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rdwpa

Becoming a better composer.

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My turn for a Memfisthread(TM). I seem to be going through a long spell where I'm incapable of composing tracks that I enjoy. I mean, I could compose 8 or 16 decent bars and then repeat it several times and be done with it; there's quite a bunch of Doom BGM out there that does just that. More complex structures are what I prefer, however, and I run into problems because I usually sputter out after precisely 8 or 16 bars.

I made this last month, for example, quite quickly in fact, and I thought it was okay.

http://www.mediafire.com/download/954o202vtwgry4v/midtest1.mid

But I don't know what should come next.

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well, If you're saying you're in a phase where you're unable to compose, one could say you're currently... decomposing

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the MIDI is quite a nice start actually! I know I wouldn't be able to resist putting some heavy bass beneath it, though...

you can strengthen a tune in other ways than building up layers, hmm, introducing extra bars or transposing a section, having distinct modular parts to swap between as in a typical pop song structure, even just paring back some of the layers you've added to reveal space and respite. It's one of the hardest things in the world to recommend reliable ways of doing any of these things, though, unless you wanna ape some particular composer or style... in this case, if I mentioned the tune from BTSX E2M4 as a reference point, then you'd find the chordal change you're using can be transposed to a few other complimentary points and that if you swapped a few instruments at the same time as you shifted to that new place on the scale you might have a second section already in the making!

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I'm working on an original megawad thing for Hexen. The soundtrack will use a combination of some royalty free tracks found online and a few original compositions. (i'm also NOT reusing any puzzle artifacts! I create my own puzzle items)

Here you can listen to one of the tracks. I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out so far. I'm trying to compose in the style of Kevin Schilder. The original Heretic / Hexen composer.

This is the song for the final hub level: Spellforge.

http://www.update.uu.se/~kgs/Hexy%201%20-%20v2.ogg

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If you take the time to learn music theory, you won't have to struggle or rely on 'inspiration' to make anything anymore (can even write without hearing it!).

You can pretty much learn everything you'll want to know with these two websites: http://tobyrush.com/theorypages/index.html and http://www.cs.uml.edu/~stu/JazzTheory.pdf.

Start with classical theory first, because jazz just builds right off it. Rock & Roll is based off the jazz concepts, so you are pretty much set to go then. You'll maybe only need to google how to make a guitar riff and a drumline (easy after the previous stuff).

Unfortunately this isn't something that will happen overnight and you will need to dedicate a lot of time not only learning, but practicing what you learned. However, I can safely say nothing has helped me more than learning music theory myself.

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I've learned quite a lot of music theory. Whole books worth.

Anyway, I'm happy with my progress at making stuff that I like. It seems like patience was what I had to develop.

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Combinebobnt said:

If you take the time to learn music theory, you won't have to struggle or rely on 'inspiration' to make anything anymore (can even write without hearing it!).


This is a really broad and probably very inaccurate statement. Theory doesn't make interesting music, it gives you tools to lead the ear in ways it's been trained to listen. Theory can't help you with broad emotional arcs, innovative or original ideas, or good melodic gestures... and it doesn't take audio production into account either. Nevermind the amount of "rule breaking" required to do a whole lot of interesting things (theory itself being reductive, so all of these rule breaks eventually ended up as codified theory on some level of critical analysis).

However I agree that learning not to rely on 'inspiration' is a skill that can be learned (and MUST be in order to produce high quality consistently).

rdwpa said:

Here's a WIP. Made in small chunks (8 or so bars a day) in short daily sessions, which is the approach I want to use.


rdwpa, I think one thing that's really worked for me (and composers on a higher level than me) is planning out your work in advance. The details of how you approach this can vary wildly but questions like: What feeling do I want to communicate? Or more specifically: What atmosphere do I want this to have? What sonic palette or texture(s)? Maybe you have a melodic idea that you want to develop over an emotional arc - plan the arc and try to make it work through that over the course of several minutes (or whatever it takes). I think just jumping in and making it up as you go is great, BUT if you have a more or less fully formed idea of what your track is going to be, it's like the script to your movie or the design document to your game. The rest is filling out the details and bringing your creativity to life to bring that plan to fruition. Bits and pieces will change, be dropped or added, and there will still be making-it-up-as-you-go, but you will find less "what the fuck do I do now?" moments.

It will also help make your music more dynamic and flow better - thinking of music just as 8-bar chunks can over time make things sound very "sectional." Often to your advantage, often not.

This kind of planning is more important when you have deadlines for your music, but it still makes a big difference for the cohesiveness, coherence and vision of your work regardless. IMO.

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Nick Perrin said:

rdwpa, I think one thing that's really worked for me (and composers on a higher level than me) is planning out your work in advance. The details of how you approach this can vary wildly but questions like: What feeling do I want to communicate? Or more specifically: What atmosphere do I want this to have? What sonic palette or texture(s)? Maybe you have a melodic idea that you want to develop over an emotional arc - plan the arc and try to make it work through that over the course of several minutes (or whatever it takes). I think just jumping in and making it up as you go is great, BUT if you have a more or less fully formed idea of what your track is going to be, it's like the script to your movie or the design document to your game. The rest is filling out the details and bringing your creativity to life to bring that plan to fruition. Bits and pieces will change, be dropped or added, and there will still be making-it-up-as-you-go, but you will find less "what the fuck do I do now?" moments.


I really should try this. I've read a lot of similar things.

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