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D Shankar

Why so many talented artists - teach me how

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Well, I've never thought about going into music programming or scoring, but after hours of programming/modeling, its nice to hear some background music. I do prefer instrumental but my styles are a cross of classical, rock, and some hip hop/rap. Quite the mix, but rarely I find them in music CDs. So once in awhile I manage to find a musician who scores a nice song for me that will some day end up in a game (hopefully). But that's not enough, especially after playing it over and over a hundred times. So, after all that typing, lets get down to business: How come so many people claim to be musicians and want to be paid to score music? Where do they learn this talent? Is it that simple? Where do I begin? I bought FruityLoops off my friend (a techno-style musician), but I have no idea where to start. So any suggestions? I'm not at the point to shell out hundreds of dollars for a MIDI keyboard etc. I just want to know where to start. My musical background consists of playing the violin for ~6-8 years but discontinued 2 years ago (totally forgotten ever since, never even picked up my violin). I have also played the keyboard & piano for about 2-3 years, but haven't played in 5 years. So right now, I busy myself with programming or modeling and never play any musical instruments. Thank you, and I hope to receive some feedback from you talented musicians. Kind regards, D. "Nex" Shankar, Red Winter Studios, Lead Producer.

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Greetings,

I am not sure I can provide proper guidance as to where you should begin your musical journey, but I can provide background on how I got started in music, and how some of my friends got started.

I basically messed around with music on the piano, writing little diddies, jigs, blurbs :P, whatever you call smae compostional ideas. After being able to "impropose" (Improvising my compositional ideas), I began to play with software and hardware for a few years. I started with Sonar 1 and Fruity Loops 2 (I think it was 2.) I murdered about 30 pieces in fruity loops, making some bad techno music before I understood what sounds good and what doesn't. I have a number of friends that have followed the same path, experimenting until they find what they feel they are comfortable writing and showing.

Someone else might be able to provide more specific ideas for training, but everyone learns their own way.

Hope this can help a little,
Sean Beeson

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Quote:
Original post by D Shankar
So, after all that typing, lets get down to business:
How come so many people claim to be musicians and want to be paid to score music? Where do they learn this talent? Is it that simple?


It's simple to get started, and there are many free tools. This is probably why there are a lot of musicians, each of whom would like to take their work further. However there's a lot to learn before you can get into the small number that actually manage that.

Quote:
Where do I begin? I bought FruityLoops off my friend (a techno-style musician), but I have no idea where to start. So any suggestions? I'm not at the point to shell out hundreds of dollars for a MIDI keyboard etc. I just want to know where to start.


Start with shelling out less than a hundred dollars for a cheap MIDI controller/keyboard. ;) Seriously, if you have any keyboard ability whatsoever, you may as well leverage it into your composition, and it won't be as expensive as you think. The alternative of programming notes in individually is far from impossible, but it's also far from intuitive and much more time consuming.

Then, experiment with FruityLoops, recording what you play. You may want to get another music package that's not so techno-oriented, as although it is capable of far more, it doesn't necessarily make it obvious.

Composition is also about listening - listen to other music and try to work out what gives it the distinctive character. And to make sense of it all, a good bit of theory helps. On the musical side, knowledge of chords, cadences, keys, tempos, and forms will help a lot. Later, having an appreciation of audio theory such as how to use equalisation, compression, limiting, and reverb will help add the professional touch.

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I started when I was 14 and never stopped. Started with the Trumpet, then started singing, picked up a guitar one day, bought a drum set, bought a cassete based 4 track, bought a 8 track digital recorder... Then started on the PC based recordings. Basically I just never let up, I was pretty much always doing something musical. Over the past year I have climbed mountains(not physically). I have produced 2 full length albums and am currently working on 2 more.

Official Chaosphate Site
Official Three After Site
Straight Jacket Sunday Page

Those are a couple of projects were I wrote a good portion of the music, actually Chaosphate and SJS I wrote all of it. I also recorded and produced all of it...

I learned alot from these 2 sites:

KVR Audio
Home Recording BBS

Music has been my number 1 interest, aside from my family. I went to school for computer science but would have rather gone to some kind of music school.

Anyway, those 2 sites should get you started. There are plenty of good free software plug ins, even some good cheap if not free hosts out there.

About people getting paid... Well, if you just buy FL Studio and click some buttons you can eventually get a decent sounding electro, or hip hop, or techno song I guess. You can tell the difference between a good producer/musician though. Overall sequencing, programming, performance, arangement, sound quality, etc... Some people have the gift, some people not so much. The most important thing is actually listening more so than even playing. You can play tons of stuff, but if you don't really listen, then it will suffer.

