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 Forum index » Discussion » Composition
... New to composing music ... Need advice ...
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aeturno



Joined: Sep 23, 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:20 pm    Post subject: ... New to composing music ... Need advice ... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I will probably not post a lot, since I generally read more than I write. The thing is, though, I have to post this one message.

I have listened to electronic music for years now, and never really thought I'd be able to pursue such things. So, I started tinkering around with the Internet, and I found out that it is much easier than I thought. I thought it'd be a hugely expensive endeavor. Still, though, a good synth is out of my price range, but yeah - I could save up for something like that later.

The thing is, though, for starters, should I go hardware or software? I have a computer background as it is, so a passion for electronic music is likely to be a tightly-snug passion in connection with my interests. I have experience with digital audio and video processing, digital photography and videography, web design, and a number of other things. Yet I have no experience in composing music. I've never even played a piano nor know how to read sheet music, so I'm wondering whether or not I'd be able to play a synthesizer - well, I mean, without lessons, that is.

Still, though, the hardware or software question seems important. Should I invest in a soft synth or a cheap hard synth, say a MicroKorg or something? Or should I start on a cheap softsynth, like the Cakewalk variety? And just start from there? And like what other equipment would be necessary? I was told from someone it's best to go hard synth, because in the end the price range will be the same, like the price of the softsynth plus a midi keyboard as opposted to a hard synth. But, I don't know about what's required to get something going. A cheaper but decent pair of speakers, too, probably.

And then there's my computer, which is even a discussion in of itself. Most of this will be done with a laptop, since I travel between states. The laptop is good, a Toshiba Satellite A135-S4666 with 1G SDRAM, 80GB HD. It's full to the max, though, with this and that, and I needed to get an external HDD last year. And it runs on Vista, which I heard may be a problem in trying to compose electronic music. Secondly, I need to use Vista to activate the built in wireless signal, so downgrading it to XP is not an option, at least not without trying to locate wi-fi drivers and hope they work in XP or else use a crappy wireless card. And then what about sound cards? I gather anything of a built-in sound card will likely not get good results, so maybe I'd need an audio interface of some sort, too?

In the end, it does sound like a fairly expensive endeavor. But, then again, where would I start?

- Ray M -
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Sam_Zen



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Don't compose music, compose sounds.
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Antimon



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'd get something like Reaper (which is a cheap DAW, if you don't worry about money there's lots of others like Ableton Live, Cubase etc to choose from) and tinker with it. You get a piano roll and some built in instruments, and there are loads of free VST plugins (instruments, effects) to be found.

Don't worry about the computer or sound interface for now, find something to fiddle with and see what you want to work better.

There are of course a gazillion routes to follow, this is just one suggestion.

/Stefan

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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You'll hear every opinion under the sun in answer to that question. My personal choice would be a freeware soft synth. I dunno about Vista though, as you say there have been lots of complaints. Do you think you could install Linux on your new disk drive? There's an Ubuntu distribution made for music somewhere out there...

Les

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robsol
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A Microkorg or similar sounds like a good idea - it's a separate box made for music only and will not give you lots of tech problems not related to making sounds. Depending on your goals, a groovebox type of instrument could be suitable as well.

If you go the software route there is so much choice, even for free, that it is easy to get distracted. Have a look at the Windows as a music workstation forum.

Vista is ok for starting out on a music adventure, but I will suggest that you disable your wifi device while you are making music as it can be a source of dropouts and the like.

There is a tool that can help you locate problems linked with making music on a pc: http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml

Run it first with the wifi enabled and then disabled and see if it makes a difference. You may want to play around with other devices too.


It takes time to get into the game, but if you are lucky you will find software that is suitable for what you want to do. When you explore electro-music you shall find. Smile

Al the best of luck!

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Blue Hell
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Muied Lumens wrote:
You may want to play around with other devices too.


