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Discussion Starter #1
I’ve composed a grand total of one tune, twenty years ago, but would like to do more. I’ve got lots of snippets of melody and chords on Music Memos and would like to start stitching them into something more complete.

I was thinking maybe GarageBand could help with this. (Recording piano, sax and flute parts myself, and adding midi drums and bass to create a "model") Maybe the Notion app, too, to notate the tunes.

Does this sound like an okay approach? Are there any books or courses or composing groups that might help? Composing seems daunting, so I’m looking for all the help I can get.

Thx for any suggestions!
 

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If you have chord snippets, or a progression in mind, then something like iReal Pro or Band in a Box might be helpful - you get an "instant" rhythm section, and you can develop your melody around it. If you start with melody and then go in search of chords, then Garage Band might help, though I find it clumsy to use. There are better DAW choices, and some of them (Reaper for example) are quite inexpensive. Don't count out Logic if you are on a Mac - it's not too expensive. Of course, these kinds of programs take time to learn - that's true of Garage Band as well.

I wrote and recorded an entire tune in Garage Band on iPad - it was quite frustrating, but it came out OK. It was more to prove a point than to find a better way to capture my compositions, and I won't be doing that again :) Editing was very difficult... and in some cases quite frustrating (for example, I used an instrument that had gestural controls, and I couldn't copy the MIDI data to another part for doubling up the sound). Here it is, with my rather poor soprano playing recorded into the mic on the iPad.

Seventh Haven

If you "think" in notation, then you might try MuseScore instead of Notion. You could put down a simple track in that and then write the tune as it pleases you - the sounds that come with it are quite plain, but you get the picture. You could import a MIDI file from iReal Pro or Band in a Box too, if it's easier to try to write melodies with notation than to play them in. The notation capabilities of the DAW programs are not worth the effort in my opinion, though I know people that use Logic to create parts for people to play. Not for the faint of heart...

Good luck and keep us posted!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
This is terrific, Steve, thanks! Just the kind of advice I was hoping to get. Had to look up "DAW," that's how new this is. (Digital Audio Workstation in case I'm not the only one who didn't know.) Also, nice solo on your piece, really enjoyed that.

I'm sorry to hear that Garage Band was frustrating, though, since I was hoping that would be an easy solution. I guess with all these DAW programs, it's just a matter of diving in and learning as you play around with them. But if there are any resources (tutorials, books, etc) to help learn any of them, please let me know. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
If anyone has other resources to suggest for getting started with composing tunes, I’d love to know. Did you just start tinkering with chords and melodies, or did you find some kind of help or instruction?
 

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Sometimes I just mess around with chords on the piano and sing lines.
Some of my best melodies have come while walking or swimming.
When I was attending the Grove school I had to come up with melodies/harmonies every week.
With any endeavor; if it needs to happen the creative juices will flow.
I did listen to a lot of music in each genre that was assigned.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sometimes I just mess around with chords on the piano and sing lines.
Some of my best melodies have come while walking or swimming.
When I was attending the Grove school I had to come up with melodies/harmonies every week.
With any endeavor; if it needs to happen the creative juices will flow.
I did listen to a lot of music in each genre that was assigned.
Thx, it helped just to hear that, since it demystifies the process.
 

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I have done some composing using Finale. For those of us who don't have "piano chops" it makes it much easier hear and play back what we have written. The synth sounds are excellent and you can print a professional looking score and parts right from your computer.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yes, it’s learning piano that’s gotten me interested in composing tunes. Started out as a way to better understand harmony and hear the music better. Now it’s become a mild obsession and to think I might combine live instruments (sax, flute & piano) with all the sounds in a DAW is mind-blowing.

I’m just wanting to make sure I’m not missing any resources that might scoot me along the learning curve a little faster. Not that there’s any destination. . . .
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I’ve composed a grand total of one tune, twenty years ago, but would like to do more. I’ve got lots of snippets of melody and chords on Music Memos and would like to start stitching them into something more complete.

I was thinking maybe GarageBand could help with this. (Recording piano, sax and flute parts myself, and adding midi drums and bass to create a "model") Maybe the Notion app, too, to notate the tunes.

Does this sound like an okay approach? Are there any books or courses or composing groups that might help? Composing seems daunting, so I’m looking for all the help I can get.

Thx for any suggestions!
I've been composing (mostly for TV/film/commercials) for over 30 years now. I have some articles and resources that may help (which were part of what I sued when I taught compostion at universities)

You can see those here:

https://mediamusicforum.com/

I think Garageband is ideal to start with, but its big brother Logic will be most useful creatively - and you won't need Notion or other score software as notation is all bundled in with logic MIDI/DAW.

I find it works well to not have a specific method, or rather use a plethora of methods. I have got inspirartion from

  • Just finding a new sound on module or loop
  • Playing my saxophone
  • Coming up with a chord sequence on piano
  • Composing pastiche (be careful about copying though)
  • Bass line or riff.

I was also an avid reader of any theory book from Earlr Hagen, Henry Mancini to Rimsky-Korsakof and Adler.

Modern sound libraries are quite amazing for learning orchestration, whether it's conventional or totally out there.

Best of luck!
 

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The more electronics, computer programs, etc. used, means less of your creativity going into the product.
Somebody forgot to tell that to Grammy winner and musical genius Jacob Collier whose masterpieces wouldn't be possible without computer programs.
 

