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Author Topic: BlackBlade Writes Music
BlackBlade
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Link.

So I've been teaching myself to write music for a while. I took piano lessons for several years, and then decided I hated having a piano teacher. I played bass clarinet through high school, and was in honors band. During high school I started teaching myself to compose music. I picked it up again with the guitar back in 2003.

I wouldn't put myself as remarkable, but I'm getting pretty good at it I think. At this point what I'd really like is a music recording setup that I could edit so the songs I record sound way more polished, and have no mistakes.

But, I've decided to include the songs I write in this thread. I've already got quite a few on my SoundCloud stream which you can listen to at your leisure.

But I'm going to be working on this song going forward until it's complete.

I always appreciate feedback (both good *AND* bad). On this piece, or any of the ones I've recorded. Suggestions are fantastic too.

A Little Night (With Marching) was two separate songs that I want to pull together. Right now it's not a perfect meshing, but I'm convinced I can get it there. Since I believe in being musically honest, the ending theme you hear in the song is a salute to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2 in C minor 2nd Movement. My favorite piece of classical music.

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advice for robots
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Hey, BB, it sounds pretty good so far. I'm picking up a lot of Grieg in it, although I can hear Rachmaninoff as well. I really like the ending. You might even draw it out a little more with slower notes at the end. Maybe a more definite theme that you sprinkle throughout. But I'm far from a classical music expert. It's cool to hear someone actually composing a classical piece rather than new age for once. [Smile] From what I can hear you are definitely doing well at the piano.

Since I posted a thread about pimping my home studio some time back, I've put together a setup that works for the basic recording I'm able to do, although I know it's no great shakes as far as what a pro would need. I got a Mac, a great first step. I know GarageBand is fairly limited in options, but it's so easy to use, has a surprising amount of capabilities anyway, and works seamlessly with all my other equipment.

I have an M-Audio M-Track audio interface that I can plug live instruments, microphone XLR, and midi into and record directly into GB. It was a little touchy with my Windows 7 machine but like I said it works seamlessly with my Mac in GB. I also picked up a used M-Audio 64 key controller, just a keyboard made for a digital studio. I have a condenser mic as well, which has worked splendidly for vocals so far. Along with my electric guitar and bass, I've got a lot of ways to record, mix, and edit sound like I want.

I've also been able to use my Mac and audio interface to help my daughter record her own compositions on our digital piano in midi. If you have a digital piano or large keyboard with midi out, you'd be able to create the editable recordings you want with this kind of setup. Hope that helps.

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BlackBlade
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Thanks AFR. I do have a keyboard at home, but I'm not sure if it has midi out. What I really want to do is get a good quality mic, and setup a space where I can record guitar, piano, and keyboards and put together songs. I'll probably get a mac one day for that purpose *puts gun to head*.

You are right that the two themes in the song don't stand out just yet, but they will once I put enough hours in and iron out exactly how the song will be sequentially. There's still a bit of improve in each recording.

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BlackBlade
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A little guitar song that came to me serendipitously.

It's Gonna Be One Fine Day.

Interestingly enough, it's very difficult for me to write happy songs. Very easy for me to write somber and evil.

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rollainm
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Awesome stuff BlackBlade :-) I followed you, so definitely keep the good stuff coming.

Take this with an amateur-sized grain of salt, but if you're looking for a cheap yet reliable USB condenser, I highly recommend the Blue Yeti. The Yeti Pro has XLR out, but if you're going that route there are probably better bang-for-your-buck options out there.

Also, if you happen to be stuck with windows, Audacity is, to my knowledge, the best free audio editor out there. Edits are destructive, though. Not like a real DAW.

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BlackBlade
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Thanks for the suggestions. I'd really like to get a setup one day. Once I do I won't be messing around then.
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BlackBlade
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Most of my songs never feel like they are done. Which isn't bad, as I get more tools and talent they can be revisited, and layers added to them. It feels right to just let one out of doors for now.

Guitar Contemplations.

This song has several parents actually.

Primus' "Arnie". I think Primus was the first band I listened to that had groove music. It's music that's more about experiencing the tones rather than a driving melody.

