Monday, December 24, 2012

How I compose.

Composition can be a daunting thing.  When you get ideas, it's not always easy to get them out of your head into something you can utilize.

People have asked me how I compose, enough that it warranted a post.  My process is chaotic, mostly "whatever works" but backed by a lot of experience mixed with some actual training.

I'm going to use an example pattern I made in February 2012, called "Hooo."  Don't ask why it's called that, I have NO idea...  I'll show how each example applies to how I would capture the pattern:

  • I started with hash marks, vertical lines of differing sizes with dots to symbolize where the notes would fall.  This is something I still use when I have a tricky passage I can't figure out with western notation.  I didn't even know I was effectively making 16th notes with the hash marks; they were just a way to keep a count.
  •  When I got into music theory, I learned Western notation, a very effective way to write out rhythms.  It also helped to be able to "see" the patterns in a musical way instead of just dots in a linear progression.
  • Recording audio through a micro recorder, smart phone, or even calling your own voicemail works when I have a pattern where I can't write anything down.  If it's really complex or I'm on the freeway, it's easier singing the patterns out.
(This isn't a live recording, but the audio from my notation software.  Check out the link HERE.)
  • Recording video is also an option, but usually only if I have something really specific I want to capture, like a pattern with specific sticking.  It's pretty rare where I'll do that instead of one of the first three.
  • Finally, I keep an archive of all the patterns I create.  There's over 300 in a folder on my computer, everything from finished compositions to four-second snippets.  Sometimes I'll come across one that sounds really interesting but that I have no recollection of!  This is good for getting new ideas (that are actually old ones).

It's not hard to learn just enough Western notation to get basic concepts, especially for most patterns.  8th notes, triplets, horsebeat, 90% of all the taiko "staples" won't take a lot of time to figure out.  The most important thing is to figure out what works for you.  Maybe the hash mark system is something you can use and adapt, or you can use something like graph paper in a similar manner.  Just get those patterns down!

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