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What to do or read to get better at music.


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Which one? (see? You're doing it again, you should've read that link on asking the right question. ;-)

We can't read your mind; so be specific. Nobody's going to keep track of what you use or used, nobody keeps tabs of a list of equipment or experience you have, and if someone is by god they're scary creeps and should get the hell out now.)

Keyboard will. Guitar only if you have one of those guitar > MIDI converters.

How do you play a chord right now? Draw the separate notes in the piano roll? With keys, you do this at the same time - it's a lot faster. Plus, you can end up at chords generators wouldn't come up with rightaway, and drawing them would just look... off - so you're less likely to use them, even if they sound absolutely awesome. Also, when you pick 'm out of a list like in FL Studio there's no hint which one's right or wrong or which one fits better.

Music theory will always help.

A DAW does not come up with chords for you, and if does - well, don't you want to have some pride in your own work? Don't you want to be able to point at the end result and say "hey, I made that" as opposed to "hey, I clicked the "generate chords" button for like 16 times"?

You learn by doing and by making mistakes; you won't learn anything when you do something a hamster could've done.

Everyone else went out of their way to interpret your question. Every time such a question is asked people get a little more exasperated. If you would've asked it the right way the first time you would not have had snarky replies to bother with. It's that easy.

Besides, you're going to ask more questions, aren't you? ;-)

At this point, I don't feel like asking any more questions. I really don't see why this was so hard. Sorry if I offended anyone.

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At this point, I don't feel like asking any more questions. I really don't see why this was so hard. Sorry if I offended anyone.

They're not offended. They're tired of being asked questions like this. Which is funny to me, because if they don't like the broadness of the question they don't have to bother posting in the first place. If you don't feel like interpreting the question, guys, don't post. You're just stirring up petty arguments.

The prime example here is Rozovian. He didn't really have a hard time answering and he gave a pretty damn good answer.

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At this point, I don't feel like asking any more questions. I really don't see why this was so hard.

Your initial question was incredibly open-ended. This makes it hard to give good answers that actually help you because there could be a dozen causes or possibilities. It's like going to the doctor and pointing at a random body part - without telling in detail what's wrong you won't get a diagnosis.

It's frustrating in the sense that people really want to help you but can't because you don't give 'm an angle for leverage.

So, go on and ask - and don't be afraid to be specific and answer questions people ask back at you. Otherwise your effort will have been for naught. If you ask the same thing like this on another forum you'll most likely get a similar response.

So, tell us about what you have and where you feel your limitations are - either with what you know, or what you have.

If you don't feel like interpreting the question, guys, don't post. You're just stirring up petty arguments.

I'm trying to pry the answers out of the topicstarter. Various DAWs have books, Youtube videos, online courses - but it's kind of hard to recommend anything at all when you don't know what DAW the topicstarter is talking about in the first place.

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I'm trying to pry the answers out of the topicstarter. Various DAWs have books, Youtube videos, online courses - but it's kind of hard to recommend anything at all when you don't know what DAW the topicstarter is talking about in the first place.
Zircon's production guide isn't DAW specific.

Dunno why this didn't cross my mind before. This is an insane starting point to understanding computer music making.

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Just elaborating on an earlier question... you can make music without a formal grasp of theory, just as you can walk through a house in the dark. It takes a high amount of intuition and experimentation. The best thing to do is to supplement whatever skills you acquire through experimentation with some gains in basic theory. If you're going to pick up an instrument actually do piano (not keyboard, preferably) as it's best for getting acquainted with music as a whole. I'm very much a beginner who started about 2 years ago. It's something that takes work and practice but is fun and rewarding.

Here's some tips I posted in another topic a while ago for someone who wanted to start remixing. It should all apply to you, even if you want to write original music:

-Be eager but not over eager. I'd honestly wish I'd picked up music as a hobby much earlier, but because I couldn't remix a specific song, or play something a certain way I honestly just dropped the hobby. Music is something that requires time, from playing to composing to mixing. A lot of time to learn and practice especially at first >_<

-Don't get too caught up into one idea, in other words it might actually be best that you not try a remix first, or at least not a remix for OC remix. Remixes are good because by covering an existing song you kind of learn the feel of composing with out going too far out on your own, but more or less it might be better to "cover" songs before remixing. The very first thing I wrote was not a remix, it was actually an accident. When making a remix of music from pokmon battle music I created a rift and eventually made my own song. It wasn't until 8 months later did I even attempt to remix a song and it still wasn't oc quality. I'm still trying to master my skills, mixing and rhythm. Music for me honestly is more of experimentation and serendipity than it is skill. You will always have ideas coming to your head some sound awesome and it's disappointing when you can record or capture them the way you want, but honestly it gets better the more you start to pick up writing and playing. Your ear will improve as you listen to music while simultaneously trying to write your own.

