How are we supposed to avoid accidental plagiarism?

GalacticDeath

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I know this sounds like a weird question, but honestly as a musician it is one of my biggest fears to unknowingly plagiarize someone else's music. I'm not afraid from a legal standpoint, but as a songwriter my goal is to be as original as possible.

Personally for me the problem is that I listen to so much new music everyday that it makes it hard for me to remember everything.

Then when I go to write it's difficult for me to differentiate whether a melody in my head is original or if it's something I've heard before.

One time I had a friend listen to a song of mine and he pointed out that it sounded a lot like a Dream Theater song I had listened to once maybe 2-3 years ago. When I listened to it again I realized just how similar it actually was :ugh:

Anybody else have this issue?
 

TheKindred

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nothing is original.

Don't do it on purpose (or do).

Don't worry about it (or do).

Seriously though, don't fret it (cause someone else probably already did).
 

GalacticDeath

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nothing is original.

Don't do it on purpose (or do).

Don't worry about it (or do).

Seriously though, don't fret it (cause someone else probably already did).

I usually don't worry too much when writing metal, but now that I'm fusing some pop elements into my music I'm starting to second guess my writing (mostly melodies). I wish there was a way to check
 

ArtDecade

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Led Zep ripped off everyone. Still legends. No worries.
 

Rev2010

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Then when I go to write it's difficult for me to differentiate whether a melody in my head is original or if it's something I've heard before.

Not meaning to be harsh, but if you keep up this mentality you're going to be an abysmal failure of a musician. This is just ridiculous thinking. EVERYTHING someone likes influences them in some way shape or form. That's why we have things called genre's - like Heavy Metal. It's not one band playing heavy metal, one playing blues, and one playing classical and any time someone else tries to play metal, blues, or classical people flip out and call the new artist a ripoff. Even if you tried your absolute hardest you will still be writing musical passages that have been done plenty of times already by others, there are only so many possible *good* sounding combinations of notes on instruments. What makes things different is also in how it sounds all together in a band and where you go next. If you have a passage that sounds similar to another artist then goes to the next part and that sounds just like the next part in the other artists song then yeah you have a problem.

As TheKindred said above, just don't ever try intentionally to copy something and don't worry about it. Just play your instrument and do what you like. I seriously doubt the stuff you're coming up with are exact, or very close, copies of your favorite songs anyhow.


Rev.
 

stevexc

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You will never, ever avoid accidental "plagiarism". Ever. There's not enough different notes that you can create a genuinely unique configuration of them without being ridiculous or sounding like asshole, and there's so many other components to music - rhythm, harmony, ambience, tonality - that you almost definitely won't create the exact same arrangement of everything.

Everything is derivative:



There are 35 entries in that video series. Thirty ....in' five. And that's just comparing metal bands to other metal bands. Write what feels good, and so long as you're not intentionally ripping someone else off, don't worry. In the rare scenario that you do write something that someone accuses of plagiarism, deal with it then, but the chances of that are slim.
 

Sonic Anomaly

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I've wondered the exact same thing you have...

the only advice that I can think of is, if you have (say) a specific melody that you're unsure about, try varying the rhythm, or adding some note flourishes/grace notes/ octave jumps/etc in between. you might find you come up with something better than you had in the first place. (a single changed/added note can change the whole contour of a melody)

also try altering harmony and its rhythm. furthermore, if you think two parts seems to go together in a familiar way, try changing one of them.


(example)

start with
|-7-5-3-5-7-7-7---5-5-5-|
add
|-7p5h7p5-/2/3-7-5-7----5-3--5-2-5-|

bottom line: if unsure, vary, vary.
 

JohnIce

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It's kind of unavoidable if you write many songs. I'd like to think a good song is a good song regardless, but if everyone who hears it says it reminds them of the same particular song, then maybe just retire that song from the set and go on with your life. But that's uncommon because if it's that obvious to people then you'd probably have thought of it by then.

That said, Paul McCartney thought Yesterday had to be a ripoff, he just couldn't figure out where he'd heard it before. He still hasn't and no one else has either, so either he just imagined it all along or he's one lucky billionaire.

Maybe if you're so scared of this happening for artistic reasons rather than social ones, you might need to get a little less precious about songs and believe in the idea that whatever happens in your current song, your next is gonna be better anyway. It's as if you've got a "this better turn out good, or it's a waste of time" mentality. They're meant to be written, the more the better, and the last one you ever write is supposed to be the best one, so just relax if song no. 58 out of 237 is a little reminiscent of something.
 

GalacticDeath

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What makes things different is also in how it sounds all together in a band and where you go next. If you have a passage that sounds similar to another artist then goes to the next part and that sounds just like the next part in the other artists song then yeah you have a problem.

Rev.

You're right and I particularly agree with this.

However to respond to your comment I have to say that I don't really have any favorite songs. So I'm not worried about copying a handful of songs. I'm worried about accidentally plagiarizing one of the many songs that I discover on weekly basis.

Also I'm not just writing metal where I would usually write in odd meter like 17/8 or 15/8 to help distance it from possible influences.
I'm also now writing some pop music in 4/4 with pop song structure and I feel it more likely to unknowingly draw influence from other songs.

