is variable)...I thought you meant that the best time for alertness was in the morning for everyone, forgive me if I misunderstood. Not everyone is most alert in the morning. I know people who get their daily writing done at 5am...and for others that would be a disaster, they need to compose in the early afternoon. Just generally, I don't think there is a one size fits all process...there is no one true way.

But, I do encourage people to experiment with ways that are different than what they have been doing to see if something works better. For example, if a person never writes/creates in the morning...try that out! If they always compose melody first, try doing chord structure first sometime. If they compose on the computer, try composing on paper, and vice-versa.

When I compose songs, I tend to start with lyrics, then melody, then harmony, then orchestration, then soundscape. When I compose art music, I tend to start with concept, and then go with whatever makes sense for the concept. One concept was about orchestration and gender using a visual score...so for that, I started with orchestration. One concept was about a car accident using a Moog Synthsizer and a bit music concrete. So I needed to start with recording traffic sounds and crafting sounds on the Moog. One concept was about translating speech into tones as te basis on the piece...so for that, I had to start with the speech. So for art music...it depends. But then, my composition training was in electronic music, with electro-acoustic as a secondary, so my process tends to be very different than if I were to do something that was supposed to sound like 18th century music.
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#28 Post by Roganis » Fri Sep 06, 2013 1:14 pm

As for me , after launching my software I immediately start messing with VSTis, trying to get sounds I never heard or made before, and I stop when I find a sound that makes me want to do a little musical phrase. Then I start another VSTi and look for another sound that I'll include and so on :mrgreen:
Sometimes I can find something interesting while playing the mandolin or the fiddle, but that's quite rare !

I read the little argument that was going on, quite interesting !
I must say I may be the worst in your eyes, Arin ! :lol:
I'm a musician which has been constantly in the world of celtic/traditionnal music. It means I've been playing music since I am like 5 years old.
I've been playing chronogically speaking : the irish whistle, the accordeon, the celtic clarinet, the bagpipe, the drums and right now I'm focusing on the mandolin and the fiddle.
I can't read a shit about music sheets. I never had any course about playing instruments or even music theory. If I was told to get an A out of one of those instruments I couldn't even do it properly.

I'm the antechrist for classical musicians. And why am I doing music ? Because I can't live without it. And when classical way of learning is about training to be stronger and stronger, traditionnal way of learning is about meeting with friends and having sessions along with some beer and snacks. They can suck at the instrument they're playing everyone don't give a fuck about it. Because what I was told as a child wasn't to be good at my instrument, but to ALWAYS feel happiness when playing, and I don't think classical players are always having fun (tell me if I'm wrong). SO I'm wondering which one missed the point about music... (don't get me wrong I'm not getting angry about you but the people who are teaching that kind of way of playing music)

Also you're saying that Bach, Mozart and so on are the greatest because they will stay forever in the world of music. I agree that classical composers from baroque or any other time did incredible pieces, but 300 years is not forever... And in traditionnal music you can find tunes that have been played since the Roma Era or the beginning of the Medieval Era, so be careful, you can always find more than what you thought was the limit ! :P

Anyway this topic's quite the thing I wanted to see, as I only had my point of view on this subject until then. Thanks guys !
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#29 Post by Arin the Eloquent » Fri Sep 06, 2013 5:42 pm

Why would I find something like making music "fun"? I'm in it for the business ethic, otherwise what's the point? And I'm probably going to get the comment "that sounds miserable" and what not, but honestly, that's just the way the world works.
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Re: Music Creation~ Where Do You Start When Composing?

#30 Post by trooper6 » Fri Sep 06, 2013 6:00 pm

Arin the Eloquent wrote:Why would I find something like making music "fun"? I'm in it for the business ethic, otherwise what's the point? And I'm probably going to get the comment "that sounds miserable" and what not, but honestly, that's just the way the world works.
Within the world, there are a lot of reason to make music beyond just business/money. (Actually, there are many reasons to do lots of things beyond business/money).

All those monks who were writing chant weren't writing it for the business ethic, because there was no monetary transactions involved. They made music to glorify god.
All the African Americans who were enslaved made music, not for the business ethic, because they weren't even considered people and it was illegal for them to own anything. But in order to survive the horrible situation they were in...and sometimes as a form of resistance...or instructions to others on how to escape and make it to freedom.
When I was in the Army and we made music while marching, we made that music in order to encourage unit cohesion and to help us survive 20mile marches, or long runs. When I composed new cadences for my unit it was as a means to gain respect of my peers.
Some people make music for fun.
Some people make music that they know won't make them money because what they are doing just isn't commercially viable, but they find a patron (back in the day it was the church or a noble, now it is often a university, or an arts organization, or some rich person) who will fund their ability to make things that may not fit with business, but that fulfill some other function: pushing boundaries or extending techniques, challenging people, saying something profound, whatever.
When Jews in Concentration Camps or Japanese Americans in Internment Camps made music it wasn't for the business ethic...it was help survive. To remain human in place of barbarism.

Some people make music only for the money just like they would make sandwiches....and many great works of art have been made in a factory sort of business process (Bach, Telemann, Motown, the Brill Building, etc)....but that is not the only way the world works, and that is not the only motivation to play or to compose.

Music has been used to bring joy or to protest injustice. Music has helped people survive in bad situations. Music has helped people understand the human condition...or at least contemplate it. Music has been used to create nations, to create citizens, to create communities. Music has been a way for people to find and articulate identity...or to disidentify. Music has also been used to torture people, to whip up hate, to whip up violence. Music is something very powerful indeed. It is not just a cog in a business ethic...although it can also be that for people who choose to interact with music that way.

One can see music as just a commodity. Though philosophers like Theodor Adorno, writing in the 1930s, saw music becoming that and did not have positive things to say in response, he felt the commodification of music was leading directly to fascism. I don't agree with him, though and am spending a great deal of the book I'm working on arguing against that position.

That said, here are a few quotes about music I think are good to contemplate:

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”--Plato
“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without”--Confucius
"Pop’s inability to change the world is compensated for by its ability to articulate and alter our perceptions of that world, and perhaps more importantly, to give a glimpse of other, better worlds."--John Street
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