How You See Composing

I was curious to hear how people build song…
I mean, what is your concept of a song.
Do you see parts of a song i.e. intro - body - chorus etc…
or according to your instruments bass rythm melody…
maybe lego blocks of sound?
im just curious to hear what people pay attention to the most…
i play guitar so when composing i always used to think of each instrument but since i got into tracking my has sort of changed about it…

It’s an interesting question how one builds and perceives a song.

For me those are two different aspects. Building the song is linked to the work process and is very pragmatic. The perception of a song is more what one thinks a song is made up of – what makes a song.

But anyhow the two things are inseparably linked together. I will give my version of my general working process, hence this being the interesting part as inspiration to others.

The process, for me in broad terms, is founded in a beat vs. bass composition. Either I build a beat and compose a bass line to it or visa versa – depending on my mood, genre, basic idea etc. Note: my process is not as strict as written here, but this could be a typical process. Then I make a quick mix, fitting the levels of the different tracks to each other. I DSP the tracks separately (EQ, compression/limiting, stereo perspective, envelopes, other effects e.g. distortion), adjust the mix and often throw all the drums into a bus. My beats and bass lines are made up of either samples and/or soft synths.

All of this in one single pattern. Now I build a melody around the bass line with different soft synths and samples, tweaking them with DSPs, mixing as I go by. After hours and hours of composing, mixing, DSPing, deleting etc etc I have a pattern I like (or don’t like, then I discard the whole batch and go to bed grumpy (realizing I have just had a very uncreative day (I hate those))). Then I make variations of the tracks. Listen to the tracks and hear which are good together getting an idea of the different parts of the song as I would like it to be.

Anyway. Then I go one of two ways. Either I render all the tracks to wavs and throw them into Sonar or else I compose the rest in renoise. There are advantages and disadvantages to both ways. Broadly I think the Sonar approach gives a better overview and allows you to use more DSPs without the CPU crashing, because of the sample based composing. The Renoise ways gives me opportunity, and therefore I choose this way the most. E.g. if I need to make variations to the individual tracks it’s hard in Sonar, because I have to go back and make them in renoise. Also if you want to tweak DSPs situated in the middle of my DSP chain I have to render from that part and set the remaining DSPs in Sonar, yawn!

From here I make the flow. This is a very intuitive part build around a fundamental concept of how I perceive good drama. How can I make the song tell a story incorporating different moods or a certain mood, how do I build up energy, make suspense, surprise, recognition and so on? This is a tough mental process, because I have to be creative all of the time and be structured at the same time, thinking both in detail and in general. And then, suddenly, the track is “done”.

Then I finalize the track, mix it, wait a day, listen to it, mix it again, make small adjustments, render it, and master it (this is a completely different story – which I will tell another time).

That’s about it. B)

So how do you do it?

Sometimes it is an idea that I have that I try to accomplish mixing up different audio software, most of the times I’m just f****ing arround in Renoise and build from that, sometimes it is a mix of both.

Trying to avoid a formulaic approach and use fantasy can be a nice deviation, tho trying to be ‘original’ isn’t important to me anymore. I rather have the composition suck me into ‘it’ then having to force creativity. I guess that is why I can’t seem to finish anything as well, the stuff that I do make isn’t inspiring me to put more effort into it. Perfectionism is a bitch.

I have trouble picturing & realizing a complete song arrangement in Renoise. That’s why I always end up exporting portions or the complete song to wav and arrange the final cut up track(s) in an external (horizontal) editor.

Benefit of this is that you can juice the tracks up by rendering in effects, quickly move stuff around and easily see the overall structure. Of course you have to keep listening and not solely rely on visual composition. Otherwise you can get lost in too much attention for detail, and become more of a bookkeeper then musician.

Close your eyes and listen. That’s the best way for me… :walkman:

Generally, I will be doing homework or riding my bike and I’ll hear a beat or melody or something that makes me want to rush to renoise and write. After I get a good representation of what I heard in my head into renoise, I build the rest of the song around it. Sometimes I will just start messing around with random breaks and/or samples and build a beat and put some instruments to that, but most of the time I just hear it first and put it into renoise from there.

my first audio track is always a pad :P

I’m ambient by nature

Play my guitar. Get in the mood, have some drinks, make a loop with some shit, fill it out, etc.

Not rocket science.

Much more fun than rocket science though.

I dunno man rockets are pretty awesome

If it sounds like it works it’s already been done. So make it not work. And for God’s sake do it with passion!

Kind of similar to the way i work. I usually make the Chorus first. Mostly it’s just 1 or 2 patterns long, and it has most of the stuff unmuted. Then i make variations of melodies. But very simple stuff. Some temporary drums, bassline, pads, and lead samples loaded looping those patterns forever playing some more on the keyboard, guitar, adding more stuff as i go, exchanging samples and sampling new stuff that i feel is missing. Eventually that pattern is a huge mess with LOT’s of tracks, then i start muting, unmuting and trying the different melodies together.

After that i make a rough scetch on a paper planning how the song is going to look like, with intro, verses, chorus, bridges etc. Kind of like the Envolopes in intr. edit… and it all builds from there.

Occationally i work quite opposite, finalizing each element, drums, percs, bass, leads, in no given order and just thriwing it in there as it feels suitable, mostly depending on what genre i’m producing.

Songs are often already written. It’s my job to put the pieces of the puzzle in their place. Y’know, so it makes sense soundwise.
It has to flow like the meltingwaters of the North Pole, no less but
preferably more, if skillz0rxl allows it.

there is usually a “sound” that gets me going. this can be a piece of music I hear on a record and then sample or the sound of a chord(progression) that I play by accident or a sound I get when I fiddle around with a VST. When I have started like this I always have specific ideas in my head that I just need to “do” to work on the track. Stuff like “I need a slightly detuned, distorted rhodes playing some lush melody here”. And then I do that and sometimes it works and sometimes not, but these are the steps I do to finish a track. I almost always have something in mind that I want to add or change, and very specifically so.
So, basically I am not really composing, I am merely creating a specific soundscape built out of sounds playing stuff.