Author Topic: Questions regarding starting music/tracking  (Read 853 times)

Offline JamesC01

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Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« on: November 11, 2019, 08:33:10 »
This is going to be quite a lot of questions, so bear with me.

So, I've been into music production for a few years, but haven't improved much. I've been interested in tracking for a while, and I want to properly get into it, but I just don't understand how.

What is the exact process of learning to track? Should you already know how to produce music? Should you know how to play an instrument, music theory etc.? What are the prereqs? For example, the getting started tutorial on the openmpt wiki, it mentions it's for beginner trackers, but what does that mean? Beginner to tracking and music production, or just tracking but with experience with music production or playing an instrument?

If there was someone who knew absolutely nothing about music or tracking, what should they learn from nothing to comfortable?

I know it's probably a terrible habit I have, but I have this thing with music, where no matter what, I feel like I'm not learning the correct way, and I just can't get out of that mindset and just enjoy myself. Has anyone been like this before? What is your advice?

Preferably I'd like some of the pro's to answer, LPChip and SagaMusix seem like some frequent ones that I've seen, but I don't really mind.

Thanks!

Offline Saga Musix

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Re: Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2019, 10:43:56 »
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What is the exact process of learning to track? Should you already know how to produce music? Should you know how to play an instrument, music theory etc.? What are the prereqs?
Obviously there are many ways to get started. Trackers are used by people with many different backgrounds and different levels of professionalism. Historically, it can be said that trackers have been used by people with no background knowledge in music, because in the late 80s and early 90s they allowed you to make music exclusively with a computer without the requirement of additional expensive hardware. These days this is of course no longer exclusively true for trackers these days, but a large part of the user base are still amateurs in that sense.

Many people have absolutely no background in music theory and just learn by doing, but it's definitely beneficial. Knowing how to play an instrument also helps, in particular if you can play something that you can connect to your PC via MIDI and thus directly use the instrument in OpenMPT. It's not a prerequisite, but every extra bit of knowledge obviously helps you in producing better music, because it's not the tools that matter.

Quote
For example, the getting started tutorial on the openmpt wiki, it mentions it's for beginner trackers, but what does that mean? Beginner to tracking and music production, or just tracking but with experience with music production or playing an instrument?
The tutorial doesn't teach you anything about composition, it is just to make you familiar with how the application works. Arguably that's the more important part because trackers tend to be quirky especially for non-technical people. :)

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If there was someone who knew absolutely nothing about music or tracking, what should they learn from nothing to comfortable?
I think it's definitely useful to pick up at least some sort of music theory - it doesn't need to be the "low-level" stuff but getting familiar with scales, how to use them, etc., in particular in the genre you intend to write in, would be useful. There are many resources in different formats depending on what you prefer - websites, videos, etc... but I have no specific recommendations since most of my knowledge comes from school and learning by doing. A very useful thing about modules is that you can download other people's modules (e.g. from ModArchive) and look at how they made their song. So if you find something that sounds cool, you just look at it and adapt it.
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Offline Rakib

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Re: Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2019, 10:58:11 »
My way of learning was downloading other tracks and seeing how it was built, stealing samples and try to emulate the songs.
There are some demo songs included openMPT, open them and see how they are built.

I dont know and you dont need to know anything about music theory to make songs.
^^

Offline JamesC01

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Re: Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2019, 12:45:53 »
Thanks Saga Musix and Rakib! :)

I suppose what I've got to remember is that there's lots of different approaches. I sometimes get held up on things. I hear that one artist doesn't use music theory, and I hear another was classically taught, I hear others that played in a band before tracking etc., and it makes me feel like I have to learn the exact way that those people learned, but in reality, everyone who makes great music have completely different backgrounds, learned in completely different ways etc., so I guess going with the flow is the best, and learning my own way, instead of getting caught up on the exact way a single artist learned, and trying to copy that.

