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I want to compose music!

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Hi all! My name is Diego, i am 17 and I LOVE video game music. I really really want to learn how to compose music. Could someone help me getting started? :)

1 - What should i learn first? Music Theory? If so, how much of it?

2 - Is it true that Jeremy Soule musics are assembled with sound libraries and are not actually recorded by an orchestra? If so, is it possible to make high quality music with only a computer?

3 - What program do you use?

4 - What sound libraries do you use?

5 - Is music composition only for talented people? How do I know if I am talented?

Thanks a lot!

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Hi all! My name is Diego, i am 17 and I LOVE video game music. I really really want to learn how to compose music. Could someone help me getting started? :)

1 - What should i learn first? Music Theory? If so, how much of it?

2 - Is it true that Jeremy Soule musics are assembled with sound libraries and are not actually recorded by an orchestra? If so, is it possible to make high quality music with only a computer?

3 - What program do you use?

4 - What sound libraries do you use?

5 - Is music composition only for talented people? How do I know if I am talented?

Thanks a lot!

Hi Diego,

Some tentative answers...

1. I think the best thing would be to learn some kind of musical instrument first. If you want to compose for video games then I would suggest learning the piano/keyboard as it's one of the most "universal" instruments and you learn things like how to read different staffs and melody/accompaniment. Also many people writing computer game music would use a midi keyboard to put the notes into a computer, so if you can play keyboard it is useful. And if you want my advice, then stay away from guitars (at least as a 1st choice) - girls might like you for being able to play them but I think they are limited instruments which teach you bad habits. You can always buy books on music theory (The Complete Idiot's Guides are a good starting point). You don't need to learn a ton of it but it helps to understand the theory behind the styles of music you like. Theory does help but too much can be limiting in some ways (as well as boring).

2. I don't know what Jeremy Soule used to compose his music, but it is possible nowadays to make reasonably realistic orchestral music using a computer. I also like Jeremy's music (well I've only heard the music in Oblivion) and would love to be able to compose like him. I'm still working on it...

3. I use a program called Sonar Home Studio 6 XL. There are a ton of other programs out there to choose from though.... don't run out and buy a program right away - it's probably best to learn how to play an instrument and a bit of music theory first. Besides, there is always new software coming out all the time.

4. Sound libraries - at the moment I only use free soundfonts and VST plugins (there are hundreds on the net), as well as the Garritan Pocket Orchestra that came with Home Studio. But I will probably buy a decent orchestral library soonish.

5. It does help to have talent (I am pretty deficient in that area I am finding out), but I have read in a couple of places that composition is probably 10% talent & 90% effort/dedication/perseverance. I wouldn't worry about trying to know whether you are talented. If you have an enthusiam for music and enjoy listening/playing it then it definately helps you get motivated to learn more.

Hope that helps :)

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Hi all! My name is Diego, i am 17 and I LOVE video game music. I really really want to learn how to compose music. Could someone help me getting started? :)

1 - What should i learn first? Music Theory? If so, how much of it?

2 - Is it true that Jeremy Soule musics are assembled with sound libraries and are not actually recorded by an orchestra? If so, is it possible to make high quality music with only a computer?

3 - What program do you use?

4 - What sound libraries do you use?

5 - Is music composition only for talented people? How do I know if I am talented?

Thanks a lot!

1. I think that depends on if you're making sheet music, or just recording some stuff in a sequencer.

2. Well, he does use Garritan libraries, but I'm pretty sure he gets them recorded by a real orchestra.

3. Finale PrintMusic 2006, while I'm learning how to compose :thumbsup:

4. None, but I like the Fluid soundfont.

5. Pfft who cares about talent? Just make music and quit worrying about yourself! Everyone starts off untalented, just practice.

Oh, I'm learning too. I just ordered a couple of theory/composition books and they're coming a day after my b-day! (They're coming on Thursday)

Later

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I can't really answer any of your questions except number 5, but hell no, you don't need talent. I write plenty of videogame music and I have no talent. And there are plenty of other people out there who have no talent yet continue to write music. So don't let that stop you. Best of luck composing!

