I was just curious about what you all think about composers as in those who study music, theory, play an instrument, have experience in music etc. compared to "composers", or those who go out, buy a computer, midi keyboard and some samples and call themselves composers.

*NOTE: I am not intending any disrespect or offense to those in or outside of this forum who are "composers". I use the quotation marks as a way of distinguishing between the two types this post is about.

Recently, a young 18 year-oldish "composer" in my area emailed me out of the blue and stated that they liked my music on my website. They liked the style and asked me questions about harmony and things specific to how I compose music. They attached YouTube links to their stuff. Well, I go to their YouTube pages and am blown away by the quality of the samples they use, and the music sounds pretty damn good, better than my sample libraries! Under the description they state "This was made in an hour, unmastered" yadda yadda. This person also had won a scoring award from some film festival.

I'm jealous obviously, and a little upset. It took me five years of music school and about five more years of scoring experience to get to where I'm at today, and I'm not even doing this for a living yet-Heck, I've never even received an award for composing! I started with REASON 2.0 and worked up to Logic Pro 9. Within the past year I finally saved enough to get a nicer sound sampler for strings and brass, along with a faster computer but I'm still nowhere near the specs this person has. Anyways, I called the "composer" up and we chatted. I was very interested to see how they started, and to find out about what samples they used, and about their studio.

They stated that they had about $5K and just got a really nice computer, sound samples that were top shelf right now, and a midi keyboard. They had only been composing for maybe a month or so. The reason they got in touch with me was to see if I could collaborate by teaching some scales and some basic theory, keyboarding skills, etc. in return for "playing around with my samples". Let's just say we haven't been in touch but I keep tabs on this person and they are continuing scoring projects. They are doing in no time what I have tried to be doing for over 5+ years.

Am I a bad person to have somewhat of a loathing towards this "composer"? I mean, we are all striving for success in this world, we all want to be heard, we're all in the same boat if you will. I'm happy for what this person has accomplished and am so jealous at the ear he has for writing music, but it seems like anyone nowadays can just buy a bunch of equipment and call themselves a composer without an ounce of musical/orchestral/etc knowledge. To me, that's unfair, then again, I have a computer and a keyboard and sound samples. That's how I make my music. But I spent years playing in ensembles, studying theory and starting my studio from scratch. No wonder this industry is tough - There's so many people who can just do it right off the bat, get inspired by the latest Hans Zimmer-scored movie, purchase equipment and then boom! They are now "composers".

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  • It doesn't have to do just with "official" music education.  knowledge, either coming from education (say, music school, or a teacher)  or years of experience in the end makes a difference. If it didn't there would be beethovens, Bachs, Wagners, Zimmers floating everywhere.

    "composers" may be good as well, but the lack of inner understanding of music, knowing how to put to music what they have in mind, and do so in an original and skillful way will limit them in the end. It may never seem so, but they will never use the orchestra to its full potential, unless they spend time studying it, thus becoming composers. and that by itself is a terrible limit.

  • I was having this discussion yesterday with a friend. Samples are sounding better, people who use them are more likely to get more work with low budget movies ect. Starting off small and increasingly get more work. I'm sure people can and do make some sort of living off of it.

    I personally don't like the method, I much prefer having rubbish sounding samples but being able to score a piece the "old fashioned" way.

    I think we are seeing an increase of people using this way of writing because of how convenient it is. A few clicks here and there, play a few chords on the keyboard and its as good as done. I write this way for certain projects and I can see the appeal. A final thought could be that some people without theory/orchestration knowledge don't have to worry about it because they can get good results without it.

  • @Ray - my apologies, I do use Sibelius 6, which uses rubbish samples, so in that sense I do embrace technology. I input notes to make chords on multiple staves to create the sounds which I wish to produce. I do not however scratch my head over bit rates, RAM, and keyboards. This is down to preference, which is up to the individual, so as I said before, I prefer having rubbish sounding samples. I would rather have them and the ability to compose the way I do, than to use a piano roll or to record MIDI.

  • I - In Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Outliers - a book about success and why some people are and some are not, he talks about some people having a lot of talent. In the end, my understanding from his research tells us that the ones who work hard, generally do better than the people with a lot of talent who don't work as hard. However, the hard workers must have talent too but maybe not as much as the gifted. You can't beat a strong work ethic, pure dedication and passion. He also talks about the enormous benefits of being born at the right time and place as well. All the ingredients to being successful (financial success is only a very small part of this equation) Most real artists I hope are not overly concerned about money as long as they can eat and not being oppressed by poverty. So they can concentrate on their art.

