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Writing on a piano first has been a big help
Old 15th May 2017
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Thread Starter
Writing on a piano first has been a big help

I've recently had great success writing out melodies and the general backbone of songs on a kontakt piano first before doing any sound design. With just a piano, it seems like you can focus on getting the melody and the actual musical structure right. thanks to midi, you can move your compositions over to the sounds you create later.



To me, it seems like starting on piano is smart because you know you have a song worked out and you can focus on musicality before diving into sound design. It breaks up the process a little better so you can focus more on each part of songwriting without the other parts bleeding over.


Just a tip I wanted to share!
Old 15th May 2017
  #2
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maisonvague's Avatar
 

Yes, the piano is a great tool for composition. One of the greatest. Stravinsky wrote his orchestra piece "Rite of Spring" on a piano. Gary Numan wrote "The Pleasure Principle" on a piano. There are countless examples. It won't work for every genre, of course, but for anything based on traditional harmonies, melodies, structures etc it can be very helpful to first sketch things out on a piano.
Old 15th May 2017
  #3
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Teknobeam's Avatar
 

I have found that developing new ideas with rhythmic components that I create or come up with on a synth which can often inspire really good stuff, I then test and reduce to a rudimentary core on the piano (kind of the reverse of sketching out an idea on the piano first). There (on the piano) it can really help to identify the strength or potential of an idea. It can also really speed up the development of the basic arrangement once you know that the sounds will be more embellished when you actually flesh it all out since the sounds, or sound is what inspired the idea in the first place. So given that,you are able to visualize or hear the potential result. If it works on a very basic canvas (piano) there is probably something worthy there. That's exactly how I am working right now.
Old 15th May 2017
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teknobeam View Post
I have found that developing ideas with rhythmic components that are inherent to the synth sound that I create which can often inspire really good stuff then gets tested and reduced to a rudimentary core on the piano. It can really help to identify the strength or potential of an idea. It can also really help to speed up the development of the basic arrangement. If it works on a very basic canvas (piano) there is probably something worthy there.

Agreed. If I can write a couple of sections that are interesting on the piano, translating that into an interesting song is a promising venture. Writing on the piano feels like your getting the groundwork set before you dump too much time into anything that might not pan out.
Old 15th May 2017
  #5
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Teknobeam's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpookSound View Post
Agreed. If I can write a couple of sections that are interesting on the piano, translating that into an interesting song is a promising venture. Writing on the piano feels like your getting the groundwork set before you dump too much time into anything that might not pan out.
Absolutely !
Old 15th May 2017
  #6
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maisonvague's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teknobeam View Post
I have found that developing new ideas with rhythmic components that I create or come up with on a synth which can often inspire really good stuff, I then test and reduce to a rudimentary core on the piano ...
In practice, this is usually how the process goes for me as well. The inspiration to work out an idea at the piano will come from jamming on a synth and thinking "this is something worth developing!" I find taking a break from synthesis and sound design and focusing purely on harmony, melody and form very liberating.

It also serves as a kind of self-discipline which prevents me from jamming too much and getting lost in space...
Old 15th May 2017
  #7
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maisonvague's Avatar
 

While working at the piano, it's also helpful to have an inspiring view of gear.
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Writing on a piano first has been a big help-screen-shot-2017-05-15-9.55.19-am.jpg  
Old 15th May 2017
  #8
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mutilatedlip's Avatar
This is a really interesting subject, and nice to hear how other people make music.

The more gear I get, I find the more I struggle, as I literally don't know where to start. So I sat down and devised a rigid workflow to which I aim to stick.

Step 1 - Writing
Using the most basic instrument available (guitar/piano) I simply put together the melody and the actual tune, and once I'm happy with this, I move on to the next stage.

Step 2 - Arranging
This can be done with any sounds or whatever is to hand, but basically, I use the above and shape it into an arrangement with a beginning, middle and end. I find this useful especially for making longer dance tracks. I use basic sounds, no automation or anything. Just like to see all the various chord changes, and sections mapped out fully.

Step 3 - Producing
Once the above is complete, this is where the Gearslutz side come into play. Replacing all the above sections and areas with the actual final sounds, be it hardware of software. Once I'm happy, I'll then print the tracks.

Step 4 - Mixing
Basically, the final stage, and hopefully by this section, I'm happy with the above, and just drop all the .Wavs into fresh project, and do all necessary mixing tasks, compressing, balancing, Bread and Butter FX (as oppose to creative FX which takes place in the step above).

Then once happy, I pass it off to the professionals for mastering.
Old 15th May 2017
  #9
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maisonvague's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mutilatedlip View Post
This is a really interesting subject, and nice to hear how other people make music.
I agree. It's interesting! Your workflow is almost identical to mine -- every step -- including sending mixes off to professionals for mastering. (That's one area of studio production I won't touch!)

Adding a modular to my studio a few years back really shook things up, though, I have to say--in part because of the particular modules I chose to get which include random elements--that is, "sources of uncertainty". Here, I often find it necessary--essential, really--to work on the actual instrument even in the early stages of a production. There's really no getting around it.
Old 15th May 2017
  #10
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This is an interesting thread. I can write *some* things at piano, for sure, but not many.

Most of the time, it takes a particular tone to get me started (usually one that I haven't heard before). This leads to some riffs and chord progressions, and everything unfolds from there without much planning or structure.

If there's too much process or structure, I lose momentum.

It seems like everybody's a bit different. I used to work with a guy who was entirely inspired by rhythms (e.g. drum loops), which do nothing for me.
Old 15th May 2017
  #11
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mutilatedlip's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by maisonvague View Post
I agree. It's interesting! Your workflow is almost identical to mine -- every step -- including sending mixes off to professionals for mastering. (That's one area of studio production I won't touch!)