Yes, on my vista laptop it seems to be the video driver that eats away seconds Evil or Very Mad

I'd recommend XP instead if you can still find it or happen to have it.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Since you say that you're a computer person, I'd also suggest a music programming language such as ChucK, SuperCollider, or CSound. These are fully expressive ways to make your music, plus they are free!

Les

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mrcairosfriend



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Curious that your first thoughts about composition were not about sounds or musical ideas or even personal expression, but rather the 'expense' of it.
Hardware or software?
The most basic hardware required for composition is paper and a pencil. The ONLY software required is your brain and/or heart.
You say you have no experience in composing music, but after looking around on the internet you assume that it would be 'much easier than you thought'. Maybe you are some inherently gifted musician, a late bloomer so to speak...
Perhaps you have some latent talent hidden inside just waiting to burst forth...
If this is the case, then we all have something to look forward to. However, don't make the assumption that technology will make you creative.
Synths, soundcards, computers, etc are just tools.
Nothing wrong with wanting the best/latest knob-covered gadget... but, too often the tools and equipment of an activity get confused with the actual doing of it.
I only say this because you indicated you wanted to compose music.
If on the other hand you just wanted to make a track like -insert-your-favorite-dj-here... then go ahead and buy a bunch of gear and sample cds and start cranking out 'me-too' noise because, yeah IT IS easier than you thought.
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Octahedra



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:13 am    Post subject: Re: ... New to composing music ... Need advice ... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

aeturno wrote:
I've never even played a piano nor know how to read sheet music, so I'm wondering whether or not I'd be able to play a synthesizer - well, I mean, without lessons, that is.


I'd really recommend getting a keyboard of some kind, so you can play other music you like, to see what makes it tick.

Although I had access to a home keyboard when I was young, I didn't appreciate its importance for a long time. Looking back, I now feel that I slowed down my progress as a composer by very rarely using it. My first attempts to compose finished pieces of music were on the 'software-only' route (entering notes straight into tracker programs on the Amiga). I had a lot of fun experimenting with sound, but when I eventally got a proper keyboard synth I spent a lot more time playing other people's music for fun and trying out ideas on it, and began to get a much better intuition for what works in melody, chord progressions etc. I'm quite a bad keyboard player and I've never had any lessons (so I sequence all my synth parts), but what I've learned through the keyboard has become essential to my composing.

Music notation is a bit of a gripe subject for me as I'm not that keen on the standard system we all seem to be using. If you learn to read music well enough to get through a 'dummies' guide to music theory, you'll also be picking up some really useful stuff about keys and harmonies. But if you're going to work in piano-roll in a sequencer, you certainly don't need to go all that far with traditional notation.

<pointlesscomment>This seems to be my 100th post... and it's taken me 10 months to get there. Just shows how much I love writing music but struggle to write English. Surprised </pointlesscomment>

Gordon
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bachus



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:17 am    Post subject: Re: ... New to composing music ... Need advice ... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Octahedra wrote:
Music notation is a bit of a gripe subject for me as I'm not that keen on the standard system we all seem to be using.


I'd be interested and grateful to hear what your thoughts are on improvements/changes/gripes regarding common notation practice.

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bachus



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sam_Zen wrote:
Don't compose music, compose sounds.


Compose sounds into music I'd say Wink

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bachus



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:28 am    Post subject: Re: ... New to composing music ... Need advice ... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

aeturno wrote:
... I've never even played a piano nor know how to read sheet music, so I'm wondering whether or not I'd be able to play a synthesizer - well, I mean, without lessons, that is...
- Ray M -


Whether or not you will be able to play a synthesizer depends on your innate talents along that dimension. I have none and substitute math/programming for those. I suspect each person has to find there own way through that part of the world.

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Octahedra



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:28 pm    Post subject: Re: ... New to composing music ... Need advice ... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

bachus wrote:
I'd be interested and grateful to hear what your thoughts are on improvements/changes/gripes regarding common notation practice.


I've started a new topic for this here as it seems to be a whole topic unto itself.

Gordon
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