Advice/approaches to making music?

  • Broad topic, I know, but here is the gist: I bought a 64 this month and am loving it. I've tinkered with Ableton for the past year (Reason a little bit, too) but am still bewildered by what the software can do. In two weeks with the 64 I am proficient with mlr and am enjoying the "performance" aspect of it as opposed to crafting tracks in Ableton piece by piece.

    My question is this: how did you learn to make music? Fiddling around? Formal training? Books? A combination of all of the above? I have numerous books on both Ableton and music theory, etc. The whole process fascinates me but I am at a loss sometimes to know what to do next or how to learn to make actual completed tracks.

    At this point I would say that I am finger painting with sounds. This lack of structure suits me fine for messing around, but I would like to move toward a more cohesive compositional process. I'm not so much looking for specific tips and tricks but an understanding of how others have come to the place they are musically.

    I realize there as many approaches as there are people, but knowing some of them might help me focus my efforts. Thanks for helping out a n00b.

  • i think good music has arisen from the application of all of the above, just not all the time. The biggest advice i can give you is to record as much of everything you make. And then listen to it. Learn to recognize what sounds 'wrong', and minimize those things in the next set of recordings. A smattering of music theory helps minimize clashes in tone, but sometimes it pays to ignore the rules. Noise can be pleasing ;]

    One thing to do when trying to make a 'track' is to work on the climax of the track first. Find a set of sounds that hang together well, then work on paring it back to produce an intro and outro.

    Another thing is to use a track you like already as a template. Find things to add to the track, and at somepoint take the track away, and use the embellishments as a skeleton for a new track.

    Good luck dude, feel free to post your works...

  • Sounds like what I am already doing to varying degrees (which is a good sign, I guess). I like the idea of working backward from the "climax." Often I find that I end up with a mutli-layered two or four bar loop that I really like, but I have no idea where to take it from there. With loop-based music--for me at least--creating variation is the biggest sticking point. I can create many, many small chunks that I like, but it eludes me how to bring it all together. I really enjoy making the bits and pieces, but it would be more fulfilling to make a song that holds together from beginning to end.

    I guess I was also curious about how other people work. I am a long way from understanding any kind of EQ-ing or mixing beyond what sounds good to me, but even knowing how other people piece it all together would be helpful. Creating art is, in the end, an individual process and no one person can really instruct another on how to be creative, but I assume there are some nuts-and-bolts approaches that make more sense than others. You've offered one. Thanks.

  • I'm in the same boat except a new 64 and only a couple of weeks of Ableton. I've been doing guitar off and on for years but this is a new direction and somewhat overwhelming. I am working through groove3 Ableton lessons and I am beginning to make sense of Ableton and I have played with several of the Monome apps but I would say I have yet to make any music with my monome

    In reviewing the discussions I see a lot of discussion about creating and setting up apps but not a lot about creating music with them. I hope this thread takes off I am curious about the responses.

  • Everyone creates musically differently.

    Not only that, but each style oftens requires a completely different approach.

    I too am new to the monome, but one thing I am finding out with the manipulation of samples is that it is very visual, meaning I am looking at waveforms, and using it to "create sounds" by stretching and changing pitches, reversing and ending up with a sample that does not resemble the original sound. I also find I am preserving other samples so that people know where it originated from. I am having trouble though with getting different samples to sound good together. Because of different lengths and timings, this changes notes, so melodies are hard to match up.

    Coming from a guitar background, I would put together songs from a simple bass line, and build around that, but I find that almost impossible with the monome.

    Im just taking drum samples and pairing them with some light sounds, but have not built many layers yet since I can't match them up well.

  • @l4mbr3tt4:

    I'm having the same trouble with samples and matching them up in terms of key and tempo. I've tried a combination of recording my own guitar bits (acoustic only, I'm afraid) and then using mlr to combine these with synth samples and drum loops. I've managed one or two interesting combinations, but I am having a hell of a time understanding the process. So far I have simply made sure that the guitar parts I record are as much in tempo with my mlr patch as I can. That's the only way I can keep everything in the proper key more or less. I am wondering if that is the secret to all of this: starting with a tempo first and then keeping everything in sync with that, even the externally recorded parts.

    Until recently I was simply overdubbing myself on guitar. No problem keeping in key and maintaining tempo (usually). But chopping samples is a whole new world for me. Any stretching of the sample to fit the tempo, in mlr at least, throws everything off. This can produce interesting effects, but not always what I was trying to achieve. This can be rewarding in its inventiveness yet frustrating when I am trying for something specific. Good to know I'm not alone I guess.

    I must confess that watching the various Monome performance videos out there blows me away: I am nowhere near being able to emulate what I see and hear. Then again, I've only been at this a couple of weeks.


