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Sunday, July 30, 2006


I really miss making music. Ironically, it was a lot easier when I had fewer choices. Now, I have a bona-fide MIDI keyboard with full-size keys, a professional editing suite, a kick-ass sample library or two, and some other stuff I've barely touched. (Not to mention the acoustic guitar, for that matter; I sold the electrics a month ago.)

So what's stopping me? Time, mostly, I guess. But I also find myself paralyzed by knowledge. I know a lot more about music theory than I used to in the days that I just slapped notes and chords together. For instance, I never knew what a "fugue" really was, so anytime I wrote something contrapuntal, I'd call it a "fugue." I also didn't know what you "needed" to do to introduce key changes, so I would just change keys as the whim struck me. And finally, I didn't know how to play the piano. That meant I just wrote stuff on staves and then had the computer play it out loud, and if I didn't like it, I'd make changes.

Now, I rely on Apple Loops in Soundtrack and GarageBand because they sound so much better than anything I could make myself, and they're a lot quicker. But I've lost the soul, and the joy, of composition in the process.

1 comment:

Godfrey said...

It's kind of funny you should say that. I used to be a by-the-book, theory-first kind of guy. I always worked with staves, spending stupid amounts of time on making sure I was free of parallel fifths and octaves, and so on.

Then I got some kick-ass sample libraries, and the last several things I've written have come from noodling around on an instrument until I come up with something I like, figuring out a chord structure, and then noodling around on the other instruments until they give me the sound I'm looking for.

It's entirely unlike the way I was taught to compose music, but I'm much happier with the results. And I get them faster, too.

If keyboard's still not your thing, look around for some other options. I took piano lessons from a young age, but once I discovered MIDI, my keyboard technique went right down the toilet from disuse. While I've still got enough playing ability to do single lines with one hand, and the other one riding the Mod wheel, I love my WX5 and can't imagine playing woodwind or brass parts without it. If I were a better guitarist, I'd be sorely tempted by some of the MIDI guitars they've got nowadays.