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Kylotan

compositional inspiration

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Having had an attack of ''musician''s block'' earlier, I thought I''d ask the people here how you go about writing music, especially in those times when you don''t have so much ''inspiration'' but still need to produce something? Does anyone research given time periods to find out what authentic instruments/scales/time signatures are? Are there any ''preferred'' key changes, harmonies, or chord sequences that you find yourself using? And, on the other hand, sometimes do you force yourself to look at something different? Given 1 great but short piece of music, how do you extrapolate and build upon and around it to make a long enough track of maybe 3 to 10 minutes? And are there any good resources on these issues outside GameDev.net?

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quote:
Original post by Kylotan
Given 1 great but short piece of music, how do you extrapolate and build upon and around it to make a long enough track of maybe 3 to 10 minutes?




I always run into this problem when composing. Usually, I''ll just take the cheap route and go verse/chorus/verse, maybe change some instruments around- a non-musician usually won''t notice the difference between this, and an expertly crafted, evolving piece.

Sometimes I search in my ''old stuff'' folder, where I keep all my old ideas, and there''ll be a short piece/riff/idea I can work into my current piece.

If I''m really stuck, and I don''t want to repeat anything, I make the piece more ''atmospheric'' (i.e. cool sounding, uninspired crap), or just add some cliched progressions that the non-musician probably won''t recognize.

Of course ideally I like to keep working on a piece until I''m genuinely satisfied with it, but I rarely have that sort of time.

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When I get "musician's block", I usually sit down and practice a technique I'm not good at yet, or that I do not know at all. I'm a guitarist, as well as a singer, and usually my songs start on the guitar. What I do is, I practice the technique for a bit, and start fiddling with it, applying the ideas to chord progressions I usually use, or mixing it with styles that I usually apply.
Most of the time, something interesting will come out of it, and then when I work on it, inspiration will start flowing again.

What ALSO works, is driving around in your car, with the radio off, and starting to hum to yourself. You'd be amazed at the original stuff you can come up with that way. The hard part is remembering it until you get home to record it


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.
Check out my band 22 Strings to Break here.

Edited by - MadKeithV on August 13, 2001 6:07:01 AM

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MadKeithV, how come I can find you in the Music forum but not the Design forum?

I used to carry a dictaphone around with me, in case I ever got some inspiration. I never did So that idea doesn''t really work for me. I''m not really an ''artistic'' musician, more of a ''scientific'' one. I don''t get flashes of inspiration: I make conscious decisions to start in E phrygian and modulate to A natural minor or whatever. The amount of material I''ve produced by hearing a tune in my head or something is probably no more than 10 to 25% of everything I''ve ever written.

I just figure that, for those people who compose game or soundtrack music for a living, there must be some techniques, tricks, clichés even, that they use to ensure that they can produce X pieces of music in Y months for a project, regardless of having to wait on inspiration or whatever. Right now, I''m lacking these mental tools and it''s holding me back...

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quote:
Original post by Kylotan
MadKeithV, how come I can find you in the Music forum but not the Design forum?



Hehe, because I''m quite busy at the moment promoting two bands, getting together a PhD thesis topic, and just READING the Game Design forum....
I don''t have much time to get involved in discussions over there anymore .





People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.
Check out my band, 22 Strings to Break here.

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My music doesn''t come from inspiration... other than the titles... i guess its not very musician-like to some people, but i come up with my music using my brain and thinking.... "god... that sounds good... maybe if I...." and it all works itself out... you guys dont have to make it so complicated.... check it out at www.mp3.com/malygris/ and tell me what you think

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The point is, if you just randomly experiment with things to see what sounds good, you waste a lot of time compared to if you know what sounds good in the first place.

For example, I know that E minor goes well with A minor, B minor, and C major, among others. But say I have a piece in Bb major. Would you know instantly what goes well with it? Would you know what notes to use if you wanted something to sound Egyptian? I would, and that''s the benefit of knowing the ''complicated'' stuff.

Besides, with no offense intended, the music of yours I hear is pretty simple in terms of harmony and stuff. It''s quite easy to write stuff when you''re using loop-based tools and you tend to stay in one key all the way through the song. Orchestral style stuff is a lot more demanding.

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Ahh, you've reached the delicate point of "modulation" I think...
The art of figuring out what kinds of harmonic changes work, and what kinds don't! Either that, or you're looking for new scales:

Say you want something that sounds "Egyptian" - the first thing you have to do is figure out what makes something sound eastern. In this case, it's usually a scale with slight differences to the normal "modal" scales (variations on the major scale, simply starting on a different root note of the scale).

A minor "egyptian" scale could be something like this:
root, minor 2nd, major 3rd, 4th, 5th, minor 6th, major 7th.
I assume that transposing it to major would mean starting on the 5th or 6th instead.



People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.
Check out my band, 22 Strings to Break here.

Edited by - MadKeithV on August 22, 2001 9:21:26 AM

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quote:
Original post by MadKeithV
A minor "egyptian" scale could be something like this:
root, minor 2nd, major 3rd, 4th, 5th, minor 6th, major 7th.

AKA the Byzantine scale, or Double Harmonic Minor And was exactly the one I had in mind.

New scales are all well and good for certain occasions, but I still find myself wondering how to build up a big piece of orchestral music or something. I mean, J.S. Bach, as with many composers at the time, only tended to use the major and harmonic minor scales, and yet still got a very rich and varied sound. I guess that is something I am still missing.

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Well, I''m studying the same thing at the moment, because I feel I''ve done all I can in E Minor and B Minor (on a 7-string )...

So I try some things like starting a line over a minor chord in the normal minor scale, but switching to an eastern or harmonic scale halfway through.

Sometimes it works, and you do develop an ear for where you could try these things, but it''s a lot of trial and error.

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