How do -you- write music?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by hoffmaniv, Aug 10, 2016.

  1. hoffmaniv

    hoffmaniv Basement Dweller

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    Before I write anything related to the topic title, I should quickly say that writing music is a multifaceted process and I think we should all realize there are many ways of arriving at the same goal. What I'm looking for -- and what many other people are probably looking for though -- is insight. "What other ways could we approach composition?" is basically the essential question here.

    You should post responses to the following two questions:

    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1: For me, I use a variety of methods. Although all my compositions invariably make their way to Cubase (or start inside Cubase to begin with), a lot of my process starts with guitar pro as it gets me thinking in musical rather than engineering terms. I'll start with drums, bass or guitar, whichever inspires me the most. Most of the time, I just plod around entering notes until something clicks and I've got the basis for something that sounds good, though on rarer occasions I might have some internal ideas that find their way on to the page.

    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2: Sometimes I feel like the technology controls me rather than I controlling "it". I often have to ask myself if I would even be able to make progressive music if you took cubase, guitar pro etc away from me. At times I wish I used a more hands-on approach where 100% of the ideas comes from me with the guitar in my hands, or that the solos I end up playing come from an improv-based process rather than being explicitly planned.
     
  2. coffeeflush

    coffeeflush SS.org Regular

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    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1: I select a groove and a bassline or sometimes a bass note, then I just add layers or improv on it. Not the most technical or approaches, lot of hit and miss. But hey, I play music to enjoy it and don't wanna work much more on it.
    I use DAW (FL studio in my case) and I find western notation retarded so I just substitute numbers for notes , this allows me to notate microtones as well and see musical structure differently.

    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2: Yes, I would like to start with selective scales and stick to them when working instead of endless noodling.
     
  3. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1: Usually just the guitar + Reaper. The Mark V:25 comes in handy for this, despite the flak it gets. Generally, I'll sit in front of the PC with a certain feel/vibe/idea in mind, hit record, and just improvise things. This leaves me with a small library of 1-2 minute bits that I can either expand on or string together to make something longer. Sometimes I'll start with a bit, and re-record it slightly different, or with something tacked onto the end, eventually I end up with a tune I like. I have a few songs that I've re-recorded in full maybe 3-5 times and they turned out different every time. The whole process is very long and iterative for me, I guess.

    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2: I just need to write more in general. Probably should put more thought into whole songs rather than just assembling riff collages. My lyrics are all terrible, so that needs work.
     
  4. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1:
    Step 1. Listen to bands that inspire me to write
    Step 2. Rip off said bands. This might sound shitty, but as my taste and influences are so varied the final product never really sounds like any of the bands it was inspired by... but i have been told it's pretty obvious how much I like Converge :lol:
    Step 3. Whether it's a riff, a full song, just an idea, etc. I bring it to band practice and bounce ideas off my band mates.
    Step 4. We slow it down, come up with a song structure, jam it out a bit, change shit, etc.
    Step 5. Play it till it sounds good enough to play in front of people

    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2:
    I wish I could crank out riffs like some people do. I can come up with chord progressions for days but writing tech-y/angular/spazzy riffs (what I like to listen to) has never been my strong suit, though I know I'm better at it than I used to be. Honestly I feel like I've progressed more in the past year then I did in the 4 years before that. I also feel myself getting stuck with certain rhythmic patterns/strumming patterns sometimes and i have to consciously break myself of it, but those are both problems I have with myself as a musician and not really relevant to the thread.
     
  5. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    I feel this so much. If I don't have other people to bounce ideas off of I can never come up with anything I'm happy with. Just small riffs or parts to songs but never anything I'd consider "complete".
     
  6. coffeeflush

    coffeeflush SS.org Regular

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    This is an issue for me as well. 99% ideas are small pieces and often go to the dustbin, very very little turns into something complete.
     
  7. noise in my mind

    noise in my mind SS.org Regular

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    I look at the wall and hit my head against it. I'm still trying to figure this whole music thing out lol.
     
  8. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1: Having access to notation software from day 1 (Powertab>Guitar Pro>now Sibelius), I have always written in software. I see comments sometimes about music being 'written in Guitar Pro' like it's a bad thing or cheating, but I don't understand this. Orchestral composers write every detail on paper before the music is recorded. I find it enjoyable to write this way. I can see what is going on and easily tweak parts. Layering and making small adjustments whilst recording on the fly I find to be a pain. You don't get held up with mixing or tones whilst writing either.
    I then perfect the parts/learn the parts that I barely touched the guitar to write, and record into the DAW systematically exactly as written.


    As for compositional techniques, not much until fairly recently. Over the last couple of years I have learned a lot of theory. I now use chord construction knowledge, voice leading, counterpoint and other harmony techniques frequently.