    I hope there are more responses to this thread, too. The more info we can get the better off we'll will be. I have been both confused and amazed by my Monome thus far. There is so much to learn all at once: monome_serial set-up, Max runtime, OSC and MIDI routing, plus many new apps and their intricacies to boot--and all of that BEFORE starting to make music. I feel like I am stumbling blindly though the forest hoping to make sense of the trees. Thankfully the process has been more fun than frustrating.

  • Hi all, I'd like to recommend you guys get involved in the next Monome Community Remix Project. V3 is a week away from the sample submission deadline.

    The only reason I can give is before I went for it on the first one I was completely in the same boat as you guys. After two times I have a much better idea about how to begin with an idea.

    On the first one I waited until it was about four days before the final track submission deadline and I thought I better do something with these samples or I'm just not going to have anything. So I took one of the drum loops and sliced to midi in ableton. Then I loaded boing and triggered the slices with that. I was blown away at the crazy rhythms that came out of that alone I started recording the moments I liked. A great starting point.

    I also had nearly no experience with the arrangement mode in Ableton and MCRP has completely opened my eyes to that as well.

    Slice to midi is a great tool when working with the monome. Apps that work well with slice to midi are boing, arpshift, polygome, press cafe, pages, soyuz..just about anything that can sync to an external clock from Ableton. Once you've recorded your favorite combinations to slots, select them, right click and choose crop sample. This will quickly export all the loops you created to audio files within a folder in your project. Or if your just good at performing your slots you can record it with the big record button at the top and instantly the audio files are created in the arrangement mode.

    Anyways, I could go on forever. The great thing is that after you've gotten to know a little about how you like to work the power of the monome is truly released and you will want to attempt different approaches to your next song.

    Here are the tracks I made from V1 and V2. Like I said on V1 I started with the beat using boing and then just added the rest sample by sample in arrangement mode. On V2 I had more of a plan and used a single sample is my melodic guide but then stripped it away once I had enough to complement it. I also created most of the rhythms (piano, orchestra, beats) with arpshift.


    Happy monoming!

  • I have to admit to being a bit intimidated by the whole MCRP thing. I read some of the posts about it and I assumed it was waaaay over my head. Your encouragement is, well, encouraging. I will try to get up the nuts to tackle it. It begs so many questions and I don't want to burden you guys with trying to answer them, but some of the first that leap to mind are:

    Do you have to warp the various samples or otherwise get the pitches to match? Percussive samples I can sort of understand, but musical samples? How do you get them to jive?

    I am guessing that the answer is a Nike ad: just do it. And there is value in that. I'll see if I can't find a decent sample to submit by the deadline. Having a line in the sand is usually a great motivator.

    @egon77 & raja:

    Very concrete advice. Much appreciated. I've played a bit with boiingg and arpshift, but not so much in conjunction with Ableton. I'll have to make that leap. I'm aware of the "slice to midi" function but have never used it. Sounds like now is the time.

    Thanks to all who have been supportive so far on this thread--not that I expected otherwise.

  • Firstly, I just want to say that if you have Ableton then you are at a HUGE advantage when it comes to messing with samples. I was able to take the samplepack from the MCRP v1 and v2 (I don't have a monome so I was doing this all manually) and from warping the pieces so they fit timewise with complex pro mode and then bouncing it down, you retain the pitches of the original and can pitch it up and down easily and make it sound interesting but still keeping the core of the sound intact as it were.

    Now, onto music in general (bear with me I might get introspective).

    Music for me is a deeply personal thing, I don't aim to write club tunes or glitch simply for the sake of it. I try my best to write melodic pieces that convey something to the listener (often there is no listener but me).

    The advice that I would give concerning starting to make it would be to ask yourself what *kind* of music you like. This should be vague to begin with...would you like to write melodic pieces, orchestral, NIN style, glitch pieces, club bangers? Whatever it is, find out who you are musically.

    How I approach music is that I start with one part of the basics, drums, bass, harmonic support e.g. chords, arps (I like chiptune, sorry) etc and the lead part.

    For example, I'd take the key of E minor (e,f#,g,a,b,c,d in it's easy form :P) and using those notes write a bassline to go with a 4/4 kick. Build a progression, such as E,A,B,G,B,F#,F#,C. Then once I find something that fits (bear in mind I'm kinda focusing on melodic side of things) emotionally for me I'd add some chords to that, using those notes again. Or I'd write a lead depending on how the "inspiration" is striking at that moment.

    Before I know it I've written a song. I don't aim to write very complex music, but I try to avoid oversimplifying, again it's a matter of finding your voice. It's taken me a few years of writing in this, more fitting for me, style to do just that.

