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…

Future Music - - FEATURE -

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.

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