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Fuck the Machine

Discussion in 'RedBanned TV' started by Mike Verta, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. I find myself agreeing with both you and Mike. I think putting constraints on what is or isn't "music" is problematic for the reasons you mentioned, and I hate to think of it in such terms -- there are pieces I love that are largely atmospheric, pieces I love that are highly technical and not really communicable verbally (not easily anyway), pieces that are highly dissonant, etc.

    However, I also find myself understanding Mike's perspective more and more. While there are many long-form classical pieces and scores I don't really enjoy or even end up finding boring, I see more and more the importance of understanding and applying these concepts broadly. As much as there are some "hypnotic" pieces I love that remain relatively static harmonically, most are a piece within the context of an evolving work. Though it's taking me a while to understand it, my favourite full works almost always tend to be those with memorable melody (or riffs acting as "melody"), horizontal movement, and an overall sense of cohesion. I really can't think of any genre where a composer wouldn't be better served by a strong understanding of these ideas.

    Ditto Greg's post, fantastic example. Star Wars is obvious as well, but the scope of The Lord of the Rings (paired with the analysis) makes it a little more obvious.
  2. Hours of explanation and discussion on this coming in the film School 101 class.
  3. I'm genuinely so excited that you are doing this. I constantly go on and on about why most people's mock ups suck (definitely me included) is because of lack of understanding of what the real instruments are capable of (forgetting decent composition and Orchestration for a second) and therefore write unrealistically. The same goes for films and understanding everything about how they are made. Learning this stuff is paramount and glad you are doing this.
    Steven Faile likes this.
  4. While I often think that instruments being used unconventionally tends to be interesting, I think doing this well does require understanding of how they work to begin with.
  5. Oh I definitely agree that it's interesting and am not saying don't do unconventional things with VIs. It's just if you are going for "realism" then doing things like, for example, programming drums and having a Kick, Snare, Floor Tom and two crashes at the same Time is impossible due to a human only having two arms. Or creating Double Stops on Strings for every note. Mighty sound interesting but it's not real and these sample libraries, especially Orchestral ones, need all the help they can get (if realism is the goal). If not, reverse that stuff, distort it,sidechain 16th string patterns to make things pulse etc whatever someone wants to do. It's music after all!
  6. Actually luke, if your drums are setup like most it's possible to turn your stick sideways and hit both snare and floor tom, would require a bit of tilting though. 2 crashes just have to be close enough

    But it would be impossible to play fast 16ths on the kick and intricate snare and hat work (though Derek roddy did have a song he double basses while manually opening and closing his hats with his left hand)
  7. Ok, three crashes, 1 floor tom, the high tom, Kick, Snare and a splash. At 300bpm.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  8. Challenge accepted
  9. Your video captures why I'm so much more creative with pencil and paper. Because I see that there's no melody there, or that I'm repeating myself with no development. If I wrote an "epic" track with pencil and paper it would look boring as hell, so I push myself a bit harder. Although I use more colors with pencil and paper than I do on a computer, including techniques and instruments not currently in my template.
  10. Once I began to compose and transcribe at the piano with pencil and paper, I realized that a digital audio workstation (DAW) is an inappropriate tool for composing, because:
    1. The DAW confuses the distinct and different goals of composing, performing, and production, which adds unnecessary steps to the process (e.g. volume, EQ, reverb, transport controls) and creates new problems that should not exist (e.g. virtual instrument settings, midi editing, templates)
    2. To compensate for the myriad problems introduced by the technology, complicated solutions are devised by the composer, such as templates, which allow all instruments to be available at a moment's notice, pre-mixed, already EQ'ed. But building a template requires a huge time investment up-front (e.g. an excuse to procrastinate) and creates additional problems. Now your computer is not powerful enough to handle your template, so you must purchase a new one, or upgrade your existing hardware. Maybe you now "require" a slave machine running VEPro. After upgrading your machine, something breaks, which requires hours of investigation, and possibly many more hours to implement the solution. And on, and on, and on... As you can see, none of this has anything to do with composing, but instead is in the exclusive domain of production.
    3. The only two notation options are: perform the part, or use a mouse to input the midi notes. Both are incredibly time consuming if you just want a readable score. Performing correctly requires a lot of practice and multiple takes, plus additional midi editing. Midi input by mouse requires an enormous amount of time, and the risk of repetitive strain injuries, but can get the same results as writing music notation. Playing a few bars on the piano and then writing the idea down using pencil and paper takes mere seconds.
    4. Staring at a computer screen for long periods of time is exhausting, whereas 3 hours at the piano feels like 30 minutes have passed.
    A digital audio workstation was clearly not designed for composing, but for production. Using it for anything else is a fool's errand.