Sorry for the long winded response... The most important thing is to enjoy what you do.

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I just joined the boards, so feel completely free to ignore my response! ^_^

If you want to make music, there's nothing better than to *learn* how to make music. There are a ton of people out there using AcidLoops or Ableton LIVE! or something along those lines. I know this sounds a little harsh, but very few people can get anywhere using only pre-programmed loops. Sure, it makes for very fast audio development, but it all ends up sounding the same: vapid, boring and generic.

Most composers use programs such as ProTools, Cubase or Logic (if you're Mac-based). These programs are not easy to learn, and are not user-friendly by any stretch. However, they are all extremely powerful and versatile.

Another important aspect is to try to stand out in one particular skill in composition, and try to do it better than anyone else you can find. Personally, while I feel I can conquer any style that's necessary for a project, I'm a classically-trained composer. Therefore, I know that if something requires either live musicians or at least something orchestral, I know I'm going to do a better job on that project. Working to your strengths is something that every artist has to do.

I hope these less-technical points help!

David Stone
www.soundslikedave.com

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This may cause some uprisal, but production skills are just as important as music/compositional skills if you are going to break into the industry. So find something you know you can produce good music on and learn it well, like the back of your hand. 90% of the time the people that hire you will have no clue if the intellectual property behind your music is any good, but the first they hear, just like the same person seeing a model of a character, they don't know how many polys it is, is the production values of the piece. (So hone that skill :p)

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Quote:
Original post by Sean R Beeson
This may cause some uprisal, but production skills are just as important as music/compositional skills if you are going to break into the industry. So find something you know you can produce good music on and learn it well, like the back of your hand. 90% of the time the people that hire you will have no clue if the intellectual property behind your music is any good, but the first they hear, just like the same person seeing a model of a character, they don't know how many polys it is, is the production values of the piece. (So hone that skill :p)


Quoted for emphasis [smile]
There are three skills to be aquired here, two of them quite intertwined. First you need to have musical skills, which you probably should have, given your musical history. Then you need to have compositional skills. Knowing how to play does not automatically mean that you can compose. And last of all you are interested in producing a recording of your music, not just the scores. So you need to have production skills as Sean Beeson pointed out. Recording, mastering etc etc.

EDIT: A lot of commercial music is created by three different parties in this very manner. A composer, a producer and an artist.

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Quote:
Original post by Omid Ghavami
Quote:
Original post by Sean R Beeson
This may cause some uprisal, but production skills are just as important as music/compositional skills if you are going to break into the industry. So find something you know you can produce good music on and learn it well, like the back of your hand. 90% of the time the people that hire you will have no clue if the intellectual property behind your music is any good, but the first they hear, just like the same person seeing a model of a character, they don't know how many polys it is, is the production values of the piece. (So hone that skill :p)


Quoted for emphasis [smile]
There are three skills to be aquired here, two of them quite intertwined. First you need to have musical skills, which you probably should have, given your musical history. Then you need to have compositional skills. Knowing how to play does not automatically mean that you can compose. And last of all you are interested in producing a recording of your music, not just the scores. So you need to have production skills as Sean Beeson pointed out. Recording, mastering etc etc.

EDIT: A lot of commercial music is created by three different parties in this very manner. A composer, a producer and an artist.


THEN...!

Then you have to know how to market yourself. Tons of great artists out there who have no clue as to what to do next. Now that I have all this well written, solidly produced set of tracks, now what do I do with them?

Start small, learn it well, move upward.

Tony

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Guest Anonymous Poster
FLStudio (Fruity Loops) is the right way to go.

many professional musicians use this program, it has almost unlimited possibilities.

when creating fashion (=game) music, you could start with a cool beat.
another important thing is the bass, its the next thing to do.
after that, you can go and create a melody on top of the beat and the base.
then add some nice effects, and youre almost done.

the sytrus-plugin may be quite interesting...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
"How come so many people claim to be musicians and want to be paid to score music? Where do they learn this talent? Is it that simple?

Where do I begin? I bought FruityLoops off my friend (a techno-style musician), but I have no idea where to start. So any suggestions? I'm not at the point to shell out hundreds of dollars for a MIDI keyboard etc. I just want to know where to start."

----------------------------------------------------------------

- They..once upon a time, just like yourself might have asked the same question. The fact is that it's a lot of work and they
had to learn the trade. Of course they want to be paid to score music. If you went to school to learn your trade, whatever it may be (I assume that you're a programmer), you wouldn't even think about not getting paid for it. And for your creation as well.