    One thing to know is that it is not particularly easy writing music. You will hate like nothing else the times when you're creative spark stagnates and you will adore those times that the music seems to fit with who you are perfectly. But that's the beauty of it.

    This may have been no help or some help, either way I wish you good luck.

  • Sweet antiphon, it would be great to have you on! Please don't be intimidated. It's not a competition and as for questions, ask away. I love, after an MCRP finishes, asking all the people involved how they did this or that because everyone interprets the samples differently.

    As for your question above, with regard to percussion, the tempo becomes less important the more you slice up the sample. There is a lot of tolerance when it comes to BPM. I really recommend playing with the beats and finding the tempo you like best and then sticking with it.

    As for melody, you will most likely have to transpose some things. When you receive your sample pack you could just throw them randomly in slots and hear parts that work and parts that don't. Certain pitches transpose farther than others. I feel like the higher the pitch the less distance you can transpose without it sounding weird. But maybe weird sounds good, for example some of my pitch shifts in the beginning of my V2 track.

    But my best advice is not to get too hung up on it. Just mess around with the monome using the samples and be ready to record when you hit something sweet. If it inspires you, use it as the springboard to arrangement mode.

    Hope to see you there!

  • I started sampling and sequencing a good 15 years ago and at that time, there was no such thing as warp and time stretch. Part of me thinks you should learn the skill of knowing what will loop and sequence together but then, why be hard on yourself! Abelton is one of the easiest programs to compose with with a bit of practice. I would suggest building your compositions using Abletons sample tools such as warp, slice and other editing tools. Once your happy with what goes well together, export each sample and plug them into mlr. I mainly work with a band and we tend to jam with basic drum samples initially to keep us all in time. I will then start to drop in sample's sometime randomly until we hit on interesting combinations. We normally record massive long jams that we can each listen too and them refine. We had one half an hour track boil down into 2 songs.

  • Is the previous sample pack available to get a feel of what to expect?

  • Both samplepacks for MCRP's are available on I believe.

    Although one sample I know is missing from the v1 pack is from I am genko so you may want to contact him for that one.

  • Downloaded a lot of good Monome music last night and I am currently downloading MCRP v2 and I'm off to find my samples. I decided instead of scratching my head and pondering how to make music I would do it sort of like a bicycle and just ride.

    I'm bound to be able to come up with two samples by Sunday. THen I have two weeks to figure out what to do next

  • Nice!!! It'll be good to have some new blood in the group!

  • >>I would do it sort of like a bicycle and just ride.

    That's what I was going to say. Your first few pieces will take a while and you will lose your flow innumerable times looking in the manual or searching forums for an answer. Don't worry - you're not trying to make a masterpiece on your first try.

    I always bring up an example I heard somewhere:

    An art teacher divided her class into two groups.

    One group would plan and create one big work and develop that all semester long, creating the most fantastic work they had ever done.

    The other group would create a small work every day or two.

    The first group produced horrible output, the second was magnificent.

    I have no clue if this is true, but I find the lesson to be applicable to any creative work. You don't have to finish a 'song'. A piece of music doesn't have to mean anything or do anything special.

    Just do it. Bounce it down. Name it the same thing as the track so you can find it later to work on.

    Good luck on your tunes!

  • @Aphasia:

    That's the kind of info I was looking for. Thanks. Even in my neophyte stage I can relate to what you're talking about. I've put some short tracks together and some of them surprise even me and others, well, they really suck. But I end up learning from both.


    I hadn't thought of chopping up the samples as allowing you to "reset" the tempo, so to speak. I'll have to give some of the v1 & v2 samples a try to see what happens. So far I am mainly making my own sounds from guitars, bass and synths, using a sampled beat if need be. There are fewer "meshing" issues this way, so the idea of working from a random group of other people's samples is completely foreign. But that shouldn't stop me from trying, right?


    "Knowing what will loop and sequence together" does sound like a skill for sure. So do you worry less about absolute resonance between melodic samples and just make sure they don't clash too harshly, or once they are chopped up into bits there is less of a worry? I listen to Girl Talk and it makes my head spin there are so many samples in there, but they are just tiny fragments, not whole bars. Is that part of the trick?


    I think I'm with you. In over my head or not it's worth a try. Now it's time to find my samples.

    Again, all the support and advice is great. Keep it coming.

  • @antiphon

    >>so the idea of working from a random group of other people's samples is completely foreign

    Check out this guy's blog. He has a series on creating songs from sampled sounds of ordinary objects. He uses a pen for one, two drinking glasses for another. The amount of sounds you can get out of a few samples is amazing. I tried some of these tricks using Ableton Sampler and it was a blast. I made some cool bass sounds and pads out of the little spring inside of a pen.