Dandy Warhol's "Not Your Bottle". The DW's ability to grove but then push up into a crescendo of sound and then retreat has always stuck with me. This song actually has a version where I turn on distortion from an amp, but that's something I will have to revisit when I have a proper electric guitar, not a classical that can be plugged into.

Beastie Boys' "Sabrosa". Beastie Boys are known for rapping, but they also put out songs with no lyrics just instrumentals, and this style was very much a strong influence on me when I was writing Guitar Contemplations.

I'm positive the main theme exists in a song I've heard, but I cannot for the life of me summon it.

Hope y'all enjoy it.

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Herblay
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I got two turntables and a microphone....
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
I got two turntables and a microphone....

That song drives me nuts.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
[
But I'm going to be working on this song going forward until it's complete.

I always appreciate feedback (both good *AND* bad). On this piece, or any of the ones I've recorded. Suggestions are fantastic too.

A Little Night (With Marching) was two separate songs that I want to pull together. Right now it's not a perfect meshing, but I'm convinced I can get it there. Since I believe in being musically honest, the ending theme you hear in the song is a salute to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2 in C minor 2nd Movement. My favorite piece of classical music.

I also hear some influence from Brahms as well, and Beethoven, particularly in the cadences.

You welcomed notes, so I will offer some conservative suggestions. You are aware of my experience.

1. Structure

While you're gaining a fairly good grasp of chord regression, the piece is quite narrowly constructed. What I mean by this, is that it pivots around a very static tonic center, without gravitating outward to relative keys much, if at all. You give a hint of some modulation in the last minute or so, but you quickly shy back to the original tonic chord pattern, and you don't stray far from that.

How to fix this: So this is not a *problem* in the sense that you might worry about. You should view this process as discovering the "linguistic possibilities" of this piece, and exploring the directions that it can go in. You have been working on the melody and the progression structure so far, but you need to take a step back now and understand how the structure of the piece operates.

For example, I would hard pressed to understand what constitutes an "A" and a "B" section of the piece. That's not bad in and of itself. A famous piece that clearly had an influence on this one is the Moonlight Sonata, which doesn't have a B section at all. However, it is the 2nd of a 3 movement piece. It is not a standalone effort.

You've got a very busy left hand part, that pretty much trucks its way entirely through the piece without evolving much or at all. You should focus on that and purposefully try a new tack. A way to pull yourself out of that rut is to push the whole piece to a higher register in a B section, and change the rhythm substantially, forcing yourself to thin out and pare down the texture until we can hear the focus of the melody in just a few notes.

Also, focus on the melodic structures suggested by the texture already in place. What I mean by this is: look at the notes on the page, and try to literally draw a line in pencil between the notes that are *not* the melody, but lead, one to the other, through the chord progression. Then play those notes separately for yourself, and establish *those* as a melody with their own articulations. Then devise new bass accompaniments to *those* notes, and see what you have. What you might have is something like a B section you didn't even notice was there.

Another trick is to look at the highest note played in each measure of the piece, and then to only play those notes in a sequence. Devise a chord structure to fit that sequence, and you may have an idea for another section of music. These are the little tricks that the romantic composers learned for relating their sections of music to the whole.


What I would suggest would be to also explore related keys, and how you can connect or bridge away from the tonic, into those keys. Likely suspects for this piece are vi, V, ii, and if you want to be really romantic, III (quite striking, but difficult to achieve). Another thing that you could do is consider carving out a middle section with a distinctive character, in a related key. You could take a page from Bach, and simple modulate between the minor tonic and the major one (so in your case, simply make the tonic triad major, and then refigure the same progression into a major progression, and see what that inspires you to do from there).

The key here is contrast. You don't have much now. You have a few striking turns of phrase that you can now use to your advantage, but those aren't the piece in entirety. You now need to think about a structure that evolves over the length of the piece. An A section, a B section, and a variation of the A section. Or an A section, a B section, and a combination of A and B together. There are a lot of possibilities. But now focus on global structure.

