Sketching: How I Make Electronic Music

This is not a how-to, step-by-step guide to writing music but more me jotting down some stuff I had in mind today.

While listening to Zoeken’s relaxing track Rebirth today, I sort of started getting lost in thought. The way the track begins, and for the first few seconds, is a lot like the way a lot of my music begins – a few instruments I throw together one on top of the other. I’ve sort of found a way to auto-inspire myself, if you will, by “letting go” – not going for a particular melody or even genre (like I used to do, when I was starting out) but by basically doing what is the musical equivalent of sketching something on a piece of paper.

Sometimes I start by writing a melody, sometimes by making a beat, sometimes – albeit more rarely now – by sketching out a rough bassline. Even if I have an idea in mind, perhaps I’m aiming to create a sound or dynamic similar to someone else, or going for a specific sounds of a particular decade – I usually start by tossing a few things out there and see if they sound good.

It’s not uncommon for me to start at 130 bpm and wind up with something in the 110 or even 75 range, and the opposite is true, as well. I try not to limit or restrict my creative process too much. The only guideline I generally try to use is: not too much dissonance, and everything should sound “good” – or appealing to me.

I don’t finish every project I start; not even close. Many projects I work on wind up being dreams that might come true someday, or short demo loops and a few which I release for public consumption.

Lately, I’ve been focusing a lot on getting my musical elements to sound exactly as I want them to. When the mix is right, there is room for some interesting combinations of sound which might otherwise not work. I work to make sure there are no conflicts between instruments, and that – much like a room full of furniture – each instrument has its own place.

Sometimes I visualize a crowd, perhaps in a club, listening to a track on which I’m working – or maybe myself listening to it in my car. Visualization sometimes helps me pick the “right” dynamic for any given piece, and set the mood, so to speak.

I throw a bunch of stuff together and then start altering notes, editing chords, adding and removing melodies/percussion and fx, and applying effects and EQ to my project as I work on it. For some time now I’ve been trying different mixing and mastering techniques to see if some new life can be given to older styles of production.

That’s all for now!

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