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Anderton

Composing vs. Recording vs. Mixing with a DAW

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This is based on a post I made in the SONAR forum, but it was kind of a tangent to that thread so I thought I'd see what folks here thought. For me, music is all about inspiration and songwriting is all about [I]speed of capture. [/I]I might be messing around on guitar and come up with some chord progression I really like, or a melody line. It used to be I would capture that inspiration by fleshing out the song on guitar or keyboard, but now I turn on the computer and capture it. During the composition process, I lay down tracks as fast as possible, with as little "thinking" as possible. (This is why I use SONAR; for whatever reason, it lets me stay in right brain mode more easily than other programs.) This process is mostly about getting notes and ideas down, I'm not concerned about tone, plug-ins, etc. (That approach is what inspired me to come up with my own amp sim designs so I could drag 'n' drop stuff and at least get close to what I wanted.) After the composition process is done, then I start replacing tracks with the "real" ones where I do pay close attention to playing cleanly and getting good sounds. But the pressure is off to be inspired; I've [I]already[/I] been inspired and captured it. The song has a direction and shape. At this point I'm more like a studio musician coming in and lending my expertise to a project. Finally there's the mixing, and that's the part where yes, you can take forever doing little tweaks and such. But the mix develops in parallel with the track replacement stage, so when it comes time to stop replacing and start mixing, I'm most of the way there. But I would [I]never[/I] attempt to develop a mix during the composition process. For me, that's the quickest way to kill inspiration.

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My workflow is about the same except that I really try to commit to the sound the first time around, getting it really good, as that is largely what inspires me. I also throw down the sound by sticking mics in front, something that is apparently considered "old fashioned" now that people routinely replace amp models and effects. I usually record the instruments as is, and probably record effects like delays about 80% of the time as well. I know what I want.

 

Commit, commit. :D

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The only problem with that is the ideas come faster than the setup time required. But when I enter the second phase of replacing tracks, that's when I put a lot of attention into the sound. The more work I put into it there, the less work I need to put into mixing. Again, I already know the part I want to play, so I don't lose the "inspired" part of the equation.

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That is true. That's the reason I usually do set up the day before.

 

I also find it easier to be creative if I'm not wearing so many hats, as I know you do. I set up for numerous things, and then the next day, I create. I keep everything set up for a while so I can just flick a few switches and start creating right away.

 

If someone is going DI, then there's no real reason for this, but that's not my personal preference. But with DI, you can tweak the sounds and sounds that you feel are ideal.

 

But don't get me wrong, I'll replace stuff sometimes in the "third" wave. It happens. You just want something different, more ideas, a different sound, whatever. During this third phase, we sometimes also re-amp if we have gone DI (usually the bass or keyboards).

Edited by UstadKhanAli

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For me, music is all about inspiration

 

 

Me too.

I use the DAW for arranging.

Trying out different musical ideas for songs that I'm working on.

 

songwriting is all about speed of capture.

 

 

Well some of my songs come really quickly.

Others may take a while.

 

I'm really excited because I just wrote a bridge for a song I started writing in 1979.

I didn't write the chorus section until 2006. biggrin.gif

Edited by Folder

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I use a DAW for the same thing and I found Cakewalk to be the easiest changing over from analog since the beginning. I use several different methods for composing however. I may jot down quick ideas like you do or I may develop things from other angles. I may get ideas playing the guitar solo then finding the other parts that fit that groove. Other times I find a suitable groove and find the music that way. Having a drum track or beat going often inspires chord patterns which in turn builds into a song.

 

I often plug in with absolutely no idea of what I'm going to play, put up a drum beat and bingo, from within those beats I hear the notes and/or chord progressions come forth as though they have already been there all along. I may record a half dozen to a dozen songs that way with just the drums and chords then go back and write the rest. Out of the bunch I may get one or two keepers that get completed to fine details. Others my run out of steam and get archived for another day or scratched off the list.

 

Other times I may just be sitting back in my easy chair doodeling on the guitar. I find some unique riff or pattern I want to use so I jot the tabs down in a notebook I keep handy. I may get 10 or 20 of these partial glimpses of good stuff together and bring the book into the studio and use it as a kick start to get new projects going. I get a beat that might work and force the parts to work together. Other times my original ideas may not be so hot with say a rock song so I may change it to a reggae or Latin beat and there it was all along and it fits like a glove.

 

This process for me isn't unique to a DAW however. I used the same techniques for writing all through my analog years as well. I can trace it back to the first few songs I wrote and in most cases it was most successful playing with other players who had the same kind of skills. The ability to jam, and the ability to control and throttle the music they hear in their minds. There are times when it audible ideas flow faster then you can capture it, but a well disciplined mind can vary the speed of that aural image.

 

There are discipline techniques that can train you to take control over this flow of ideas. Instead of it being a fleeting glimpse that passes you like a flash or light you can learn to slow it down or accelerate it to any speed you want. It does take practice however.