Think about software companies. What's is a bunch of cryptic code worth? So what is a score worth? It's just like a piece of code. How many hours did you have to put into turning out a decent game? Same applies to the people who score music.

Now let's do a reality check. You can not learn a talent. You either have it or you don't. However, so many people can go through the training and thus making you ask if it's simple since you're seeing so many of them. But still, maybe they are half-decent and can get the job done. Afterall they might have been trained, just like you have in what you do. (I presume.)

Anyway. A few things I recommend:

1. Resume playing on an instrument if possible.
That by itself should appeal to you if you're seriously
interested in making music.

2. Get some good magazines on music production such as 'computer music' or whatever is available. and/or books on simple theory and composition. Something like the 'complete idiot's guide to musical composition'

3. Learn to listen, train your ears.

4. Develop a basic sense of harmony and learn what chords to put where. (refer to #2, about getting books, especially on harmony)

5. Experiment

Well.. that's it. short and simple.

- dr.faust

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Well thanks for all the replies,
This isn't something I can do in a few weeks by any means (just too busy). To make things more clear, I'm looking for a nice music solution for me to create deep-bass music in a matter of days/weeks. I'm both the lead programmer, the lead artist, and the lead designer of my GameDev.Net 4E5 Contest Entry. Therefore, I need to find a way to produce at least some nice music/sounds for the game. Most composers might not be willing to produce several free tracks along with sound (gunfire etc.) for the game (and only be recognized in the credits and introduction (i.e. not part of actual development) ). So I thought I could produce good tracks by myself, but that's probably not a good solution considering the deadline for my project is November 30th 2006. Thanks for the feedback anyway; I think I shall contact a friend of mine to see if he would work for free (doubtful considering the prize values of the contest).

Cheers,

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You'd be surprised who will work for free if there's a decent enough contest involved, like the ones they have here at Gamedev. I mean, last years winner's game I believe is going commercial. I saw their press release on a few mainstream gaming sites...good for them. I bet their composer is digging the exposure.

What I'm saying is, if your project looks decent enough you may find a composer or SFX artist willing to take a risk. A contest can bring more exposure than just a regular indie released game and gives it more momentum to get finished in the first place!

Tony

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Modtracker is a good program for music editing. it lets you change everything about a wav file so you can use any instruament and just mash stuff together until you find something you like

it is also free, go to www.castlex.com for it

or go for someone that already knows how to make music like someone else said, it could work out but be ready to pay if needed

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Quote:
Original post by anthemaudio
You'd be surprised who will work for free if there's a decent enough contest involved, like the ones they have here at Gamedev. I mean, last years winner's game I believe is going commercial. I saw their press release on a few mainstream gaming sites...good for them. I bet their composer is digging the exposure.

What I'm saying is, if your project looks decent enough you may find a composer or SFX artist willing to take a risk. A contest can bring more exposure than just a regular indie released game and gives it more momentum to get finished in the first place!

Tony


How many of the free ones are good? I know several good musicians who require pay (Sean B., Nathan Madsen so on), but only one or two who work for free (David Orr so on.) I mean, I'm looking for high quality, deep bass with a mix of violin/strings. I'm awaiting a reply from a (musician) friend of mine; until then..

Kind regards,

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Original post by D Shankar
So, after all that typing, lets get down to business:
How come so many people claim to be musicians and want to be paid to score music? Where do they learn this talent? Is it that simple?


That's actually a very profound question!! I think there's several interesting reasons why this happens. First off, music is a part of a ton of peoples' early education, we often teach it in public schools and sometimes there's even band/choral requirements. So we have a whopping majority of people who experience producing music in some way or another, not to mention the fact that just about everyone in the world (who isn't deaf) experiences consuming it. It's omnipresent.

From there though, music is also (for some reason??) very attractive as a career, almost like a pie in the sky to people before they experience all the nitty-gritty of it.... and for some of us extra-twisted folks, even after that. Everyone wants to be a rock star, you look up at the stage and see these guys and just think, "that could be me!". I think that out of all the more "composed" musical outlets (eg. classical, film, games, TV, advertisements...), game music somehow seems the most tangible, especially oldschool Japanese soundtracks. There's something about the logic and simplicity 80s-90s Japanese game music style that made it sound like an invitation, "you can write music too!"; at the same time, it was also very effective, beautiful and even powerful music. So it encouraged a ton of newcomers (myself included), whereas the relatively more convoluted film score world almost seems to say "don't even try it, you won't get it" at first. Kinda like programming. :-P

Now add to that the intensely subjective nature of music - the idea of "good music" is far more nebulous than "good programming" or "good art", or even "good acting". What one person thinks is great another person thinks is crap, and the differences in quality are just getting blurred more and more with recent software developments. There's nothing stopping you from getting StylusRMX and Atmosphere, playing a loop in one and holding out a chord in the other, and sounding (at least ostensibly) just as good as some of the most experienced electronica producers out there. Even for more serious attempts, our production interfaces tend to have much easier learning curves than any of the other gamedev disciplines, and far more attractive/friendly-looking GUIs. Add to that all the neat hardware we get to use, and it's almost like we're getting paid to play with toys.