2. Voice leading

In the sections of the piece where the chord progression becomes very homophonic (where you play the chords with both hands on the beat), I can hear some weak voicings of chords that don't flatter the piece.

How you can fix it: When writing chord progressions, you need to pay attention to the voicings of the chords (the positions of the notes in the chord), and pay attention to how those positions correspond to the positions of the proceeding chords. So, for example, if you play a C-chord with the c in the bass and G on top (closed position voicing), and then play a G chord, your voicing should not have G in the bass and D on top. This would introduce a parallel movement of 5ths which does not flatter the ear, and can spoil the progression.

Of course, plenty of modern composers have parallel fifth movement, but there are ways to use it to advantage that are not really apparent in your piece. Your piece sounds like it doesn't fit with that kind of voicing, and so those sections feel quite weak as a result of a stagnant voicing arrangement. You should focus on the structure of the chord progression, and attempt to find a solution that will "bring out" each of the notes in each of the chords. An easy way to make sure you do this is to focus on the bass progression first, and build chords that vary in structure on top of them. Incidentally, that is also how you can effect changes away from the tonic key (by introducing a bass progression in one key, and then modifying the chords on top of it to pull you toward a new tonic center).

[ August 22, 2014, 06:26 AM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:

Also, if you happen to be stuck with windows, Audacity is, to my knowledge, the best free audio editor out there. Edits are destructive, though. Not like a real DAW.

Audacity is definitely not the best. Barely usable, in my experience, and yes, destructive editing makes it basically kryptonite. If you're stuck with windows, Cool Edit Pro is much, much better.
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BlackBlade
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Used to not enough feedback now I have too much and at a level of which I don't know if I'm smart enough to use!
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Herblay
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
I got two turntables and a microphone....

That song drives me nuts.
Have you listened to the major chords in it?
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
I got two turntables and a microphone....

That song drives me nuts.
Have you listened to the major chords in it?
Well since I've heard the song presumably yes, but maybe I'm not drawing the connection you are driving at? [Smile]
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BlackBlade
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Orincoro:
quote:
While you're gaining a fairly good grasp of chord regression, the piece is quite narrowly constructed. What I mean by this, is that it pivots around a very static tonic center, without gravitating outward to relative keys much, if at all. You give a hint of some modulation in the last minute or so, but you quickly shy back to the original tonic chord pattern, and you don't stray far from that.

Do I get extra credit for changing keys mid-song? [Wink]

I will admit stylistically I like to stay very grounded. People who are able to drive away from their center and come back impress me but aesthetically it doesn't work well for me. But maybe I just don't know myself well enough. You mentioned a few songs in your remarks. Do you have songs that provide good examples of this specific concepts?

quote:
You've got a very busy left hand part, that pretty much trucks its way entirely through the piece without evolving much or at all. You should focus on that and purposefully try a new tack. A way to pull yourself out of that rut is to push the whole piece to a higher register in a B section, and change the rhythm substantially, forcing yourself to thin out and pare down the texture until we can hear the focus of the melody in just a few notes.
Interesting, see I feel like my left hand is *far* weaker than my right. I'm chronically worried that I give it lazy parts because it can't keep up with what my right hand can do. I'll try your suggestion and see what I can come up with.

quote:
What I would suggest would be to also explore related keys, and how you can connect or bridge away from the tonic, into those keys. Likely suspects for this piece are vi, V, ii, and if you want to be really romantic, III (quite striking, but difficult to achieve)
It's been many years since I've had formal training, and I have trouble knowing all the technical names for chords. If you tell me the key it's in and the other notes in the chord I can work with that. Sorry!

quote:
In the sections of the piece where the chord progression becomes very homophonic (where you play the chords with both hands on the beat), I can hear some weak voicings of chords that don't flatter the piece.
Time stamps here would help me to recognize what you are hearing. I've never thought to listen for something like this.

Thanks so much Orincoro. [Smile]

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Herblay
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPfmNxKLDG4

Listen to the main riff at the first of the song and repeated throughout. I thought you paying tribute.

