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Gezu

Any hint on how to start learning to compose music?

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I'm a 3D artist with basically no music knowledge at all. I do love musics like some video games and films have. I have a Yamaha DGX-205 which wasn't used by anyone for a decade and I don't know why but this January I started to learn how to play some of the musics I like. I didn't know how to start and I ended up with trying to learn Trine Dragon Graveyard. It took me 5 month to be able to play this from the beginning to the end but I really enjoyed every second of the learning process.

Since I was not satisfied with the piano sound of my DGX-205 I tried to connect it to my PC. It took me some time to figure out how I can make it work. The app which is mentioned in the manual is not supported anymore. I did some search and installed LMMS which absolutely did what I wanted (I mean now I have nice piano sound from my PC's speakers when I press the keys :D). After installing a program designed to make music I started to wonder if it is possible for me to create music?

Right now I'm learning a track from Child of Light but the idea of learning how to compose is still in my mind. I know there are many experienced composer around here and I would like to ask for advice. How shall I start learning? Shall I wait and learn to play more music or is it a good idea to start right now? Where can I get good info on how to learn composing? I have no particular plan with composing I only want to do it for fun.

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Hi!

There's different approaches to this: You can, of course, just use the tools you have now, grab a piece of (musical sheet)paper and a pen and write down chords, notes and harmonies you like and bring them together to a full musical piece. There's some software where you can do that digitally as well, the pro of those is that you can hear what you enter, which is especially useful if you have more than one instrument, for example, so you don't have to ask someone to play it with you. Those are softwares like Notion 6, MuseScore 2 etc. I'm sure you can find one that's free, even.

For recording you might not need anything fancy, in that case I'd quickly download Audacity, it's simple software and it's free, so trying it doesn't hurt.
The more high end recording software I usually use is Pro Tools, but that gets really expensive really fast, however most professional recording studios have that software at hand and their equipment resonates best with it. But that might be something you want to consider further down the line.

Normally every DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) also has a recording function. And that gets me to my next point: DAW's those are fully equipped digital studios. Personally I use Propellerheads Reason, but other big names are Logic Pro (Mac only), Ableton, Cubase and FL Studio. A DAW usually costs quite a lot (200-1'000 range) and it costs even more once you need more plug-ins (VSTs/Rack-Extensions). Some DAWs are usable without any plug-ins, Reason being one example, other DAWs are basically an empty shell without them and you'll end up spending another 1'000 bucks or so, just to get it to a good, usable state. 
What are DAWs good for? Well, they let you achieve believable and good sound without (m)any real instruments. You have a wide range of synthesizers you can program and big sample banks of professionally recorded instruments and sounds that you can use to create your musical piece. 
DAWs are always compatible with Midi keyboards, so you should be able to use your DGX-205 with any of them and directly play on the instrument you have selected in your DAW (given you have the PC Driver for it).

My personal recommendation is: Use free software like Audacity and a sheet music software first, and if you reach your limit, then consider buying a DAW. 
It all really depends on what kind of music you want to make aswell. If you want to compose a complete orchestral score you'll need a DAW eventually, unless you have the money to mobilize an entire ensemble. If you want to produce electronic dance music or modern pop music you definitely need a DAW.

However, if you just want piano music with a bit of singing on top you don't need any fancy tools, then it just comes down to your own idea and execution. There's a number of musicians who became successful by recording something in their bedroom with just their guitar and voice.

I hope this helps at least a little. Good luck on your musical journeys!

 

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Personally I think composing is a talent that you are born with to some extent.  Of course there are plenty of people that are highly educated in music, but actually being able to produce something that some segment of the population considers "good" is a different story.  That's not to say instruction in music doesn't help, especially with things like orchestration, but still I think there's a lot you have to be born with.  To make the point there are many people with almost no formal musical education that have become famous musicians and composers, perhaps not so much in the classical world but for sure in popular music.

I can play a bit of guitar but I'm pretty crappy at it and on occasion I have written a tune or two but nothing you would call good.  I use guitar pro just to get the notes down and so I can kind of hear what it sounds like. It's not a DAW though, so it sounds pretty awful but for composing it's OK and it's fairly cheap. There are a lot of other programs like it that do similar things if you don't want to spend a lot of money.

