How to make music
Just a few decades ago, the songwriting process required serious preparation from musicians. How to write music without plug-ins and multitrack sequencer? You need to rehearse the material to the point of automatism, come to the studio and play everything perfectly smoothly, synchronously and without falsehood.
Then computer programs came and using them, the ability to record many takes and edit tracks (not cutting the tape, but just click the mouse). Today you can make a hit from the comfort of your home. This is confirmed by the experience of many contemporary singers.
What do you need to make music?
Undoubtedly, an expensive professional studio has significant advantages in terms of equipment. You will be provided here with spacious tone rooms having excellent acoustics, iron compressors and equalizers, a large choice of microphones, an analog console, a good control room with several monitor lines, and much more.
But home studio offers advantages in terms of speed and budget. In addition, you do not need tone rooms and many microphones if you only write electronic music using a computer and plug-ins. After all, you are not going to shoot a violin orchestra, drums or a grand piano. Stock up on only the essentials and get going. What is in a complete set of home production equipment?
- Sequencer with plugins;
- Audio interface;
- Midi keyboard;
- Guitar, bass guitar (if you play);
- Subdued room;
- Racks and wires.
Today, you do not have to install gigabytes of software on your computer to write your own music. A sequencer like Amped Studio lets you do your production right in your web browser. All necessary features, tools and plug-ins are included. There is an audio editor, a midi editor, synthesizers, samplers, processing effects. Therefore, in fact, an online sequencer allows you to work without software altogether.
What other equipment is not necessary to purchase in order to write music? Monitors can be replaced with good headphones. In this case, the acoustic design of the room is not needed either. If you do not have a midi keyboard, just draw notes with a pencil in the midi editor. You can draw entire chords with one click in Amped Studio. A microphone comes in handy, but only if you are planning to record vocals.
As we can see, all you need is a computer, headphones, an audio interface and an Internet connection in order to write music. However, if we do not have monitors and a microphone, then we do not need an audio interface. Will it be possible to make a song without a computer at all? Today this is possible. Do mobile production on your smartphone or tablet.
How to write music without a computer?
Online sequencer runs through the web browser of a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Therefore, you can use any mobile device connected to the Internet to write songs. Such programs have no special system requirements. At the same time, you do not need to download software, load sampler libraries, search for virtual instruments and effect plug-ins.
Online format helps you write music quickly and without unnecessary steps. Musical ideas often come at the most inopportune moment: when there is no computer with a sequencer at hand, when you are out for a walk, study or work. Just take out your smartphone or tablet, open the website and quickly jot down a melody, beat or hook. And after a while, being at home, you can finalize this project on your computer.
Online sequencer Amped Studio is very simple and straightforward, yet it provides all the possibilities for creating music. It works in multitrack format, records audio and midi from external sources. It edits audio and midi clips. It gives the user a set of loops, samplers and midi patterns, has built-in virtual instruments and plug-ins. It is already possible to write music only with the help of them. Here is the basic set:
- Drum machine;
At the same time, VSTs from the computer are also connected to Amped Studio. Online sequencers usually do not have this feature. Another non-standard feature allows you to turn a sung melody into a sequence of midi notes. Moreover, what stationary programs do not have: the ability to work collectively on one project from different computers. Distribute tasks in your production team and do the same song at the same time from different places.
This software primarily helps beatmakers, composers and songwriters write music. It is great for arranging too. Vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist will also find use for this program, as it has a sound recording function. Amped Studio is useful even for a mix engineer: here you can build balances and process tracks with effects.
Is it necessary to know the theory to create music?
This will probably upset you, but a musician cannot do without theory. The good news is that you do not need to memorize it. Plunging into the musical world, you involuntarily are acquainted with its concepts and laws. Even if you do not know the terminology, nothing prevents you from composing a melody. Some musicians are fluent in technique and quickly come up with interesting moves, but do not even know what their techniques are called in a professional field.
While you are writing music, you have to distinguish between major and minor (and then other modes), are acquainted with intervals, time signatures, chords, etc. You can clearly distinguish between the moods that give a fourth and a sixth, but you never know that these intervals are called that way. It is not necessary to know any terms at all. If you denote tempo by a number (for example, 120 bpm), why do you need to remember what “adagio”, “moderato”, “allegro”, etc. are.
For some reason, many doubt whether it is possible to write music without knowledge of musical notation. In fact, it is difficult to find a person involved in production who would use musical notation in his work and place dots with flags on the rulers. High-speed sight-reading is useful only for the musicians of the orchestra but not for composers and arrangers. Although knowledge can facilitate and speed up the work, as well as make the work more interesting.
