I know how to make electronic music. So how do I make electronic music?
January 28, 2015 5:28 PM   Subscribe

I want to read, watch, or hear things that teach or discuss how to make electronic music. But from a creative or structural perspective, not a solely technical perspective.

So, I finally feel comfortable in the mechanics of Reaper, my software of choice. But electronic music! It's so overwhelming! The slate is blank! A DAW is just this giant ridiculous menagerie of sounds and possibilities!

Almost everything I've seen is actually just technical directions, helping you figure out how to do what you want in your DAW-- but this presupposes that you know what you want to do.

The analogy of this to, say, the acoustic world might be seeking information on how folk songs are typically constructed, rather than something that tells you how to physically fret a guitar with your hand.

What can I read or watch that will help me get a little foothold into anything? Just by way of one random example-- beats! What makes a good one? What are common electronic rhythmic tropes? What process does one artist or another go through to create a beat? etc. etc.

I know people are going to ask what genre I'm talking about, but I'm open to anything, whether it's experimental sound collage, dubstep, ambient drone, pop remixes-- whatever. I just want something informative, inspiring, or interesting.

Thanks a ton!
posted by threeants to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Ableton has tutorials on its site. Focused on Live, of course, but there's a demo available. You might learn some general principles this way.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 5:35 PM on January 28, 2015

I asked a similar question a few years ago that you might find useful.
posted by alligatorman at 5:42 PM on January 28, 2015

Best answer: You might want to look at the "Beat Dissected" and "Breakdown" columns in Attack magazine.
posted by neroli at 8:08 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In not-necessarily-electronic music one of the things people do is listen and imitate. So pick a piece (maybe something short and simple that's a good representative of the genre you're interested in, whatever, the important thing is that you like it enough to listen to it repeatedly), then try to break it down into parts and write down as much as you can. (So, figure out the meter, transcribe the bass line, figure out what the different drum sounds and which beats they're falling on. Identify the building blocks and write an outline (e.g., 8-bar intro, 16-bar verse, 16-bar chorus, 16-bar verse, 8-bar bridge, 16-bar chorus, 8-bar coda).). If you're like me this is a slow, painstaking process, but very interesting.

Then try to write something simple in the same style using what you've learned, e.g., by plugging your own ideas into a similar outline. It may not be a masterpiece, that's OK, it's an exercise to help understand how the genre works.
posted by bfields at 7:12 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

You may want to think about taking a class. Berklee College of Music has several, including this one for $$ and several others for free. MIT also has some classes available through OpenCourseWare, such as this one. Your local adult education center or music school may offer others.
posted by acridrabbit at 8:36 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have the previous edition of the Dance Music Manual and I think it would help you get started.
posted by doctord at 10:36 AM on January 29, 2015

Best answer: I would argue strongly against the "listen and imitate" strategy. Electronic music already suffers from everyone sounding like everyone else, and you should start trying to find your own voice from the very start.

I think you need to explore this as a scientist - or as an improviser, pick your name.

Pick a feature of your DAW/plug-in/etc setup, any feature you like - experiment with it until you know exactly how it works - and then write a very short piece "about" this feature. The feature might be a delay, it might be a drum sound or a routing technique or anything... just try to write a short piece, perhaps just a few seconds long, that shows off this feature.

Now pick another feature, repeat. Build your own patch, experiment with that, repeat. You'll start to develop a library of tiny pieces that are attached, not to imitations of other people, but to specific parts of your technical toolkit.

It's exactly like experimenting with short riffs on an instrument in order to be a better improviser.

Once you've written a couple of dozen 10 and 20-second pieces, you can start to put together these ideas into a few bigger projects. At a certain point, a full project will start to flow and then you can figure out how to make the pieces fit together as seamlessly or seamfully as you want.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:16 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses.

On the imitation front, Beat Dissected seems really cool and it's neat to see different genres laid out in form-based terms like that.

On the non-imitation front, I love lupus_yonderboy's idea of building up a foundation of little electronic ├ętudes.
posted by threeants at 6:07 PM on January 29, 2015

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