 

There is a book that teaches this control. I bought a copy maybe 30 years ago called "Seeing with the Minds Eye" The history, techniques and uses of Visualization by Mike Samuels M.D and Nancy Samuels. http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Minds-Eye-Techniques-Visualization/dp/0394731131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430659037&sr=8-1&keywords=seeing+with+the+mind%27s+eye

 

The book gives you some basic mind focusing techniques which is something anyone from a writer of a Novel to a Movie director can benefit from. I found the techniques to work equally well in controlling audible imagery. If you do have fleeting ideas for songs and you have to rush to capture, then this discipline of thought should allow you to slow it down to any speed you need.

 

There are other ways of developing the same kind of self control over thoughts. Many have been passed down through history. Many in music involved discipline in Mathematics, Philosophy, Religion but all that extra baggage really isn't needed. You just have to practice the three dimensional visualization techniques. Once you learn them for visual images you simply apply them to audio images.

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I often plug in with absolutely no idea of what I'm going to play, put up a drum beat and bingo, from within those beats I hear the notes and/or chord progressions come forth as though they have already been there all along. I may record a half dozen to a dozen songs that way with just the drums and chords then go back and write the rest. Out of the bunch I may get one or two keepers that get completed to fine details. Others my run out of steam and get archived for another day or scratched off the list.

 

For me, one of the biggest aids to inspiration was when drum machines replaced metronomes :)

 

 

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This process for me isn't unique to a DAW however. I used the same techniques for writing all through my analog years as well. I can trace it back to the first few songs I wrote and in most cases it was most successful playing with other players who had the same kind of skills. The ability to jam, and the ability to control and throttle the music they hear in their minds. There are times when it audible ideas flow faster then you can capture it, but a well disciplined mind can vary the speed of that aural image.

 

There are discipline techniques that can train you to take control over this flow of ideas. Instead of it being a fleeting glimpse that passes you like a flash or light you can learn to slow it down or accelerate it to any speed you want. It does take practice however.

 

There is a book that teaches this control. I bought a copy maybe 30 years ago called "Seeing with the Minds Eye" The history, techniques and uses of Visualization by Mike Samuels M.D and Nancy Samuels. http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Minds-Eye-Techniques-Visualization/dp/0394731131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430659037&sr=8-1&keywords=seeing+with+the+mind%27s+eye

 

I need to check out that book. I would find that technique really helpful in terms of writing text. I can think faster than I can type, and a lot of times the thoughts at the end of the queue get lost in the ether.

 

 

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For me, one of the biggest aids to inspiration was when drum machines replaced metronomes :)

 

 

I think they make fantastic metronomes, giving you a good, strong idea of the groove.

 

If I must use a click, I usually replace it with something like a shaker. People respond to it much better, I think.

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I write entire songs on guitar. Once I've written a song I pretty much know how it will sound once recorded. I use the DAW to record and mix only. I try to keep mixing simple and I get bored if it's taking too long

 

Posted from on holiday in Tenerife :)

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I've been writing consistently for less than 6 months. I write a musical sketch - usually from 2 to 8 bars. Then I play around with it. Maybe write another sketch - I alternate between 2 notebooks and actually notate the music. I put sketches together like combining Legos - how I like to think of it anyway. Sometimes I'll record what I've come up with on my Olympus LS-100 and upload it to Soundcloud. I'll listen to it while I'm brushing my teeth, shaving, whatever. I may decide to change it, or keep it as is.

Once I've settled on how the complete piece is "configured", I notate the various sketches as one contiguous piece. It's a system that has been working well for me.

Edited by davd_indigo

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Once I've written a song I pretty much know how it will sound once recorded.

 

Not me.

 

Once I've written a song I pretty much know the song structure but I usually have no idea how it will sound once recorded.

 

Once I've written a song the arrangement process starts. I usually have the harmonic structure figured out and there are usually crucial elements like a riff or motif but many times I have to decide what style and tempo I want to record it in. Should it be a rock song or should it be a mellow ballad? Then I have to come up with rhythm parts, bass lines, guitar parts, keyboard parts, sound effects, etc.. etc... Of course I'm usually doing it all myself and it can take a long time.

 

When I work with other musicians it's usually much easier because they contribute their ideas and the process is much quicker.

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When I work with other musicians it's usually much easier because they contribute their ideas and the process is much quicker.

 

IMHO nothing beats collaboration, even a long distance one like some I've done with Mark.

 

 

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Composing

 

I totally agree with you regarding the importance of speed here Craig. A DAW can be a great compositional tool, but I think it really comes down to the preferences and working style of the individual. I still occasionally write with nothing more than a pencil, some paper, and an acoustic guitar or piano. It's how I first learned to do it, and it still works for me. However, I also find it inspiring to throw up a drum beat / pattern and jam along with that as I try to come up with ideas.

