View Full Version : Self taught composers


Motorstorm
06-23-2009, 07:25 AM
Is it possible to self teach yourself music composition? I would take a degree course in music composition but don't have time as i'm doing a games design course but want to be able to compose music for my games efficiently and professionally and even though I done quite a few modules on sound engineering in my college i feel i need to do more. I wouldn't mind knowing how you guys started out?

Anim8
06-23-2009, 04:13 PM
You need some music theory for sure. Alot of people can come up with stuff that sounds cool given enough tinkering. But to understand how to create different moods and environments is much easier when you're not guessing. I.E. melodic minor over a 5th chord sounds Egyptian...its just another tool for you to use.

I'm a guitar player mostly, some of the keyboard guys can probably explain this better than me. Learn how chords are put together, diatonic scales, circle of 5ths, etc. This stuff is crucial to composing IMO.

C.Adley
06-23-2009, 04:17 PM
Yes! My mother taught me the basics. (She graduated a conservatory though.) When she returned to UNO when I was in high school, I was able to access the colleges library and surpassed her knowledge within 3 years.

Books are your friend. Purchase a library card and go through every music theory book you can find. Start simple and work your way up. Its hard work, but you can do it.

Motorstorm
06-23-2009, 04:30 PM
Thanks i'll read some books on music composing, but also i'm not sure about my setup, currently i have a midi keyboard and Reason oh and a grand piano in my home but when it comes to percussion reason is ok but also recording yourself hitting a random object like you would a drum can sometimes get you the sound you want once you've edited the sound then investing in percussion instruments

C.Adley
06-23-2009, 04:34 PM
a midi connection is fine. Theory has nothing to do with composing until you understand how to use it. Its really boring, so good luck to you. A piano will be your best friend when learning theory. Its keys are laid out just like the intervals you'll be learning about.

Scoopicman
06-23-2009, 08:06 PM
I never did well in elementary school music classes. I had no interest. My sister got the piano lessons. But, once I got into filmmaking I needed music for my films. I had listened to a lot of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith type soundtracks, so I had fairly distinct ideas of what I wanted in a score, but I had trouble getting composers. A couple of people said yes, but nothing materialized.

Then one day, I dropped 2 grand on a synth keyboard and never looked back. I was like a one fingered typist. Then I discovered intervals - 3rds, 4ths, 5ths. Then I discovered that if I put a 3rd finger between the notes of the 5th that I could make a major or minor chord.

If you play orchestral or section type of samples/sounds, you realize that many instruments are mono-phonic (play one note or tone at a time, as opposed to intervals and chords). You might take that 5th chord and have trombones play the bottom note, clarinets playing the top note melody, etc. Of course, these instruments are in sections, so you can have a chord by having 3 trombone players each playing one of the notes. Of course, a timpani plays your bass note.

The bad thing is that this takes a while, but the cool thing about this self-learning process was that I had no intent on playing someone else's music, or practicing with well known songs. I was immediately making my own music. To this day, if someone asks me to play a well known song, it's not something I do. I literally have to figure it out by ear.

I'm sure there is a lot of good training to be had, and I think it can greatly speed up the learning process. I also encourage you to explore sounds and practice your own music, at home, to discover your identity.

Motorstorm
06-24-2009, 05:41 AM
Interesting story Scoopic and i was in the same situation, i could either find a composer willing to work for free or use copyright free music, but then if you learn to compose yourself then you can get exactly the music you want and unless your paying yourself then its not going to cost anything apart from the equipment you need, and i'm suprised you paid that much for a keyboard back then when now you can pick up a decent midi for only 80 ($100)

Filman
06-25-2009, 06:34 PM
Yes, no problem. I've done it.

bwproductions
06-27-2009, 08:18 AM
I've done a few things where I self taught myself. Sometimes it's best to get some helpful tips on certain things to make sure you really know what your doing.

Scoopicman
06-27-2009, 04:46 PM
Interesting story Scoopic and i was in the same situation, i could either find a composer willing to work for free or use copyright free music, but then if you learn to compose yourself then you can get exactly the music you want and unless your paying yourself then its not going to cost anything apart from the equipment you need, and i'm suprised you paid that much for a keyboard back then when now you can pick up a decent midi for only 80 ($100)


Back then, was 1984, Keyboards like the Prophet 5 were $5,000 and that was a cheap one! People weren't using computers for music. My first synth was the brand new Yamaha DX7 and it was a bargain compared to their original 20 grand FM synth, the GS-1. Shortly after, you could get into a Fairlight or Synclavier synth/sampling system for between 40K - 200K; yes more than many houses cost. They were used on a lot of soundtracks, though.