Offline Exhale

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Re: Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2019, 16:16:05 »
When it comes to tracking, I started out - at the old age of 13 - by downloading and collecting as many .IT songs I could get my hands on and observing the code... I admit my first songs were made by stealing their samples too, but hey, one has to learn somehow. I also observed the kinds of progressions from one part of a song to the other the composer was using and contemplating how to work something like what they were doing into my own tunes... well I only did like one or two tunes that year, but I was very proud of them.
Dont worry about what other ppl think about your tunes, just make your music for yourself at the start, watch your progress and take as much joy as you can with the periodic improvements to your way of composing that will inevitably happen as you make more and more tunes.
good tracking dude, and I hope you find the confidence to have the fun you deserve in observing your own personal journey.
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Offline Saga Musix

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Re: Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2019, 16:36:40 »
Also - don't expect to become a master in music making anytime soon - just go through the releases on my website from bottom to top and you will notice that I have a long journey behind (that is far from finished). There are multiple dimensions to master and you won't get better at all of them at the same time or at the same speed. Music can be bad in many ways - terrible melodies, repetitive song structure, bad rhythms - and if you have no prior experience, it's almost guaranteed that your first tries will fulfill at least one of those categories. Maybe you will be able to write some great melodies and harmonies from the start, but maybe at the same time the song will be terribly repetitive. We've seen everything. :) Just try, and don't give up. And most importantly, listen to and copy other artists. It's one of the most important tools for improving yourself.
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Offline jmkz

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Re: Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2019, 22:11:46 »
Sharing my case, I also started similar as Rakib, and I personally focused at early years in dumping quickly ideas into OpenMPT so I can't forgot them (because I don't write music as a formal way), however, it's more what you want to achieve. I remind advices from Psishock, Harbinger, Saga, Oliwerko (just revisiting my first two songs posted here) who had shared thoughts about my first songs. A great advice I read here in the past, --I think also from/as Saga said, is look how modules are made, copy artists. At the end you'll get skills and don't think you'll end imitating other artists, could be mostly similar in some cases, sure it will have your signature.

Offline LPChip

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Re: Questions regarding starting music/tracking
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2019, 11:59:48 »
As Saga Musix points out, the tutorial was written with 2 things in mind. Teaching you how to use the program foremost so you can start fiddling with it yourself afterwards, and giving a few tips that will get you started.

The tutorial was designed to get anyone started that has:

1. A computer capable of running OpenMPT, and
2. Able to read English, so they would understand the tutorial.

Yes, no music theory is necessary at all. If you have it, it will help you in the long run, but if you don't you still will get the hang of it eventually.

Music is like a sport. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The road of improvement is gradually though. Each song will get you slightly more experienced and if you make 20 songs, after the 20th song, you will have developed skills and will be able to hear an improvement over that first of 20 songs.

You are now tracking for 2 years, so in musical terms you are still a beginner. When I was tracking for 8 years, I finally started to feel that I no longer was a noob at making music, and actually got past a barrier. Yes, it took me that long, but that was probably me, and it also did not help that for the first years, I was not involved in any community. I just made music because I wanted to make music. Its fun.

That said, when I was in those stages, I was very careless in making music. I mostly made half-finished songs or just short ideas and almost never really finished a song. Finishing a song is a skilled I learned like 4 years in. Before that, I had songs that had an end, but they were not really songs. They were projects with an idea that eventually either just faded out or had some weird ending.

And you know what, that was perfectly okay!

As for learning the correct way, the answer is really simple. After you made a song or part of a song and you listen back to it, do you like it yourself? Yes? Then that is the correct way.

In music, you come first, the rest comes second. Once you get so good that you want to start making money with music, only then others will come first, but once you get there, you actually have the necessary experience and skills to make music that you know others like.

Do you need musical theory for all this? It'll help, but no, you don't need it. All you need to figure out, is that whatever you make sounds at least okay. If you like the song in the end, then you accomplished something.


Now, that said, if you feel like you are stuck, and you probably have little inspiration, it is time to expand your bubble. Step out of your comfort zone, and try something new. Are there other music genres you really like? Try making a song in that other genre. Having a hard time? Try to recreate a song you like. It doesn't matter that you "steal" the song. If you don't release it, it is fine. It will be your method of dissecting a song in order to learn its secrets.

Another thing you can do is break down music in various parts. For example: drums, bass, melody, background, effects, etc. Then focus on one of these for a song and make that part the best you can, where the other items are just there to help you fill the song.

If you choose drums, then try to make the drums sound as great as you can. Don't just use a basedrum a snare and maybe a hihat. Go look into what a drum actually is. How is it played in reality? Can you emulate that? Can you figure out something with drum samples that works for you and makes your drums sound really good to you?

For example, if you have a drum, you can lower its volume for an echo effect. You can also skip playing the first bits of the sample (Offset effect) to dull the hit. Combine these and you can get very analog with the drums allowing you to fill emptyness with drum sounds without becoming the main thing. And believe it or not, sounds you barely hear will be missed when absent from a track. (this last sentence is true for any sound in your song btw)
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