  • i'm getting a lend of my mates fancy mic later tonight. i discovered a really mad ring mod kinda sound when you drip the tap into a big old pot we have in the kitchen. woo!

    tonight, i will be recording the tap dripping :)

  • @oootini:

    I notice all kinds of killer sounds when I am doing dishes on a daily basis (no dishwasher, still doing them by hand). I have a huge stainless bowl and if it is pinged when half full of water--beautiful. I have no decent mics so I just listen and dream.


    Thanks for the link. I'm all over it.

  • I don't thing the process of making music is much different from learning anything new.

    At the root is a love of experimentation and exploration. Before long, you'll uncover this little bit that produces pleasing results, but you keep exploring and learning. The love of the process drives the learning.

    Soon, you discover you have a little library of techniques that you're familiar with and work well. Then you start asking yourself more specific questions and seek answers to these specific questions.

    At some point, you'll have amassed enough technique and experience to start directing the process. You'll say to yourself, "I want to achieve X" and know how to accomplish most of the process, and know where to look to learn the rest. You're moving out of the exploration stage to a place where your technique can be put in the service of an idea you want to express.

    Often, I've found people who get frustrated early on start the process backwards. They're goal-oriented before they have the technique to back it up. Often, this is gear-related. They see an artist using a piece of gear, and they think "hey, if I buy this magic box, I can be just like him/her." Most of the time, these people end up disappointed.

  • A friend of mine played me this one track from a music concrete artist of which I can't remember but the whole gist was a complete song made from a single vocal sample. Transposed, at various speeds and multi-layered all done with tape. It was really cool to hear how the sample sounded at extremely slow speeds. Not completely musical but a very pretty sound collage. I wish I could remember who and which track it was. Oh well.

    Hey, I just realized as I was typing this that it sounds a bit like stretta's Feignroom. Ironic.

  • @stretta:

    I learned a long time ago that equipment does not equal success, but I learned this with camera equipment not music gear. I do struggle with setting goals. You're right, of course: attempting something well above one's proficiency level is bound to frustrate, yet I need to feel I am working toward something larger than mere noodling. I bought the grayscale 64 (my first Monome) to broaden my horizons and give me a tactile extension of what I was trying to do piecemeal in Ableton. So far I have met with a good deal of personal success on this front. Seeing what I am doing as I press the buttons and hearing the instantaneous result is a more intuitive way to create. It is tempting to see all of the equipment people have in their workspaces (as witnessed on Vimeo) and think, "Wow. I need to get some of that stuff." But I know deep down that I have enough equipment right now, as meager as it may be (Monome, KP3, electric bass, acoustic guitar, USB mic and Ableton), to keep me busy for years.

    Do I desire to make more polished tracks? Sure. But I am trying to relish the newness of my musical exploration. I have no set process or way of working and while I feel unmoored at times my lack of experience is also freeing. I mentioned earlier that it feels like finger painting with sounds, and I like that aspect of it. I am not trying to be Picasso. I'm just trying to surprise myself and make sounds that please me. One of my favorite album titles is Red Snapper's "Our Aim Is To Satisfy Red Snapper." Indeed.

    I have a good friend who only recently got into photography and he does things with film that would never occur to me because I have been schooled in the "proper" techniques and what he does goes against just about everything I was taught. I'm jealous of his recklessness. In some ways I am in that same place musically. No training, coming to it late, but without any preconceived notions of how to move forward. I need to find the balance between essential skills and unfettered exploration.

    At times I am guilty of trying to run before I can walk. I do see what other people can do and think, "I'd love to be able to do that." In time, perhaps.

  • @antiphon

    I'm speaking in the most general sense, especially the last paragraph, this was in no means directed at you and I didn't mean to imply this. It is interesting you mention photography, because, in a large part, I was speaking from my own self-education in this area.

    I did kind of an odd piece based on max matthew's voice for his 80th birthday. The entire piece was constructed from samples of his own voice and small tonal snippets of his own music.

  • Wow. Really cool track stretta! I love anything with a strong concept. And the execution is beautiful!

  • @stretta:

    I understand you were speaking generally. I don't take it personally, but I can relate to what you said on a personal level.

    Great track. Amazing range of both texture and rhythmic elements from such a limited range of sources.

  • This is a fantastic thread - well done antiphon for starting it.

    I've learnt lots by cutting up songs and then remixing them in mlr - it was a very motivational way to start for me because it sounds good quickly! See my dead simple video here

    I have some sample packs that I've put together - not sure if it's right to post them here as they contain non-original material.

    Also +1 for MCRP - my first ever public composition; without MCRP I wouldn't have had the incentive or confidence.

