Composing Electronic Music

midi keyboard with drum pad for composing electronic music
M-Audio MIDI keyboard with drum pad

Introduction

You may have noticed some music tracks on this website. The genre is known simply as electronic music and it can be a beautiful platform for composing and improvising on a computer with special software and a MIDI keyboard. These music tracks available for free download. I originally composed 18 tracks under my “band name” of Muse Garden and loaded them on soundcloud. But then I got the idea to put a few tracks in my free store to see if they get any interest. If so I’ll add a few more.

The Process

So here’s some background for those of you who are interested in composing and performing electronic music. These tracks were composed in Ableton Live 10, which is a popular Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software package. My typical process is to start with either a rhythmic idea or a bass line. I choose a percussion set or drum kit in Ableton and I play the rhythm on my MIDI keyboard. Notice in the picture above it has a pad of 8 buttons on the far right. These can be assigned to 8 instruments in a drum kit or percussion rack. Then I turn on a metronome and hit record and make up a jam. When I feel like I have some kind of a groove that makes sense I stop the recording and go into the editor and I’m hoping to find 4 or 8 bars that capture the groove I was after. I save that section and trash the rest.

Adding Harmony and Melody

Next I find a bass instrument I like and I start playing bass lines over my new rhythm groove. Sometimes I’ll hear a bass line before I even start to play and then it just flows out of me. Other times I struggle to find the right notes. But eventually some magic happens and I have a great rhythm and a cool bass line to go with it. Then I start layering other stuff in, lots of harmony and maybe a few effects. Finally, my last track is some kind of synth track that maybe sounds like an organ or piano and at that point I can do a very free improvisation for as long as I want over the structure I’ve created. It’s like programming a band with you playing all the instruments and then improvising over that band! It’s really a blast. 🙂

Inspiration

One final note. I find that I get great ideas for composing and improvising electronic music from photographs. If you browse the Art Posters on this site you’ll see poster layouts using photos I’ve taken on my travels. These almost always inspire me when I’m getting ready to compose. For example the music track called Potential was inspired by a picture I took while visiting Bainbridge Island, Washington. There was just something about those stone sculptures that sparked an idea for an upbeat piece with movement and energy. Later I created a poster using other pictures I took on Bainbridge Island that same day. Good luck with your own music making and I hope you find plenty of inspiration.

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