As for actually wiring music I often find myself humming stuff and then, I'll put that track in, and hum over that for the next track or pluck it out on the guitar. Yeah I know it's crude, but it kind of works for me.  Here's something I did on Guitar pro. It's a bit boring, especially without the lyrics, and again the midi instruments are not great,  but at least you can get the idea. 
 

Voices of the Dead.mp3

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Thank you for the answers. I think I will follow your advice and start with a free app to see what happens. i definitely don't want to pay much on fancy tools at this stage.

I don't know if one must be born to a musician to be one. I like to think that music has its own logic that you can learn and understand.

Maybe I wasn't clear enough with my first post, but I still have my original question. Right now I'm looking for materials or lectures on how to build up music. I've started here today, but I just picked the site randomly and I do wonder what can be the best place to start. Basically I want to learn the theory behind chords, notes and harmonies.

On the other hand I'm still not sure if it is the right time to start. Would it benefit me more if I practiced playing music on piano more or it doesn't make any difference and it's ok to start learning how to compose without much experience on playing instruments?

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Posted (edited)

I'd say you definitely don't have to be "born to be a musician", talent is just finding enough personal joy and interest in a field to pick up more information and spend more time on learning it than someone who isn't quite as ambitioned in it. The same thing applies to music. 
Now it certainly makes a difference whether you grew up in a musical family or not, because that will give you a better basic understanding of what music should sound like. Often times people who grew up in families with no musical connections whatsoever have trouble hitting the right tones or understanding why something should sound one way and not the other.
But none of that matters in the end, if you're just determined enough to give it your all and learn a lot as quickly as possible.

I think the absolute best place for you to start is to simply learn playing the piano to at least an intermediate level, so you can play with two hands, improvise in simple chords etc. That of course includes some music theory like reading and writing notes, learning harmonies etc. 
Once you can comfortably improvise on a piano you don't need all too much more to write those improvisations down.

Composing kind of comes natural while playing an instrument. Personally I play the violin and the trumpet, and I end up improvising small snippets of stuff to warm up. Improvisation and composing is similar. The main difference is that you write your composition down.

So one doesn't have to exclude the other. I'd learn the piano first and foremost, and write down ideas as they come to mind.

Edited by Liacart

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22 minutes ago, Gezu said:

I do wonder what can be the best place to start. Basically I want to learn the theory behind chords, notes and harmonies. ... Would it benefit me more if I practiced playing music on piano more

Yes, that's what I was about to suggest. 

11 minutes ago, Liacart said:

I think the absolute best place for you to start is to simply learn playing the piano to at least an intermediate level, ... Composing kind of comes natural while playing an instrument.

Exactly. Gezu, start by playing music. Get comfortable with at least a small repertoire of pieces (10 or 12 at least).  Ideas for composition will flow from being a facile player.

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Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, Liacart said:

I'd say you definitely don't have to be "born to be a musician",

A musician is different from a composer.  My brother played cello from an early age, got his music degree, has played in symphonies, teaches music etc..... He can't really compose a lick, and most people who can compose somewhat, don't do it well enough to make a living at it.  That's not to say someone who wants to compose shouldn't try their hand at it, but I do think to be truly good at it you need some natural talent.

Edited by Gnollrunner

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Thank you all I'm back at learning some new music pieces.

 

34 minutes ago, Gnollrunner said:

That's not to say someone who wants to compose shouldn't try their hand at it, but I do think to be truly good at it you need some natural talent.

 

That's absolutely ok for me I don't want to earn money with composing. I don't even want to be extremely good I just enjoy the process of playing music and sometimes I wonder what is it like to create one. If I start it months or years later it doesn't really matter for me.

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18 minutes ago, Gezu said:

That's absolutely ok for me I don't want to earn money with composing. I don't even want to be extremely good I just enjoy the process of playing music and sometimes I wonder what is it like to create one. If I start it months or years later it doesn't really matter for me.

That's pretty much what I do. It's just kind of a hobby for me.

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