How to compose linear and fluent music in Renoise?


(clirke21) #1

Hey guys,

this might be a really odd question, so I apologize in advance if it makes no sense: For years I have been fascinated by music that has a really free flow and doesn’t sound as blocky and repetitive as mine. Some obvious examples for me are Venetian Snares (who uses Renoise extensively or at least has in the past), Squarepusher and Aphex Twin (not his very early stuff, but some tracks on Drukqs and his other digital stuff from the early 2000s give me that feel…and they were made in a tracker as well).

Squarepusher talks about this process here:https://youtu.be/GKeBDzT_dEI?t=1365

Venetian Snares also mentioned it:“I’m really into whole fluid thing of patterns constantly changing and evolving. Although it can get really tedious when done just for the sake of it.” (from Computer Music, Oct 2007)

My problem is that I have tried to work that way within Renoise, but failed to do so miserably. I always get sucked into loopy stuff, copying/pasting patterns etc…I have tried working with different pattern lengths, outside of 4/4 etc. to no avail. And when I tried to record a longer segment using my guitar and then program a more rich and fluent drum pattern or bass line over it which reacted to my changes on the instrument, it bored me to death. I also struggle to program the next pattern when I try to think about it fluently, because I tend to forget what came before it.

So my question is to the people who can make music like that: How did you develop this ability? Did it come automatically or was there no choice for you (a natural process)? I guess I am just fascinated by people whose brains are wired in such a way to make music like that.

Thanks in advance!


(schranzonator) #2

What helps me is to start every song with a different element/instrument. If you have one good idea you can easily build around it even if its just a 2 bar loop. The best things happen accidentally so its always good to experiment and use things in an unusual way, in the end everyone just wants to create something new or unheard before. The fluidity comes with the practice i would say, but we’re all working on it aren’t we? :wink:


(Raul (ulneiz)) #3

Wow, that’s not a strange question, it’s the big question, which indicates that you are at a point already advanced in the composition. Unfortunately, many composers or fans have not even come to ask this question. It is probably due to the new digital age, with all these sequencers or DAWs, which are made to make things easier and to go faster, so you can hunt that idea from your head as quickly as possible, without losing it.

The answer to your question can be quite ambiguous, because it depends a lot on the mental capacity of the composer. But I would focus on 3 fundamental things…

The first is to listen to a lot of music of this type. The best examples I would say are in the Original Sound Bands, because they have a script as a base, which is the moving image that is telling a story. As the story flows (the images do not repeat themselves, but almost always are different), the accompanying orchestral music must also do so, at least to a large extent. I do not know if you like the original soundtracks, made by old-school composers. I’m not talking about Zimmer or all these composers coming out of Media Ventures, who use a DAW to compose. I speak of score composers, in the style of Goldsmith, Williams, Horner and many others that clearly marked a very clear time, before flooding with computers with DAWs. There are so many soundtracks of very high quality that people have not yet heard. It is overwhelming.

The second, I would say it is knowing how to interpret with an instrument. If you do not know how to play an instrument, you will hardly get any fluid composition, because you will use the DAW and its utilities to copy and paste and repeat it ad nauseam, and then modify nuances. That is not the same as interpreting something by letting you carry it. The recommended instrument is the piano. You do not need to be an expert, but we have all these MIDI controllers that include a multi-octave piano. With that you can do wonders. The problem is to get rid of the vice of using the DAW or sequencer by copying patterns. This should only be done with the rhythms or accompaniments, such as percussion, certain chords or use of synthesizers for the environment and little else.

And to do all this you probably have to know yourself. Have you ever imagined a piece of music, or at least a piece, inside your head, that you have never seen before?Well, it seems that we have a brain and like the rest of the muscles of the body it is necessary to excite and train it. Put on fluent music while you go to sleep can help you learn while you enjoy listening. If you do not stop listening to repetitive music, as electronic music puts on a computer, you will not hear many fluent examples. Most sung songs are also repetitions. Many occupy 3 minutes and you repeat the letter 4 times. There is almost nothing original about it, precisely because of that repetition. The nuances do a lot here and the same melody can be played in many ways. All that touches analyze it and take advantage of it.

I myself am very aware of this problem. Even some of the Renoise tools that I build for myself personally are to copy data, repeat. Clone whole patterns, clues. In the end you should be aware of what you are using and how to use it. And that is done by experimenting with what you have already composed. If you have a melody, you can transform it to vary it, but that is not enough. If you play an instrument and let your mind lead you, you should be able to compose fluently. You must be calm and inspired, without anyone bothering you. Use your DAW as a tool, not as the basis of your composition, but you will constantly have those repetitions everywhere.

You can take a test thousands of times, even if it seems ridiculous. Use your mobile phone and record yourself humming or whistling the melody that comes to mind. Try to develop it. Then listen and analyze if you repeat yourself. If at the end you get some fluid melody, you will be able to compose it. But, you need to train your brain for it.

By the way, do you use loops? Stop using them…

I’m glad someone asks these things!!!


(stoiximan) #4

Good thread i am also interested in this.Happy new year everybody


(Raul (ulneiz)) #5

I am very excited to share this video!