  • @rross101

    As "dead simple" as your Four Tet remix may be, what was the process? Did you extract sections of the song and then play them back in various combinations, or is there more to it than that? Did you chop the song up into equal parts (one or two bars) or varying lengths? And were you using mlr or mlrV?

    Sorry for all the questions, but I'm still trying to get a handle on all this.

  • @antiphon

    No worries - it's a pleasure to explain as I was making it up at the time; and I would have loved a detailed explanation from someone else.

    There are four samples there. The first one you hear (harp) is from the very end of the track; then the ryhthm is from somewhere around 1:43, and the accordian-like one from around 2:38. As you've pointed out, each sample has to be either exactly the same length or a multiple of the lengths; I think each of these was two bars. Then the arrangement is
    Row 1 - rhythm track
    Row 2 - harp track, normal speed
    Row 3 - harp track, half speed
    Row 4 - harp track, normal speed reversed
    Row 5 - accordian-like track
    Row 6 - simple drum beat I picked up somewhere else

    Then I just played around with this a LOT (drove my wife crazy) until I discovered the little melody within the harp melody which it starts with.

    I've learnt a few things since this video - most importantly, how to route outputs through ableton, which means I can now add a bit of reverb and delay and make the end a little less stark.

    If I was being perfectionist with it now I could probably use ableton to warp the clips a little and make the harp plucks sound exactly 'on the button'.

    It's mlr-aes, which I use because I can understand the live-looping bit of it; and it also has more pattern recorders than ordinary mlr. I've not really got the hang of mlrv, even though it looks so pretty.

    Sorry if that's too much detail...

  • @rross101:

    No such thing as too much detail. I appreciate your explanation. Very helpful. I have only tried to play around with my own sounds in mlr and not samples from other songs, so understanding your process is useful as I move forward.

    I, too, have been driving my wife nuts with my attempts to learn how to chop samples and loop them. She can't stand heavy repetition in music (even commercially produced stuff) so hearing me play the same thing over and over and over just to get it right makes her crazy. Thank god for headphones!

  • I'm glad that this thread was create, as I too am having a bit of difficulty since purchasing my first monome. In college I did a bunch of sound design, not so musical, but more in the sense of "sound art" if you will. Still composition, but not so much something to nod your head to. Before that, I was messing around with my K2000S, Master Tracks Pro and Sound Edit.

    Since then, so much has changed and there is so much technology it's quite overwhelming. I thought that I'd be able to jump in and start where I left off 8 years ago. Dead wrong.

    I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to spend my time delving into the technical aspect of it and try and master all these new programs and software. If not "master" them, get enough of a grip on them to be able to develop some technique as Stretta is talking about. Hopefully then, and probably along the way too, I'll have something to show for it. And besides, learning is living. Learning is what life is about and we will probably all be learning these programs and learning things about music and composition.

    I've also been overly concerned with an "end product". I'm American, I want instant gratification, what can I say?? But in all seriousness, as with any art form, the learning part and the journey to the destination is usually more enjoyable anyways. And what a great group to share company with! These monome people are like, i dunno what, obsessed? I think it's great!

    I plan on doing the MCRP too, I hope I can remember to get 2 samples together before then...

  • I am so happy that so many have been inspired by this thread to get involved in MCRP! It would be great to have you as a part of it! Good luck in finding the samples, check the MCRP V3 thread for some handy music blog links in case your not sure where to look. Otherwise enjoy listening to your old music for some gems.

  • regarding better halves and mlr - let them try playing with it. my girlfriend had a go, and i was shunned from my monome for hours, totally preventing me from doing music work.

    chiming in. im pretty new to electronic music myself (i come from an indie-rock background) and i found that it is very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities you can do. in traditional rock music you focus more on song, melodies, arrangements, etc because you already know what your guitar sounds like. electronic music is different in that it also involves finding the right sounds for the job. it's music-searching at the most fundamental level - and that is no easy task!

    so i was overwhelmed for a time that i cannot make any music at all. i just tried everything, figuring out technical aspects and what tools to use (i had a months-long quest in finding the right controller for me and i cycled through lots of gear. eventually i discovered the monome and stopped right there.)

    tried and tried, and still i never even scratched the surface, and i don't think i ever will to be honest.

    the mcrp helped me tons in that it forced me to learn more and more and more. from that point i got into the habit of trying out new things in every project that i work on. it's a very freeing experience, and what i love most about electronic music now.


    hmm didnt really contribute anything useful there, haha. here's a try: i find that i work best when i convince myself at the start of the project that i will do something really simple, and no more. otherwise i will get intimidated and put off doing things, or not work at all.

    so i guess my advice (if i am even worthy of giving one) is: start simple, work your way from there.

    for tools: mlr and its variants are indispensable. also recently i am finding lots of use doing melody with polygome. and of course, ableton live is the core of all.

