YoungProdigy

How do you guys avoid accidental plagiarism when composing?

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Sometimes an idea will pop in my head that sounds good. But I sometimes; I can't tell right off the bat if the idea is from another song. I want to eventually become a professional composer; so plagiarism, even accidental is a no-no. So how do you guys avoid accidentally ripping off another song?

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Sometimes I think about it too; I was writing music for a game a few weeks ago, and I was worried it sounded too much like something from Street Fighter, even though that was my inspiration. To avoid that, I tend to change the melody to sound better and better, without referencing my reference (in this case I had no explicit reference). Eventually it ended up sounding too complex to be something that came from one burst of inspiration in the original composer, yet still suitable for the game.

But if I wanted to really check, I might ask a friend who I think is very familiar with what I suspect is the song(s) that my composition resembles.

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You can't avoid it, everything is derivative of something, even if you've never heard it. The inspiration and influence pool among modern and even classical music is so diluted it's impossible to avoid. Just don't straight up rip a Kesha riff and you'll be fine, because that is legitimately plagiarism. It's not hard to avoid copying existing songs, but if you're just using the same key progression, don't worry about it at all. 

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listen to everything you can get your hands on, and get people you trust to listen to your music as well.

beyond that, just remember that plagarism implies purposeful theft - if you recreate hotel california, that's different than nabbing a notable progression or lick and using it in your song. the second can often be fixed once you realize the honest error, the first is a result of not being intentional enough in your listening.

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Without rambling on about music theory and such, It is inevitable that some melody you come up with or whatever will sound like another song to someone out there who's heard it. Plus, genre demands similarity to an extent. Like, how many of those "epic" trailer tracks don't use that EXACT pedal point, staccato string rhythm? You know the one.

Just listen to a lot of music across a wide range of genres. The more familiar you are with lots of music, the more likely you are to recognize something in your own work.

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12 hours ago, Brandon Strader said:

You can't avoid it, everything is derivative of something, even if you've never heard it. The inspiration and influence pool among modern and even classical music is so diluted it's impossible to avoid. Just don't straight up rip a Kesha riff and you'll be fine, because that is legitimately plagiarism. It's not hard to avoid copying existing songs, but if you're just using the same key progression, don't worry about it at all. 

Exactly this. Everything you hear throughout your life builds your musical vocabulary. If you're trying to write a sad sounding piece of music, what do you do? You think of other music you've heard that makes you sad and try to do what that music did. Sometimes it will sound very close.

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Stealing music is good. You're the person writing it, so it's your music. It can only be your music, as you're the one who wrote. It has your, personality, dedication and life in it, and no one can take that from you. If it happens to sound similar to some music you really like, just take that as a compliment that you've written music you like as well. In reality, it'll probably sound like a combination of several licks, styles and lots of other things you heard somewhere in your life. And that's good, because all those things you heard, copied and implemented in your own music is your experience as a composer. Like pictures of your life, shaped in a musical form. At the point you've stolen so much things you like from other musicians and bundled them all together into something new and characteristic of yourself, you've found your own music. 

Personally I haven't gotten that far, though. I'm just quoting something John Clayton said to me at a workshop. 

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On 5/5/2016 at 6:58 PM, timaeus222 said:

Sometimes I think about it too; I was writing music for a game a few weeks ago, and I was worried it sounded too much like something from Street Fighter, even though that was my inspiration. To avoid that, I tend to change the melody to sound better and better, without referencing my reference (in this case I had no explicit reference). Eventually it ended up sounding too complex to be something that came from one burst of inspiration in the original composer, yet still suitable for the game.

But if I wanted to really check, I might ask a friend who I think is very familiar with what I suspect is the song(s) that my composition resembles.

So if I feel something sounds similar I should just change the melody? I might actually try that.

