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Tutorial - How I Make My Music.

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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.

- 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.

- 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.
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.

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

This will quickly become a popular tutorial :). Thanks for posting it, Q.K.

nice song, and yea FLStudio is the ownage
i made a retro version of your(?) song, just for fun

A Storm in the Desert:
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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