Make Music Now. Talent Not Required
To those of you who listen to music but are afraid to attempt to grasp the music making process.
To all the people may have toyed with the idea of creating music but quickly realized that you’re natural abilities are far too limited.
To all the people who have dreamed of stepping in a stage in a packed room but lack the ability to lead a room of spectators on a worthwhile journey.
To all of you who have picked up an instrument, plucked, pressed or blew a hideous noise, set the instrument down & slowly backed away.
To those who think they’ll never understand what all those crazy knobs on that synthesizer do.
To all those who downloaded the trial version of a new software, gave their best attempt at something musical over the weekend and then deleted the software by monday in frustration.
To all the people who didn’t ask that technical question because “If I haven’t figured this out yet, it’s just not meant to be, so there is no point embarrassing myself”.
To all those who can’t tell a wind instrument from a plucked instrument, between live drums & a drum machine, between echo & reverb or a quarter note from a triplet.
To those who don’t yet understand how a compressor helps some sounds gel together.
To those who have heard of midi but have no idea what it’s purpose is.
To all of those don’t know the difference between an A Minor and C Major scale.
To those who don’t know what a pentatonic scale is.
To those who don’t even know what a scale is.
To those not familiar with middle C & where to find it on a piano.
To those who think or have been told they can’t make music until they have mastered music theory.
To those who can’t tell if there’s a little too much upper midrange on that mixdown or too much mud around 500hz.
I want to tell you with as much sincerity as I can muster. I was once where you are. My musical vocabulary was nil. I couldn’t distinguish between a rock band & an all synth band as far as instrumentation. I couldn’t read or write music notation(& still can’t). I had poor rhythm & had a hard time keeping my playing in tempo. I still only know a handfull of chords, the rest I just make up by ear. The first song I ever performed in front of an audience consisted of playing on only 2 strings of my guitar. I continued with 2 string chords for probably a year before someone suggested I try putting a 3rd finger right on the string under the 2nd finger. A revelation! To this day, the songs I write on guitar consist mostly of simple bar chords or slight variations that sound good to me. I’m no virtuoso but I don’t find myself limited by my lack of chord book knowledge.
If you think that I must then have been a computer whiz, easily programming my ideas into something listenable, think again. I didn’t even know how to properly turn off a computer, had no idea what a desktop or a folder was & the concept of cut copy & paste was completely foreign to me. I’m still haunted by this calm confident sounding voice sample that came with my Sony (then Sonic Foundry) Sound Forge (Sound editing software) that said “Sound editing keeps getting easier & easier”. Every time I heard that guy’s voice, I wanted to throw my computer out of a window.
Still to this day, I when I start a new song, I have a childlike naivety & curiosity in the process. I don’t know my scales, & I still create my music by ear. My writing process consists of a few approaches.
1. Listen to what I’ve already got & wait for a musical idea to come to my head then sound it out by ear.
2. Duplicate a melodic midi file, change the sound, raise or lower by an octave, move notes around til it sounds good.
3. Dick around until I’ve stumble across something that sounds interesting
Obviously, the more you write, the better your instincts & musical vocabulary become. You become better able to tell if something doesn’t sound quite right or if you’ve nailed it. I find that I rarely nail it. There is usually a point at which I accept not being perfect & let it be. Like Da Vinci said “Art is never finished, only abandoned”. This idea of perfection is not only elusive to the amateurs be also the masters.
I’m not trying to embarrass myself here although I simply don’t care how others view my knowledge or lack thereof. I want you to think of this complete lack of knowledge as your first stepping stone to mastery. It honestly doesn’t matter where you start, only where you want to get to. Tell me 1 thing you’re doing now that you didn’t at one point know absolutely nothing about.
Don’t ever think you can only create music when you stop having questions. Questions create possibilities where there once wasn’t. The day people stop asking questions is the day music runs out of ideas. I believe that having good taste in music is much more of a priority than having skill. If you have taste in music, you will recognize when you aren’t quite where you want to be yet & that will drive you to improve. As you improve, your listening with also improve & you’ll find yourself noticing details in music that previously eluded you, thus driving you forward once again. It becomes an upward spiral.
There is only one qualification for making music. Because you want to.
Do the world a favor. Encourage a friend to make music. The world might not recognize it as a favor for a couple years though, so I wouldn’t suggest an amp that goes to 11 just yet. 😉
Talent not required. Headphones maybe?
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Happy Music Making,