These days, musicians can buy a copy of Reason and a cheap MIDI controller for next to nothing. They don't know how good they have it.

Leah Kardos
07-06-2009, 08:14 PM
Do you play an instrument? If so, and you have never tried expressing original ideas on your instrument then I recommend giving it a go. Melodies, chord progressions/harmonies, rhythms and textures. Experiment, try and create moods and feelings with musical elements combined together. If you find the results pleasing to your ear then you can probably work with your own musical intuition to compose, developing whatever skills you need as you go.

But if you don't feel you have the intuition or creative spark to achieve this, then I would beg you to let an experienced composer do the work for you. There is too much bad music in the world, more it does not need.

Alcove Audio
07-06-2009, 10:36 PM
There are very, very few self taught film composers who have achieved any significant success. There are just too many things that you need to know.

Doing music for games is a different gig, so is much easier to accomplish without a formal education in composition. You must be very prolific - there can be dozens - even hundreds - of cues for a game, and there needs to be numerous variations on each theme. You must write for a higher degree of upfront emotional impact as compared to film/TV scoring (little or no dialog). It is also very loop based for obvious reasons.

You will have to learn a number of different delivery platforms as each game platform has unique requirements.

There are a number of composers forums that have games composition threads. I would suggest browsing them.

benj09
07-06-2009, 10:55 PM
i know this has nothing to do with music but i watched the film "SMOKIN ACES" and i wanted to learn how to throw cards just as a party trick, i went on youtube and found out how, i can now throw cards over 80 miles a hour and have accually cut a mans eye open (by accident) what im trying to say is the internet is the best tool you can ever have utilize it.
hope this helps

Scoopicman
07-07-2009, 06:59 AM
Edited because I talk too much. :lol:

I would encourage anyone to pick their path and learn what they can. Do what feels right for you. Composer Danny Elfman (http://www.filmtracks.com/composers/elfman.shtml) is self taught. I'm self taught and don't feel like chopped liver, because of it. :D

Motorstorm
07-07-2009, 07:12 AM
There is too much bad music in the world, more it does not need.

Oh trust me after playing many videogames I know this, although i'm mainly talking about Japanese developed games, the game itself is good but the music is usually bad to say the least and the only case it is good is if the game designers hire a hollywood composer as in the case of the Metal gear solid games.
To be honest i'm not trying to label myself as the next big thing in music i just want to be able to create appropriate soundtracks for scenarios in my games whether its edgy synths, strings and percussion or something more melodic and I couldn't care if they're musical masterpieces or not as long as they set the mood and of course the right mood, because i think that the music is only bad if it creates the wrong mood for the scenario if we're talking about film and game music and not standalone music

benj09
07-07-2009, 12:57 PM
what type of music are you looking to compose
classic, pop, RnB ect
if you need a hand you could tell me what you need and i could speak to a friend of mine

Motorstorm
07-08-2009, 08:23 AM
Its ok I like to compose the music myself but I've got nothing going on at the moment but I'm sure once I start my games design course I'll need to compose music for my designed games. Like I said Ben my favourite type of music to compose is strings and percussion and sometimes electronic but either way I like it to have a action or sinister sound.

Blade_Jones
07-27-2009, 02:02 AM
There are very, very few self taught film composers who have achieved any significant success.
I always thought of music schools as being for people who weren't "born with it".

jglass
09-10-2009, 02:10 AM
Hmmm I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the wonders of the interweb... A good deal of my music theory has come from random internet pages that I've stumbled across.

I would suggest buying or torrenting a music composition program like Guitar Pro 5 or Finale. They definitely don't have the best sounds, but are great to start out on and easy to use.

And don't be afraid of weird time sigs or strange scales! Some great stuff can come out of em.

Good luck!

thesecession
08-05-2010, 01:12 AM
With the internet, I think its absolutely possible to teach yourself anything these days! The only bad thing about that is, you dont have the capability to spot your own technical mishaps and correct your mistakes. However Im sure the serious ones will be quite obvious :P Id say its totally possible to become the next Hans Zimmer 100% self taught. If you have enough self motivation!

.FL
09-19-2010, 05:20 PM
Hans Zimmer is 100% self taught.

Raised and educated mainly in England, he has no formal musical education; he says the most he ever got was about "two weeks of piano lessons." Nevertheless, he took an early interest in electronic musical synthesizers in the 1970s, when these were large, bulky analog devices programmed usually by means of patch cords and individual oscillator settings.

Hammerstone
09-19-2010, 11:34 PM
Hans Zimmer is 100% self taught.

