How do you practice?

There are so many things we need to improve our skills in as composers: performance skills on piano/keyboard, perhaps guitar and other instruments, composition and arranging skills, production and sound design, mixing and mastering. And of course music theory, ear training etc.

How do you practice to evolve as a composer (in every aspect)?
Do you have any special routines or exercices?

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Well… I’m buying a lot of book and for expample if I’m studying secondary dominant chords… well I try to practice in the piano… and maybe record it so I can see what’s wrong and what is good…

sometimes there are great ideas that comes from exercise, I have composed a song called “Garden of Eden” when I was studying the F maj scale :smile:

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hello
well i try to compose a lot to devellop creativity and imagination
i try to practice a lot on my daw in order to go faster when composing
i try also to try and play with a lot of different sound, virtual synth or instrument to discover new color in order to use them in my composition
a listen a lot of music (classical with score to understand how the composer create a mood or a specific color by example sherazade, 6th symphonie of bethoveen, 25th symphony of mozart, the walkiry of wagner, the nutscracker, romeo and juliet, the sorcerer apprentice) and also film music ( jerry goldsmith, bernard herman, hans zimmer, john williams, peter goldstein, ennio moriconne,…)
reading a lot also, watch tutorial, read topics in forum, read score to maintain a good level of reading music
but all of that take a lot of time, but anyway you had to practice a lot to keep your level and progress

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My current “routine” basically comes down to trying out different genres and styles, and actually finishing tracks. Composition, sound design, arrangement, mix, master. It doesn’t count until it’s done, and the reasoning behind that is that I want to see how the things I try work in context.

So far, I’ve mostly been doing that by participating in various competitions and challenges; scoring competitions, two hour track challenges, one album-in-a-month challenge (another one coming up i November), and of course, the Professional Composers challenges. It’s nice to have external themes and challenges to force you out of your comfort zone, where real development can happen.

As for “input devices,” I’m mostly just using the keyboard as a faster way of entering MIDI notes with a bit of feel and expression, so hitting mostly the right notes at approximately the right times is good enough for my purposes. My “real” instrument practice time goes to the violin and the cello, as there’s only so much you can do with them if you can’t play properly.

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+1 on Finishing Tracks. It is only in full context that you can see all the parts you performance, composed and produced in terms of quality, expression, how the fit, work together etc.

Competitions and challenges can be great since it gives you a boost of motivation and focus, compared to the classic “what shall I do next…doodle…doodle…sketch…no output”. :smiley:

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Yes as you said, time is always the difficult part. That is, finding time to do all the learning and practicing routines.

Now that you mentioned it, I do belive listening to a lot of music helps, but only if you listen with intention…not the background track just for atmosphere kind of listening. I should personally really listen to more music, I have been kind of addicted to podcasts, youtube,

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yes listening is important but you must listen with the intention to learn or discover something that bring the curiosity to go further in the analyse of what you are listening
i have done this exercise for Jaw from john william and, wow, listening with reading the full score is a great pleasure

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Curious, where do you get the full scores from? This is something I would love to try too :

here is the link to the website i find nearly all score i am looking for

you can also try this one

https://imslp.org/

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Wow thank you, I never knew those e-books websites could have sheet music too! :smiley:
Is it possible to download these scores to your computer in PDF or something?

yes you can download in pdf format file on your computer, you acn read on line or i think also for reading device

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I seen websites like this but I stay clear from them because I don’t know if I can trust them
So I assume this is safe ?

How I practice

I usually start by seen where my mind is at since I have migraine vertigo
But I like to set my app PolyNome which is a metronome that has two metronome where you can one count 1,2,3,4
and the other have different subdivisions going on this has hell my timing a lot

Well I try start with a very low bmp 37- 47 etc…
and just work with different kind of subdivision with the tempo being so low I can work with
16 notes ,32nds 16 note triplets
etc… That otherwise could not
This prepares my mind for starting to learn if
then I try to just hum a tune maybe a favorite melody from a song
Both of these helps me to get my mindset to learn music

Now my levels is very limited but I also trying to learn more even if it one bite at a time

Unfortunately at this time I have never really fished any just a lot of pieces

So this is what I doing now to help this
1.I pick a key ,try a key where I can hum up to a whole octave accurately without strain my voice to much
2.then pick a chord progression in that key ,
I just started learning the I To V chord
progression
3.voice leading so I can learn how make a very smooth transition from one chord to the next
4.hum melodies as I play this progression
5.try create a rhythm with the chord progression
6.try to hum melodies with the new rhythm that I created
7.try ear Training , I ether hum a melody then I find it on my midi keyboard or on my guitar
Or I try to listen to some easy music to try to pick out the melody and see if I can hum it or match that pitch on my instruments
8.trying to look for very easy and short music analysis so I do not get overwhelmed
at the moment trying understand the song by Bach called “Air on G String”
and looking at his voice leading and his forward motions concepts
like oblique motion
and how I can use this in my I ,V chord progressions