Someone writes music at random, choosing notes by ear. This is also a method, but those who are familiar, for example, with the quarto-fifth circle, intervals, frets, the arrangement of sharps and flats in different keys, will be able to pick up all the notes in their head and quickly find them on the keyboard or fretboard. When a musician has no inspiration, he can rely solely on logic and knowledge if he has a theory. This becomes a great help but in no case should this moment slow you down. Practice always comes first.
What does the song consist of?
All modern songs intended for a wide audience are assembled from repetitive patterns. You do not need to come up with complex compositions and twisted plots, as in detective novels to write music for songs. Of course, if we are not talking about opera or works in the classical style. These are the main parts of a typical song:
- Introduction (Intro);
- Couplet (Verse);
- Entering the chorus (Pre-chorus);
- Playback (Bridge);
- Culmination (Middle, Build-up);
- Interchange (Drop, Solo);
- Conclusion (Outro, Coda).
You do not have to write music that way. The code is not always used: sometimes, the piece ends with a chorus or a solo. You will not hear the culmination everywhere. In some songs, only the verse and chorus are repeated, and the accompaniment is a continuous looping arpeggio. The chorus entry is also optional. However, every possible element of the composition deserves attention.
Introduction. You do not have to follow the canons to write music. Many hits start right away with a verse, and some even with a chorus. Intro matches the bridge and coda in the standard version. Sometimes it repeats the melody of the chorus, some tune or one of the hooks. Nevertheless, it can also be unique.
Main part. The traditional way to write music without feints is to just alternate verses and choruses. They are usually repeated two or three times. Nevertheless, it is still worth creating dynamics and drama. The couplets should be more calm, narrative and simple; they are usually sung in a low tessitura and create the scenery for the main action. The main action is the chorus. It should be more energetic, bright, powerful, melodic, rich in arrangement, high in tessiture. In fact, the whole song works for it.
Pre-chorus. When making music, this part is often omitted. But with pre-chorus, it turns out to be more dramatic and interesting. Pre-chorus changes the mood of the verse to a more intense one. It acts as a transition from a calm period to an explosive one, prepares the listener. Something like a yellow traffic light.
Build-up. This technique helps to write music with an even more dramatic development. This place represents a calm, a slowdown, a change of mood. It happens that the drum part disappears here. The vocal melody usually changes. There are many options. Change from minor to major, break the rhythm, make a breakdown, move to a different key … But you can do without this part altogether.
Solo or drop. How to write music with a guitar in hand and not fall into an endless solo? Remember, there is a special place ahead where the lead guitar will unfold in full width. There is no solo in electronic styles, but the calm and acceleration is replaced by a powerful dance rhythm with fat synthesizers – a drop. Sometimes a rap is waiting for the listener at this point, and sometimes an empty run-through of a couplet.
Coda. The final part when making music is usually not given much attention. Here, either simply insert the bridge again, or bring the solo to a point, or do another chorus, where the song ends. Everything is in your hands. If you come up with a unique ending, it will be cool.
Bridges and cutouts. It is difficult to write music in which one part flows beautifully into another. Moreover, not every listener will like this. After a powerful chorus, you need a short break: just a chord square, a bridge solo, or some other breakout. Drum fills, hooks or harmonic micro-transitions are usually made inside each part.
Development is one of the basic principles of making music. We realized that the song was made up of repetitive parts. However, it would be boring if everything were that simple. The second verse should still evolve relative to the first. It is the same with the choruses. All the time you need to add something so that the listener does not get bored. Ideally, something new should happen every beat.
How do you write music so that verses can differ? Add some melodic instrument with counterpoint to the second verse. Add percussion, backing vocals, a second guitar. Thicken the bass. Open the hat slightly. Change the guitar arpeggio slightly. Insert a fill pad. Make the bass play extra fills. It works on the chorus too.
You do not have to use everything at once. One or two tricks will be enough. There are endless options for how to write interesting music. Coming up with something new is creativity. The more original solutions you come up with, the better: creativity is not repetition, but composing something new. However, repetitions are still needed to get the song into the head.
Music making is a balance between proven techniques and experimentation, development and repetition. This is always a deception of expectations. The listener gets used to repetitions, falls into a kind of hypnosis, but then something breaks in the sound or composition, and the listener wakes up. This is how we keep him under control.
Instrumentation and arrangement. We looked at how to write music from a dynamic perspective. In a synchronous aspect, it consists of instruments and instrumental groups. Each song has its own set of instruments that work throughout the composition. Their backbone should not change; otherwise, the song will fall apart and sound strange. What does this include?
- Vocals or synth lead (this is the main part);
- Rhythm section (drums and bass);
- Instruments that support rhythm and harmony (rhythm guitar, piano, organ and more);
- Second solo instrument (lead guitar, synth lead speaking with vocals, synth for drop and other melodic parts);
- Fillers (pads, effects, percussion, etc.).