    The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is another must have book for every struggling artist and musician. WE can really do a number on ourselves if we are not careful. We are a sensitive lot!

    I should add that in the last few years some sample companies have been coming out with more complete or constructed sample libraries that sound really good out of the box - combinations of instruments and divisi groups that can get a novice up to speed really fast and sound good (assuming their composition is solid) - in the hands of a more experienced musician and composer these can really propel them forward as well. (Symphobia, LASS, Adagio strings from 8dio etc) It really pays to keep up with what's happening out their as these virtual instruments are our tools. Would you sit down and play a crappy piano? - no, so why not get a good sample library that will make your original compositions shine.

    Del

  • I agree with you Spiros. Most samples sound great at the touch of a key on the keyboard. My wife, who is completely inexperienced at music sat down and I asked her to fiddle with the white keys only. I simply created the actual musical tracks and instruments and she came up with the rest. See attached music file.

    Sounds pretty good in my opinion for a first timer. Using just her ear she was able to come up with something musically, an atmosphere that could work for a film project. Yes there are some times I wince as I listen, but overall, with no experience whatsoever she made it happen, and with some basic music education and basic orchestral knowledge and theory, I'm sure she could improve, actually understand what notes she's playing, and potentially compose for anything in the future.  

    Spiros Makris said:

    It doesn't have to do just with "official" music education.  knowledge, either coming from education (say, music school, or a teacher)  or years of experience in the end makes a difference. If it didn't there would be beethovens, Bachs, Wagners, Zimmers floating everywhere.

    "composers" may be good as well, but the lack of inner understanding of music, knowing how to put to music what they have in mind, and do so in an original and skillful way will limit them in the end. It may never seem so, but they will never use the orchestra to its full potential, unless they spend time studying it, thus becoming composers. and that by itself is a terrible limit.

    shishi.mp3

    Thoughts about Composers vs. "Composers"
    I was just curious about what you all think about composers as in those who study music, theory, play an instrument, have experience in music etc. co…
  • Making sound tracks for pictures and composing music are two separate but not always mutually exclusive disciplines.

    To create a 'mood' or 'atmosphere', to build tension even, is very easy to do for anyone with two fingers and a keyboard. There are many software packages that contain all the right sounds and FX to make a passable job of basic soundtracks. If one wants to sound 'generic' and 'typical' one can. To make such 'compositions' sound top drawer and professional all one has to do is buy top drawer and professional libraries. 

    However, if one has a very limited understanding of how to manipulate harmony and other elements of music then one day, when styles and tastes change perhaps, one will be left behind.

    Much of todays music for media is based on 'sound design' more than musical composition and it is possible to be very successful in the field without ever having looked at a score and by thinking a triad is something to do with organised crime.

    With a digital camera and photoshop we can all make a pretty good image some of the time. Are we going to be able to make a name for ourselves as a professional photographer? 

  • Very interesting and valid points here from everyone. My initial post was more letting out my frustration that this person was acting arrogant towards me in that they had better equipment and they wanted to trade me teaching them music for playing around on their top notch studio. I have the utmost respect for all people who compose, score, and play music, whatever the medium, be it via software or live instruments, but how this composer suddenly came into fruition in a month or two is the reality of how a lot of composers are spawning into the industry, especially the film scoring industry. I do heartily agree that if these newbies don't start to respect where others have come from,  and don't respect even a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music, that they are only hurting and limiting their own skills in the long run. I also agree with Bob in that even if you study every single music theory book there is no guarantee you will be a great composer. Heck, I studied five years of music courses in college, and my music compositions are dotted with parallel octaves and 5ths, and other no-no's the books and professors tell you never to do, but I am grateful for at least having studied theory and knowing the basics before breaking them.

  • scoring for an orchestra like it's a pad patch on your keyboard doesn't qualify the music for "good concert music" but rather, film music that lacks a film. and most people that come from other genres write the orchestra parts like that.

    It all comes down to what people expect from you. in a movie I don't expect a soundtrack to be like a beethoven symphony. All I care for is the right mood, the appropriate music carpet for what I am watching. If it happens to my something a little more inspired than than, then no problem. But I dont give a f* if it isn't.

    This is obviously not the case when I go to a concert. I dont want just "mood", I want music crafted with skill, because what I am "watching" is the music alone. So I expect more. And to give me that you need more than a 5k studio in your garage.

  • Yes Ray, however the skill set required for one activity is quite distinct from that required for the other although they do overlap.

  • Well it seems Ray has hit on something (again). How does he do it!

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