Jakos

Finding myself too dependant of "real instruments"

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Hello everyone.

Recently I've found myself using too much sfz libraries instead of synthesizing sounds by my own, and also I think part of doing that is my fear of not knowing what I'm doing. I consider myself a very antiquated or classical musician, I prefer orchestral music over electronic music (that doesn't mean I don't like it) and maybe that's why I also find my self very dependant of orchestral or real instruments sfz / plugins.

 

So I'm here to ask for some help on how can I "grow up" and let all this orchestral thing apart to learn more about electronic souds or how to make music without having all the "classical" thing in my head while I do it (like tending to use classical instruments for example).

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I essentially approach my DAW as my instrument and embrace the limitless possibilities it gives. So to me the sky is the limit and any style and genre is possible. Sure, that can make it overwhelming at times, but it also makes you grow if you try to do (your version of) a genre you never tried before.

 

I would personally out with something "hey, what if I create a drum & bass or dubstep track"... or "let's create a reggae track", or "how would this sound as a chiptune?". That makes me want to listen to these genres for inspiration, read a bit about general elements and instrumentation of the genre which helps me learn and grow.

 

I also find that doing competitions here is a good way to learn quickly, with short deadlines and sources that you probably wouldn't have picked yourself. It's a great way to get out of your comfort zone. Heck, since becoming more active on OCR I've done quite a few remixes of games I never played and that really helped expand my horizon.

 

 

So TL;DR: force yourself to make something in other genres :P

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Challenge yourself.

 

For learning synths, make a song using only presets of actual synths (no samples). Think of all instruments in terms of timbre rather than as synths, samples, or recorded instruments. Read about how different kinds of synthesis works. Create an initialized patch of a relatively easy synth. Experiment with it. Make your own instrument patches for it. Make a song with only original patches. Make a song without any added effects so that all the mixing (eq, levels, reverb) has to be done in the synths themselves, preferably in a synth that doesn't have its own effects so you're just using the filter and envelopes and other principal parts of the synth to mix it.

 

I did stuff like that, and I can now create the kinds of sounds I want. I tend to use FM8 these days for most of my synthesis needs, as it suits my style, but Omnisphere and Logic's built-in synths are just as useful. For freebies, I recommend TAL's synths; Elek7ro II and Noisemaker are versatile but not too complicated. FL should have some built-in synths you can use, too.

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Sounds to me like you are relying on the humanization inherent in sample libraries and don't really understand how to replicate that in a midi file for a synth. Get really familiar with the midi tools in your DAW and also learn how to use Midi Continuous Controllers.  It takes some careful, slow and repetitive work which is really much more akin to painting sound than playing it but take a passage you think sounds good with  your sample libraries and try to replicate the playing down to the smallest detail. It's not going to sound 100% authentic because it's a synth but you can at least get close to all of those details that were recorded in the sample library.

 

When I started that was a huge hangup for me.  If I couldn't get exactly what I wanted from playing it for a few minutes then I gave up immediately.   

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Interesting, I never really realized that MIDI CC has been called "Continuous Controllers" before---I've also seen "Control Change".

 

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What it sounds like to me is that you like these orchestral instruments because they're already made *for* you, as if they were "organic presets", and you can just pull them out as a "shortcut" to getting music written relatively quickly (not out of laziness, but ease). With electronic genres and the usage of synths, it basically asks you to put more effort into making or editing your own sounds, but with practice, over time you should end up with a pool of sounds that you can pick from and tweak for context, nevertheless.

 

I understand that these sounds may feel more diverse than orchestral instruments, but if you continue to work with a variety of sounds, you will implicitly be training your ear to pick sounds that match not just by convention but by your own judgments as well. It'll take a while, but eventually you can get your synthesized-sound selection ear up to par with the perhaps more "concrete" task of picking orchestral instruments.

 

What I would do if I were to shift over from writing mostly orchestral music to mostly organic/electronic hybrid or fully electronic music, is:

- Find what electronic genres interest you. Drum & Bass (fast tempo)? Dubstep (halftime tempo)? Trance (medium tempo)? A mixture? Other?

