Strike while an idea is hot
Being ready to respond at the speed of your imagination is crucial in the world of commercial music. Here’s how a promising idea can take shape…
There is a reason why musicians the world over carry devices for mobile recording: because they know that the best ideas can strike at any moment. Until the advent of the smartphone, you’d find musicians carrying dictaphones just so they were ready to sing a sketch of a lyric, or a hook, or even beat-box a rhythmic pattern. These days, apps make this process so much faster, not just in terms of recording a raw idea, but also in terms of transferring it to your computer for production. In the following example, you can see how a few minutes of improvising at the piano can yield the bare bones of a promising harmony and rhythmic idea, which can then be rapidly developed.
We record a piano sketch into the Music Memos app. This is a melody and harmony idea which has surfaced during improvisation and it feels promising. You can hear the dog squeaking her toy in the background! Once the idea is captured, we email it across to our work computer.
We pick out the chords from the original sketch and then improvise further with the melody, programming something which develops the music kernel into something more ‘produced’. We use the Ólafur Arnalds Muted Piano from Spitfire Audio which is immediately evocative.
There is an arpeggiated piano figure in the original improvisation which we use next, playing this in on a second delicate piano sound, adding reverb and delay to it to set it back. To this we add two simple pads. In a matter of minutes, our basic piano improvisation is up and running.