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Author Topic: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.  (Read 19892 times)

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Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« on: January 11, 2007, 02:18:16 am »
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Alright guys, I promised I would do something like this, so here it is. I figured I would make a small walkthrough on how I go about making my music. You may or may not find it useful, but I guess that depends on the person reading. Hopefully you can all at least find it somewhat interesting. :P

Now note, that while I use "steps" I don't always follow them. A lot of the time, I completely scrap these steps, or go in all sorts of order, but generally, I find this the best, and most effective way to produce music.


- Step 1: Melody -
The first thing almost ANY song is going to need, is some sort of melody. Some songs may not need as much of a melody, say, if you're writing something like Ambient music, or the like, but for most songs, a good melody is key.

Now, I can't exactly give you advice on how to come up with a melody. I don't think anyone could really give a set of guidelines to follow in order to magically "produce" a melody. A lot of the time, it just has to come to you. In fact, I always seem to get these great tunes whenever I'm somewhere really inconvenient, making it hard for to me jot it down. If you're having trouble, just do something simple like take a walk outside, look out the window, maybe take a shower or something, etc. Something simple that doesn't take a lot of concentration, so that hopefully your mind will be clear, and you can just start humming something. Keep working on the tune, and who knows, you might come up with something!


- Step 2: MIDI -
The first thing I like to do when I get a particularly good melody is get it down in a MIDI, so I can store it, and edit it. Personally, I use Anvil, as it's free and quite suited to my needs, however there are many other good programs for MIDI out there, such as Jazz++, Cakewalk, Sibelius, etc.

There are a number of ways you can work with MIDI:

The cheapest (read: free) way would be using a program, and inputting your notes with the mouse, and only the mouse. This however, can be tough, and frustrating to get things just right, if you're not familiar with note values and sheet music.

There IS another way though, however this one requires that you have either a keyboard or MIDI controller hooked up via MIDI cable, to your computer. You can now do two different things from here. Either, you use this merely to place notes of a SET value, if you're unfamiliar with sheet music, or you can use it to "record" MIDI signals sent from the keyboard/controller to your computer. This will give you the exact same thing as what you played, however, there are some downsides to this. I would not reccomend recording MIDI signals when working with a track that needs a steady beat, such as most videogame music, because unless you are very talented, your timing will most likely not be good enough for things to sound right. However, if you are playing something more flexible like a piano piece, this can be a very good way to do it, as often, it becomes rather complex to work out tempo changes, ritardandos, crescendos, and whatnot manually. This will give you a much more natural feel to the song.

In any case, GET THAT MELODY DOWN. The last thing you want to do is lose it! Now, once you've got it down, worked out any little adjustments you want to make to it, we can start to think about chord progressions, harmony, and expanding on the theme.


- Step 3: Expansion -
Alright, now that we have our melody in our MIDI, I usually start with some sort of bassline. Like the melody, I can't really tell you "what notes to pick" but generally, if you stay in the same key, and use notes from that scale, things "should" work out. Of course, feel free to experiment...

Once the bassline is established, it's time to fill in other sections. Start writing accompaniments to the melody and bassline, and just keep working at things.

I'm going to skip ahead now with all this text, and give you an example of where you should be by now.  http://www.binaryphoenix.com/projects/Music/Tutorial/Luin.mid


- Step 4: Quality -
Now that MIDI could very well be called "done" and just leave it at that... but that's not good enough for me. So, what I do, is I open FL Studio. Now, there are other options, like Reason, Sonar, Logic, etc, but I won't get into that. Check out the demos, and see what you like best. For what I do, FL Studio is quite adequate.

Anyways, I load the MIDI into FL. Right now, my tracks have no audio samples assigned to them. So what do I do? I get some audio samples! Hehe... there are a few good sites out there for soundfonts, and VSTs, and google is your friend. I WILL reccomend KVR-audio however. There's some nice stuff there to check out.

Right, now that these channels have some sounds to go with them, let's hear the newest version, and see just how much it's improved. http://www.binaryphoenix.com/projects/Music/Tutorial/LuinWIP.mp3


- Step 5: Finishing Touches -
Well, the sound samples I've used are definitely better sounding than MIDI, but it's still got a ways to go. It's sounding pretty flat, and pretty unrealistic at the moment. Basically, this sounds just like the MIDI version, but with slightly better sound quality. This next step is where it all comes together.

I now go into all my channels, and apply all sorts of fun effects. Reverb, delay (echos), compression, equalization, etc.  This is also a difficult process to explain in great detail, since it really depends on the style of music you're writing, and the kind of feel you want the instrument to have. Here, I've used lots of ambient reverb and echoing. This fills out the soundspace a bit more, and gives it a full, deep sound.