<shrug>

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPfmNxKLDG4

Listen to the main riff at the first of the song and repeated throughout. I thought you paying tribute.

<shrug>

Aha! I kept thinking of the chorus instead of the rest of the song which was why I kept missing it. I'm certain that must have been in my mind when I was writing it.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Orincoro:
quote:
While you're gaining a fairly good grasp of chord regression, the piece is quite narrowly constructed. What I mean by this, is that it pivots around a very static tonic center, without gravitating outward to relative keys much, if at all. You give a hint of some modulation in the last minute or so, but you quickly shy back to the original tonic chord pattern, and you don't stray far from that.

Do I get extra credit for changing keys mid-song? [Wink]

I will admit stylistically I like to stay very grounded. People who are able to drive away from their center and come back impress me but aesthetically it doesn't work well for me. But maybe I just don't know myself well enough. You mentioned a few songs in your remarks. Do you have songs that provide good examples of this specific concepts?


They're not songs. [Smile] Songs involve singing. Unless they're by Mahler, and they're Songs Without Words, in which case, they're songs. I know. That's a lot of rules.

It is not a matter of style. It is a matter of structure. Contrast is achieved through variation- departure and return. You have to leave the tonic key in order to return to it. If you don't, then your piece lacks a sense of evolving structure. In its current state, the piece is wallpaper, not a painting. A painting has a foreground and a background- it has different subjects, different themes, and they intermingle. You have a pattern. If that's all you want, then bully, but it won't approach the pieces you are imitating.

In terms of pieces to look to: any piano sonata from Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, etc has these kinds of structural elements in them. The tonic center shifts away from the beginning, and returns as a resolution. Otherwise it's a pop song (and not an inspired one), or perhaps a piece of movie music.

quote:
quote:
You've got a very busy left hand part, that pretty much trucks its way entirely through the piece without evolving much or at all. You should focus on that and purposefully try a new tack. A way to pull yourself out of that rut is to push the whole piece to a higher register in a B section, and change the rhythm substantially, forcing yourself to thin out and pare down the texture until we can hear the focus of the melody in just a few notes.
Interesting, see I feel like my left hand is *far* weaker than my right. I'm chronically worried that I give it lazy parts because it can't keep up with what my right hand can do. I'll try your suggestion and see what I can come up with.

Most composers have a lazy left hand [Wink] . That is why the keyboard is arranged from low to high. But bass notes contain harmonics, which color them with higher frequencies. Use these too much, and it's like whitewashing everything with a layer of chalky paint. You can't see the details.

quote:
quote:
What I would suggest would be to also explore related keys, and how you can connect or bridge away from the tonic, into those keys. Likely suspects for this piece are vi, V, ii, and if you want to be really romantic, III (quite striking, but difficult to achieve)
It's been many years since I've had formal training, and I have trouble knowing all the technical names for chords. If you tell me the key it's in and the other notes in the chord I can work with that. Sorry!

Save that for another day. Focus on this: when you play the tonic triad, that is "home." Now look at the 5th (the note 7 half steps higher than the tonic note, or the "home"), and play that chord. It leads naturally back to the tonic chord. Play them one after the other. Tension, resolution. Tension, resolution.

C-G-C, C-G-C.

C-F-G-C,
C-F-G-C.
C-am-F-G-C.
C-dm7-F-am-G7-C.

Notice how more and more strongly these chord progressions lead you to the tonic chord (C). Now try finding a way to make G sound like the tonic. What happens if you turn dm (ii) into a major D chord, so it becomes G-C-D-G instead of C-F-G-C? Things get interesting. This can be done for any key relative to your tonic.

C-F-G-C-am7-dm-F-G-am-C-D7-G. Now where is home? What sounds more stable, C or G?

quote:
quote:
In the sections of the piece where the chord progression becomes very homophonic (where you play the chords with both hands on the beat), I can hear some weak voicings of chords that don't flatter the piece.
Time stamps here would help me to recognize what you are hearing. I've never thought to listen for something like this.

This is not that important right now. And you will notice as your piece evolves, that you will probably pick out those parts of their harmonic weakness, and fix them naturally.
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