Adding a modular to my studio a few years back really shook things up, though, I have to say--in part because of the particular modules I chose to get which include random elements--that is, "sources of uncertainty". Here, I often find it necessary--essential, really--to work on the actual instrument even in the early stages of a production. There's really no getting around it.
Yes. I did wonder how to inject the 'modular' element of writing into the workflow.

I guess there's a pre-writing stage, or an additional element whereby you don't write so much as find an inspiring sound on the modular/synth/DAW etc. and then go with that.

I've started using the DAW as a cassette and recording jams. When I find something I like, I'll then address it, and pull it out of the jam method and into the writing method.

There's no right or wrong, but it's important to stick some order on the process for my own personal productivity.

Try reading T.E. Hulme's Romaticism vs Classicism...

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/res...s/detail/69477
Old 15th May 2017
  #12
Gear Head
 
roaringwave's Avatar
Piano or guitar are my main tools for songwriting and composing. But, when doing other styles of music I find that it can be anything that will spawn the next creation; a loop, a specific sound etc. It all depends on my mood at the moment. I try not to limit my creativity on a certain set of tools though. But for composing normally organic stuff (real instruments) requires real instruments. There's a certain vibe you get from acoustic instruments that you don't get from most virtual iinstruments, with the exception of virtual pianos providing that you have a 88-weighted controller. But still, nothing feels and sounds like real wood to me on a acoustic piano or acoustic guitar. Electric guitars are cool tools too.
Old 15th May 2017
  #13
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 

I write about 80% of songs in my head, about 10% on a piano or guitar and the remaining 10% inspiration will come from a cool patch I've made in a specific fixed/modular synth "programming session" where the idea is just to make cool patches.

More often than not my modular is slaved to my DAW/keys and I play my notes in. The An1x fits real nice with a doepfer midi interface as you can transmit note, velocity, CC, pitch bend and clock to different CVs and those can come either from the keyboard or from its lovely 16 step sequencer.
Old 15th May 2017
  #14
I come up with ideas and melodies on the piano but they don't always transfer well to a song that I want to compose with synths. Regardless, I still find the piano very useful for coming up with ideas.
Old 15th May 2017
  #15
F*%K the piano! No patch editing, no Midi, no electricity ...why are we even discussing it in the forum for Electronic Music Instruments?
Give me a synth so I can make synth music
Old 15th May 2017
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by mutilatedlip View Post
This is a really interesting subject, and nice to hear how other people make music.

The more gear I get, I find the more I struggle, as I literally don't know where to start. So I sat down and devised a rigid workflow to which I aim to stick.

Step 1 - Writing
Using the most basic instrument available (guitar/piano) I simply put together the melody and the actual tune, and once I'm happy with this, I move on to the next stage.

Step 2 - Arranging
This can be done with any sounds or whatever is to hand, but basically, I use the above and shape it into an arrangement with a beginning, middle and end. I find this useful especially for making longer dance tracks. I use basic sounds, no automation or anything. Just like to see all the various chord changes, and sections mapped out fully.

Step 3 - Producing
Once the above is complete, this is where the Gearslutz side come into play. Replacing all the above sections and areas with the actual final sounds, be it hardware of software. Once I'm happy, I'll then print the tracks.

Step 4 - Mixing
Basically, the final stage, and hopefully by this section, I'm happy with the above, and just drop all the .Wavs into fresh project, and do all necessary mixing tasks, compressing, balancing, Bread and Butter FX (as oppose to creative FX which takes place in the step above).

Then once happy, I pass it off to the professionals for mastering.
I wish I could work this way but I can't. I have work directly with whatever sound has inspired me to make a track or it all falls apart. These days it's often some synth patch that will get me started. If I'm on the guitar I need to play with a wet signal or I won't be able to play with feel ... so no changing tones afterwards.
Old 15th May 2017
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollowman9 View Post
F*%K the piano! No patch editing, no Midi, no electricity ...why are we even discussing it in the forum for Electronic Music Instruments?
Give me a synth so I can make synth music
Well my piano has electricity and MIDI. No patch editing, but it does have a selection of presets and effects.

No, I agree, synth sounds do inspire the direction of my music.
Old 16th May 2017
  #18
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pr0gr4m's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollowman9 View Post
F*%K the piano! No patch editing, no Midi, no electricity ...why are we even discussing it in the forum for Electronic Music Instruments?
Give me a synth so I can make synth music

I'm generally sound driven where the sound inspires the melody. But I can do it the other way but that generally takes me longer. Come up with a cool melody, then spend days trying to find the sound for it.

Yea, but Oh the polyphony - 88 note polyphony (97 on a Bosendorfer).
Oh the oscillators - Up to 236 oscillators (strings)!
Oh the velocity - Sure it's 0-126 but with infinitely more points in between.
Oh the analogness - Pianos were analog before analog was cool.
Oh the sustain - In the right room with the lid up a bit and the pedal down...sustain for days, and none of that badly looped waveform nonsense
Oh the harmonics - Sympathetic resonance

Wait! What? No Aftertouch? Totally Unplayable!!!
Old 16th May 2017
  #19
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i prefer a rhodes/wurli sound to piano...and most of the time that sound stays!
Old 16th May 2017
  #20
Yeah heck with piano - not multitimbral, no cutoff knob, no mod matrix.
I do feel what the OP is trying to say though. And I played tuba and trumpet in band in high school. Maybe I should try writing my electronic music on the tuba...
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