 

The other thing that the DAW has done for me is to replace the cassette deck I used to use for recording song ideas. I occasionally use my phone's voice memo app for that (which is great when you're on the go), but if you're at home and can fire up the DAW rig fast enough (which is one of the bigger downsides of a DAW as a compositional tool / aid IMO), you may as well use that - and then you've already got the ideas down in the computer, where it's easy to work on arrangements. As with editing, DAWs are fantastic for that; it's easy to copy and paste things in various ways and put the song elements into different orders until you find the song sequence that works for you (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.), the instrumental combinations, etc.

 

 

Recording

 

Sonic discussions aside, I don't find it any more difficult to record with a DAW than with analog equipment. Most of what is involved with recording happens outside of the actual recorder anyway; room selection and placement within the room, optimizing the sound source(s), mic selection and positioning, gain staging the preamp and outboard processors, etc. The recorder usually just functions as the capture and storage device, although their support functions can make various parts of the recording process easier. DAWs usually have the advantage here. A DAW usually offers better looping / multi-take capabilities than even the best reel to reel decks. Their level and metering options are often quite good as well. They typically offer great auto-punch capabilities too, although the concept of a "punch" is hardly what it once was. Of course, one of their big downsides is that people tend to be tempted to focus on looking at the screen instead of focusing in on what they're hearing with their ears.

 

A subset of recording is editing, and IMHO, nothing can touch a DAW for that. I don't miss demagnetized scissors, razor blades, splicing blocks, splicing tape and occasional cut fingers in the slightest.

 

 

Mixing

 

I miss the immediacy of a large format console, and the one to one control paradigm. A control surface helps quite a bit, but it's still not quite the same thing, although you're less likely to have to move in and out of the monitoring sweet spot with a small control surface than with a big board. DAW automation is very useful for mixing - before the DAW revolution, most people who didn't work in pro-level studios had little to no experience with the power of automation, and most prosumer grade options were limited to mutes, and if you were lucky, levels. DAWs let you automate pretty much anything you may want to control and adjust. Another DAW advantage is that plugins are not limited in the same way hardware devices are - with one hardware compressor, you can use it on one channel when tracking, and on another when mixing, but that's it - with plugins, you can use them on as many channels at once as the system supports. Of course, with nearly unlimited automation and plugins, the temptation is to go too far and process too much, or over-tweak the mix.

 

My mixing as you go along approach is somewhat different when I'm recording someone else than it is when self-recording. When I'm self-recording, the focus is usually more about getting the ideas or the performances down, and I try to be less distracted by the engineering side of things. Because of that, I tend to not spend too much time trying to set up the preliminaries of the mix as I track when working by myself, although I still am giving some thought to how the parts I'm tracking will work and fit in with everything else. When I'm not involved as a musician, I'm able to focus more on setting up higher quality rough mixes as the tracking sessions proceed.

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Maybe its because music is a hobby, but I just can't walk into our music room and say "Let's write a song". Doesn't happen for me like that. I wish it did. The problem I've had is that the inspiration usually comes when I am nowhere near my guitar or anything musical. Driving down the streat, watching a movie, playing with the grandkids, then all of a sudden in pops an idea. Sometimes (if I'm lucky) I may be close enough to find some paper and pencil.

 

I tried a small hand recorder for a while and it was like the inspiration spigot was shut off. For about 6 months I was carrying it around everywhere I went and nothing happened. Not even a BAD idea. Finally the batteries died and we put it in a drawer. Then within a week the ideas started to flow. AARRGGHH!

 

I really believe my mind is working against me here. Lost a bunch of good ideas, but the ones I was able to remember I really liked the way they turned out. Maybe its a built in filter. ;)

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Maybe its because music is a hobby, but I just can't walk into our music room and say "Let's write a song". Doesn't happen for me like that. I wish it did. The problem I've had is that the inspiration usually comes when I am nowhere near my guitar or anything musical. Driving down the streat, watching a movie, playing with the grandkids, then all of a sudden in pops an idea. Sometimes (if I'm lucky) I may be close enough to find some paper and pencil.

 

I tried a small hand recorder for a while and it was like the inspiration spigot was shut off. For about 6 months I was carrying it around everywhere I went and nothing happened. Not even a BAD idea. Finally the batteries died and we put it in a drawer. Then within a week the ideas started to flow. AARRGGHH!

 

I really believe my mind is working against me here. Lost a bunch of good ideas, but the ones I was able to remember I really liked the way they turned out. Maybe its a built in filter. ;)

 

I don't think I've ever sat down and said I'm going to write a piece of music but whenever I pick up an instrument I usually start tinkering around with musical phrases. I might just play a few partial chords or play around with a scale and think "Hey that sounds kind of cool, wonder if I can develop this into something?" I think what makes a song writer is having the ability to hear something musical and then being able develop it into a complete song.

 

The vast majority of my ideas never get developed beyond just a riff or a few chords and I've lost or forgotten way more than I've ever remembered or been able to develop any further. Sometimes I'll listen to old ideas stored on a recorder or hard drive and think what the heck is this all about? It makes no sense to me but at the time I recorded it I must have been hearing it differently.