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Guest QcCowboy
Hi Diego,

Some tentative answers...

1. Theory does help but too much can be limiting in some ways (as well as boring).

yeah, um, that's the lazy person's answer.

Learning theory doesn't limit you in any way. At all.

Learning only a BIT of theory does.

The more theory you know and understand the easier getting the final result you want becomes.

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Seconded; the more theory you know the better equipped you are to express yourself to your full potential. :D

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yeah, um, that's the lazy person's answer.

Not at all. The original statement is a perfectly valid viewpoint. It's one purveyed by Ferneyhough and those teaching composition for today.

Traditional theory will undoubtedly help those who want to write tonal music with key signatures and so on. That in turn might help those who want to compose music commercially but it may distract the contemporary composer.

After some years of composing I've come to realise that developing a good aural imagination and the ability to document ideas is paramount. That subsumes a certain familiarity with theory put behind me now but I hardly refer to the theory I learned in preparation for the Royal Academy.

Learning theory doesn't limit you in any way. At all.
It teaches you a mindset - which may not matter if you have the creative drive to override it. Otherwise it will limit you to tonality and by extension, form associated with tonality.
The more theory you know and understand the easier getting the final result you want becomes.
Already answered above. The classic non-classical example is of course the Beatles who wrote highly successful and very good music with no knowledge of theory whatever. Not bad for singer/songwriters who couldn't even read music... I will concede that "theory" is a good discipline that will help composers control what they're doing.

M

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Guest QcCowboy

Monty, you are under the mistaken assumption (and an assumption made by many, it seems) that "theory" stops at common practice.

Which IS why I say (and I believe it was said pretty clearly) that "Learning only a BIT of theory does (limit you). The more theory you know and understand the easier getting the final result you want becomes."

While your example of the Beetles might at first blush seem reasonable, it is erroneous in one aspect: the Beetles music is barely extended past common practice harmony. Most popular music, likewise, only rarely moves past common practice harmonic procedure.

And while Ferneyhough may believe as you say, I am in a good position to assure you that this is not the prevalent line of thought for those teaching composition today. A solid base in common practice leads to more advanced theoretical study. THAT is the study that moves into realms of musical theory that are of more interest to the contemporary composer.

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/nod

If you've only learned theory up to the common practice period, you've stopped far short. I know plenty of people don't bother going any farther, but really, the techniques and information you learn are very valid and extremely useful in many aspects, even if you do just want to compose tonal music.

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While your example of the Beetles might at first blush seem reasonable, it is erroneous in one aspect: the Beetles music is barely extended past common practice harmony. Most popular music, likewise, only rarely moves past common practice harmonic procedure.

I don't recall saying anything about common practice. I think I said they got where they did with no theoretical knowledge at all. I was mistaken because they obviously had a few guitar chords - apologies about that oversight. .They couldn't even read music. But they did have an excellent musical sense - intuition if you like. Yes, their stuff was limited (though I notice they could use the melodic minor correctly!) but it was arrived at with almost no technical knowledge of music.

And while Ferneyhough may believe as you say, I am in a good position to assure you that this is not the prevalent line of thought for those teaching composition today.
Particularly for class-styled tuition - as long as we're also saying it does not teach creativity. ."Teaching theory" is, by its nature, teaching rules. And in the area of creativity, rules are sometimes constricting. Certainly in the composition of electroacoustic music, they are likely to thwart rather than assist creativity. Though I do admit a good sense of form is needed.

Various viewpoints are viable.

cheers.

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Knowledge of theory will only limit you if you have a severe mental defect. The notion that learning about tonal music will limit you in writing non-tonal music is preposterous, as knowing something certainly doesn't imply that it becomes all that you can do. Were a contemporary composer to learn about only common practice era theory, they would certainly limited, but it wouldn't be for what they do know; it would be for what they don't. The Beatles may have composed good music considering the fact that they weren't versed in theory, but that one counterexample really proves nothing. Yes, there may have been a band that wrote quality tunes without attending Julliard, but that fact has no relevance to the millions of nonexistent composers who are about to be hurt by learning music theory.

