Electronic Music discussion: Knowing how, vs Being able to (Produce/Write/Create)
Written June 24 2010 , Tags: production, knowledge, productivity
So I'm having trouble making music...
I know how to use my tools inside out - I know how to program synth sounds, I know how to mix, use effects, etc.
But I'm having heaps and heaps of trouble with coming up with a song.. I just cant seem to do it, even though I understand 'how' I would do it...
Even though I can make any sound I think of, every sound/set of sounds/rhythm/melody I make sounds SHIT... The annoying thing about this is when I'm in my car, or the shower - I can come up with really catchy tunes (seemingly), but I just can't translate them into my gear for some reason.. I sit down and start bashing and the most pathetic piece of cheesy boring crap comes out, which at best sounds like early 90s gay house...
I dunno it's weird... Could I be missing something in my workflow? Are there any rhythmic or other similarities shared between 'good' songs that arent in 'lame' songs?
Anyone have any ideas at all? Suggestions on exercises to improve things?
i feel like maybe I should go back to taking more acid like I used to, or smoke meth or something ridiculous... well.. I wouldn't but, I'm frustrated as all hell.
i understand where youre coming from. i try make good, unique idmish music or whatever and it almost always disappoints me. i think what i end up doing is overcomplicating things. i try to make my songs really complex and it ends up sounding like an incoherent jumbled mess. i think what works best for me is to slow the whole process down and be as minimal as possible. also i think the best songs are ones that get to the point in under an minute. 2-2.5 minutes is my ideal length of a song. I just cant write more than that. even getting to a minute and a half is a struggle. another thing to remember is that with music software especially, you can always come back to an old shit idea and rework it. even if you think somethings dumb just letting it sit for a while and revisiting it can open it up so to speak.
I have a problem where I just haven't finished stuff. I start something every time.
I think that good stuff also comes out when you are not trying or you're just goofing but also when you are trying. Do you have any ability to step record? that is also another method of getting things done. I might be projecting too much here though.
What do you mean by step record?
What kind of music are you trying to make? ...Do you have any examples of your stuff?
Are you sure its not just the whole "hating everything I do", artist/musician bs? I have that creep up on me sometimes.
morgberg said: "I have a problem where I just haven't finished stuff. I start something every time."
Brian Eno created "Before And After Science" by building up a song, track by track, then deliberately subtracting key tracks, and what he was left with ended up working; creating a minimalist structure that had the type of rhythmic "randomness" to it that he might never have achieved if he stuck w/ the conventional rhythms that he started with.
There's knowing how to use your tools, and then there's developing a functional process. That's the hard part.
Try laying down a conventional rhythm track, then lay down a percussive track that compliments it, and repeat. When you're done w/ the rhythm, yank out the primary drum track, and begin treating the remaining tracks w/ reverb / echo / etc.
If you're not having fun, you're too focussed on the results, before you've even gotten there! Enjoy the process.
The only other thing I can suggest is to listen to as much of other people's stuff as you can; preferably all stuff you've never heard. It can be quite inspiring. Keep it minimal!! And keep your own stuff minimal. There's no quicker way to ruin the broth than to add TOO MANY ingredients. Just like cooking, you can always add more.....
I don't know the answer, though I have some ideas, but I have to say it was SO GOOD to read this title. just the fact that you have articulated what my problem was is liberating! I have started to wonder whether I have some anxiety order or depression or something, maybe it's just something in my process or approach. I don't know whether that makes you feel any better, but thank you
one clue I've had is something like what Watchlaar was talking about. some of my favorite stuff of mine was made by starting with something kind of "meh" sounding, then adding an accompaniment to that, then turning off the original "meh", and repeating until I have bootstrapped my way into something cool. maybe that's the right way to do it.
also weird that you chose a food analogy, I was reading the final "Big Red Button" Synth Secrets post on the SoS site yesterday, and the author used a similar analogy. I've kind of been feeling that subconsciously too, that the mindset of cooking is what I want to get to with music. choose good ingredients -> clean them up -> carefully prepare them -> create an attractive presentation -> serve to others or enjoy alone.
fwiw, I am developing a plan to not use MIDI for anything but syncing sequencers this summer, using mostly (if not entirely) chips like the OPL3 and gameboy as source material, and only using the computer for recording in stereo and editing. and coming up with some kind of dance/dub/hip-hop/whatever EP/album out of it. hopefully I'll follow through on this for once. I'm banking on limiting the ingredients as a good place to start.
Hmm. That didn't work.
What the heck?
take the "www." out... link
I used to have trouble getting anywhere with my songs, even when I felt like I knew my gear etc.
Several things helped me get over this.
One was writing the music beforehand on guitar or something away from my gear. A simple chord progression can go a long way. With this I could go back to the computer with a game plan.
It also helped me to "map" out my songs - knowing that I wanted the song to go from point A to point B, and maybe C. This kept me from ending up with a million unfinished, pointless tracks (loops really). Having a plan just meant the rest was filling in the blanks.
Hope this helps.
The key for me, I think, is being able to listen to a song for the first time, even though I've written it. The ability to take the place of both the listener and the producer/composer, and to be interested by my own music.
In order to accomplish this, I need to write music that contains a lot of unpredictability. Rather than trying to take a melody from in my head and putting it into a song, I try to construct songs that are surprising. These songs may have catchy parts, but at least some elements must be complex and difficult (impossible) to memorize. A song that is very easy to memorize becomes boring very quickly.
Haven't you ever really liked a song, but couldn't quite replicate the drum beat without some serious effort? Or perhaps you couldn't quite make out what the lyrics were, or maybe you can't quite predict what note comes next, even though you've listened to it a dozen times... Aren't these songs some of your favorites?
another thing that really helps me is to work in small increments. for example, renoise usually starts you out with a 64 step blank pattern, I usually chop that down to 16 steps. this way i can more easily manage each section of the song and it also makes the song a little more continuous.
on the food tip, remember what type of food your making. Lately I've been trying to make salsa dip. I like it spicy with a lot of ingredients. But it wouldn't be any good to me if I didn't have the plain old salty corn chips to serve it with.
Well if you're having problems with other genres sounding like 90s gay house i think you should try other rhythm patterns aside from the 4 on the floor :P .Create a 4 bar rhythm then find 2 or 3 sounds you really like, mess around until you get something you like, tweak/develop and embellish it from there.
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