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I tried a small hand recorder for a while and it was like the inspiration spigot was shut off. For about 6 months I was carrying it around everywhere I went and nothing happened. Not even a BAD idea. Finally the batteries died and we put it in a drawer. Then within a week the ideas started to flow. AARRGGHH!

 

 

:lol:

 

Isn't that just how it goes sometimes? :) Maybe you could get away with it by using your smartphone. Just remember to keep telling yourself that the device in your pocket is your phone, not a portable recorder... but if you're too successful with that, the danger is that the next time you come up with an idea you'll forget that your phone can function as a portable recorder, won't record it, and will forget the idea. ;)

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Composing

 

I still occasionally write with nothing more than a pencil, some paper, and an acoustic guitar or piano. It's how I first learned to do it, and it still works for me. .

 

Me too, but seeing as I don't really read or write music very well half the time when I try to play it later it's just a bunch of non-musical gibberish.:(

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I don't think I've ever sat down and said I'm going to write a piece of music but whenever I pick up an instrument I usually start tinkering around with musical phrases.

 

I often have songs happen and when I'm done with them, have no idea of how they got there. Seriously. A lot of times when I go to mix I'm not even sure what I did to lay down particular parts. Those tend to be the songs I like the best.

 

 

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Maybe its because music is a hobby, but I just can't walk into our music room and say "Let's write a song". Doesn't happen for me like that. I wish it did. The problem I've had is that the inspiration usually comes when I am nowhere near my guitar or anything musical. Driving down the streat, watching a movie, playing with the grandkids, then all of a sudden in pops an idea. Sometimes (if I'm lucky) I may be close enough to find some paper and pencil.

 

I tried a small hand recorder for a while and it was like the inspiration spigot was shut off. For about 6 months I was carrying it around everywhere I went and nothing happened. Not even a BAD idea. Finally the batteries died and we put it in a drawer. Then within a week the ideas started to flow. AARRGGHH!

 

I really believe my mind is working against me here. Lost a bunch of good ideas, but the ones I was able to remember I really liked the way they turned out. Maybe its a built in filter. wink.png

 

Picker, I'm going to suggest that you just try and choose a model. Seems I read that McCartney wished he'd written "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and the result was "Let It Be". The idea sparked that other great song. Lennon said he wrote the 1st line of "I Am The Walrus" on an acid trip one weekend, the 2nd line on an acid trip the next weekend, and filled in the rest after he met Yoko (I checked this in the BeatlesBIble). I also read that Lennon said that "Yes It Is" was a failed attempt at a rewrite of "This Boy".

 

Even if you write music you think is bad, you will learn something from it. If you work at it consistently enough, you will develop your mind's ear. The trial and error process of trying out different combinations of chords, or whatever you're trying out, will develop your ears. You'll learn a lot more by trying to write another "Smoke On The Water" than just learning to play it.

Edited by davd_indigo

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The creative process… the actual writing of a song comes to me best with paper and pen in hand with a guitar on my lap. Getting a computer or any other recording device involved destroys the entire creative process so I tend to wait for most of the song to be written before I record anything. Then when I`m recording parts, I`ll start to mix as I go along and somewhere along the process of recording parts I realize its time to let it go and develop a rough mix. Then I`ll go back and tweak it here and there.

 

To me, that 1st creative burst is where all the magic is and that is the essence of the song (the feel) that must be captured later in the recording process as well and hopefully carried over to the mix.

 

Admittedly, this is the ideal for me but it doesn`t always play out that way.

Edited by Ernest Buckley
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The actual writing of a song comes to me best with paper and pen in hand with a guitar on my lap. Getting a computer or any other recording device involved destroys the entire creative process

 

Can you elaborate as to what causes the destruction?

 

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Can you elaborate as to what causes the destruction?

 

Writing with paper and pen with guitar in hand is a very pure state for me. This is where I get most of my ideas for a song and its where I feel most inspired. I can feel the creative juice dissipate just turning the computer on. Once a DAW is involved my brain is no longer focused solely on the song, now I`ve got to think about sounds, arming tracks, levels, etc…. and no longer about that initial spark.

 

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This tends to be the way I do it too. I usually start with lyrics and then wander over to the piano to search for the right music. Once the basic structure is there, only then will I turn on the computer.

 

But something always get changed once I start recording. Always. Most often it's something to do with the melody. I'll have the basic vocal and piano track recorded, then I'll start adding the other parts. That's when I hear something about the melody I don't like, and go back and change it, usually multiple times. The DAW is a great tool, in that it allows you to take a step back and listen to what you've got...the downside is that it allows you to be more indecisive. I'm now at the point where I'm not entirely confident I could write a song that I'm completely happy with, without the aid of the DAW, and that bugs me a bit.

 

But it's like anything else...any method of doing things will come with its own set of upsides and downsides...there is no definitive "best" approach, especially when it comes to artistic pursuits.