9.trying learn Logic and how I can do basic stuff create basic midi and record
At the moment trying to learn all the different ways I can use my mod wheel controlling with Logic to very be very expressive
Way short story after all this is how I practice :wink:

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I try to practise most of my instruments every day. I start playing bass watching the morning news on tv. Then I go to my Roland TD-50 Digital drums for a work out half un our.
In the afternoon I start my home studio. Working with my synths, plugins and try to become better with all the tech stuff that I have. I am trying to learn everything that I have missed before deciding to have my own studio. It will take some time until I will be proud of my production, but I know what I am aiming for.
Logic is my choice of DAW after giving up on ProTools that made me sick because it crashed all the time.
I also practise on my classic flute and Guitar but drums are my main instrument that I started to play when I was 11 years old.

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It was said before, but I don’t like to compose or produce only in one genre. There are people who focus, I am not sure I will ever do this, because I feel kind of stuck/not free, if that makes sense? I am not a banker, I want to be an explorer! :slight_smile:

If I need to produce an album in one genre, that’s another story, but the most powerful exercise is to listen to as many genres and tracks out there, and look for something which you find is awesome. I heard super cool ideas from people who actually are not professionals at all. Sometimes it’s just about finding something which you copy to your next cue. A lot of analysing and checking out what’s going on in a piece – what is working well, what is not.

If I compare my “old” stuff with my music today, I realise that I don’t stuck in a stupid loop anymore. Yes I still love cool loops, but I always try to find ways to make the next loop more interesting than that one before. Music is always evolving, it’s never repeating itself, it’s always round-robin and it’s actually full of mistakes… :slight_smile:

As an engineer I started to use almost only Compressors and EQs, which don’t show me the numbers / graphic, so old school channel-strips. The FabFilter EQ shows you really beautiful graphics, but I move the bands as steep as -12dB sometimes, it shows me more and more that I am listening to what’s going on. I used to mix live-shows and you just have to ride the faders all the time, sometimes 20dB to get the feeling for a solo-part, reverb, delay. The same with music. I always remind me to make the progressions more and more interesting…

I am a pianist and had a lot of success in my early career, if I can call it that way…but times has changed and I don’t have a piano anymore, so I don’t practice finger skills, the most technical ideas, which come to my head I still can perform, and if not, I am motivated to record it perfectly, even if it was only 1 from 10. I work with only two octaves at the moment, but if you know how an instrument has to be played, you don’t need all 88 :wink:

As an example, this piece is performed with only 2 octaves, I need more, so I re-record over the right hand, and edited after that what I wanted to change. I guess you think I played it live on a 88 keys grand? Nope :slight_smile:

As a composer & musicians in general I think it’s good to stay in “shape” and practice your inner hearing. Intervalls, Chords, Pitches, Scales etc. a good app I found is called “Tone”, learning to get a perfect pitch. For normal people it’s impossible to get one, if you don’t have one, but you can get a good relative pitch, which comes really close. People, like my father, who do have perfect pitch, have huge advantage, but he told me, if he deals with bad tuned instruments, pianos in first place, he easily gets a headache, because his mind is “not used” to hear a “wrong” pitch.

I believe a good exercise in general is to limit your inputs, so just take one instrument, piano, or drum machine, or flute, whatever it is, and try to make a piece of music, which people would listen to actually. Composing melodies and harmony, making textures, sound fx, percussions with it…if anybody knows Trolls from 8Dio, he is a master in these kind of challenges. Sometimes we need to limit ourselves, to start to be creative. Because we have everything in front of us, we offen get stuck, we have too many options.

In general if you want to be overall a better composer and writer, you need to study the instruments, you are writing for. If you know how an instrument should be played, you will instantly see, how your productions transform into much better scores. At some point you won’t mess around with articulations which still don’t work well, when played back. You just leave them out, and use other samples, articulations etc.

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Playing bass while watching the news, haha that sounds like fun. I wonder if the music changes when you hear really bad news, eh? :wink:

Wow excellent tips Alexey, and really cool to hear a bit more about your background. I did not know that you were a pianist, and man that is so cool that your father has perfect pitch.

I totally agree being stick to one genre or style would make ma crazy. :stuck_out_tongue:

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