All parts need to be built in a common key, as well as dissonance should be avoided to write music that is pleasant to listen to. If two instruments play per second, tritone or septima, it hurts the ear. Although, if these intervals are played by one instrument, they may sound great in a certain style and context. Rhythmic confusion should also be avoided.
Making music is the process of interweaving instrumental lines together. The interaction between the instruments is also limited only by your imagination. But there are a few common tricks. For example, guitar and bass guitar can enter into a dialogue on the principle of question and answer, form a common melody, or even play in unison (in songs based on riffs, this is constantly practiced).
How to write music with a clear beat? Just adjust all the elements to match the rhythm. For example, you can organize the keyboard part so that it becomes one instrument with the drums. Kick drum usually pushes the bass guitar, it hits clearly in its accents. The drawing of the bass guitar, in turn, can partially repeat the melody of the vocals. Therefore, we weaved the musical texture.
When writing music, stick to style norms (or play with). Funky bass is fond of syncopation. There are no chords as such in any kind of metal, but the pattern here is formed by a riff that repeats constantly.
Speaking of the theory of making music. You just came across a few technical terms that might need clarification. If you are very interested, you will go to a search engine to find out what “syncope”, “weak beat”, “septima” or “counterpoint” is. Then you will try to master these things. In this way, you will gradually become familiar with the theory. If you learn it deliberately and without putting it into practice, then there will be no sense. The theory will be erased quickly from memory without practical use.
How is the song created?
Writing music is still not easy today. It seems to the average person that the most magical, complex and important process is the composition itself. For authors who are not in production on their own, perhaps this is also true. But in reality, before the song is released to a wide audience, it will be reworked several times. Several stages await a crude idea:
- Sound recording;
Ideally, the author should write the music, arrange – the arranger, record – the recording engineer, edit – the assistant sound engineer, mix – the mix engineer, finalize – the mastering engineer. But often the author himself arranges his songs, and one sound engineer is engaged in recording, editing and mixing.
Songwriting. The one who writes the music is the author. The author is the one who invented the vocal melody and simple accompaniment on the piano or guitar. In this case, someone else can already write the text. The song sketch is then sent to a professional arranger.
Arrangement. In fact, all the magic of making music happens at this stage. The arranger selects the instruments, makes the final harmonization, comes up with musical ideas, moves and hooks. Only after his arrangement, the work begins to play with all colors.
Sound recording. At least clean vocals should be recorded for the finished arrangement. If you are writing music with live instrumentation, you also need to move away drums, guitars, violins, trumpets, grand piano and everything that the arranger filled the song with. This already requires musicians and a studio.
Editing. Midi parts are easy to quantize, but mic tracks are tricky. Even if you write music with only vocals, you need to choose successful takes, align the track in rhythm and volume, tighten notes, and clean the part from clicks, knocks, rustles and other debris.
Mixing. When all the tracks are in perfect condition, the sound engineer starts working with them. He evens them out in terms of volume, processes them with equalizers, compressors, saturators, reverbs. This is also a laborious process; often mixing is no easier than writing music.
Mastering. If the sound engineer works with many tracks, then the mastering engineer receives only one file – the finished mix. He brings his sound to the ideal. In this, he is helped by expensive monitors, high-class equipment and ideal acoustics of the working room.
Promotion. This stage does not concern how to write music at all. But it is just as important. You need to keep this in mind and set a certain budget for advertising, campaigns to attract attention and posting the song on streaming platforms. Otherwise, even a potential super hit risks being left without due attention.
Some tips to remember
- Do not get bogged down in theory. It is easy to start writing music if you do not stop yourself thinking that you do not know anything or do not know how. Take from theory only what you need at the moment. Only refer to it when you feel that you lack knowledge;
- Analyze your favorite songs. The best training is hit analysis. You need to understand their logic to write music like a genius. Disassemble successful works; try to completely repeat them, note interesting solutions for yourself. Use references when working on your material;
- Strive for originality. It seems to many that all successful authors use some general laws to create music. But if you analyze several imperishable hits, you will understand that each of them has its own flavor. Experiment and look for something that will surprise the listener;
- Watch for trends. Try understanding what the modern listener likes to write music that will be in demand today. Of course, no one wants to depend on someone else’s tastes, but you can find something that will be in tune with your own musical preferences;
- Write music easily. Try to do the arrangement quickly, do not get hung up and see it through to the end. The problem with many musicians is that at a certain stage they start drowning in unfinished demos. Sometimes it is worth sacrificing your perfectionism.
And the main advice: take action. Do not wait to learn how to write music, master the theory, stock up on the equipment of your dreams. Practice will give you more than any plug-in. Your own experience will be strengthened in your brain more than any theoretical calculations.
No monitors – use headphones. No software – open the free version of the online sequencer. Today, just turn on your computer and you already have a powerful tool for making music. You will definitely get the equipment you want over time. You may already be a cool producer by that time. Everything depends on you.