, Texas, USA
em411 member since mid-2003 * hobbyist musician * ex-military
- Live 8 , Reaper
- Komplete 7 , Some VA plugins and Lots of free plugins , Synthogy Ivory
- XP SP2 with MotU mkII
- Oberheim SEM, MFB Kraftzwerg, Yamaha CS-15
- Roland Alpha Juno, SH-101 , TB303, TR606
- Moog CP-251 MF101 MF102, Boss RPS-10 CE-300 PS-2
- Bellari MP105, RP583
- Kenton Pro2000
- Kurzweil Rumour, Lexicon MPX1
- Mackie HR828 monitors , Sony MDR-7506 phones
Electronic Music discussion: How do you do it?
Written June 06 2008 , Tags: whine, technique, how, dumb
I started this as a comment in bla's blog about doing shit the hard, stupid way, but decided to expand the idea to its own rant/blog/whine.
Every time I've listened to cbit,ml,delta,implexgrace,lowlifi,nq,adjective,albatrocity or, really just alot of you who create these sounds and tracks I just cannot figure out, I think I MUST be doing shit the hard, stupid way, and even if I weren't, it would still take more time and devotion to finish one track than I have to spare. I usually spend the four to six hours I can alot per week just getting a melody or wrestling with the technology, and lose the spark and give up. I have about 3 hours of recorded melody and bassline ideas saved as impromptu clips from just the last year, since I posted that gearpron blog. I also have a few saved sequences going back 8 years that are all between 20 seconds and a minute, and they each took days to get to that point.
Some of you peeps here should hold classes for money on how to do this stuff right, with a curriculum, demos, assignments and so forth. By the end, I would be able to use the tools in the class to make compositions without once getting lost or stuck. There could probably be one style per course. I'd pay for that, seriously. If you were worried about giving up trade secrets, consider it a motivator to come up with new sounds and teach the old, standard stuff.
It reminds me of learning Linux or Unix: There's often only one way to get the shell to do what you want in a certain situation, and you could spend years learning the OS and never get enough of it down to make it work for you completely, whereas you can find your way around windows or OSX in one sitting. Just to get one command to work, sometimes you have to read and read and read and read and read and read and read and you finally find that what you needed ends up being a difference of three characters from what you origianlly typed.
If someone had been standing over your shoulder and you'd asked one simple question, hours or even days would not be lost.
This whole music thing is just like that for me, mostly in terms of technique for generating timbres I hear in music posted here, but also to a great degree on sequencing and producing non-repetitive drums that sound good. If someone stood behind me and said "You start with this drum loop, easily found online, and run it through this chain of free plugins to get this specific sound, then use this magic thingy to chop it up" then I could apply it and better focus on how to creatively arrange it into a track. Maybe it would change later, but it's part of the process, and impedes progress until the task is done.
I spend copious amounts of time either trying to get something simple that doesn't sound like ass or trying and often failing just to get the software to cooperate. It isn't fair that you spend all this money and the software crashes or doesn't work like expected, yet it's overwhelming with all the possibilities and directions to go when it works.
Timing is a big, big problem for me, even with some jittery plugins, and especially when trying to sync two apps together when both vendors were too arrogant or incompetent to allow their product to be a Rewire slave. Most importantly, Midi jitter and latency from the external devices can make life miserable, and you start to imagine timing problems that aren't even there.
I can see how those of you who only possess a PC and a controller, and use one main sequencing application, with an arsenal of plugins, can get so much done. But even then, I constantly hear things posted here that sound like if I tried to do them, they would take two lifetimes to finish. So many notes, so many events, and how much of it was done by hand versus not? And "I know that that sound there resembles a snare, but how did it get that way?", and on and on. I just get angry that I don't understand how it was done, and possibly because I know I would never have the time to do it right. I start trying to reverse-engineer little tidbits from all the different posts into my own ideas, and just get frustrated. This has been going on since I first noticed em411 in June 2003.