  • @pirx:

    Your contribution here is useful (to me at least). It has been easy for me to assume, from reading the posts and watching the videos, that Monome users are musical adepts who have long histories with making music. Not every example I've seen or heard is perfect, but when viewed through the lens of the uninitiated they all sound pretty good--and complicated, too.

    I've played guitar for years, and not all that well. But it is much simpler. The acoustic guitar sounds pretty much like it does no matter what. I pick it up and I know what to expect. Electronic music confounds me for the reason you describe: step one is to find or create the sound you want from scratch. That's really tough. What do I know about oscillators or CV or waveforms? Very little. It is easier to work within limits than without them. For years I thought the opposite was true, but now I see otherwise.

    So not only do you have the option of making your own sounds, but once you get the sounds you then have this vast musical landscape that seems to transcend the traditional song structure which once again opens up all kinds of possibilities. Electronic songs don't have to have the usual elements of harmony and rhythm necessarily. (I guess guitar-based songs can also be experimental, but within the limited range of the fret board.)

    I think what Stretta said earlier about finding your own way of working is right. This is akin to having a musical style, I think. I do find that I tend toward certain types of sonic patterns, either on guitar or with my Monome. I fight against this at times, but I have to trust that this is what works for me. I never understood that before. Most established artists have a unique sound: Radiohead continues to sound like Radiohead even as their overall sound has evolved. How? Why? Because the same people are making the music and they have a collective style or way of working. Nothing wrong with that.

    Anyway, if people keep putting their two cents in pretty soon this thread will contain a buck's worth of advice. Sweet!

  • Dont worry about it too much, just chuck stuff together. I think that you learn more from your mistakes. I remember sampling a bit of strings from a porgy and bess song and not putting the end marker in the correct place. I dropped it into the track that I was working on and it sounded ok until it ran past the bit i was intending to use. It ran into this really mad bit of operatic singing and it fell just in the right place and it sounded fantastic.

    When I am with the band, I like to try and wind up the other too by dropping in stuff that should not work. A lot of the time it doesnt, but ocasionally, squeezing in a bit of Ukrainian gypsy fiddle ends up being genius!!

    Gettin gmy monome reminded me of starting out on a comadore amiga all those years ago. At first you could only play 4 samples at once 2 left and 2 right. It had probably less processing power than a Nokia! You had to be pretty crafty and thrifty. I think starting off simply with a few elements and build from there. I like mlr for that ethic. Its like octaMED!!

  • antiphon:

    I may be completely wrong her and if so ignore me, but it seems that in your mind you are divorcing your guitar playing from your monome use. Perhaps thinking that you need (or just want) to write electronic music. However, if you can play guitar then use the guitar.

    Here's a method that might be good to try out:

    Play a few notes that you know sound good for a bar each. So, for example, fret 1,5,3,2 (I'm guessing here, you know what'll sound better than me) each lasting a bar. Put that into ableton warp them so that they last a bar each with the complex pro method. Once this is done and each is a separate bar, press the *2 button in the clip and it'll be pitched down (maybe press that same button again to pitch it down more).

    Then, cut each note into a bass rhythm that you like (maybe just put a simple kick pattern on another track as a reference) and PRESTO, you have a bass sound that doesn't sound quite like your guitar and needs no more knowledge at the moment about oscillators. Then you could put overdrive onto this sound, saturate it, put a grain delay on it, filter delay on just a short note and discard the rest to get a nice sub pattern, etc.

    Then, you know the notes of this bass line and can (with basic theory or even your guitar experience) record parts over the top of that that sound good. Then put each of them into mlr and go nuts.

    If you do want to learn a bit more about synths in general then this link explores a lot about them, focuses on analog synths a lot later on in the series but the beginning basics are useful

    Then, just take one of ableton's synths or a free plugin (Synth1 is pretty good) and apply that knowledge in simple ways at first...just getting to know how oscillators sound and then the filters and then lfo'ss, working slowly through it.

    Very rambling answer but it might help slightly, I hope so anyway.

  • @Aphasia:

    Fantasic response, thanks. You're right, actually, I tend to think of the guitar as the guitar and synths and samples as separate things. Since I am so new to making electronic music it is hard for me to integrate synths (something I know little about) with guitar playing (something I know more about). Combing the two is a great idea.

    The only time I even tried to incorporate guitar was to record a few bars of chord changes and drop that into Ableton, but I couldn't find anything electronic that sounded good to go with it, at least to me. I ended up layering more and more guitar to create the track but all the synths and sounds I threw in there seemed at odds with the acoustic sound. Re-pitching the actual guitar sounds into other strange and different textures might be a good place to start.