Here comes James Horner briefly explaining how he made the Orignal Soundtrack for The Perfect Storm.This composer was like a GOD, one of the brightest minds in contemporary music for film. Of the few that were left I used a pencil and a paper to compose. It was a fucking god! When Williams dies, a magnificent era in film music will end…

Look at everything behind to create a soundtrack of this caliber. It is not only about creating fluency and adjusting it to images, but about telling a story with music. Without going any further, the main theme is about 7 notes and their variations that tell you how the waves of the sea move. That alone can create composers with a very privileged mind, as was Horner. There are thousands of soundtracks that are fluid, but they do not tell a story, they just look good. But fortunately there are a lot of examples of fluent music that tells a story and also fluent music that accompanies, but does not account for it.

All this world of using a symphony orchestra to compose a soundtrack for film is the most original, complex and advanced that exists today, talking about music.


(Zer0 Fly) #6

I’m still dabbling in repetetative stuff, but I am also looking into a future of making more “linear” (as it seems to be called) music pieces. And be it even dance pieces where no single pattern is repeated and that are thus never boring. Maybe I can describe what ideas I have developed so far in this regard.

I know its easy to just make some busy loop, then stretch it out by copy&paste and try to fake variation by turning pattern on/off. That’s how easy, repetetative dance music is mostly done. But nobody sais you have to stop from there. The loop stuff can also be viewed as placeholders for further work individualising things.

But you can also do a step or even leaps forward from that position. I mean, first make that loop thing, lay out in some scheme. Then start the micro editing, and do variations, transform whole blocks/copies into different variations or even totally different themes, that complement each other in different parts… You can consecutively transform a repetative song into a thing where every pattern is unique and expressive on its own. Even if sometimes the changes and additions might be drastically different to what has been looped so far as “placeholder”. Like a poem, that first consists of the same phrase repeated, and you exchange the words with similar or totally different ones here and there, session after session, until you’re satisfied and a whole story is told - a story, that was only a single idea somewhere in the middle of it, when it started.

I think one of renoise’s strengths in this regard is the possibility to operate and edit fully keyboard driven without ever touching the mouse. It is the chance to learn to master this technique, and find ways how you can individualise or alter or let flow the creativity in runs of sessions. I already use midi keyboard for jazzing ideas, but for writing down the music I use the typewriter, it is like editing excel cells in creative ways.

Sometimes it can help to lay out some loop to track some melodic instrument part or harmonic progressions, and then later make every patter of what’s been looped so far unique. Of course you must keep in mind that the task is hard for a beginner, thus until you have learned to write unique and good music quickly, without having to discard too many botched parts, you will need a long time and many sessions to come close to what you have in mind. I guess it is the many hours of experience that make talented people write their music quickly. That is ofc when trained very well in theory, or gifted to be able to compose by ear…the music needs to come from somewhere inside you to begin with…

Ofc the tip to keep the instruments/sound design in own hands and not use ready made loops is prerequisite. Make the starting loops from single-note (also drums!) instruments, then you can make variations or complementary parts to these loops as ever comes into your mind. Maybe a good idea is to use orchestral instrument kits parts as starting point, to practise the melody/harmonic writing skills…

Maybe some example starting from a drum loop that is ever repeated over many patterns… I find it can help to first make a long, stretched melody passage over many patterns. Then add some hamonic framework around it. copy the whole melody x2 and make another hamonic framework building from the first. Adjust the second copy of the melody to bring out more of the strengths of the second harmonic framework. Add a middle part that interludes between both parts. Then have multiple sessions of reworking the drum loop into unique patters that each interplay with the current melodic/harmonic ideas. Add other instruments, cut out parts of what is so far to make room for interesting changes in feel. And ever on and on, doing session after session of micro edits individualising the piece even more and more…what first has been a simple drum loop, can in the end be a linear piece.

Ofc a soundtrack composer for games or movies would maybe already have a bracket to start with - the timeline of the movie with its aspects. But even this could be populated with placeholderst first, to be individualised consecutively until it is perfectly following the moods of the timeline.


(lilith) #7

Here’s a nice video, which also counts for RENOISE:


(stoiximan) #8

Here’s a nice video, which also counts for RENOISE:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf14d_oDWyQ

I follow his channel for some time now.This guy is fantastic


(stoiximan) #9

Try this when you have a little loop going on.Think and decide where this loop belongs in your song.Usally when i make a loop its almost always the Chorus so what i do is take elements from that loop and build it up slowly.It could be anything from that loop the bass the kick anything that comes in mind doesnt matter.What matters is what is in my head.Listen to your mind and heart its there.Also use automation if you really want movement and complexity.Record your voice in a track for what you want a part to sound like and use it as a guide or even put some effects on it like an amp guitar and make it a part of your song.Anything goes


(Dan P) #10

My music is song based, but usually begins with abstract/experimental ideas generated by various synths which are looped into Renoise. I am not keen on making instrumentals, and instead rely on the vocals to drive the music, so once I record vocals onto my skeletal loop then a very satisfying process of adding flesh to the bones begins. This is where the music and the vocals interact organically and a song emerges which may owe little to the original idea, but still needed that catalyst to begin. My aim is always to tell the story of the song as simply as possible and I always try to pare it down in length rather than allow it to swell into an epic, and I would try and favour using a single repetitive idea throughout a song (like Talking Heads “This Must Be The Place”). In practice,however, this hardly ever happens, and the song usually evolves into greater complexity, whilst always attempting to not go too far that way.