    However, I have found a software tool that is a wonderful asset for composing: a (free and open source) score engraving tool called Lilypond that is almost as easy to use as pencil and paper, but instead you type the score as text. Like a programming language, you can use variables to organize and re-use parts of the score, and apply functions to sequences of notes (e.g. transpose, repeat). It can do everything you imagine, and a lot you have never imagined. The reference manual is 920 pages, to give you an idea about the depth of the software, but it is incredibly easy to use. Because it is plain text, it is possible to use version control to save a complete history of changes. As a bonus, it can also output midi for your score, which can be used as a rough performance audition. I have learned an enormous amount about score notation by reading the documentation and trying examples.


    Over the past week, I have been transcribing a 1992 Japanese theme song in full score for which there is none available (I will post my work and a retrospective of what I learned shortly!). Lilypond has been an invaluable asset in completing this endeavor, since sketching on paper could only take me so far without deeper knowledge of score notation, and simple mistakes may require re-writing several bars by hand. I made very many such mistakes in my transcription, including using the wrong time signature(!), but was able to fix it in 2 seconds in Lilypond without rewriting everything.
  11. Great points! Makes sense why DAW writing feels tedious and sort of "off". I do find it severely distracting (or at least used to), but less so now considering I tend to write out everyone on piano first. Useful for recording takes and bare ideas though, and works better for other instruments (i.e. electric guitar) that are often stupidly tedious/pointless to notate. Will have a look at Lilypond, but I'm not entirely certain what it would have to offer beyond notation software like Musescore or Sibelius, as those would transfer better to paper and pencil sketching down the line.
    Matthias Calis likes this.
  12. Tools can kill creativity if we focus on them instead of imagining a sound and music. But having an idea and not being able to materialize it quickly (due to lack of skill or tools) also kills creativity.

    An idea might sound fantastic in our thoughts, but not so much when materialized. I guess this reliability comes with talent, knowledge, experience and practice. But, I think, we will always imagine the feeling we want to produce, before the music that would actually produce that feeling. So we have to search, improvise.

    A good part of electronic/EDM music is in rhythm, texture and vibe. This can only be done by improvising with a synth and a computer, the same way music is improvised at a piano. Synths and libraries are instruments. But, of course, people should expand their knowledge and not rely on loops or poking aimlessly at a piano roll and relying on a mere statistical chance to discover a nice riff. Anyone can learn, if he wants to.
    Matthias Calis likes this.
  13. Ivan, I know what you mean about being unable to materialize the sound in my head. I often replay and remix excerpts from concert music in my head (commonly while in the shower), and come up with something that sounds great, but I have no idea how to express it at the piano, or even as sheet music --- yet! Of course, a great shortcut is to look up the score for the source material, which I shall do.

    I recall the first time I tried to recreate a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra of a Dragon Quest song that has a lovely baroque strings passage. I quickly ran into a problem: my chosen strings library was incapable of playing shorts of the same length and expression as in the recording! It was limited to ostinato-style repetition shorts. Luckily, I had a few other libraries from which to choose, and found one that fit just right. This was the first time I realized that sample libraries are severely limited, and the cliché of "write for the library" began to have a new meaning. It's the tail wagging the dog. This is where I became interested in modeled (rather than sampled) virtual instruments.
    Ivan Milinkovic likes this.
  14. Yep, same here! I also wanted to get away from key switches (ironically, I later bought synchron strings pro :D, but only for the sound quality.) Modeled are so agile, and you can play fast lines easily. However, they have their problems, like sound quality and dealing with a lot more of midi CC. So, choose your poison, I guess.

    The DAW approach is still very slow. It's more about production than composition. Because, getting a good render requires extreme attention to detail. And you can't compose if you focus on details. For example, artists, when working on a drawing or a painting, first block in a rough layout (also called composition), then deal with proportion, and that's half (or even more) of the job. Only when they are sure things are in the right place and look good, they go into adding details. They can't draw/paint something in all detail and then decide the placement is bad - you can't move without throwing away all the work you put into it already! We, however start with details, the purpose of the DAW encourages it! Imagine changing a chord progression of a tutti passage - all the track stack, articulations, new voice leading, or even new instrumentation/orchestration, or just plain going through the tracks and moving notes around - not easy at all!

    I'm considering getting a notation software, so I can focus on composing (instead of production), and NotePerformer (or whichever other product that does the same thing, pls let me know) to automate the rendering process, or I'll just do it in the DAW because the composition process is already done.

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