    This performance blows me away in its use of real-world instruments and the Monome:

    And thanks for the link, too. I can use Ableton's built-in midi synths just fine, but when I try to tweak the sounds I get lost. I really do need to understand the basics of what each knob and parameter does, but there are so many I've never known where to start.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Again, thanks to all who have helped keep this thread going. I'm getting a lot out of it, and I hope others are as well.

  • map~map does alot of nice things with instruments

  • Bump for this thread - I was enjoying it!

  • I have a related but different question based on what stretta said above - how do you figure out what you *do* need? I've gone about this sort of backward in that I've always been interested in making music - guitar, piano, sax, drum - what ever - and then happened into a group buy on some arduinome parts - and now my world is opening up to digital music and working with a computer. I walked into a local "big box" music shop that would have gladly sold me an audio interface, monitors, software and a dozen other things I'm not real familiar with... Since I'm striking out on my own here without a friend or someone to show me the way, how should I get started? Everyone here seems to have some version of Abelton - is that "required" to use the monme and all the apps? or just to record? or is it just nice to have. I ask because the price tag is a little high - but I understand it's worth it if it's the right tool for the job. Sorry if this is all covered somewhere else- but I haven't had a thread yet where I felt ok asking.
    Thanks - really looking forward to this new adventure.

  • Your question reminds me of when I was studying painting. I was in a painting workshop, and a students asks my instructor "Ok, how do I paint?" and I will never forget this. He looks at him and (without being sarcastic, but sincerely) asks the student "That is like asking me how you should dance, or fall in love."
    Creating music is such a personal undertaking I think it would be imposing for ME to tell YOU how to make music. Take joy in the fact that it is all so new. I know this sounds cliche, and even corny, but appreciate your journey; HAVE SOME FUN! The journey is your story, so.....start writing it.

    Best of wishes!

  • @deepblue:

    I understand that the art of making music is an individual endeavor and no one can teach you how to be creative, but there is fundamental knowledge required to practice any art form. In my case I have never, ever worked with samples before. Not once. So I was curious about workflow processes and other nuts and bolts information on how to proceed with a group of samples. (I am currently failing in my MCRPv3 attempt for this very reason--I don't even know how to re-sample or re-pitch the various bits and pieces to make them work together.)

    I bet that painting workshop instructor, while not able to tell that student "how to paint" was still able to tell him or her how to hold the brush, stretch and gesso a canvas, mix colors and use perspective properly. No one takes a guitar lesson to learn the art of guitar playing; one does so to learn the craft (scales, chords, melody, etc.) Big difference.


    I am in a similar situation. I've played guitar (badly) for years but never known anything about electronic music. I've had my monome a month and am loving it and hating it by varying degrees. (To be fair my frustration is focused on the device, but it is my own shortcomings that are really bothering me.) I do have a copy of Ableton Live but am so unschooled in it that I rarely use it.

    For the Monome Community Remix Project v3 I am using ONLY the samples provided, the monome and the original version of mlr. This is a pretty limiting palette, but it is keeping me focused. When not working with samples I have been having fun recording my own guitar bits and chopping them up and mixing and matching parts with the monome without Ableton in the mix at all. Ableton seems like a great piece of software and can be a good fit with the monome, but it is not required. I bought the monome for its flexibility: if you buy a Tenori-on you can use it to do what a Tenori-on can do; if you buy a Kaoss Pad you can use it to do what a Kaoss Pad can do; if you buy a monome device you can use it to do whatever you or others have programmed it to do.

    Good luck, and if I've learned one thing on these forums it's to go ahead and ask your question. Even if it has been covered before some kind soul will offer you a link to that discussion. Welcome aboard.

  • This is a great thread!

    After playin guitar for about 10 years, and playing different types (blues, flaminco, rock), I always was good with my "role" in the music.

    When I morphed into what I am today, and found my love of electronic music (various types, including my main focus of Euphoric Trance, Vocal Trance), I decided to travel down the road and teach myself how to record my own music. I came into this endeavor with the naive idea that with my musical aptitudes, it would be easy. I couldnt have been farther from the truth!

    I find myself being overwhelmed at times, trying to find the right samples for my drums, twinking with my various software synths for a particular sound, and then trying to lay down the various portions of the track. I end up finding the right sounds, and then I end up expirementing so much with the lead that I totally forget what the original sound I wanted was. I end up finding something that sounds awesome, saving that for use in a future track (if i can ever finish my 1st one), and trying to go back to my original idea.

    Its frustrating for me, since I can sit down with other guys, pick up my guitar and go to town. But the moment I sit down, and try to do my own thing in my own, I end up just wandering around. I suppose thats ok, but I'm a very goal oriented person. I get very frustrated when I feel like I'm spinning my wheels.

