Composing question

Sorry, waxing macro again…

How do you wrestle with not repeating yourself/composing in a style? I seem to be kind of blocked on this tension. I do a certain kind of music (synth-y coated faux classical), mainly because my projects are soundtracks to pictures of gothic architecture, castle ruins and old churches. Doing EDM or Chillwave or Trap or hip-hop would just be wrong - not that I really know how to compose music like that, anyway.

But I do find I scare myself away from figures and midi techniques I’ve done in the past, because I really don’t like to repeat myself. And yet…sheesh, everyone has a style, right? Scaler has so many options for melodies, phrases, performances…and yet, I feel this almost gravitational pull to a select few of them over and over.

Sometimes I feel like I should take an online course in midi composing - although so much of that content seems directed to making ‘beats’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my thing).

When you’re composing a piece, do you embrace or avoid go-to familiar pathways/sounds/progressions, etc ?

I usually try to find a new key and progression I haven’t used before. Start with a sound I might not have used. It tends to still sound like me but not so overtly. Hans Zimmer always tries something new. So if you start usually with a pad try starting with an arpeggio. Try the Low range instead of the high range. New keys/scales always spark ideas.

I never seem to have a problem coming up with an original idea, even original compared to my own typical style. But then I never can get past the idea stage and make a longer piece about it. Since I dont have any background in music theory, that kinda makes sense. I keep thinking if I Just record my jammings and pick the one that sounds most interesting. Because when jamming without too much conscious thought, interesting things keep coming out. Not sure if this perspective is helpful toward your quandry Dave.

The best thing I’ve found is Speed Composing which is comparable to Speed Drawing/Sketching. The idea being to give yourself a limited set of tools (sounds) and a time limit say 30 to 60 minutes and do a piece. Do not think just do as Yoda might say. It helps a lot. Also take a picture or photograph and try to illustrate it with sound. Another very good exercise.

Well, it kind of does help, Bernd. It reminds me that great ideas are just as likely to come from spontaneity as from deep, considered (over-thought) scheming. :slight_smile:

I’ve seen you mention this a few times before, Jamie. If I can break my own creativity-process chains, I’ll try this myself. :bear:

The idea is to break your habits. Get away from what you normally do. Open scaler, go to one of the artists and choose a progression at random. Use only that one.

If you end up going with online classes, I wouldn’t focus on MIDI composition. Although some of the courses are good, if you search for that most of them are going to concentrate on the technical skills, not the composition, I have found. That is great for folks that are music school trained but don’t understand MIDI, Virtual instruments, etc… But if you need work on the theory and composition skills, you’ll need to look for other search terms.

I don’t really know your skill sets but I can tell you that a few of the courses I have found the most useful (as I have tried quite a few, but obviously not all) are Thinkspace’s How to Write Music and Music Theory Classes. As well as the Orchestration Recipes. Those are all pretty affordable courses that won’t set you back a large amount.

Very useful stuff in here, and many thanks RB for the suggestions.

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Jamie - I was (very coincidentally) talking with a guy at my gym last night, who (previously unknown to me) is also a music producer, and he pointed me to this. Eno.

https://www.oblique-strategies.com/ (refresh the page)

Closely parallels your suggestion, yes?

When I make music I try and marry two things. 1. What is the purpose of this piece, where is it’s home? It’s very difficult to have an end if you don’t have direction. 2. How do I convert how I am feeling onto the piece of music? Generally if I get these two things right the music takes care of itself. Also it’s one of those catch 22’s that the more you progress in your career the better you become because you generally always have 1. and know how to do 2. in a very limited time. My 2 cents!

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Thanks Davide et al !!!

I suppose, perhaps at the end of the day, this question was a little silly…as in, “how does one create, and not sound like yourself”. Isn’t the mystery of creation that, beyond the basic tools, we don’t really know how it all works anyway? And isn’t the fun in the mystery ?

Bernd’s idea comports to what a number musicians I have interviewed and written about have told me. Often, they don’t find the song…the song finds them.

Absolutely. I have a set of digital version of those cards and use them from time to time. Eno is a big influence on me.

Give Unison Chord/Melody generator a try.

It might generate further ideas.

Unison