Now, with all the fancy effects applied, I like to do a bit of humanization. That is, adjustment of note timing and volume (also known as velocity) to make it more believable; make it sound as if a human was playing the instrument. I did a minimal amount of this, and really, you never want to overdo things like this. However, adjustment of velocity is essential. It really helps give the music that extra bit of emotion.

Alright. So we have effects, a realistic, expressive performance...what else do we need? Ah... some sound effects maybe... and mastering, actually, but that's the last thing we have to do. Basically, this is a relatively small step. I just add things like pianos, bells, and the odd-but-fitting sound effect here and there. This is really all dependant of the piece, but here you should hear a couple...3, I think. I think this kind of thing can really add to a song's mood.

Lastly... mastering. Listen. I'm not really all that great at this myself, so this step would probably present a few problems. Basically, you have to fiddle around with compressors, limiters, and the like, in order to get a maximum volume, without causing clipping. (Surpassing a certain decibel level. Doing so will result in possible damage to your speakers.) Anyways, I like using multiband compressors, since you can boost or lower the high, mid, and low frequencies individually to mold your sound into the right "shape". I won't elaborate, since I don't know a whole lot about this part myself really. Sorry guys! :P


And now... the FINISHED PRODUCT. http://www.binaryphoenix.com/projects/Music/Tutorial/Luin.mp3
Notice all the updates, and the quality that was brought to it by those final touches. It's sounding pretty decent now, don't you think?



Whoo, thanks guys! That was a loooong post, probably my longest post ever in fact. Hopefully it will prove useful to some of you! If you have any questions, or need clarification, or just want me to go into more detail with something, just leave a post! Comments and such are welcome too. I hope you like the music.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2007, 07:04:50 am »
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very very good,
I have a keyboard I want to hook to my comp but I have to get it back (along with my guitar, mic, etc...grrrr)

When I get all sat up though I am def going to use this tut thanks!  ;D
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2007, 10:21:19 am »
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This will quickly become a popular tutorial :). Thanks for posting it, Q.K.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2007, 11:00:14 am »
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nice song, and yea FLStudio is the ownage
i made a retro version of your(?) song, just for fun
http://dm.fwsnet.net/Luin.mp3
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2007, 11:07:01 am »
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You can actually work straight into Fruity using a MIDI keyboard or the letters on your alphanumerical keyboard or plonking notes down on the piano roll with the mouse. It's what I tend to do.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2007, 12:49:45 pm »
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The cheapest (read: free) way would be using a program, and inputting your notes with the mouse, and only the mouse.
With Anvil Studio, you can use the computer's keyboard to input the notes (Q is do, W is re, E is mi, R is fa, T is sol; and so on). It's much more practical than using the mouse.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2007, 12:58:13 pm »
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a keyboard costs next to nothing these days, just get a MIDI keyboard
even if your only doing music now and then
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2007, 02:48:05 pm »
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Great tutorial, though I think enough people know how to MAKE music (as in the technical side of things), just it's the melody that people like me can't get.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2007, 04:11:57 pm »
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Nice to see your methods outlined. In relation to Step 1 & 2, generally the way I come up with melodies is just sitting there and playing on my keyboard until I get a little sequences of notes that I like, and then just try and adapt it.
I also generally play and record it straight into Fruity Loops using my keyboard, and then just Quantize and clean it up by hand.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2007, 11:00:39 pm »
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Right, you guys bring up some good points. Firstly, the computer keyboard method of input. While it's certainly a fine way to make the MIDI, I personally don't use it. For some reason, I just feel more comfortable working with an onscreen piano than with a computer keyboard. To each their own I suppose?

@Gonzo: Sounds alright, but it's a bit.. well, I would have to describe the sound as "scratchy" really. It's probably just me since I'm not really fond of synths and such, but you could probably try substituting some of those for a softer, less "buzzing" sound. I like it though :P

@A Storm in the Desert: Right, you can use the keyboard for a number of things. Placing notes is just the "main function" of it, but it can be used to automate volume, pitch bends, panning, and all sorts of things. I think I might have skipped mentioning that you can use it to place the notes directly into Fruity, because I had already mentioned that you can use a MIDI keyboard to insert notes into Anvil Studio/your MIDI program, and figured it would hold true to other programs. Maybe I should have been a bit more detailed there, my fault.