    Sorry for my rambling! Next go around Ill try to get in on the MCRP and see if that'll help me.

    Anyone know any good books on music theory and or music composition? I absolutely love music and wouldnt know how to live my life without it, and I want to be able to share all the emotion with others, through music, like I do when I DJ.


  • @deepblue:
    I totally get what you're saying - I have been working on stuff. I have a KP3 that I like to fool with - and a kaosolator - and a Ukulele and a didgeridoo (which I *can* play) - guitars - drums etc. I love music. My dad used to compose and was an amazing classical guitar guy - It's in the blood for sure.
    I guess where I was coming from and what antiphon was hinting at is when creating digital music - where do I start?
    I've been fooling with garageband on my mac - it's free - it's a huge pain in the @#$@# trying to pipe sound into my little line in jack from KP3 or where ever. Moreover, I reaaaaally want to work with samples in mlr etc. and it doesn't seem like anything written as a patch on the monome site is for garageband. So, that's where I was going with the abelton question.
    The low end version is very affordable - but the step up at 500 dollars is a lot - for me anyway. I've been goofing around with the no-monome in maxruntime and playing with mlr that way - it's confusing as heck - but super fun. Not recordable as far as I can tell though.
    I'd just like someone who's been at this for a while to say - "Listen here kid - wax on, wax off- skip product X and make sure you find a good used product Y and forget the rest for now..." or something along those lines. From the outside looking into this world of monome as catalyst to so many great works (techno, ambient, trance, dustbreading-esque stuff [really like that!!] what-ever) is super exciting - but utterly overwhelming and confusing. I have zero digital musical experience to guide me - and no friends who know any more than I do.
    @antiphon - thanks. Any and all tips, advice, setup, anything is welcome.

  • @pxt0909:

    I'd love to offer advice, but I'm not in a position to give it--yet. If anyone else is I'm all ears, too; that's why I started the thread in the first place.

    I am definitely "enjoying the journey" toward making music, and using the monome has and will be a part of that. But I am definitely a bit lost as far as HOW to go about it. I have my own hackneyed approaches which have worked for me thus far, but I know there must be time honored techniques out there. Hearing that other people struggle with this makes me feel better. It doesn't solve my problems, no, but it makes me think my false starts and meandering paths music are part of the process.

    The one thing about all this is that I really enjoy it. I have yet to produce anything worth sharing, but the little bits and pieces I do cobble together often please me and that is enough. It has never been a goal of mine to have an audience, just to enjoy what I do and to keep getting better at it.


    Good to hear that someone else is in the same boat. I'm right there with you.

  • disclaimer: I ramble slightly, I hope this makes sense and helps.

    I've been writing music in general for about 5 or 6 years now, started in a typical band setup, stopped for a while, started with LSDJ (a program for the game boy), then I picked up a year and a bit back after trying out the demo and enjoying it and I've just bought Ableton Live 8.1.1 and an audio interface off a friend of mine.

    Now, my advice to someone starting with the desire to write music now (with the experience and knowledge that I have) is simple.

    What do you want to write? Not what do you want to use (ableton, monome, renoise, a guitar etc), but what do you want to sound like?

    Some overgeneralised options could be:

    - Electronic or Acoustic?
    - If electronic, what artists style do you like (techno, drum & bass, dubstep, etc)?
    -If acoustic, what artists style do you like (virtuouso style guitar playing, singer/songwriter)?

    Clearly these are 3 of many questions to ask yourself, if the answer is both then go for both! But expect it take a little longer.

    Once you have the answers to those simple yet complex questions (easy to ask and very difficult to answer) you can think about how to go about it.

    The best thing to do is to take your time and try out demos of programs that are aimed at what you want to achieve. By this I mean; try out Reason if purely electronic music is what you want, try out Record if played instruments is what you want to write instead.

    This is a gross generalisation using two specialised pieces of software, Ableton can do both of these styles with ease; as can Logic. Try them and others.

    Once you have found a program that you are comfortable with then all you can do is start writing with that program. Always read the manual for the program as well, never think you can manage without it as you'll get lost and bogged down creatively VERY quickly.

    If you are experiencing creative block then there is nothing that anyone can really do for you sadly. It's a highly personal thing and even I don't heed my own advice at times. But one thing that does help is just writing. You don't have to show anyone, you don't have to write a masterpiece first time (if you do then you're an unparalleled genius). You just need to develop as you write and refine your own voice into one that expresses what you want.

    I'd expect a song that you are happy with by your 5th completed. If not then so what? Write some more and THEN show people once you've written a song you are in fact happy with.

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