Computer-Music.com contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music. Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Computer-Music.com  contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music.
Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com



 

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Let the Instruments Compose Their Own Parts

When composing a score which live instruments will play, there is no question what, for instance, a trumpetís part will sound like. However, when you work with synthesized instruments, itís another story. If you are working with a particular general MIDI sound set, you might decide whether to use a trumpet based on how good that trumpet sounds and how usable it is for this particular style of music. For instance, if you plan to write a military march and find out that the trumpet patch was designed for pop and jazz, then this will, of necessity, change the nature of the composition.

If you are composing for digital recording then you will have much more flexibility in your choice of instruments. However, finding the appropriate instruments is just as crucial. Before writing your first note, you may find it worthwhile to spend a lot of time auditioning instruments for their applicability to the particular style in which you are working. At this point, if you lack inspiration, lay out the instruments that you expect to use and then try each one to see if it inspires you.

Next, look for instruments whose role in the style of music is fairly cut and dried. For instance, if you are writing a polka, then the fact that the tuba will play "oompa oompa" is a done deal. You might write several measures of the tubaís part, then play it back while working with another instrument to see if that new environment inspires you. If not, continue adding as many predictable parts as you can. During this process I usually donít worry about chords or other structural components. I just try to develop the feel of the environment in which the melody will live. Even so, I often make subtle decisions in this phase that help to shape the melody I will later create. A particular drum cadence might inspire rhythmic emphasis that will be carried into the melody. A bass pattern often demands a counter rhythm. If that rhythm is expressed in a harmony or counterpoint element, then it will push the melody in a certain direction.

Sometimes I will go so far has to create a counterpoint before the melody simply because it sounds good with the other elements I have already laid down. Often the counterpoint you create in response to a melody lacks any life of its own because you are just dodging in and out of the melody rather than creating a second melody. If you create the counterpoint first then you are assured that it can stand on its own (since it actually does, at least until you create the melody later). Because creating a counterpoint first and a melody second appears to be the exact same sequence of events only inverted you may well ask "whatís the difference? Why wouldnít you run into the same problem on this time you would be creating a weak melody instead of a weak counterpoint?" The difference is that you may let yourself get away with a weak counterpoint but a weak melody will poke you in the nose until you fix it. The chief drawback with this method is that you can easily paint yourself into a corner, leaving the melody with no where to go. Therefore this method will often lead to reworking the counterpoint in a few places to give the melody elbow room. At this point you have all the elements in place except the melody so it is often not so much a matter of creating it as placing it in the only space that is left. This is not to say that I usually create the melody by default but somewhere between this point and a blank page a melody usually materializes.

Another approach is to let the instruments do the talking. Again I will take some instruments that seem likely candidates for the style but I will play a few notes on each one to see if the sound of the instrument naturally inspires a melody. For me this is a very successful technique. A variation on this technique involves trying to pick the most unlikely melody you would hear from a particular instrument. For example, playing rock on an accordion or playing a march on a rock guitar can lead to some interesting results, as you naturally try to compensate for the expected awkwardness to make it fit. Try to make the instruments sound natural in that situation. If you succeed, you have something unusual to work with. If you don't succeed, then your efforts to make this awkward combination sound good are likely to cause you to drift into another style where this can be more easily accomplished. If this happens then you will, almost by accident, find yourself in a new and interesting style, which may provide all the inspiration you need.

Beginning with an unusual combination of instruments for a particular musical style can be very helpful. You are unlikely to slip into traditional patterns, since there is no tradition for those instruments in that style. A variation on this technique involves using two instruments that do not seem to belong together. The challenge of deciding what each instrument should do when working with the other is often enough to inspire a piece of music all by itself.

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