How do you start a piece?

Having recently finished another slideshow soundtrack (my ninth), I’m about to start composing for my next one, which will feature images from our latest UK trip. I’ve been looking forward to this one, since I think the images are overall more interesting (and there’ll be more of them this time). I typically feel a little creatively exhausted after finishing a project (I’m a pretty shaky composer and I overthink everything), and I find myself uncertain how to start. A theme? A simple chords progression from which a theme hopefully emerges? Certain instrument combinations? A sequence line?

I’d like to do a single piece this time - 11 mins in length - but I have little expertise in composing in long form.

How do you do it ? Just asking…

And for anyone interested, here’s my latest, posted up a few weeks ago…

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Well listening to the upload, if that’s shaky, I would be hard pushed to think of a description which could be printed uncensored for any of my feeble attempts …

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Well, I think for most of us, what comes out isn’t exactly what we were hearing in our heads. We may end up in a decent place, or may not. But many thanks for watching. I’d be happy to return the favor and hear anything you care to share. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Well there is no one answer of course. And I don’t claim to be the strongest composer either, I’m a sound designer first, composer second for sure.
Typically for picture I like to set the tempo and find the hit points for the video first. However with what you’re doing there it’s probably easier to compose 1st and then edit the photos. Or maybe you do a rough assembly of photos so you have a basic order to go in and then write the music and then edit the video to the musical points. At least that is probably how I would do it I think.
I would probably look to my virtual instruments for inspiration first with this type of work. Digging through them, finding what I like and then assembling a template for the project with the sounds I want for it ready to do.
And after that, who knows. I might establish a rhythm first and then progress to chords or melody or maybe find the chords or a melody and that plus the instrument choices might dictate the rhythm.

Sorry I know that’s probably not all the helpful.

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First let me say I am in the same position as @panda when he says

Now to address your query. I think your ideas of either approach

would be a good starting position. IMHO With either of these approaches it may be helpful to look at the form of music possibly concentrating on the Rondo and Sonata forms and applying them to the approach, but I am probably teaching you to suck eggs, for which I apologise.

Wishing you the best for your compositions.

Thanks for your feedback, all. You’ve given me some ideas to think about.

At the end of the day, I think my biggest challenge is how to score music that makes something as arcane as static photos of old English churches seem interesting.

No magic formula for that. :thinking:

At some point, I’ll probably get around to doing music just for its own sake.

This is maybe a very long shot, but it may catalyse some thoughts. BBC Radio 4 had a theme tune which was a medley of well known English traditional tunes.

It cleverly wove these together, especially in section three - for content see

where two tunes were played simultaneously.

It does seem to weave these items together quite coherently, and two things struck me

{1} Maybe something of this style and content (or even a remix!) gives some points on how to move music between gravestones and then of some mighty castle (e.g. think Men of Harlech here, which was included in the melody, celebrating the defendants of Harlech Castle in 1461 "Men of Harlech" - Welsh Patriotic Song - YouTube )

(2) As the video is about England maybe these or other traditional tunes might fit well, and the English viewers might recognise them.

Might not result in an original piece, but heh, all art is plagiarised…

Thanks, I do like and try to emulate the Radio 4 approach. As far as the Harlech anthem - some tricky percussion bits and horn techniques I haven’t really tried (and probably should), but I’ll confess the piece is a bit martial / marching-band -y for my aesthetic. Although Harlech is a fantastic castle, up a ridiculously steep road. I featured it in a previous slideshow.

Just another thought would be to take a theme from say a classical or baroque piece and compose some variations on it.

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Well of course I was being seriously thick in linking to Harlech references when I should have known that you almost certainly had been there. :upside_down_face:

Agreed that elements of the theme were probably too militaristic, but I do like the way that the composers (for example) for instance overlaid ‘drunken sailor’ with ‘green sleeves’.
I also liked the way that the transitions between pieces were handled.

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being mainly a jammer, I start jamming with the easiest set available (usually Scaler, AAS Strum GS, BB and a solo instrument)

Then, if something interesting jumps out, I switch to Toontracks and record, but it happens rarely

After I found the workflow explained here, I start sometimes with Scaler and EZKeys, but now that I have Minimonsta, I think my starting point will change again :grinning:

BTW, I think that Minimonsta can be very useful for soundtracks