    The music itself is probably 50% accidentally discovered and 50% transcribed and developed from what I hear in my head


    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2: It is not a very organic process. Sometimes I do envy those musicians who just sit down in the DAW and record a cool song with improvisation and a very organic experimental process. I'll try and develop that one day but I just don't think it suits me. I'm too much of a perfectionist and obsess over small details when writing!
    I do enjoy my process a lot though and am happy with the outcome of my writing.
     
  9. Sumsar

    Sumsar SS.org Regular

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    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1:
    I jam with the drummer in the band. I like the idea of the song writting being done by several people in the band (we are only me and the drummer at this point) instead of someone writting the songs at home and just using the others to play it.
    We have been writting like this for some time, so getting the basic strong structure and riffs down usually takes 1 to 2 hours. We then record it in Studio One v 2 with a setup of 4 mics on a drumkit and 1 on the guitar. Then thats usually the end of that rehearsal/songwritting session. We then listen to it at home and make some mental notes for things to change, like song structure or if certain riffs/parts don't fit in/suck.
    Next rehearsal is then used to make those changes and come up with a tempo for the song so we record the basic drums and guitar parts. Then we start writting the second guitar which for us is usually very different to the first guitar. Again we both contribute to these parts and it often takes longer than writting the initial song idea did :lol:. Second and maybe third rehearsal is used for that. Then I take the song files home and write and record bass lines and do some basic mixing, so at this point we got a basic preproduction of the song, and then we restart the circle with rewritting a new song.

    So I guess the tl;dr is: We write songs in hours and record a demo the same day we write the song.
    We can write about a song a week this way. I preffer to write 20 songs and then choose the 8 best rather than spending an eternity writting and rewritting 8 songs to try and make them good.


    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2:
    Not really, I think we write some really good songs in a fairly short time.
    Though I wish we could find some more musicians that was skilled enough and that I trust enough to help with the song writting for the other parts, because at this point I play 2 very different guitar parts + solos as well as bass and also write and sing vocals, which is a bit to much to remember, so when time comes to do the real recording I spend a lot of time relearning parts like bass and secondary guitars.
     
  10. Low Baller

    Low Baller SS.org Regular

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    Question 1: What kind of compositional techniques, software, etc

    Answer: It all depends on genre, it can start with chord progression, bass line, drum beat, riff, or it can be built around lyrics. My time has gotten limited so on breaks at work wherever I can I either write lyrics or hum out melodies. When I do get time to hold an instrument I find when I pick up instrument and put theory first it ends up sounding like practice as opposed to song. So I jam out and try and not think to critically just have fun (corny I know). Sometimes I just record on phone or if I hit that "that's it" moment I take video on my phone. Theory however really comes in handy when you made a part and don't know where to take it. Once I build all my components I take it to cubase.

    Question 2: Anything you could change or do better?

    Answer: A lot first of all wish I had more time, I work two jobs and have a wife and kids so every writing session feels rushed and scattered I don't put in the time needed to really get a better understanding on cubase and just write in general. My process is rushed and scattered right now, I haven't been happy with anything I have made in a long time. I have tried composition programs but have a hard time making stuff but if I practiced it I can see it being really useful. I also wish I was better with DAWs but once again it takes practice I am not putting in.
     
  11. tyler_faith_08

    tyler_faith_08 Strings of Chaos

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    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1: I write with the voice record app on my phone by humming or singing into it. I rarely ever write with my guitar in hand. I feel this keeps me from playing by muscle memory and instead keeps me writing what I hear in my head. As a result, my composition is much more diverse. I then work out how I want to play the piece(s) and alter the locations of any rest(s) to a few places to make sure what I put down is rhythmically solid and interesting. I'll then change through a few modes with the piece to see if I can find any better variations.

    Once I get to this point, I have somewhat of an idea of how I want the remaining pieces of the section to go and I'll get them down. I try to keep redundant notes to no greater than 1 if possible, but the more notes that I have that I'm subject to change, the better as I feel they occasionally provide a means to help smooth key changes.

    I then record via my preamp out to a Tapco interface and into Reaper.

    Basically, I record everything and delete what turns out to be BS and I rarely ever write with my instrument in hand.

    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2: I'd like to care less for accuracy when I'm just getting ideas down. I wish I could find a way to get my exact tone into the DAW so that it doesn't distract me as much. More than anything, I want collaboration.



    I don't feel that there is ever a case where the method used to create the song is important, only that the song is what you had in mind. It is better to have ideas and procedures that you don't use than to only have a few to lean on.
     
  12. phugoid

    phugoid SS.org Regular

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    Since I joined my trio a little more than than a year ago, we've been almost purely jamming. It's sort of improv-songwriting... trying to feel each other out and move the pieces along. The best material sounds like fully-formed songs popping into existence, while the worst stuff is absolutely awful.

    I guess it "works" because it's post-rock, which is naturally loopy and noodly.