It's clear there is a new breed of virtuoso, as evidenced by RDJ,Tom Jenkinson,etc. whose proficiency lies in manipulating software to compose and produce, and in comparison, maybe I'm the chimpanzee with my typewriter. But I can't help thinking there are just some key techniques and ideas that no one mentions because they take them for granted, yet I've never even thought to try them, despite reading posts here regularly for five years. I've asked people on this forum how they did this or that before, and usually people either don't remember, or it's too complex to explain. But I have to wonder how many of those people ever read books, took classes or the like. More than likely, this modern method of composition and production is mostly self-taught for nearly everyone who tries it and succeeds.
I know, I know. Just get in there and do it with no expectations right? If it sounds like ass, then at least you had fun, right? I've made piles of infantile,amateur tripe for 11 years now, and nearly all of it is incomplete. I want to do something I can actually publish and be proud of. Not for once: For good.
to be honest, well for me at least, patience is a HUUUGE part of the creative process. that and willing to spend the time to actually get shit done. it's hard i know. the hardest part is not being able to do what you want, but being able to want to do what you want. and once you conquer that, everything else falls into place. there really isn't a magic formula, other than patience and obsession.
Actually, do a little remixing. Its funny how you can take a song you like, and once you really split it into individual components, you realize just how dumb some of them sound alone.
Which is why i say "relax". let dumb shit be itself.... you can always replace it later, but you might be suprised how good it sounds when it gets some friends.
Lastly, don't sweat the little stuff.
itd be cool if a bunch of people who had sussed out definite workable methods of creating tracks could explain the processes in detail then everyone tries it out and posts the results
id love to know a foolproof formula for putting a track together (which i could then modify/vary/experiment with)
ive never written a proper tune- ever
i just cant imagine a way of doing it that isnt an infinity of trial and error
i kind of develop systems for making short loops- rhythmically speaking- i know shit all about notes n that- but the longest pattern i ever wrote was 32 beats long
this is why im into self generating stuff- i dont have to work it out
"I've made piles of infantile,amateur tripe for 11 years now, and nearly all of it is incomplete"
that's me, without "nearly" though. but i've heard people telling me that they were impressed by my piles of infantile,amateur tripe. they're probably just being polite, but this has been a major motivation for me to get better. regarding techniques, i have to say that a very small number of what i read here can be applied to making music with my setup and even when i find something doable, i usually can't make it sound right (not because it doesn't work but because i'm dumb), so i usually come up with results that are a not-so-good approximaion of what i wanted to do originally. this way i have to (re)invent little techniques for little stupid stuff that sound good to me. the plan is that maybe at some point i'll have enough of those tricks to make a body of work that i'm proud of.
my advice would be: let it flow. if what you're trying to do at some point doesn't come out the way you want to, try something else. if you can't achieve that super-random, mangled yet fat and awesome idm beat, then forget it for a while and make a kick-ass techno beat like as if your name was j-chot. have some fun, see what comes out, maybe a new trick you were searching for will reveal itself while fooling around.
I am probably less of a musician than almost anybody here. I'm a big dumb oaf when it comes to finesse, and I've hardly finished anything either. So I recently bought a Boss Micro BR, a very portable 4-track recorder with a built in mic, SD drive, and USB port. Instead of wrestling with machines or software that I'm not confident with, I just hum, sing, strum, beatbox, fart into it. Thus no matter what technique I decide to use for the final product, I have a rough draft that I'm able to get out of my head immediately.
Granted the drafts are VERY rough, and so far it hasn't really helped with actually finishing anything, but it has taken away LOADS of frustration, and often I end up preferring my grainy, whiny voice to what was originally in my head. So this won't necessarily address the finishing of tracks, and it won't give you any neat software tricks, but I'm convinced getting a portable 4 track to make rough drafts on takes away so much frustration.