Edited by kurdy
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For me, music is all about inspiration and songwriting is all about speed of capture. I might be messing around on guitar and come up with some chord progression I really like, or a melody line. It used to be I would capture that inspiration by fleshing out the song on guitar or keyboard, but now I turn on the computer and capture it.

 

There are a lot of good reasons to operate this way. Even back to the multitrack tape days I learned to do basically the same thing. Most of anything I've ever done musically that I would put in the pure genius category I did by accident. By capturing things before they're polished I've been able to stumble across chord progressions and whatnot I would have never done on purpose and I couldn't even repeat them right after discovering them. I still have old tapes where I just hit record and started playing. To hear it you would think I were some kind of virtuoso. Truth be known the best part of a riff may have been when I got tangled in my guitar chord. smile.png

Edited by Beck
Spell check does funny things

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The stream of creativity is pure, open, untainted, limitless...

 

Once a machine is introduced into that stream of creativity, it can no longer be creative, because the machines essence is mechanical. The machine requires a precise process, a step by step chain of events to function. The machine is not pure, open, untainted, limitless...

 

There are two operating systems at work. Therefore, creativity and the machine simply cannot happily exist together.

Edited by Ernest Buckley

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It's interesting to see the different perspectives, and how we define things such as, "Pure." To me our system of music notation and composition with pen and paper is a "Machine" in the sense we have to conform to certain rules as the first step. Since I'm mostly self taught and play by ear I get that there will always be a disconnect between those like me and those that learned to conceptualize music visually, represented by symbols.

 

My ex is a very talented pianist and classically trained singer with a beautiful coloratura soprano voice. She can sight read anything, but could not play by ear at all and never composed a piece of music. She was always fascinated how I could just sit down at the piano and start making something up with no training and no pen and paper. We were opposites that way, so I was around it most of my adult life.

 

I also see recording devices, analog or digital as instruments in their own right. I don't separate in my mind my guitars piano and other keyboards from a sequencer or even an effects processor. The feedback I get from how something initially sounds influences the direction the song will go. It's all auditory for me. I collaborate with myself, but each instrument and track is a different self.

 

I've always heard it said that the human voice is the only pure instrument and the purest way to create music is by humming or singing. Probably a good argument for that. Every instrument we have in some way instructs us where we can go and not go. Being self taught with piano as my first instrument I had some freedom to discover without rules. And yet there are rules by its very design. The human beings that designed the instrument knew the rules and so the instrument itself tells me how to play it but imposes boundaries. Maybe there is no purely self-taught. The designers of the instrument teach you how to navigate it by the design. The instrument is both freeing and limiting Like a railroad track. A train could not function without tracks, but it can’t go anywhere else but where tracks have been laid.

 

Maybe I digress a bit from the topic, but I find it fascinating how individuals conceptualize the creative processes depending on the path they took to get where they are. By the way, I had a tape recorder running nearly from the beginning as I taught myself to play piano. So the idea of capturing as I play goes back to the age of 7 or 8 years old. I'm sure I'll never be able to see it any other way, though I can understand how others can see it another way.

 

Thought for the day: I wonder how someone like Ray Charles conceptualized music composition. I know he learned to "Read" music through brail in grade school, but how did he "see" it? To my knowledge he never wrote any music himself using brail. Someone like that has no choice but to find another way because this "Machine" this body we inhabit also has limitations, more for some than others.

 

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Regarding work flow and composition... some months ago I read about software called NotateMe which is used with a stylus for hand notated music. I ordered a Samsung Note Pro 12 inch tablet with this in mind. Bought the software and began to use it. Rather than notate completely by only "drawing" noteheads and such, I found I preferred using the tap and drag function for entering. After getting some music notated the way I wanted, I discovered that the software's rendering interpreted what it thought I meant to notate. I can't print it out as I notated it - only as the software renders it. So triplet quarter notes were grouped differently than I'd written them. I emailed the support people and they said I should try putting more space between certain notes. Why can't they give me WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)? Midi playback won't allow this. I don't want midi playback.

 

The software was frustrating and useless for my needs. But the advantages to workflow would be many. Saving erasures, allowing insertion of replacement measures, allowing for alternate sections of a piece, etc.

Edited by davd_indigo

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I also see recording devices, analog or digital as instruments in their own right. I don't separate in my mind my guitars piano and other keyboards from a sequencer or even an effects processor.

 

I'm sort of the same way. I see Ernest's point of how machines can get in the way, but of course the limitation of a guitar and a notepad is only the notepad can remember things. It's taken me a lot of effort to become fluent enough with computers to where it feels no different than picking up a guitar. The guitar has the prep work of tuning, and the DAW has the prep work of loading a template that's optimized for writing instead of recording...to my way of thinking, two very different functions.

 

DAWs were based on the tape paradigm for years (just ask Pro Tools) and it took programs like Ableton Live to say "hey, these things can be used for writing, too." One of the main reasons I use SONAR is whether by accident or design, it can be "bent" in the direction of writing as well as recording.