-You don't need to have a musical background, but you should become more musically observant. Listen to things within the a genre that inspires your or that you want to write. Notice what "voices" (instruments, whatever) tend to play together, and the general feel each voice/instrument's notes add to the song. Music is about what sounds nice together and you can learn a bit from existing songs. Also notice patterns and pattern changes that can occur in songs. In addition to listening to each instrument/voice pay attention to the role each instrument plays. From experience you know that rock music uses guitars as a lead, for many genre's it's apparent, but on a song by song basis see how each role's notes and rhythm shape the song.

- Pick up an instrument, have someone teach you or self teach. Though it's not necessary but it may help. I wasn't a stranger to music when I started writing, but honestly I wish I kept up my piano lessons from when I was younger, I can't play in rhythm to save my life. Also keep in mind that composing your own music requires 3 skills. Composing (not necessarily writing, just knowing what sounds good together), playing (assuming you're going to use a DAW with a midi keyboard, even if not playing can help), and mixing (mastering and creating a true final product) Each with it's own general skill set.

With regards to equipment you have a laptop all you need is a DAW (digital audio workstation). If you own a mac, they should come with garageband right? if not there's a "freeware" windows equivalent called mixcraft. Mixcraft is literally plug and play, it's what I've been using, though to mix mp3s after 2 weeks you'll probably wanna buy it it's only $80 which is fairly cheap for DAWs, and honestly I don't know any free ones. The thing is of course when you get your feet wet and you're well grounded, you'll probably wanna move on to a better DAW, logic cubase, hell even pro tools if you're feeling confident. DAWs run Vsts or virtual instruments which are either synths (sounds very commonly found in modern/pop music) or sampled (actually recorded from an instrument that has a player). I'm bringing this up because you can actually buy libraries of virtual instruments, and a good DAW should be able to run ones outside of the program's initial library (mixcraft can, but fyi it can get laggy depending on your comp, more powerful DAWs have no problem usually).

In addition to a DAW you'll probably want a midi keyboard/controler. If you're family has any electric pianos or keyboards they should plug up to your computer. If not, keyboards can be fairly cheap especially if you're just starting out. If you're really bold though you could just use a computer mouse and computer keyboard lol. Anyways, I know it's a lot of info but good luck with everything. Finding feedback or getting questions answered can be tough, but if I ever see you around I have no problem answering anything, lol if I can...

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Unfortunately though, many people out there don't realize that. Which is why I still say that the availability of DAWs and high-quailty sound libraries is in many ways, a very bad thing.

The market will overflow of bad musicians regardless of whether they know theory or not. :???: Music isn't a logical, mathematical process. You don't get good simply by learning theory (you don't put x and get y). Tools being easily accessible is not a bad thing just because there are too many people who can't use them properly.

You're either musical, or you aren't. If you are, that's great, but you still need time and practice to develop your skills. If you aren't, you will take much longer to be able entertain people other than youtube or your family. If you think you have a thing for music, then go right ahead. Even the most talented people took a couple years to start making good stuff so if you don't have patience, either learn some or stop what you're doing because becoming a musician is not for you.

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The greatest OCR album ever to this date; Megaman X series "Maverick's Rising" (opinions may diverge). It's not out yet.

Sorry, I just wanted to laugh at this for a moment. Nothing can be the greatest thing EVER until it's actually born.

you can make music without a formal grasp of theory, just as you can walk through a house in the dark.

I'm going to use this later on because it's a spot on description of how that works. There IS a logic and even some math to how music works so you know what sounds have logically been designed to please us, the art part of it is taking that logic and designing it into something unique and/or gorgeous. It's just like the brush and easel or chisel and hammer or whatever sculptures use to sculpt.

Learn the tools first, then learn what you can do with them.

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The market will overflow of bad musicians regardless of whether they know theory or not. :???: Music isn't a logical, mathematical process. You don't get good simply by learning theory (you don't put x and get y). Tools being easily accessible is not a bad thing just because there are too many people who can't use them properly.

You're either musical, or you aren't. If you are, that's great, but you still need time and practice to develop your skills. If you aren't, you will take much longer to be able entertain people other than youtube or your family. If you think you have a thing for music, then go right ahead. Even the most talented people took a couple years to start making good stuff so if you don't have patience, either learn some or stop what you're doing because becoming a musician is not for you.

