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Figuring out your genre


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Some of the best music is influenced by artists from a variety of genres, and that can even be within a single piece. Why put any artificial limits on what you can do?

Start with whatever genre seems most natural to you, but don't be afraid to step outside the "normal" bounds of the genre (if that can even be defined) to take the song in the direction you want it to go.

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Don't limit yourself to just one genre.

I do think there is that one thing that you should be better at than everything else you do, and that should be your "thing", but also make sure you branch out and try new things whenever you get the chance. Not only is it fun, but you learn so much.

edit: but if you're curious on what your "genre" is, then just experiment. it might take a long time to find it, or maybe you'll find it super quick, but once you do find it, then i'd recommend you'd do that thing a whole bunch, and then focus on branching out that one thing to make it something truly unique. i wish i'd done that, instead i'm stuck with knowing how to do a lot of different things, but not really being a "master" or whatever at a single on of them.

but that is not to discourage you from trying different genres often :P because doing that whole bunch is super important too

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Well, I think one can try and do everything, but I came to the idea that your limitations to whatever genre you try may be shown when you receive the right criticism, taking OCR as an example (assuming that the site staff/judges understand what goes well on music in general).

That being said, I came to the conclusion that world music's better/easier/more interesting for me to work with, as it's a more familiar territory, and I don't need to show my creativity with synths - instead, I have to show it on the melodies coming from real instruments. Nothing prevents me from giving a pinch of electronic elements in my music, though.

Also what Flex said - sometimes I just make such a salad, it doesn't even seem to fit a specific genre at all. You can do whatever you want, just make it sound good.

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I want to present the devil's advocate side of the discussion, because I'm actually quite damn sick of not having a specific genre I fit into.

I started out as one of those guys who would sneer at being "boxed in" to a genre specification and, like most others (and no shots to anyone else posting in this thread), I was doing it because it makes me look cooler and more enhanced as an artist, but also because I didn't understand enough about music and genres to make something identifiable and decent at the same time, I was just throwing any compositional shit I could into my tracks and just saying I don't follow genres to make up for it.

There other problem with not having a genre comes AFTER the music is done. Since 99% of musicians do not do music for just themselves to enjoy, then comes the problem of how you build an audience with it. If you don't follow a genre, how do you expect them to find you? They don't get on message boards asking, "Hey, what are some good recommendations for quasi-industrial-dubstep, partially 80's electro-house albums that were inspired by classical music and Final Fantasy, written to sound like Yasunori Mitsuda did a prog-metal record with some Pink Floyd thrown in there?" They also don't go looking for your "official" music website because they've never heard of you in the first place.

People look for very narrow music genres - either simply dubstep, electro, drum and bass, ambient, new age or something else. Cross-genre albums are also horrible to market and get press for, because 99.5% of all labels and press people are not really interested in wildly cross-genre works. When I did ESPERS, I thought it was a shoe-in for new age and ambient labels, only to constantly hear back "I LOVE it - but it's too electronic for our new age label" or "Man, this is awesome, but it's too new age for our electronic label." You can better get away with that shit when you really establish yourself as an artist.

Point I'm trying to make is - don't let this pretentious thinking of not trying to be a genre get in the way of your music, if it does - that kind of freedom can ironically box in your potential just as badly.

Remember this: It says something about an artist who can make something awesome without limitations, but it says a shitload more about an artist who can make something awesome WITH limitations.

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I think this thread is misnamed.

I suspect that the real question is this: "How do I find my compositional voice?"

Searching for yourself within the greater musical context is something that you will need to accept as a life-long journey, one which will be of constant transition. Understanding your compositional voice requires a great deal of exploration and reflection. You will need to draw upon your influences, preferences, and personality to define a voice and even then, you may find yourself wanting to sound different.

I would suggest that you start your journey by approaching your music as it comes naturally to you in your head (not easy, that's different, but naturally, as it manifests in your imagination).

If you feel your voice is incoherent, then you should study work you feel best reflects a strong coherent compositional statement, one that you like, admire, or even aspire to. Study by examining its construction and composition closely, then set out to write a work in that style or design.

This is how you explore.

Reflect upon your immitative creation and find the threads that speak to you, keep those with you as you continue your exploration.

Eventually you will find that style that is uniquely yours with the understanding that you will persist on this transformative path and never stop learning more, engaging in study and reflection, and trying to define your voice.

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I started out not being that great at playing anything and not being able to record what little I could play, so I went electronic-y, which was fine as I listened to a lot of tracker stuff (which is, for obvious reasons, pretty electronic). I've since learned that electronic is a really broad term as genre goes, and to do what I want regardless of whether it's legit electronic music or not, or if it's electronic at all.

In other words:

Just make music you want to listen to.
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I say my genre, in general, is Pop, though I'm all over the place when it comes to genre. There's no limit. You don't really "choose" a genre.

Genres lots of times are created because the person who made the song (and basically a new genre) probably combined a variety of other inspirations and created something using all of those influences. Again, lots of times the song or album or artist in general will have created something so unique that he/she creates a new genre.

I normally do this. I grab a variety of inspirations and write something using many different influences and eventually come up with something rather unique and different.

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There other problem with not having a genre comes AFTER the music is done. Since 99% of musicians do not do music for just themselves to enjoy, then comes the problem of how you build an audience with it. If you don't follow a genre, how do you expect them to find you? They don't get on message boards asking, "Hey, what are some good recommendations for quasi-industrial-dubstep, partially 80's electro-house albums that were inspired by classical music and Final Fantasy, written to sound like Yasunori Mitsuda did a prog-metal record with some Pink Floyd thrown in there?" They also don't go looking for your "official" music website because they've never heard of you in the first place.

Problem is, when you say that your music is from a certain genre, you can give wrong ideas. For example, I write music that can be somewhat labeled as Progressive Rock/Metal, but none of my songs have long solo sections or even long instrumental ones. So, if I tell someone that my genre is "progressive rock/metal", I'll give the listener some wrong ideas or expectations that can ruin the experience a bit.

More on-topic, I agree with snappleman. Just do what you like.

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I like what SnappleMan said.

If I'm saying anything differently, just create what comes to mind, what influences you and what you like; afterall making music, in my opinion, ought to be for your enjoyment and perhaps done for a purpose like sending a message with your music in the background to evoke certain responses in another person for more impact. It's good to be flexible so then you can write for someone who's commissioned you for a certain project and whatnot and as Snapple said, then afterwards you can go back to writing your own stuff...

Hope that made some sort of sense, and I hope that helps even if it's a little!

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Your advices are all precious, thanks guys

I think I'll start by composing music I'd like to listen to, like SnappleMan said, and also experiment other genres when I get good at producing music.

I don't want to learn to produce music for economical purposes...

The reason why I want to make music is to spread messages all around the world in a language we all understand :)

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