Also, I definitely agree with sweettrip that it's mostly a matter of patience and putting the time in. Also focus is huge - meditation has been helping me too...I don't necessarily manage to do exactly what I want but I have a much healthier attitude towards it, and I don't feel like a failure when I let go of something and explore something more interesting. Just like the old days when I was first learning how to use these machines, and everything was brand new like a little baby.
anything you do to improve your ear will improve your music.
i did once explain the system i invented for making drum patterns- i thought it was on a ricemutt blog about generative techniques but it looks like its gone
oh well- sorry cant be arsed writing again right now
I'm really interested in knowing how much time, with a trial and error approach, you all try and alot into your week for music, especially the 9 to 5 working types. If I can't predict how much I get done maybe I can schedule my time better to know what to reasonably expect for any sort of results.
What would be great as opposed to the class idea, is maybe some kind of "work history" repository, be it by blog or wiki or video site or whatever, where people can document their track progress in an instructive and intuitive way, and without much distraction from the work itself. Or at least document progress in a way that is helpful to improving the composing process.
i work on average about 60 hour a week. i probably spend about 12+ hours a week on music. 3 hours a day, usually evenings of course. if i dont have plans over the weekend, then i would spend the entire two days recording, jamming, and what not. that is, if i'm not working on weekends too, which happens often.
Listen to music - learn to develop an musical theme or melody. There is no one good way to compose.
mlbot and I often start a song by jamming on an idea until we're sick of it. Then we try to write a variation of that idea, and then come up with another idea that contrasts with that idea. Then we do the hard work of arranging it everything into a whole. (this is why I love ableton, btw) This is the drudge work that everyone dreads. But it's what separates the dillentantes from the musicians. (any artist who convinces you that they 'just tossed off an idea' is a tosser and not worth your consideration)
At a certain point, if a musical idea gets stuck in your head and won't leave, you'll know it's a good one and should work on developing it.
For every 'finished' song I have I have about ten unfinished ideas. You never know when those ideas will become songs, though...you just have to keep yourself open to the process.
astroid said: "anything you do to improve your ear will improve your music."
ear rings? qtips? ear trimming? ear waxing?
rogerroger, you seem very focused and dilligent, thoughtful about music making. i doubt your 'problem' is with anything like that. maybe try a bunch of the opposite-being careless, unfocused, and a dilletante
astroid said: "rogerroger, you seem very focused and dilligent, thoughtful about music making. i doubt your 'problem' is with anything like that. maybe try a bunch of the opposite-being careless, unfocused, and a dilletante"
Yeah for shizzle. Find that balance. I'm a dilletante wank by nature so all this focus I'm trying to bring into my life is really a breath of fresh air.
sweettrip said: "to be honest, well for me at least, patience is a HUUUGE part of the creative process. that and willing to spend the time to actually get shit done. it's hard i know. the hardest part is not being able to do what you want, but being able to want to do what you want. and once you conquer that, everything else falls into place. there really isn't a magic formula, other than patience and obsession."
I agree with sweettrip, patience and dedication are a huge contributor to finishing something that you're happy with. Also sometimes you need to focus on the tree rather than the forest. You have so much at your disposal these days it can be very overwhelming. When I first started making electronic music all I had was screamtracker and a floppy full of samples from a friend. I used that program for almost a full year. Every time I get a new piece of equipment or plugin/etc I mentally dedicate a minimum of 2 weeks to learning just that piece. Sometimes I earmark a month or more before I expect to get the results out of a piece of kit. It took me a year to properly utilize my MPC2000.
To properly learn a piece of equipment you have to isolate it from your other equipment. When I got my last drum machine I read the manual a couple times front to back, plugged it in to some headphones and spent the next couple weeks making beats on it with no other instruments.
I think that every electronic musician has a centerpiece to their studio. For many very successful musicians who create intricate music this has traditionally been a sequencer and a hardware sampler. By going back and forth between these two tools with patience and creativity you can create some very good music.
Take a look at squarepusher's home studio: Video
Notice how intimate he is with his gear. It's dirty and grimy and heavily used
In this interview he talks about spending a lot of time even with shite gear to do things with it that even the designers didn't realize it could do, also sequencer/sampler/dsp that is the core of this sound: Video&NR=1
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