11 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

Stealing music is good. You're the person writing it, so it's your music. It can only be your music, as you're the one who wrote. It has your, personality, dedication and life in it, and no one can take that from you. If it happens to sound similar to some music you really like, just take that as a compliment that you've written music you like as well. In reality, it'll probably sound like a combination of several licks, styles and lots of other things you heard somewhere in your life. And that's good, because all those things you heard, copied and implemented in your own music is your experience as a composer. Like pictures of your life, shaped in a musical form. At the point you've stolen so much things you like from other musicians and bundled them all together into something new and characteristic of yourself, you've found your own music. 

Personally I haven't gotten that far, though. I'm just quoting something John Clayton said to me at a workshop. 

I agree with most of what you said. When someone writes music they do put their personality, dedication and life into it.

As you said, most of our musical ideas do come from music that we've previously heard.

What worries me is the legal part of it all. If I ever do become a professional composer; I don't want to get sued because something sounds too similar to something else.

Konami decided to pull the Metal Gear Solid theme; because it shared some similarities with a song by a Russian composer. Even if it wasn't one-for-one plagiarism.

Overall, I just want to be able to avoid being accused of plagiarism.

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6 hours ago, YoungProdigy said:

What worries me is the legal part of it all. If I ever do become a professional composer; I don't want to get sued because something sounds too similar to something else.

Don't worry about crossing that bridge until you actually come to it.

Just don't go about directly copying everything you hear and calling it your own in the mean time. 

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7 hours ago, YoungProdigy said:

So if I feel something sounds similar I should just change the melody? I might actually try that.

Given that the melody is generally the most recognizable part of a song, it's a good idea, if you're still worried, to consider checking the melody first.

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4 hours ago, Skrypnyk said:

Don't worry about crossing that bridge until you actually come to it.

Just don't go about directly copying everything you hear and calling it your own in the mean time. 

or do that and be like everyone else.

 

music is 1 rotted note as master squarepusher sez

 

or was it 12

 

lol jk uguyz bla where am i even this is weird

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13 hours ago, timaeus222 said:

Given that the melody is generally the most recognizable part of a song, it's a good idea, if you're still worried, to consider checking the melody first.

I can't even tell you how many times I've changed a melody because I thought it sounded exactly like something else and in the end it turned out even better than what I had originally. This might even be a good idea if it doesn't sound similar to another song. Forces you to think outside of the box and create something entirely new.

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I actually have wondered this from time to times also. For example yesterday i made a piano melody on this rather quickly (first part with the arpeggios type of melody):

And i'm not quite sure have i heard something dangerously similar at some point in all of my years of music listening. I would also appreciate if you knew the exact name and linked a composition that has that kind of piano melody. Piano melodies are quite common to have that kind of sound are they not though? As in left hand plays some rather repetitive 3-4 note arpeggios while other plays high pitch "lead" notes with right hand

Inspiration is good but copying compositions directly is bad IF one does not credit the original

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This always hovers over my head when composing so I intentionally try to put unexpected things into my songs, like key changes, non-traditional chord progressions and stuff like that. However, it's very easy to overdo it and end up with stuff that sounds terrible in an attempt to sound unique. I guess the easiest way to avoid this is to listen to different music and get as many inspirations as possible to avoid being too influenced by few sources.

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This is, hands down, my biggest worry. I listen to music virtually non-stop at the office – most tracks for the first time, too.

It's incredibly hard to keep track if it's an original idea or a melody you've heard somewhere and just remembered. It's kind of unfair: the more (different) music you listen to, the more melodies could accidentally be stolen. 

I recently wrote a song for a project and later realized ripped off the Daredevil theme. My solution simply was turning the arpeggio around: upward progression instead of a downward progression. Little tweaks to the melody could also be something to make the melody differentiate enough.

Generally speaking, I agree that most of us are safe as long as the song is not the carbon copy of another track. I mean, it even happened to Uematsu. Music that's based on twelve-note-systems (most Western and East Asian music) means there's only a finite number of possible melodies.

 

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You can't copyright an idea. You can only copyright a work. So REAL plagiarism is rare. However, if you use another song as a basis or template, or say you were "inspired" or "influenced" by it, it's a risk. This is what lawyers hope for in the cases you hear today. Generally what I do is I think of the ideas in my head and trust them. I tend to not every really copy much at that rate.

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