- Find a synth that you think would introduce you to the sounds you would need to practice writing in the genre(s) of your choice. As I always do, I would recommend Zebra for its diversity in sounds and intuitive workflow (although it's expensive, I truly believe it's well-worth it), or if you want to ease in, TAL-Noisemaker has been recommended several times before by Rozovian.

- Practice using that synth, maybe gather presets that have already been made by other people, and perhaps pick ones that you think fit together and organize them. It tends to be that the preset developer tells you outright what genres their patches generally fit into, because it helps them target specific audiences.

- Try using those presets in a song and seeing what you can edit in them to fit your context

- Maybe try making your own presets that match your "musical identity" if you find it fun to use the synth

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I'm going to offer a much different perspective - Honestly, I find it weird that you consider abandoning orchestral music to be musically "growing up" when command of an orchestra in both the real deal and sequenced is a coveted skill. Not to mention, the orchestra is the most versatile ensemble there is. With just the strings alone, you can write a piece evoking any kind of texture or emotion you can think of without actually having to change or rebuild the timbre of the instruments completely like you'd probably have to with a synth - depending on what you're going for.

 

My thoughts are that instead, you should stick to classical for the moment, but start making hybrid scores. Start integrating synths in your work - maybe take an older piece of yours and try arranging it to incorporate a synth bass or something. This way, the process of learning how to use them will feel much more "organic", if I might dust off the hipster music terms, to you than just throwing yourself completely into uncharted territory and saying "Okay, I used to write symphonies, but now I'm gonna do an acid-breakbeat track that will put the Crystal Method to shame." Eventually, you'll go from "classical with synth elements" to "electronic with some classical elements" and then inevitably "full on electronica".  I started by using synths in rock music and that made learning how to do other, completely electronic genres much easier - Worked for me, anyway.

 

EDIT: Though to be fair, when you do get to the stage of purely electronic, you'll realize that the composition of many electronic tunes of the EDM variety are a lot more "bare-bones" than orchestral. Usually, there's not much in the way of melody and the structure often follows this "build-up and breakdown" idea, adding more layers of synths and effects until it breaks down and starts again, rather than a verse-chorus kind of thing (unless there are vocals). An example, is if you listen to something like "Now Is The Time", it's pretty much the same shit over and over, but each time it repeats, it re-introduces the elements in a different order and a lot of the "leads" are more like synth-sound effects. This isn't to say you can't do more melodic stuff like what Zircon and a lot of VGM composers do, but I know I ran into the problem of my songs just sounding "wrong" compared to what I was going for and this was the most obvious thing I was over-looking.

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YMMV, but just going to elaborate on some of this with my own thoughts/perspective.

 

I'm going to offer a much different perspective - Honestly, I find it weird that you consider abandoning orchestral music to be musically "growing up" when command of an orchestra in both the real deal and sequenced is a coveted skill.

[...]

EDIT: Though to be fair, when you do get to the stage of purely electronic, you'll realize that the composition of many electronic tunes of the EDM variety are a lot more "bare-bones" than orchestral. Usually, there's not much in the way of melody and the structure often follows this "build-up and breakdown" idea, adding more layers of synths and effects until it breaks down and starts again, rather than a verse-chorus kind of thing (unless there are vocals).

 

I agree that arrangement and orchestration is a great skill. What I think is that the difficulties of traditional orchestral soundscapes, specifically, lie in not the textural diversity of the instruments (because of the more-or-less set structure of the orchestra after its development over the years), but the complex compositional layering. Sometimes you may hear talk about a "wall of sound", which is this idea of complex layering that makes it sound like a large portion of the orchestra is working like a single "unit" to sound big. That contributes greatly to the "completeness" of an orchestral soundscape. You also tend to use cohesive reverb on many instruments so they sound like they're in the same room, meaning few variations on reverb qualities should be apparent and the reverb isn't excessively washy necessarily, so rather than depending on reverb nearly as much to fill in the soundscape as in some electronic arrangements, you depend more on adding particular instruments to fill particular roles to fill in the soundscape. Because of the more-or-less set structure of an orchestra, you have fewer choices to pick from.