My point was that a musician and audio engineer are not the same thing. The availability of DAWs and high-quality sound libraries has made more audio engineers than musicians.

See, in school I studied music. From other teachers, friends and myself I learned more about the guitar and music. Music theory is the study of how music works and is a very deep subject. You don't just say, "I know all the chords and most of the scales. Yay, I know music theory!" It took me around 6-7 years of studying it and putting it into practice to compose music at a level in which people were willing to give me their hard-earned money in exchange for me writing songs for them. I still don't know nearly everything about music and it's workings.

Up until two years ago, I had no idea what Protools or FL Studio was. I knew about Cubase since local studios (which are no longer around sadly) used it, but whenever I went to the studios, I wasn't there to sit behind the mixer. Last year, I decided I wanted to record and mix music myself since there is no studio without driving to another city now. I have lots to learn about mixing and all of that like I said earlier.

TL;DR From my experience watching other bands record at professional studios, jamming and gigging with bands etc. A huge knowledge of music theory isn't required to write "good music", but a strong knowledge and execution of it is what often seperates the good from the bad.

Now days too many people are like "I'll just throw auto-tune on my out of key voice and compress it more! That'll make it sound awesome!" Then you get music like Ke$ha....

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Learn the tools first, then learn what you can do with them.

I can not express how much I disagree with this. Learning your tools should always be your secondary focus.

There is NOTHING more important than learning how to write good music. Not even making it sound good is as important.

I made the mistake of focusing on production before arrangement. Now I have trouble with compositional things that regular street performers can do naturally.

Nothing is more important than the composition of your music.

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I can not express how much I disagree with this. Learning your tools should always be your secondary focus.

There is NOTHING more important than learning how to write good music. Not even making it sound good is as important.

I made the mistake of focusing on production before arrangement. Now I have trouble with compositional things that regular street performers can do naturally.

Nothing is more important than the composition of your music.

But how do you know what to compose if you don't know what to do? Knowing the tools enables your brain to expand its limits of composition, so you are telling him to build a ladder when he doesn't know how to use a hammer and saw.

Seriously, this thread is derailing very badly so get it back on track before it gets closed, please.

As for what to do to get better at music, there's three things I do:

1) Listen. Go just listen to music and see what you can notice, disect, interpret, whatever with it. Figure out what parts you like and why, and what parts you don't like and why. Example: I listened to some chug-tastic metal with massive dissonance to find what dissonances I liked and didn't, and then tried to think about why I didn't like them. As a result, I am slowly learning how to use dissonance in an appealing manner by seeing how other people do it and how the audience responds. I have given a very specific example here but you can do this with about everything and every aspect of music.

2) Research. Go find books at the library, threads on the internet, videos on youtube about many things. Don't just get one on a specific subject either: watch multiple on similar subjects to see what common elements exist and where people's opinions differ. Not everyone thinks all good electric guitars are mid-heavy with a cut at 500hz or whatever, so see what is out there and absob as much as you possibly can.

3) Experiment. This is the biggest one of all. Just spending time messing around, tinkering, tweaking, recording, mixing, mastering, manipulating, doing it all will get you acoustomed to a setup and how to get sounds from your brain to your speakers. There are ways to assist by asking for feedback from others and forcing yourself to do exercises, but getting better at music is a voyage primarily of self-discovery. You learn the most by doing it yourself, and you learn the most when you try to do things you've learned or researched.

Hope that helps!

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Nothing is more important than the composition of your music.

That all depends upon your goals.

I focused on composition at first, and I found that I lacked in production, and that ate away at me. Had I focused on production at first, I would have lamented the lack of progress in my compositional chops.

Fact: if you're going to write music in a sequencer, you need to wear the hats of both an audio engineer and a composer. It doesn't matter in what order you learn the roles, but whatever your natural propensities for each happen to be should dictate which you pursue first.

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But how do you know what to compose if you don't know what to do?

Learning to write music is not the same as learning to use a DAW. How do you know what to compose? Because you're a musician. Beethoven didn't have FL Studio sitting next to him, he had a piano with him and wrote down the things he had in his head. Your MIND is where the music comes from, not the workstation.

You can learn music first and use some inferior simpler tools to make good music (unless you're going to disagree and say the mario theme song is crap, it was done on an NES sound chip. No fancy schmancy mixing and mastering.). You can not, however, learn to use a DAW and expect to make good music without knowing what works musically and what doesn't.