I wouldn't say that. He spent several years working under Stanley Myers. How much formal training that counts as, I wouldn't care to guess...

wheatgrinder
09-22-2010, 07:11 PM
everyone should be ALWAYS learning something new.. learning and growing is life, retarding your growth is well, retarded..

Hammerstone
09-23-2010, 01:26 AM
Agreed. "Never fear answers. Only fear running out of questions."

Blade_Jones
10-01-2010, 01:25 AM
Is it possible to self teach yourself music composition?
Real musicians have it in their blood. They hear something in their head and they just play it. They don't have to go to the Musician's Institute to do it.

ajyablo
10-05-2010, 02:33 PM
Real musicians have it in their blood. They hear something in their head and they just play it. They don't have to go to the Musician's Institute to do it.

Conversely: a real musician, although technically skilled, may not full understand or appreciate the musical theory behind his work.

It is possible to separate musical chops and musical knowledge.
The two can grow together quite naturally.
But with all of the kids I've seen today, who are quite naturally talented, most of them do not fully understand the theory behind what they are playing.
From a purely composition standpoint, this can be frustrating when you lack the instrument to 'feel out' the song. I have always striven to be able to write purely out of my noggin.

I agree that with the aid of the internet and some discipline, you can learn pretty much anything these days.
Although I've taken composition classes, most of my knowledge comes from reading theory books and/or discussing it with peers.

So: go out and learn some music.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, either.

Blade_Jones
10-07-2010, 09:50 PM
Hans Zimmer is 100% self taught.
Thank you. So were Van Halen and Hendrix. Sure they might have studied a little here or there just so that they finally know the name of that strange cord that they have been playing, but they're born with it. There are those who play by ear automatically and there are those who have to go to school.

People who come out of the Musician's Institute always wind up being so wrapped up in their technical learning that they miss the mark, they OVER play the song, etc.

ginhar
10-14-2010, 12:10 PM
Real musicians have it in their blood. They hear something in their head and they just play it. They don't have to go to the Musician's Institute to do it.

People have aptitudes towards different things, it's true, but music is not something you "have in your blood". Neither is filmmaking or any other art.

It's all about work. No one is history just "had it in their blood", that's just an excuse. What you never see in movies or in the success stories is all the work it took to acquire those skills. It generally only takes some interest to get started. Those people you mentioned earlier, or any good musician trained at a music school or not, sure as hell worked to get where they were.

To the Op, if you want to learn music, this is one of the best things you could possibly do as a filmmaker, but you shouldn't go to music school. I've been to music school, and I can say that it's a great place if you want to be a music teacher. If you want to learn music, then you could take piano lessons, and tell the teacher your requirements clearly- that you want to understand the music as well as play it. Or you could study by yourself, but I would suggest you start with piano since it is relatively simple. As a filmmaker, once you understand music, you will appreciate good film music so much more.

Always strive to learn more.

-Michael

FIlm Score Fanatic
10-14-2010, 12:53 PM
If it matters at all, I've taught myself to play about 7 instruments.
So i believe other people can too.
If you give your all, you can do pretty much anything.

Semiazas
10-14-2010, 03:24 PM
Is it possible to self teach yourself music composition?
Of course it is, I'm doing it myself, writing prog music, metal, acoustic and film soundtracks.
It's just a matter of doing it as often as you can in order to improve, I mean, everything I write is sent to someone so I know what's good and what needs improving.
Give it a shot, send people your stuff and work on it from there

TotalComposure
12-09-2010, 11:53 AM
Yes!

gpforet001
12-09-2010, 02:08 PM
Frank Zappa did. Frank learned music theory and composition at the public library.

His score sheets, all hand written, are works of art to behold. Incredibly detailed, and incredibly neat.

So, yes, a person can teach themselves composition. But why not focus on what you are passionate about and ask someone who's passion is music composition to compose for your game?



Is it possible to self teach yourself music composition? I would take a degree course in music composition but don't have time as i'm doing a games design course but want to be able to compose music for my games efficiently and professionally and even though I done quite a few modules on sound engineering in my college i feel i need to do more. I wouldn't mind knowing how you guys started out?

fmmrhx
12-12-2010, 04:16 PM
... recording yourself hitting a random object like you would a drum can sometimes get you the sound you want once you've edited the sound then investing in percussion instruments

Thats pretty much how I started out. I used to hit everthing, radiators, baths, barrells, pots and pans, all because I couldn't afford proper percussive instruments. And I'd like to think taking that approach has shaped my music style somewhat.

Being self-taught can have its advantages. I can't compare it being formally trained but having to learn by yourself can produce some quite individual stuff. If you want to sound like John Williams or James Horner, then a proper education is needed but I'm convinced a career making unconventional scores can also be achieved (I hope).