Composing - what does your process look like?

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by ein fisch, Mar 7, 2019.

  1. ein fisch

    ein fisch Dreamer

    Jul 6, 2016
    Switzerland, Zürich
    In terms of the composition - chords, arrangement, melody, percussion, sound choice - what do you do first? Do you have a fixed routine or is it different on every project you're working on?

    I personally found out that its way easier (and faster) for me to sketch everything out with my piano and record it with my phone before i even touch my DAW and think about instrumentation. However it can be a frustrating process, sitting on the piano for like 10 days (like right now :grin:) and not coming up with something where i could say "thats it!"

    Any routines, tools which help you in the composition process are more than welcome
    William Palmer likes this.
  2. Alex Fraser

    Alex Fraser Senior Member

    Jun 21, 2017
    1. Procrastinate.
    2. Procrastinate some more.
    3. Hit YouTube/iTunes/Anything for an idea.
    4. Go nuts making a very rough version of the track.
    5. Tidy it up.
    6. Mix it.
    7. Doubt everything I did between steps 4-6.
    8. Go "shopping" on the internet for new libraries/tools to fix self loathing.
    9. Create a "better" mix from scratch, only to find out it sounds exactly the same as the first one.
    10. Repeat steps 7 - 9.
    11. Eventually break of out loop as deadline or patience limit is reached.
  3. OP
    ein fisch

    ein fisch Dreamer

    Jul 6, 2016
    Switzerland, Zürich
    im wondering why we musicians are so incredibly nerdy about tweaking knobs that don't even affect something - your point 9 prooved me that im not the only one with that problem
    Gerbil, Alex Fraser and enyawg like this.
  4. Gerbil

    Gerbil Active Member

    Nov 14, 2017
    For sample based music I usually start improvising with an instrument in the template and start to shape something that leads to other ideas. Then I'll go for a walk and plot out the structure etc and chisel away when I get back back.

    For concert music I don't go near a DAW or even Sibelius. Paper and pencils and sometimes the piano.
    jonathanparham likes this.
  5. mikeh-375

    mikeh-375 old school

    Feb 8, 2016
    The usual stuff...booze, fumblin around, booze, etc.
    Seriously though, exploration of ideas first via techniques, improvising within created structures, booze, anything to reach the "Lucky find". Once something stirs my loins, I then explore the implications of it, be it a motif or a chord by generating material from it to see what lies hidden.
    whiskers and JohnG like this.
  6. studiostuff

    studiostuff Active Member

    Dec 15, 2015
    I thought this was a thread about Composting...
  7. KallumS

    KallumS Active Member

    Jul 26, 2018
    Camden, London
    Literally just hit keys until something happens. I don't know how to start a song
  8. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

    Sep 7, 2015
    E. YeeHaw, Indiana
    I used to apply the Angus Young method of composition: "just hit yer guitar real hard 'till yer get a good sound and yer all set, lad!".

    Love 'im, mates.
  9. mikeh-375

    mikeh-375 old school

    Feb 8, 2016
  10. Farkle

    Farkle Senior Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    Here's me doing a speed composing for a couple of hours. Someone asked how I compose, this is pretty much how I do it.

    alb13, JaikumarS, BezO and 4 others like this.
  11. michelsimons

    michelsimons Active Member

    Jan 24, 2018
    Basically a process of trial and error with lots of errors.
    hawpri and halfwalk like this.
  12. Studio E

    Studio E Eric Watkins

    michelsimons likes this.
  13. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    This is an actual portrait of me composing:

    Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 9.59.41 AM.png
    PSKLN, Haakond, toomanynotes and 21 others like this.
  14. AlexanderSchiborr

    AlexanderSchiborr Senior Member

    May 1, 2014
    I just sit at the piano, close my eyes and hit some random keys, sometimes I throw a cat on the keys and see what happens.
  15. jmauz

    jmauz Member

    Different for each project. Time, genre, instrumentation, time, existence of dialog, usage of a reference track, time, oh and time are some of the variables that determine my process.
  16. Studio E

    Studio E Eric Watkins

    In all seriousness, I'm a keyboard player so I start with whatever sound I think might work, and then start tinkering. Often times, although I might not totally rewrite a cue (Though that happens too), I often change little bits of it so many times that it becomes something quite different. I'm not an orchestrator, and whether it's orchestral or otherwise, I think a good analogy is that of building a statue out of clay. I might start with a vague shape of what I want. I'll add more clay, make it more detailed, maybe very detailed, but then rip half of it back off....but then add on more clay, of maybe a different color. I will go through these stages countless times as I proceed. It seem wasteful but I've decided it's just the way I function. Eventually I end up with a detailed, colurful shape of something I don't hate (hopefully).
    ein fisch likes this.
  17. OP
    ein fisch

    ein fisch Dreamer

    Jul 6, 2016
    Switzerland, Zürich
    Interesting approaches. Thanks to you all for sharing your workflow!
  18. OP
    ein fisch

    ein fisch Dreamer

    Jul 6, 2016
    Switzerland, Zürich
    Those errors bother me so much when im under pressure / working with someone
  19. MatFluor

    MatFluor Senior Member

    Jan 11, 2017
    That's how you can refine your workflow. Theoretical optimizations are a rabbit hole - and can lead to some bag habit you dug yourself into out of misinformation (for example preparing stem groups that you think everybody needs, but in reality the people you work with want something completely different - ergo redo your routing).

    My approach to composition is similar to Farkles approach. Usually I try to assemble as much info as I can before I write a single note - therefore having a laser-focus on what I set out to do with minimal distractions. I still am shaping some aspects - like at what point do I go into the DAW, what music genres are better to precompose on paper, what info do I really need etcetc.

    I can go into further detail later if needed xD
  20. michelsimons

    michelsimons Active Member

    Jan 24, 2018
    I am never under pressure because for me it's "just a hobby". And when I am working with somebody else I am still working on my contributions on my own. And since he is as much a slacker as I am...absolutely no pressure at all.
    dzilizzi and Alex Fraser like this.

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