Composers, musicians, songwriters
: What steps do you take to create a piece of music from scratch? Additional questions about working as a composer, music software, planning processes, etc. inside.
posted by matticulate to Work & Money (23 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
[This is a multi-faceted question and I apologize in advance for the disorganized nature of this post. However, it is precisely because I am so confused about the nuances of modern-day music composition that I ask all these questions.]
I have always had an interest in music composition and sound design (which I would ideally like to pursue a career in) but find myself lost, confused, and hesitant to start because I don’t know how to. I was a music performance minor at USC, where I took a composition class and a few theory classes that required music writing, but often felt that there was a more “advanced,” contemporary approach to writing music that I didn’t know about (I would sit down at the piano with staff paper and a pencil and just jot down ideas that came to mind… but I would frequently either lose steam or completely forget an idea that I just had).
My composition professor has stated that the composition process is really “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” I am interested in knowing what specific steps go into the “99% perspiration” component of music composition and how modern-day composers approach their work.
A little background on my musical credentials and preferences:
I have been playing the piano for over 10 years. I have both a classical and jazz background, I am fluent in all 12 keys, I can sightread very well (both sheet music and chord symbols), I have a good sense of rhythm but am not very familiar with complex or odd time signatures (5/4, 7/4, etc.), and have good voice leading sensibilities. I have a very strong grasp of Western harmony through hours of self-study and coursework in music theory. I don’t have perfect pitch, but I have a good ear and can pick up pitches well enough to transcribe melodies accurately. I improvise every time I practice and would love to incorporate some of these ideas into a complete, structured composition.
I really admire the work of composers like Nobuo Uematsu, Joe Hisaishi, Koji Kondo, Matt Uelmen (mostly composers in interactive media). I have read interviews of how they made it in composition but they don’t really elaborate on the process of their work. What techniques/programs do they use, and who are the people they need to work with?
So, how can I apply the musical skills and knowledge I have towards creating an original piece of music? What other musical skills should I develop in addition to those I currently have?
I have a number of additional questions on this topic, specifically:
1) I don’t have a Mac. Should I get a Mac if I’m serious about music composition, or is a PC sufficient for extended levels of music composition?
2) What software recommendations do you have for composing music (Logic, Pro Tools, Garage Band, etc.)? What are the differences?
3) DAWs, music sequencers, sound libraries. Where can I find these? Are there music sequencers that transcribe notes as I layer tracks together? Is there software where I could lay down a few tracks in Garage Band and have it laid out in sheet music form, like Finale would?
4) What general equipment / hardware is required for good quality recording? I currently only own an 88-key Korg SP-250 keyboard, which has MIDI capabilities.
5) How important is it that learn to play other instruments? I only know how to play the piano. If I had the time and money, I would learn to play guitar and drums in a heartbeat, but would programs like Pro Tools obviate the need to learn how to play another instrument?
6) Licensing. How do organizations like ASCAP protect my music from being plagiarized?
7) What book recommendations do you have for music composition? I’m looking for process, not music theory, harmony, or the like.
8) Is the pencil/paper approach still widely used, or has it given way to electronic techniques? I wrote a few compositions in college, which I had played on the piano and scored completely by hand, but I remembered how excruciating it was to jot down new ideas in random spots on staff paper, only to have to rewrite everything on fresh manuscript.
9) How do you plan out your compositions? How do you decide what instruments you want to use and how long you want your piece to be?
10) Do full-time music composer/sound designer positions exist, or do these fields primarily entail freelance work? For those of you who are composers, can you please briefly detail the nature of your work? How does one find work as a composer and get a foot in the industry's door?
Sorry that I’m asking so many questions! There’s just a ton that I want to learn about the field, and I really want to get started as soon as I can. Please don’t feel obliged to answer every question in my post. I’ll come back and follow up from time to time, depending on the responses. If there are other online resources I might direct my question to, please let me know!
Suggestions / reflections from your own experiences and familiarity with music composition and sound design would be greatly appreciated.