Learning instruments…

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about….

When you learn a new instrument such as piano, guitar or drums, you usually start by finding the various notes, practice scales and play some really simple songs. You then normally move on to some standard tunes, and hopefully before long you’re picking up the challenge of learning some melody/solo you really like personally.

Much of your time, initially is spent recreating, mimicking and covering other peoples work in order to learn techniques and styles. Your building your musical tool box so to speak in order to, at some point, be able to compose your own melodies.

When I was learning to play the guitar, which by the way was my gateway drug into music just about a year ago, I found this process incredibly helpful and rewarding. I’d pick a song I really like, in the style I’m personally aiming for, and then I’d spend hours trying to recreate bits and pieces (especially the solo of course) of it.

For electronic music though it took me a long time to realize that there are a lot of similarities.

When you are creating electronic music such as Trance, Dub or whatnot, the instruments you use are by necessity different, and often you need a vast array of different tools. Some of them are pure software and composition is more like programming or parameter tweaking until you find just the right sound. Some of them are actual hardware instruments such as pads or keyboards.

I have come to the realization just recently that the fact that I cannot play the piano for example (or any other keyboard) is actually limiting me a lot when it comes to exploring new melodies and finding harmonies. Sure, with MIDI you can get pretty far since it allows you to sequence your way to the sound you want, but a sequenced melody, in my opinion will often sound too ‘perfect’ as compared to something that’s found through actual experimentation with the keys. (Listening to my wife who’s a great piano player makes the difference painfully obvious to me…)

The same goes for pure software instruments where your understanding of the synthesis process for example is key to being able to recreate a great lead, pad or texture that you either thought up in your head or heard somewhere.

Therefor I have decided two things. I will spend more time trying to ‘cover’ the sounds and melodies of my favorite electronic songs and artists, and I’m going to make a real effort to learn to play the piano.

I really think this will improve my workflow and let me explore and find new melodies faster.

What is your process for learning to compose or play electronic music styles?


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