    The big decision we face now is whether we can take the jamming approach to the stage, risking a total crash'n'burn, or whether we should rehearse and refine our best material. My vote so far is to take the middle ground - have a few riffs in mind and just jam them out.
     
  13. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    This question, for me, totally depends on context. I might be jamming with a blues band at open mic, in which case the song will be as cliche as possible - 12 bar blues in either Em or Gmaj, lot's of "hidy ho," "my baby left me and my dog ran away," and "you know what I'm talkin' 'bout" lyrics / or / I might be working on a metal project by myself, trying to come up with fresh ideas of stuff that no one has ever heard before, by throwing a lot of random oddball stuff into a song and see if any of it sounds like it belongs there. Or maybe something in between.

    As far as ripping other people's music off, I really try not to do that, but it happens anyway - a lot. I know other musicians who are unabashed about doing so, justifying what they do by saying that basically every genre is a bunch of bands ripping each other off. I'm not particularly thrilled by that attitude, especially when your opening song is the chords from Santeria, the strumming pattern from Santeria, and lyrics about not practicing voodoo. I, on the other hand, will write a song, think it sounds really cool and original like nothing else, put a bunch of wacky .... in it, record it, and play it for some friends, then release it and play it at a few shows, until someone comes up to me and tells me that the solo at the end of it is basically two notes off from being the Wizards and Warriors NES theme song.
     
  14. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1: I have no single method.

    Some times, it's just me and my notepad, then either the guitar or keys to facilitate chords/melodies. In cases like this, where the lyric drives the music, then I'll create/record the song section by section. If I have a vision of how the song will be ultimately arranged, I start setting markers in Pro Tools to mark those references. This is also the time that I start experimenting with tempo if the song is set up using midi files. Once I have a tempo that I am confident of, I enter it into the Tempo/Meter map so that it also appears in the navigator.

    Some times, I just have a riff, and it stays a riff for a while until something comes to mind that I think will complement it.

    For this method, I have a folder in my Pro Tools called "Riffs and Ideas" and most of these are simply a file with a riff that only lasts a few bars or so, with a naming convention consisting of a very brief description, instrument, and date, ie; "Meloncholy_Piano_08162016".

    In this particular case, this riff is entered in as a midi file, so I can import it into a project later.

    At work, I have a Roland D-10 synth at my desk, and I keep my lyrics notebook with me in my bookbag/backpack at all times, so sometimes I'm working out stuff on it. The keyboard is great for working out melodies on, and in the workplace situation, it's not as loud as even an unplugged electric guitar, so I just put on some headphones & go.

    Other times, I'll just hum a melody and/or a lyric into my lil digital handheld Sony ICD P620 recorder. It was something like $60 at Best Buy some 9 years ago, and it's come in handy a number of times if I'm out away from my notepad or instrument and I have multiple things trying for my attention. This gets it out of my head in the moment, mind back on work, and I revisit later.

    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2: No, since I'm not rigid about the method used, I find that whichever one serves the idea/song the best is the way to go.
     
  15. viesczy

    viesczy SS.org Regular

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    The way I compose is this:

    1) Play interesting progression that piques my ear's interest.
    2) Workout melody lines over the progression, keeping the "best" that pique my ear's interest and arrange/re-arrange.
    3) Work out alternate progression to confirm where the "magic" lies--the progression, the melody or combination of both.

    For riff based.
    1) Work out a riff that is fun to play (technically/musically)
    2) Add parts to that riff until it is crazily intricate to the point that it is "hard" to play/listen to.
    3) Cut that line back down to something closer to #1.

    Derek
     
  16. AmoryB

    AmoryB Blackout!

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    What an excellent idea for a thread.

    Question 1: What compositional techniques, software, tools etc do you use to make music?

    Answer 1:

    The way I previously use to write, and still do on occasion is practicing through scales until I get a vibe or riff that seems interesting. Once I have said riff down, I immediately record it and add it to my stash of riffs. I keep a library of these riffs on my phone that I'll go through from time to time to see if I can continue the idea or get any inspiration from it. Nowadays (since dedicating my time to learning theory), I plan my songs out a little more. I will brainstorm ideas for a song, such as vibe/story/emotion (For example, I love to read Edgar Allan Poe and I am currently writing a song based of The Raven) Usually at this point I'm pretty inspired to do the song, so either the base lyrics or music come easily. I try to either record my thoughts or establish a progression before I forget it and build from there. I don't really record anything until the song is just about written out, and I'll usually do that on blank sheet music despite having Pro Tools 12 and all the gear to record. Feels more inspiring to me, YMMV

    Question 2: Is there anything about the process that you wish you could change, or do better?

    Answer 2: Since investing time into music theory and ear training, I try to use those more than any other compositional tools to further develop them. I would like to someday soon get to the point of hearing something in my head and being able to translate that to written notation easily. I don't always have access to my recording gear, but more often than not have sheet music nearby. I find this process much more enjoyable for my needs.
     

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