 

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One of the main reasons I use SONAR is whether by accident or design, it can be "bent" in the direction of writing as well as recording.

 

Can you give us an example?

 

I mean don't you still have your guitar or keyboard pugged into SONAR? I sometimes will write something while playing thru an amp sim within SONAR or with a MIDI keyboard plugged into SONAR but I still consider the song to have been written on guitar or keyboard.

 

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Can you give us an example?

 

Great question. Yes, the genesis is still with guitar, keyboard, or mic plugged into SONAR but it's more like a songwriting partner...for example, going through rapid fire key changes quickly to see if a different key works better for my voice, or quick dragging over a drum loop to have something better than a click to play against.

 

 

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Gotta be where you're at while you're there.

 

I've done some of it when I was younger ... playing away at length with a recorder running, experimenting, checking out my reflection in the musical mirror. Panning for golden moments to make something more of.

 

I'm a bit more determined about it right now. I know what I want. Hammer and anvil.

 

I'm not in any hurry, nor am I particularly worried about grabbing ideas before they get away. And for sure if I put a recorder next to the bed to catch the riffs that go by in my sleep, I'll have nothing but a Mustang Cobra, tornadoes and women in my dreams for days.

 

Sometimes the idea comes in a gale and it's all you can do to hang on. Sometimes intellect and skills are more involved, there's some symbiosis of captain, boat and breeze. And sometimes you just have to stick the 'ol oars in the water and try and make headway. Just don't be rowing when you could be sailing.

 

 

I don't have many hangups, that I can do much about anyway. I create with drum machines, keyboards, sequencers, with the violin. Maybe back and forth between the two. I can see, hear and practically feel a violin without being anywhere near one, and sometimes it's prudent for me to do as much that way as I can.

 

Not likely I'll be worried about the crack of the snare while I'm creating violin parts though. I have my sequencers synced with my HD24XR and it's great to no longer be getting derailed by adats.

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Like you, Craig, I learned all of my recording in the analog tape days. In the '80s I could fire up the Tascam 8 or 16-trk and my Soundcraft mixer and I could have ideas down in minutes. I kept my lead guitar (with all effects) plugged into one channel, my bass in a different channel, my vocal mic in a different channel, my keyboard in a separate channel - so everything was ready to go (all I had to do was pick the tape tracks I wanted - and the board was set up to monitor all tracks, so as soon as I recorded it I could hear everything play back).

 

When I had to migrate to ProTools in 2002 there was a steep learning curve, and I often had to deal with a technical issue before I could get creative. Major bummer!

 

Today ProTools is more stable - but for quick recording I love my ZOOM R24. It has a drum machine built in, and it has 8 mic inputs and the ability to move tracks around so I can keep things plugged in. (for example, my guitar is set to record on track 1, but I can immediately move the recorded track to a different track and use the guitar input for a new track. I can record all of my ideas on the ZOOM, and then just take out the SIMM card, put that in my ProTools DAW and import all the tracks as separate channels. They are immediately compatible (16-bit 44.1 kHz), so my Protools session is ready to go instantly.

 

At that point I start doing all the cool "in the box" editing you can do in the DAW interface. It's the best of both worlds.

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The stream of creativity is pure, open, untainted, limitless...

 

Once a machine is introduced into that stream of creativity, it can no longer be creative, because the machines essence is mechanical. The machine requires a precise process, a step by step chain of events to function. The machine is not pure, open, untainted, limitless...

 

There are two operating systems at work. Therefore, creativity and the machine simply cannot happily exist together.

 

 

And yet, isn't a piano a type of machine?

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I guess it's all different depending on who you are and how you work. A DAW or other multi-tracks really enhances my creativity because I use it like a musical instrument. But as always, YMMV.

Edited by UstadKhanAli
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I don't really see much difference between standing in front of a pile of sequencers or sitting on a mountain top somewhere with a shakuhachi flute. It's blank slate either way. Both systems have their limitations. I kinda like being warm and dry though. :)

 

The creativity stream is always flowing. I just have to jump in and swim. Maybe it's a skinny dip, or maybe I've got flippers, floats, and an inner tube. I'll be goin with the flow either way, hopefully.

 

I don't use the recorder as an instrument, as far as I can tell. It's the medium. There are rare times when I punch in, but that's about it.

 

I do create through using it if I'm listening to my first attempts on some new effort, hearing things I wish to keep, things I don't. Standing back for a look and some perspective as it were.

 

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I compose entirely on paper and (virtual) sheet music. But once composed, the arrangement is a collaborative effort by the whole band.

 

I write lyrics longhand in a paper notebook, and the basic rhythmic and song structure at the same time.

I pick out a basic chord progression on the piano and write it in the notebook.

 

Then the process moves to Sibelius:

 

I enter the simple rhythms on the percussion staff and copy/paste through the song.

I type in lyrics against a repetition of the key(s) root note(s).

I add the rhythm guitar chords and realize them to a guitar track.