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Somebody forgot to tell that to Grammy winner and musical genius Jacob Collier whose masterpieces wouldn't be possible without computer programs.
Are you trying to tell me that Jacob Collier wrote Moon River?
And uh... Milli Vanilli won a Grammy.

We're talking composing, not simply arranging.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
This is fantastic, thanks very much for these resources and advice. I'm excited to learn that notation software is embedded in Logic. Thanks again!



I've been composing (mostly for TV/film/commercials) for over 30 years now. I have some articles and resources that may help (which were part of what I sued when I taught compostion at universities)

You can see those here:

https://mediamusicforum.com/

I think Garageband is ideal to start with, but its big brother Logic will be most useful creatively - and you won't need Notion or other score software as notation is all bundled in with logic MIDI/DAW.

I find it works well to not have a specific method, or rather use a plethora of methods. I have got inspirartion from

  • Just finding a new sound on module or loop
  • Playing my saxophone
  • Coming up with a chord sequence on piano
  • Composing pastiche (be careful about copying though)
  • Bass line or riff.

I was also an avid reader of any theory book from Earlr Hagen, Henry Mancini to Rimsky-Korsakof and Adler.

Modern sound libraries are quite amazing for learning orchestration, whether it's conventional or totally out there.

Best of luck!
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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This is fantastic, thanks very much for these resources and advice. I'm excited to learn that notation software is embedded in Logic. Thanks again!
You're welcome

Another thing that has really helped me has been to become a sort of multi instrumentalist. Even if you are not a "master" at everything, it's wonderful to be able to add some reality to the programmed stuff. Obviously I use session musicians when necessary but it's been great when sketching stuff out to play a bit of rhythm guitar, bad clarinet, bongos, bass plus odd things like jews harp, spoons, fish etc.

So after doing a sketch or demo, I will then decide whether to keep my rough stuff, program something or get a seesion player. Often the rough stuff is actually better in reagrd to character.
 

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The more electronics, computer programs, etc. used, means less of your creativity going into the product.
I agree, I find that if I'm trying to use different instruments to write music with, I'm constrained by what that instrument does, and/or my chops on it. You have to know instrument ranges and what's playable on them, of course, but the way it works for me is to go straight to score, with the little band in my head playing away. At that, I'm kind of transposing what's in my head to the score. Downside is, if the little band in my head isn't playing, I'm not writing.
 

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Are you trying to tell me that Jacob Collier wrote Moon River?
And uh... Milli Vanilli won a Grammy.

We're talking composing, not simply arranging.
Because one act fooled the entire world (including you), Grammys are meaningless. Nice one.

And composing and arranging don't overlap at all. Gotcha.

He has albums full of originals all using the same composition process, possible only with a computer. Such tools have enhanced his creative output, not diminished it. My own composing would take much longer without a computer. But if pen and paper make you more creative, that's great. I disagree with your assertion that modern tools ruin creativity.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
This is good validation for my decision to work on sax (tenor & alto), flute and piano simultaneously. It seemed a little much, given time constraints, but the idea of combining them with the program sounds is a big incentive to keep them all going. Thx!

Also, your idea of creating a "sketch" with the DAW, followed by studio recording is exactly what I’m hoping to do, especially since I’d rather focus on playing and composing than on audio engineering.

You're welcome

Another thing that has really helped me has been to become a sort of multi instrumentalist. Even if you are not a "master" at everything, it's wonderful to be able to add some reality to the programmed stuff. Obviously I use session musicians when necessary but it's been great when sketching stuff out to play a bit of rhythm guitar, bad clarinet, bongos, bass plus odd things like jews harp, spoons, fish etc.

So after doing a sketch or demo, I will then decide whether to keep my rough stuff, program something or get a seesion player. Often the rough stuff is actually better in reagrd to character.
 

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Couple of points to add:

1) Notation in Logic is very difficult to work with (for me, anyway, and I used to program a notation app!) I prefer to use MuseScore if I'm going to start by notating music, or if I'm creating parts.

2) The sketching idea is great. A few simple block chords, or a bass line, can be a lot of fun to play over, and find the melody lurking inside.

3) If you have a chord progression in mind, a program like iReal Pro (very inexpensive) can provide a bass line, or piano part, or drum part, or the entire rhythm section. Export to MIDI, import into Logic (or other sequencer/DAW), and play around.

4) Work on your piano chops. This will enable you to be much more free inside the composing environment, whether it be Logic or MuseScore or something else.

As for whether it's possible to be "truly creative" within a computer environment, I humbly submit this arrangement (yes, Grumps, it's "just an arrangement") of Come Fly with Me.

Fly Me

Also, there are a ton of useful videos out there to help with learning this approach to composing. Spitfire Audio, a purveyor of (quite expensive) orchestral sample libraries has a bunch of tutorial videos that are chock full of great clues; here's one that might help get you started. Yes it's pointed at orchestral writing, but writing for a jazz rhythm section, in a DAW, is very similar.


Finally, there is nothing wrong with a music paper notebook and pencil, and I still use them a lot. But once an idea has progressed to the point that I want to expand it, on goes the Mac and up comes Logic. Have fun!
 

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I disagree with your assertion that modern tools ruin creativity.
And I disagree with your characterization of what I wrote and everything else you've expressed here... which wasn't on topic and is now veering even farther off course. Just take the hit and move on.
 
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