@Sir Cyrus: Yeah, a lot of the time people struggle with getting a good melody. Like I said, it's not really like I can write a guide on how to come up with a melody, but, one thing you can do if you're really stuck, is go listen to a bunch of music from the specific genre. For example, game music. Go listen to tons of RPG soundtracks, and you'll start to pick up a small "library" of almost...stereotypical melodies, chord progressions, and harmonies commonly used in that kind of music. I'm not saying to copy off them, but there are in fact certain things that end up being used in quite a few RPG tracks. I can count 2-3 in my song up there, actually. Heh, not saying it's the best way to come up with good, original work, but it can still give you ideas. Other than that, just do what Dayjo said... just plunk around on a piano, preferably a real piano or keyboard, but a "virtual" piano might work... and just see if anything sounds interesting. One last thing you can do... learn music theory. A long, tedious, and at times boring process, but you can learn all sorts of chords progressions, and interesting things about song composition to help you out.

@Dayjo: Yeah, I do that sometimes too, but I find that when I'm at the keyboard, it's like I'm forcing myself to come up with a melody. So, I find just doing a simple, mindless task lets it come out easier. Then I just sort of hum it, and work on it. Both ways work fine though, really.


Anywho, thanks. If there's any more questions, or more explanations wanted, just ask...and stuff. Thanks for reading.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2007, 11:03:30 pm »
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This is an interesting tutorial. I don't follow it exactly, but I tend to do this kind of thing subconsiouly, but I guess that's because I have a natural knack for music, especially since I've been doing it for so long. And this song is really good. The Crystalline River soundtrack I've noticed is mostly quiet, ambient stuff, with a lot of reverb. It's pretty cool.

Anyway, good tutorial. And can you post some links where you got your soundfonts?
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2007, 11:14:37 pm »
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Right, like I said, even I don't follow this strictly. I mean really, if anything, this is more of a general guideline than a ruleset. I remember writing a whole piece with live playing once :P  Some slight timing issues, but I worked that out in the end. In the end, just follow what's easiest for you, but I hope these will help some people with their music production.

About the Crystalline River soundtrack - yes! It's a very ambient track really, but I feel it really fits the game's theme and mood. I wanted to give this track a large, almost epic feel to it, which probably explains why I used as much reverb as I did. I mean, a lot of older games sound fairly "flat". I wanted to give the soundtrack a wider soundscape, so I created some "artificial space" with all the reverb. Hopefully you guys will like it - there's not a whole lot more for me to do really though. I've finished 13 tracks I believe, out of 22. I should hopefully be done around June, July?

As for soundfonts... hmm. Here's a decent list.

- www.darkesword.soundfonts.com
- www.hammersound.net
- www.soundfonts.it
- ww.kvraudio.com

You can find all sorts of soundfonts and VSTs there. Hopefully it helps you guys.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2007, 12:26:33 am »
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hmmm just wondering, can you sing the sound with a microphone and then adapt it so it sounds like a song? That would really make me happy :D
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2007, 07:28:36 pm »
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I'm wondering, what wind instrument did you use that had the main melody? It sounded like a flute. Whatever it is, can you PLEASE send me that soudnfont? It sounds awesome! Scooternew@aol.com
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2007, 09:22:44 pm »
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@Kren: If you mean record your voice and use it as vocals, yeah that's totally possible. If you mean something like a voice recognition program that converts the frequencies in your voice to MIDI notes, then there's nothing that I know of that can do that. It would be nice though.

@Scooternew: Right, it's a flute, and I've sent it to you. You'll have to work with EQ and reverb to get it sounding good though.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2007, 10:44:19 pm »
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I also have another question. How do you decrease note volume? Not all at once though, but like you have a note that while it is being held begins to fade away.
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2007, 10:47:43 pm »
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Use a slider note. Slider notes don't just affect the pitch, but also any other properties. So, place one note, then a slider with a lower volume. Make sure the original note is as long as the slider note (as long as you want it to take to fade out).

Alternatively, though I don't reccomend it, you can edit the channel volume from the piano roll...
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2007, 10:58:18 pm »
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Ok. I knew how to use them, I just didn't know you could do that with volume. That's really cool.

Another question - in the final version of the piece, at that note that slides down and fades, there is a kind of "screeching" sound in the background. I don't konw what it is, but I"ve been looking for something like it for ages. Can you tell me what it is, and if it's a soudnfont, can you send it to me? Otherwise, can you tell me what you did?
« Last Edit: January 13, 2007, 11:00:27 pm by Scooternew »
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2007, 11:12:55 pm »
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Oh, the screech thing. You could try using some string samples, and a slider note high above the other notes and see what you get. Slider notes are very helpful. :P
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Re: Tutorial - How I Make My Music.
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2007, 01:12:42 am »
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That song has got to be... the best song I have ever heard. It is just wow. Very nice tutorial, and very nice song.
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