The lyric melody is composed by using a mouse to move the notes to the ones it demands from my head, refining against Sibelius's playback of drums/guitar.

I refine the bpm to where I want it.

I print out the score, construct chord charts and lyric sheets, and hand them to the band along with a description of the tone and overall feel of the song, and play them the Sibelius playback version.

 

Bass line and lead guitar I generally leave up to the individual musicians, likewise the percussion part in the score is just to illustrate rhythm and not to dictate what the drummer should play. I compose the song, but the arrangement is still up in the air when it leaves the paper. And I'll determine what I'm going to play and what sounds I'm going to use when I hear how it sounds as a band.

 

There are of course exceptions: I have one song where the synth part came first, but that's because it's actually defining the structure and the keys itself in that piece. But the seemingly normal process of "hey, let's see what you have so far and we'll play it and see what comes out" is completely opposite to how I compose and is almost never helpful.

 

 

And recording is multi-track to SD card on the Line 6 mixer, mixing and tracking is by Reaper.

Edited by Iamthesky

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And yet' date=' isn't a piano a type of machine?[/quote']

 

It depends on your playing level. For me, I`m pretty fluent on a keyboard so I don`t have to think about it much. I cannot say the same for guitar.

 

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It depends on your playing level. For me, I`m pretty fluent on a keyboard so I don`t have to think about it much. I cannot say the same for guitar.

 

So wait...determining whether something is a machine or not is defined by the ability level of the user?

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The more you have to think, the more that which his requiring you to think is a machine. Clearly.

 

OMG!!! The Borg got me! very-happy.png.197c47f720636f02390cc2b0a33804da.png' alt='smiley-veryhappy'>

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For composition, I have to be comfortable, free from distractions, and have a medium that captures ideas as they come. Sitting on the sofa on the rare mornings when I have the place to myself, with my acoustic and pen and paper is a natural setup.

 

I'm composing more on Sonar, gradually. But some days the computer gremlins show up and spoil everything. As in just this week, all of a sudden Kontakt started crashing Sonar. Why now?? I haven't installed or updated anything new since the new year. Well, I know the drill - I updated all my Komplete programs, and the crashes stopped. But so did the creative flow I had going.

 

Aside from computer problems, which probably won't ever go away, getting comfortable with a DAW - the kind of comfort that makes a cocoon for creative work for me - means customizing Sonar and creating a few basic templates and setups that can get me right up and going. It's more than just time-saving. Customizing Sonar gives me "my own" Sonar setup and that makes a huge difference.

 

For example - it's tedious, but I've spent a lot of time setting up basic combo program templates. Bass, drums, keys, a couple of audio tracks with all the effects tweaked for my vocals and my acoustic guitar, and a couple of synths with controllers mapped so I can jump in and go, all of it familiar and becoming more second nature all the time.

 

This means....reading the Sonar manual, watching tutorials (including Craig's most excellent contributions along those lines) and taking the time to think things out, make notes, draw diagrams, analyze what I do and how I naturally work, and experiment a lot.

 

You remember when you were a kid and an early music fanatic? Didn't you make all those first big discoveries by "wasting time" listening and dreaming and getting gear and experimenting, always pushing to learn something new? A lot of my most valuable time creatively speaking is just taking off time to "mess around" with instruments, ideas, and software, and daydreams.

 

nat whilk ii

 

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For composition, I have to be comfortable, free from distractions, and have a medium that captures ideas as they come. Sitting on the sofa on the rare mornings when I have the place to myself, with my acoustic and pen and paper is a natural setup.

 

 

 

You remember when you were a kid and an early music fanatic? Didn't you make all those first big discoveries by "wasting time" listening and dreaming and getting gear and experimenting, always pushing to learn something new? A lot of my most valuable time creatively speaking is just taking off time to "mess around" with instruments, ideas, and software, and daydreams.

 

nat whilk ii

 

 

 

Me Too!

 

I experimented for years.

 

I have unfinished business though. Which is partly why I said that I know what I want earlier.

 

I don't mind being in that spot in some ways. It's quite freeing actually, to see what you want, or what maybe is simply attainable, before you.

 

But, I'm hampered as well.

 

Pain is a great teacher.

 

Nothing compares to the violin, skills wise, for me, but I've had to find more ways to get the music out besides the instrument I began playing when I was 5. It also behooves me to think about where I wish to go before I pick up a violin and try to go there. Creativity all the same.

 

Long before I was injured, plenty of songs were precipitated by tools other than the violin, and it was the coolest to finally be practically salivating over the cherry on top, (violin). I often feel that way about bass lines too.

 

I can hardly wait until I get to the part where I'm just messin around again though... with whatever is available.

 

thu.gif

 

Edited by RockViolin

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So wait...determining whether something is a machine or not is defined by the ability level of the user?

 

Yes. The piano is an extension of my mind when I am in that creative state. My piano chops are good enough that I do not have to think about how to do something, I just do it when I`m in that state. I cannot access that state on the guitar because my chops are not there. Technical proficiency either hinders or hastens ones creativity.