Speaking of payment, there's that fun myth as well - the idea that being a musician gets you tons of fame and fortune for (relatively) no work at all. I'm sure everyone who's informed enough to be a part of this site knows that that's not really the case except for like the top 0.000001% of composers, but what's even more distressing is that there isn't any work at all for anyone but the top 0.001%. Going into music is more like a vow of poverty than anything else - only thing closer would be perhaps an acting career, or, arguably, an actual vow of poverty. :-)


But basically, it's an extremely attractive field with tons of rewards (some real and some not), where the difficulties are far more subtle than in other disciplines. One of those strange jobs where it's way easier to actually *do* it than it is to *get* a job doing it ;-)



Wilbert Roget, II
Composer
RogetMusic.com

[Edited by - Will Roget on August 26, 2006 11:30:53 PM]

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Original post by D Shankar
How many of the free ones are good?


Forgot to answer this one - Actually my opinion, surprisingly, is that for every composer willing to score your projects for $$$, you can find 2 more that are just about as good and willing to do it for free. Seems weird, but the catch is in the subtle difference between a startup-pro and an experienced hobbyist. The hobbyist may or may not require $$$, but either way does it for the fun factor, or to learn. The pro, however, still may or may not require $$$, but only does projects s/he feels will move him/her forward. Tons of people even at the highest strata still do music for free - Giacchino has done some free work, Robert Rodriguez wrote the score for Kill Bill 2 for only *** ONE DOLLAR ***. The difference often comes down to the project and who you can interest in scoring it; the quality of music unfortunately doesn't vary as much as we'd like you to think for $$$ vs. non-$$$.


(of course, if there's extraneous things like deadlines involved, $$$ can mean the difference between working on your score fulltime and working on it on the weekends after your 9-5 job ;))

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Original post by Will Roget
Robert Rodriguez wrote the score for Kill Bill 2 for only *** ONE DOLLAR ***.


A little reality check is needed here. There were other ways he was going to make money, and a considerable amount, from that contract. There is no way he would have done that film if his only compensation was one dollar.

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Yep, that's exactly the point - it wasn't the upfront money, it was the opportunity, residuals, and other factors involved. Moral of the story is that it's not a black and white issue, people work for free at all levels of the game. (no pun intended ;-))

When you're trying to move up in the industry (which in a way means pretty much everyone out there who isn't John Williams), it's more about the attractiveness of the project than the money. If it moves you forward, the money can come later or from other sources.

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Quote:
Original post by D Shankar
How come so many people claim to be musicians and want to be paid to score music?


Like Will said, it's a dream job.

Quote:
Where do they learn this talent?


Some practice all of their lives, dedicate their entire career and energies to learning to play an instrument/compose/perform/record/mix/master/etc. music,, make great sacrifices and ask the same from their families and children, because they simply just can't see themselves doing anything else other than making music, and have found themselves in digital gaming because of the strange, cool challenge of working in a nascent, exciting, technologically-advanced medium with almost unlimited potential for emotional expression, from psychotically vicious to heartbreakingly, timelessly poignant. Some just throw together a few pre-bought loops in Fruity Loops, mess with the tempo (speed), toss some of it through a flanger and call it a day.

Quote:
Is it that simple?


No.

Duncan

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I am a bit perplexed at the meaning of this thread but will try to offer some insight regardless...You do not GET talent but are rather born with it. Ability and talent are both very different animals. Whereas talent will only help someone get so far (to their ceiling), ability is often far more important in crafting a better musician. However, Ability is also much harder to build...it involves painstaking study and immersion in the craft. There is no easy way to get good. An element of luck is involved with the process as well. You could have all the talent in the world but if you cannot communicate and network, no one is ever going to know it. Work slowly, yet surely within your own musical understanding and you will reap the rewards

Ryan

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I've been watching this thread. It is reaching the point where it could go one forever :p I think a lot of good things have been said, but in the end, as WB said, nothing is black and white.