And about the point of "rules"--modern theory says nothing about rules. If somebody wants to impose rules upon themselves, such as the limiting of parallel fifths, that may or may not limit them. But theory in itself at this point makes no mention of unbreakable rules. Theory tells us that parallel fifths and octaves make instruments sound less separate, not that parallel fifths and octaves are incorrect. Theory may call an authentic cadence in which every voice does not resolve in a certain way "imperfect", but that doesn't mean that the musical community will shun a composer who uses them. Music theory is just that: theory, not rules. I sincerely pity you if you cannot recognize that.

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I won't waste time arguing. I mentioned one composer/teacher who does not go along with your viewpoint or QCs. I could name more. I also indicated as a simple example, a group of musicians who certainly made their fortune without an academic knowledge of theory. I finally said that various viewpoints are viable. Yours is fine, as long as you realise it isn't the only one.

"modern theory says nothing about rules" I'd put that in my signature but people might think I believe it!

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There are some issues for which I think that viewpoints that oppose my own have some value. This isn't one of them. No composition professor will have a student hanged for using a tritone, and nobody will be worse off for learning theory. Fact.

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Cross-posting from another somehow very similar thread.

"I have this heirloom, which has been passed down to me through many generations. It's a watch, made by a watchmaker who didn't know anything about watchmaking. I've been told that he allegedly killed his master in a fit of anger when he tried to teach him how to handle tweezers.

"It doesn't show time, and it looks like a big ugly blob, but my family treasures it, because it's made from gold and I assume it's valuable."

I'm pretty sick of this topic, I must admit, but really, I couldn't care less if you wish to believe that knowing stuff is bad. As long as you don't come crying to me when you realize what you've missed.

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Hi all! My name is Diego, i am 17 and I LOVE video game music. I really really want to learn how to compose music. Could someone help me getting started? :)

1 - What should i learn first? Music Theory? If so, how much of it?

2 - Is it true that Jeremy Soule musics are assembled with sound libraries and are not actually recorded by an orchestra? If so, is it possible to make high quality music with only a computer?

3 - What program do you use?

4 - What sound libraries do you use?

5 - Is music composition only for talented people? How do I know if I am talented?

Thanks a lot!

1. The more you know the better. Music theory in general is the notes, the intervals, the scales, and some small things. After that you get harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, instrumentation, composition, etc. All of these can be learned at the same time. In general, it would be good (since you want CG music) to know the notes, rhythms, etc, which means, yes, music theory. Knowing the "rules" does not mean you can't break them, or that there is right or wrong. Especially in composition.

2. Not anymore, it's not true. It's half true anyway. As far as I know Soule uses custom made libraries. Plus with the budgets that he is in, it allows him to use live orchestras. But yes you can make "high quality" music with a single computer. But it take skill, practice, and yes, knowledge. Note that music coming from a single computer and a library, won't be as "realistic" as a real orchestra recording, but it's not the point anyways. If everybody had the money to get live orchestras, there wouldn't be sample libraries.

3. Finale, Cubase

4. EWQLSO Gold, Gold xp pro, Symphonic Choirs, Vapor, Adrenaline

Pianoteq v.2

Ivory

Bela D. Media DIVA

Drumkit from Hell Superior

Manybass

and various other

5. Is anything only for the few? Not really! You can be a composer, and an untalented one. Heck there are 1000s of untalented composers around, some of which are successful. And others who are hugely talented that are not successful. In short, yes, it helps to have talent, and in all honesty, someone who can't sing, shouldn't dream of an internation career in opera, but then again, everything is possible...

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1. The more you know the better. Music theory in general is the notes, the intervals, the scales, and some small things. After that you get harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, instrumentation, composition, etc. All of these can be learned at the same time. In general, it would be good (since you want CG music) to know the notes, rhythms, etc, which means, yes, music theory. Knowing the "rules" does not mean you can't break them, or that there is right or wrong. Especially in composition.