 

You could argue that a DAW is an instrument and I would agree with that with something like Ableton LIVE where the hardware devices are trying to bridge the gap. I think Ableton has been able to bridge that gap quite well but this is coming from someone who has struggled to grasp that specific DAW. However, for most DAWs, that bridge has not been built yet and thats why I do not use Digital Performer or Reason to compose much.

 

There are too many steps involved working with a DAW to maintain a creative state.

Edited by Ernest Buckley

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...You could argue that a DAW is an instrument and I would agree with that with something like Ableton LIVE where the hardware devices are trying to bridge the gap. I think Ableton has been able to bridge that gap quite well but this is coming from someone who has struggled to grasp that specific DAW...

 

somehow; I can't get nostalgic for the "ole days" of linear multi-track tape recording as I could never freaking afford studio time in the 70s, 80s or even the 90s. It was always a dream that I could get the opportunity to construct pieces with multiple layers like, oh I dunno . . . like John & Paul. Sitting in Composition 202 class in 1978 trying to think of how to express the . . . stuff with no money . . .

fast forward to 2007 and I get a copy of LIVE6

fast forward : several years later of learning how to use this very complex software & all the while LIVE(as software) is evolving

 

What I'm doing in 2015 is thinking of "looping" a "scene" as an A section, B sections, B2 sections, etc . . . and I'm free as a composer ! (but they're called "producers these days)

Everything I wanted to do with multi-tracking in 1976 is here; everything

I can structure an idea horizontally, vertically, perhaps both at the same time . . . and speaking of "time" - it's whatever I want it to be - warped to a specific time sig, poly'ed, straight, swinging . . .

 

This is the golden age of music-making - recco that you make the most of it

Meanwhile, I'm gonna doing my thing . . . really f&%king loudly !

 

peace

Edited by mister natural
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For example - it's tedious, but I've spent a lot of time setting up basic combo program templates. Bass, drums, keys, a couple of audio tracks with all the effects tweaked for my vocals and my acoustic guitar, and a couple of synths with controllers mapped so I can jump in and go, all of it familiar and becoming more second nature all the time.

 

I can't help but think we're all just scratching the surface of the digital age. For example, I was thinking about those big mixers of yesteryear, and the commonality of control surfaces with eight channels. What if your starting template did everything in banks of eight--eight potential channels of drums, eight of guitars, eight of percussion, eight for vocals, etc. etc. So when you started, you'd just choose the appropriate bank for recording each track.

 

Where this would fall apart is after you have lots of tracks recorded, and are jumping back and forth among tracks to balance them. But in that case, you could then just delete the channels you aren't using and slim down your mixer.

 

I haven't tried this, so it may be a really stupid idea. Or it may be great. But I can't help but wonder how many other ideas I haven't thought of that would be incredibly useful - if only I could think of them smiley-happy

 

 

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somehow; I can't get nostalgic for the "ole days" of linear multi-track tape recording as I could never freaking afford studio time in the 70s, 80s or even the 90s. It was always a dream that I could get the opportunity to construct pieces with multiple layers like, oh I dunno . . . like John & Paul. Sitting in Composition 202 class in 1978 trying to think of how to express the . . . stuff with no money . . .

fast forward to 2007 and I get a copy of LIVE6

fast forward : several years later of learning how to use this very complex software & all the while LIVE(as software) is evolving

 

What I'm doing in 2015 is thinking of "looping" a "scene" as an A section, B sections, B2 sections, etc . . . and I'm free as a composer ! (but they're called "producers these days)

Everything I wanted to do with multi-tracking in 1976 is here; everything

I can structure an idea horizontally, vertically, perhaps both at the same time . . . and speaking of "time" - it's whatever I want it to be - warped to a specific time sig, poly'ed, straight, swinging . . .

 

This is the golden age of music-making - recco that you make the most of it

Meanwhile, I'm gonna doing my thing . . . really f&%king loudly !

 

peace

 

I agree. There has never been a better time to be involved with music. I also think us "old" geezers (those of us who actually used linear recording) have a hard time getting over the concept that a controller like Ableton`s Push is an instrument. Us old timers need to get over the idea that you need to play a guitar or keyboard to make music.

 

Kids today are using non-traditional instruments to make music. Its inspiring and frightening to someone like me who grew up taking piano lessons, learning all the theory, going to an actual college for music, la la la…. its a brave new world and companies like Ableton are definitely bridging that gap between pure instantaneous creativity and actual production of music.

 

You can definitely continue to make music in a linear fashion with traditional instruments but I think someone like myself has to completely re-program oneself to grasp the new technology. I`m having a hard enough time getting over all the options a traditional DAW offers. I`m using DP8 these days and its nuts. The guitar amp sims are quite good, the included plugs are great, and of course when you throw something like Komplete 9 into the mix, which I own and just scratching the surface with, you realize the rabbit hole is very deep. Its a scary place to be… and exciting.

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