Just keep your ears and eyes open, and watch what other composers do, are doing, and have done. (Please do not read into this statement too much.) Mimic the great composers. They are also great producers, great businessmen, and great advertisers.

Work hard at learning and mastering whatever programs you choose to use as well, and always remember the three p's. ( There are other words too, but three p's just sounds nice :p)

1. Persistence - Work hard. Never let up.
2. Patience - Keep your cool.
3. Perseverance - Understand that failure is part of success. Persevering is all about overcoming the failures, and becoming stronger.

Apply those three concepts to your music, business, PR, producting, networking ect. It isn't a guarantee of success, as that you do also need to have serious drive, and little talent :p

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I'd like to ask a bit of a question related to Sean Beeson's comment.

I, for one, have a decent level of proficiency in composition and a moderate ability to play what's in my head. Good enough that I'm satisfied with it, anyway: although I definitely don't claim to be a pro.

The weakest of my skills is, by far, my ability to flesh out my work to a high production quality. I know some of the very basic tools, but I could really use some pointers on how to really bring my work to life.

As it currently stands, I compose and record in Reason 2.0 (a few hundred bucks short of an upgrade to 3.0), primarily using the Orkester soundbank. Most of my work is orchestral work inspired by movie soundtrack greats like Hans Zimmer and John Williams. Once I'm finished laying down the tracks, I usually do a little bit of EQ balancing, smooth things out with some reverb, and adjust volume in places to bring the important elements forward.

Unfortunately, I don't know anything beyond the elementary basics, and I really don't claim to have a proper grasp on those. Most of my pieces come out sounding hollow and tinny, and even though I'm usually satisfied with my performance and I've recieved a lot of good feedback on composition, I am always disatisfied with the production quality of my music.

A typical example: [here]

Performance skills are developed with practice on your instrument. Compositional skills are developed with experimentation, practice, and a good grip on theory (whether inherent or studied). My question is: what do I need to do to improve my production skills? To make my music sound richer, fuller, and more professional? Are there tutorials you recommend? Tools you use?

I thank you for your help in advance.

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Quote:
Original post by TheArtifex
My question is: what do I need to do to improve my production skills? To make my music sound richer, fuller, and more professional? Are there tutorials you recommend? Tools you use?


Too often today inexperienced composers wrongly believe that if their music sounds thin it's because of the production. [depressed] "Production" in this sense is usually just a catchphrase for mixing and mastering. We must always remember that production is the polish. The real meat of the work is the musical composition, and that is where the real focus of your work should be. [cool]

If you want to write orchestral compositions, then study good orchestral compositions. Listen to the masters. There are no secrets here. They wrote all their tricks down in their scores, and you can listen to the CDs to hear how those tricks worked. Buy the CDs and scores and study them. That's worth repeating. BUY THE CDs AND SCORES AND STUDY THEM. Listen closely to how an orchestra sounds. Learn how the masters used counterpoint to create complex textures. Note the combinations of instruments they used to create different colors. In this way you develop a vocabulary of devices that you can use to create the effects you desire in your music. By listening you are also creating an aural picture of how they sound.

One arguement against this approach which I often hear is, "But classical scores don't sound like modern film/TV/game music." The truth is that many of the orchestral devices used in John Williams music can be found in the scores of Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov, Sibelius, Bartok, Ravel, Debussy, and others. Williams and his orchestrators actually studied these composers. Howard Shore actually studied Wagner and Brahms while he was writing the LOTR score. He had the scores and recordings in his room while he was writing. Sure modern scores don't sound the same, but they do use the same building blocks just arranged in different ways.

If studying an orchestral score with all the transpositions seems overwhelming, don't worry. Take a step back and study some Bach inventions or fugues to learn counterpoint (two or more melodies happening at the same time). If that seems too complex, then start with reviewing some basic or advanced harmony (jazz, classical, whatever). These are the foundation on which everything else stands. We've all had to learn these things at some point. Start where you have a good grasp and grow from there. Also don't be afraid to seek help. Search the 'net, ask teachers, read books, talk to other musician friends.

With this in mind, here's a suggestion to shake up your musical world. Spend your next $100 (or even $50) on scores and CDs that interest you. Take the time to really study them and see if you can figure out how they work. You may be amazed at the payoff from this type of study versus spending the time studying a new $100 plugin or Reason Refill.

This approach may not provide instant gratification, but as the saying goes, "If you put a lot into something, chances are you're going to get a lot out of it."

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Some better samples could only help as well. (Also giving that you know how to use them.) And if you ever need a good package deal, let me know, I am a dealer some products.

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