 

In terms of arrangement, well, there is the fact that each orchestral instrument is designed to play in a certain way; you can try to bow a regular woodwind or blow on a regular string instrument, but it won't sound conventional. :P There are more ways you can play synthesized instruments (which don't have physical restrictions necessarily), and they don't usually have as restrictive pitch ranges or as particular playing techniques as orchestral instruments do. As a result, in order to really make impressive arrangements, you have to understand the intricacies of

 

(1) what playing techniques are possible for particular instruments (is it possible for anyone in real life, ever?)

(2) which are natural for live players of particular skill levels to do (would they do it in real life? Could they succeed?), and

(3) which sound better than others in context, purely in reference to the song itself.

 

That doesn't yet include the chords, melodies, expression controls, and so on that you could do. That overall, IMO, is much harder than finding the right sound to fit into your electronic soundscape and writing the most suitable chords, melodic contours, and expression controls for your synths.

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Thank you for all that responses everyone, you guys seem to have understand it just right.

 

What Jorito and Garpocalyse said: "to me the sky is the limit and any style and genre is possible" and "you are relying on the humanization inherent in sample libraries and don't really understand how to replicate that in a midi file for a synth" makes sense because synthesizing your own sounds gives you that, no limit, and it's overwhelming, and if you don't understand how to replicate what you're wanting in a synth, makes you quit quickly when you want to try something new, and that stop you from growing up as musician.

 

What Timaeus said may also be true, that my lazyness is what makes me not wanting to stop and make my own sounds, because I always have that "shortcuts" that I can always use to make music quickly.

It's my job to work on making sounds now and I should study more other genres, true. Also thanks for your tips as always.

 

And what AngelCityOutlaw said : I didn't meant to say that I want to abandon the orchestral music, because I love it and it's probably what I'm going to use most in the future, I just said that I want to learn more about electronic music to grow up as musician. Your idea of hybrid scores is a good idea and maybe I should try to start doing that and getting more into my "panic zone".

Thanks for the example too, I'll try to learn from Zircon some things (he has good tutorials). I'll try to no repeat one same thing over and over again, I hate that, so long live the melody of the songs.

 

And one last thing, thank you Rozovian for the synths and tips too. I didn't know the Elek7ro II but the NoiseMaker was probably one of my first VSTs, but I never thought it could be useful, because I didn't like most of the presets and is just... free. (In my head, usually free = not useful) :<

 

I tried to reply to everyone so thank you everyone once again :)

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Oh, when I said letting all the orchestral thing apart I meant for some time. I use "growing up" as synonym of learning. For example, maybe I know how to write a beautiful song just using a piano and a violin, but I don't have ANY idea on how to do the sounds of dubstep music or how to use them correctly.

You're right about that the electronic music doesn't requiere as much work as the orchestral does, but since I was a child I have been studying only classical music, and that's why learning electronic music means "growing up"(at least for me). But as I said at first, I'll never stop doing orchestral music, because is my favourite genre :<

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Semantics, schmemantics, if you just say "grow" in stead of "grow up" I think there would be less misunderstanding.

 

Having said that, have fun on your travel learning more cool stuff. Orchestral music is only one of the great things on your path :)

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I felt the same way, and I'm kind of in a similar position. I wrote mostly "real" instrument pieces for a while, and I was relatively happy with the arrangements but not the production. Step 2 for me is working with electronic instruments--I have less of an idea of how to use them "correctly," but I feel that would be easier to figure out than learning how to make free samples sound good (and I'm not willing to make the expensive investments for more). Step 3, which would come after I can get posted to OCR, would be to go back to "real" instruments--only my best samples at first, in conjunction with synths--and make something good with those.

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Semantics, schmemantics, if you just say "grow" in stead of "grow up" I think there would be less misunderstanding.

 

Having said that, have fun on your travel learning more cool stuff. Orchestral music is only one of the great things on your path :)

True, makes sense. English is not my main tongue so exuse me if I make mistakes like that :P and thanks.

Also good luck to MindWanderer, looks like is the same position I am.

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