But at the end of the day you're right. I shouldn't worry too much about it. Because everything has probably been done at least once before.
 

MerlinTKD

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"Good artists copy; great artists steal"

(Ironically, modified repeatedly over the years, and the attribution changed)


Legally, melodies can be copyrighted, chord progressions can't - there's only so many combinations!

All writers (music or otherwise) all get and give the same advise: Just Write. Don't worry if it's good, or original, or what, just write and keep writing. Later, go back to edit/evaluate; sometimes you'll find stuff that works as-is, but mostly you'll find stuff you need to change, or make better, or take this part and attach it to that part... and as you do, you'll find you have less 'copied' stuff and more that just sounds like you.


tl;dr: what TheKindred said ;)
 

Roland777

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The notion that everything that can possibly be made already has been is ....ing asinine.
 

TheKindred

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The notion that everything that can possibly be made already has been is ....ing asinine.

Who said that? :scratch:

The idea is more that there a relatively limited building blocks that can be used. You can arrange them however you want, but you're still using the same ones as (mostly) everyone else. The notes and intervals you use are by default going to be the least original part of your music. Those 12 tones of Western Music? Yep, somebody has already used them. Quarter tones? Yep, somebody already used them. Minor 3rd to a Major 7? Yep somebody did it. Soulful, chock full of personal meaning lyrics? Been done.

The point here is that every piece you use to build your composition has been used before. Guaranteed. The challenge is to modify it to reflect your character or the motif/context you're using it in. Noone is saying these are the same, but they are undeniably using similar aspects.
Code:
"Under the Bridge"	Red Hot Chili Peppers	1992	I–V–vi–IV
"Wagon Wheel"[91]	Old Crow Medicine Show	2004	I–V–vi–IV

Art is built on the past, stepping on the shoulders of giants and the fingers of peasants whether you like it or not. It's the evolution of the human experience. It is representative of an infinite wash of creativity and inspiration. To think otherwise is fucking asinine. :wavey:
 

Abaddon9112

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Just don't worry about it.

Sometimes if I go on a writing binge I'll stop listening to other people's music for a month or so. Leave the iPod off and focus on bringing whatever you've got inside out. It will inevitably still be influenced by other stuff...but as long as you're not consciously looking for an influence, it will reflect what's in your mind more than what's in your stereo.

Just do what you like and what you're capable of, and don't fret too much if it sounds similar to another artist. That's all anyone can do.
 

lucasreis

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Don't tell me... I used to play with this guy, he was really talented but a dick, but he always pointed at my riffs and he started singing other songs on top of them. It ....ing pissed me off and I'm still traumatized by this... whenever I'm writing I feel bad because I think I'm ripping of something.
 

Rev2010

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The notion that everything that can possibly be made already has been is ....ing asinine.

I'm with TheKindred, who said that?? If you're referring to my comment of, "Even if you tried your absolute hardest you will still be writing musical passages that have been done plenty of times already by others, there are only so many possible *good* sounding combinations of notes on instruments." then you simply read it wrong. The point was there are only so many combinations you can do that "sound" good. If that weren't the case there wouldn't be music lessons teaching scales, harmony, note relationship, etc. That exists because there IS a certain foundation to music construction that works. And even if you're blasting off the most complex note patterns there's a 99.9% chance that at some point in history someone else ran that path of notes as well. Might not be recorded or recognized, but *someone* has done it. That doesn't mean there's no possibility for something new to be written or something new tried. Every time a string is added to an instrument, or additional frets, or different tunings, etc all lead to more options and less chances something has been done before.

The whole point to the post was that you can't sit and worry about writing something that is 100% unique and that bears no resemblance to any other works that may exist. Doing that is stifling one's own creativity and only leads to frustration, writer's block, worry, and overall disappointment because your music will be *forced* into a different direction than you would normally artistically take all out of fear of stepping on someone else's work. Music is more than just riffs. I can't copyright strumming an open E string.

All that said, this is what I love the most.... I have a vague recollection of one time where someone told me something I wrote sounded like some artist I never even heard of. Never once in my life did I hear anything by the artist the person mentioned. I just shrugged and said, "Never heard of 'em". Who cares? Do you think I'm gonna go "Oh crap, let me go re-write this part"? No. No way.


Rev.
 

redstone

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And even if you're blasting off the most complex note patterns there's a 99.9% chance that at some point in history someone else ran that path of notes as well. Might not be recorded or recognized, but *someone* has done it.

That would be true, if 99.99% of musicians would not use only the same 0.01% of musical possibilities. The history is made of unimaginative people who phrase obvious things even when nobody's watching them. Furthermore, music rules have been vastly restrictive until the end of the 18th century, and before MAO sequencers the most talented composers wrote "with their fingers", or wrote parts they were sure a performer could play. Even guys like Coltrane are vastly self-restricted. There is a vast number of short yet innovative music patterns available right now.
 

mr coffee

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I have loved this quote for a long time:

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

― Jim Jarmusch

-m
 

Necris

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As the writer of a piece of music if you notice that something you've written resembles another piece of music that came before it a bit too much for your liking you have the option of revising that part.

To me plagiarism is consciously mining other bands songs for riffs and throwing them in to your music, not accidentally writing a progression that sounds similar.
 


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