If you're going to be an artist, you need to be able to create art. You can teach a monkey to move volume knobs. If you taught a guy to use a hammer and saw he doesn't magically know what goes into making a solid, sturdy ladder.

I would have lamented the lack of progress in my compositional chops.

Your music would not be nearly as good even though it's mixed to 0Db and EQ'd properly.

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There's a certain amount of musicianship involved in the composition and the production, as there's, uh, composership and producership in the respective two others. There's an important human element to production, which I know you're all well aware of. You can teach a monkey to turn knobs but you can't teach it to do it with the same deliberation as an artist, likewise a music theory program couldn't make art as a human would, nor can a virtual instrument produce a human performance without intricate, deliberate instructions for every note.

I'm saying you should be an artist with all you've got an all you know. If you don't know much, be an artist with the little you do know, and expand your knowledge base as you go. If you can make sick beats and awesome rhythms but know jack shit about chords, you'll be approach the chords differently than someone who's been indoctrinated with the theory and knows jack shit about how to mix.

Hm, I was supposed to write this short, lol.

TL;DR: you all know there's a performance, a composition, and a production component to music, and nobody's gonna learn these the same way anyone else does. Do what you can, and try to grow your skills and knowledge all the time.

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Your music would not be nearly as good even though it's mixed to 0Db and EQ'd properly.

... right... that was my point. My music sounded good, but its presentation was poor. Rather, someone could be an excellent producer and a poor musician yet still produce impressive mixes by riding on their production capabilities. In most cases unless quite extreme, the music will be the first to impress both others and yourself which is why I pursued it in the first place.

As for OP, if he is as lost as he says he is, he should focus more on, um, not really focusing at all. He should experiment with all sorts of things more to become familiar with the tools at hand both musically and digitally to be able to know exactly where he should direct his efforts.

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I'm almost scared to make a post in this shitstorm, but...

From my personal experience, learning how to use your DAW (whatever it may be) well, is a slightly higher priority. Now, theory is also important, but you can always pick that up as you go, by listening to examples and taking feedback (positive or negative) from others. Maybe finding a "role model" that is making music in your desired style. Preferably, someone you can actually get in contact with when you need help.

It might take a while, but as you develop you skills using your DAW, you'll also be learning more about music theory, almost simultaneously. Because, if you think about it, it works hand in hand.

Knowing everything about music theory won't actually help if you don't even know where to go to place notes in your sequencer, change velocities, add effects, or turn low-quality samples into something useful. On the same token, knowing your DAW from top to bottom, wont help if you don't know how to make different chords flow together without sounding horrible.

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I'm almost scared to make a post in this shitstorm, but...

You and me both. The internet turns people into feral children.

From my personal experience, learning how to use your DAW (whatever it may be) well, is a slightly higher priority. Now, theory is also important, but you can always pick that up as you go, by listening to examples and taking feedback (positive or negative) from others. Maybe finding a "role model" that is making music in your desired style. Preferably, someone you can actually get in contact with when you need help.

I agree with this so much. After learning a lot of music simply from improvising, I STILL found I was useless with FL Studio. Only after both honing my musical chops AND analyzing other projects files to learn how a piece of electronic music comes together within the program used to create was I able to create my own. Having so many musicians I look up to here on OCR has been sooooo helpful in developing my musicianship and production. I can't even tell you how many project files I've gotten from awesome people here (ok, I can... like 30-40). And real-time help from pros like zircon on IRC can't be beaten.

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Okay, a couple things:

To everyone: Thanks for all the advice, and discussion.

To Yoozer: Thanks for your information. My question in the first post is vague on purpose. If I had just asked a very specific question, I would have got a specific answer, but not have got the discussion I got from the way I asked the question.

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I will say that all the music theory in the world didn't stop my first songs in FL from sounding like total absolute shit.

All the same, until you learn how to use your program/method of choice, your music will sound rough (or in my case God-awful). I still don't know many things about FL, REAPER, or any of the trackers I use, but it goes a long way after my first crappy forays into those tools.

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I think this book is pretty darn good http://www.amazon.com/Composing-Music-Approach-William-Russo/dp/0226732169 especially if you are just starting out. Fun exercises for the most part. It's about learning seperate elements of composing. Chords, note length, subdivide etc in short "create this by using this".

Progress -> starting point.

PS. Emperor C, I totally agree. Learning your DAW as well as you can (and any other tools you use) goes a long way.

I am still learning things in FL after 3+ years.

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