I really want to learn music theory, could you suggest me some books?

2. Not anymore, it's not true. It's half true anyway. As far as I know Soule uses custom made libraries. Plus with the budgets that he is in, it allows him to use live orchestras. But yes you can make "high quality" music with a single computer. But it take skill, practice, and yes, knowledge. Note that music coming from a single computer and a library, won't be as "realistic" as a real orchestra recording, but it's not the point anyways. If everybody had the money to get live orchestras, there wouldn't be sample libraries.

3. Finale, Cubase

4. EWQLSO Gold, Gold xp pro, Symphonic Choirs, Vapor, Adrenaline

Pianoteq v.2

Ivory

Bela D. Media DIVA

Drumkit from Hell Superior

Manybass

and various other

So you use Finale and Cubase. Isnt it possible to just compose the music on Finale and tell it to play using an external sampler as output? Why do people use programs like Cubase, Reason, Sonar, etc? I thought nowadays we could just write the music notation and it could be played with sample libraries.

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I really want to learn music theory, could you suggest me some books?

Not sure really... :blush: You can try Ricci Adams' Musictheory.net and take it from there. I mean the very basic stuff are the notes, rhythmgs, key signature, time signature, scales, intervals and then you slowly move into harmony, which is a different thing (although everything can be called "theory" in... theory!) Chord formation, Different chords, different uses, I-IV-V, etc...

Do try out the site I linked you. I'm sorry that I don't know any books in English about music. In the UK (if you are in the uk) I believe that ABSRM has published quite a few books, which might come in handy, and rather cheap.

So you use Finale and Cubase. Isnt it possible to just compose the music on Finale and tell it to play using an external sampler as output? Why do people use programs like Cubase, Reason, Sonar, etc? I thought nowadays we could just write the music notation and it could be played with sample libraries.

Yes you can, but I still think that the result is better from Sequencers.

Keep in mind that I deal very much in audio, and sound design, to which Finale is not able to do. Also, for me, it is still the case that Finale = notation and Cubase = sequencing, although both have integraded different parts from each other.

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Monty, you are under the mistaken assumption (and an assumption made by many, it seems) that "theory" stops at common practice.

Which IS why I say (and I believe it was said pretty clearly) that "Learning only a BIT of theory does (limit you). The more theory you know and understand the easier getting the final result you want becomes."

While your example of the Beetles might at first blush seem reasonable, it is erroneous in one aspect: the Beetles music is barely extended past common practice harmony. Most popular music, likewise, only rarely moves past common practice harmonic procedure.

I have to agree with this point completely. Just with anything, the more knowledge you have the better equipped your are to be able to create. Notice I didn't say having a mastery of theory means you'll be a master composer. Quite the opposite! Just having the knowledge isn't enough, there needs to be some natural talent there.

One of the major problems is the mass public has become dumbed down musically speaking. While I don't miss the days where serial music was performed regularly in public...I do miss the fact that the common "joe" is listening to crap on the radio. Most of the music being shoved down our throats from the major record labels flat out sucks.

In fact...the same can be said for much of the literature, TV shows and films. Most things seem to be getting more dumbed down...and that is distressing.

But that is a whole other conversation for another time. Back to the point: learn as much as you can about music and not just the western harmony structure. I've spent time learning Japanese music, Hindustani music and others. All of it has value and helps me have a deeper understand of music and (hopefully) gives me more resources to draw from and make my music more interesting. :)

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My two cents:

I would also urge you to improvise as you go. Improvisation will cement the theoretical concepts you learn and make them more natural and organic. Just sit at the piano(Or guitar/viola/whatever) and fool around with the chords and concepts you learn. You will most likely end up surprising yourself.

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...I would also urge you to improvise as you go. Improvisation will cement the theoretical concepts you learn and make them more natural and organic...

Be careful though, you might find that you like it...

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