Tuesday, July 03, 2007

MIDI Composition

This entry is about composing a song called Pink Ginger.

Basically, I prefer to divide a song into grooves:

1) Introduction

2) Main Groove

3) Break Groove

4) Hold Groove

5) Ending Groove

Notice that, writing a song is like writing a story. Just like any story, a song has letters which are the keys, words which are the chords, paragraphs which are the grooves and of course, the song is the story.

Music however is like a story teller. Just like any story teller, it has its own kind of styles called genre. Examples of genres are rock, jazz, ballad etc.

I have 4 ways to compose music – thru bass, thru rhythm, thru melodies or thru series of mathematical numbers. I prefer to compose this song by having a melody.

What is a melody? A melody is like you sing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep …’ without music. To acquire a melody requires an idea. I prefer humming in order to have an idea. I prefer something simple because throughout life, I learn that to start something is the most difficult thing to do. I therefore need simplicity to start on something.

Once I have an idea, only then I apply it on musical instrument. I prefer my guitar. Pink Ginger started with a simple melody – E D E C D B C A from high to low. Unfortunately, this is only an idea. An idea is meaningless without its development and execution.

To develop an idea is harder as I have to start it all over again. This is the best time to have some motivational factors.

To me, the more motivational factors I have are better. For this song I have at least two.

Firstly, I must bear in mind that I’m not a perfectionist so I don’t look for any kind of perfection. As composing a song is self-fulfillment, as long as I myself like it, that what matters.

Secondly, I had the need to be impressive. However, I know I’ll never be impressive. Now that is very good because as long as I’m not impressive, I’ll keep on working!

After having the idea in melodies, next is to develop the chord progressions. As said, chords are words but chord progressions are combinations of chords so they are the sentences. Sentences form paragraphs so chord progressions form grooves.

Here I need my guitar again. As words are made of letters, chords are made of at least two keys. As I apply simplicity, I prefer to determine only two keys in order to build chords.

Chord progressions depend on what kind of genre I want to represent. Here I need some kind of inspiration. Inspiration can come in many ways as for this song, it is from previous experience, the title itself, the lady blogger who likes violin and a mathematical pattern. After some consideration, this song is based on Folk and Ambient genres.

Chord progressions can go from low sound to high sound or high to low. It is an adventure. So I tried out high to low. I started with E and A combination. So what chord is E and A? To be honest, I have no idea. You see, I’m not a real musician. I am however a damn good mathematician and I can really write fantastic computer programs. So I wrote a program dedicated for chord recognition. A and E are then chord Esus4.

I then go lower D and G then C and G then moved the other way around from low to high E and F and F and G. There! I have myself a chord progression which are Esus4, Dsus4, C5, Dmadd9 and Fsus2.

Next is the question of tempo. This is easy. Folk and Ambient usually are slow tempos so I decided this song as a slow tempo type.

Next is to select the musical instruments. I prefer to start with drums and bass. A simple drum beat and fingered bass are suitable for folk/ambient. Personally I like guitar picking too and string synthesizer for rhythm support. As the lady likes violin, violin then is chosen to represent the main melody. So here I have the instruments but how do they play?

That depends on the genre chosen. I wrote a program to play genres. I call this program ‘A Musician Program’. This program executes the instrument to play folk genre or ambient genre. Here I have a song which is a combination of both folk and ambient. I had to update the database to play the combination. Basically I don’t have a musician that can play melodies. As every song has its own melodies, I had to update the database to play the melody E D E C D B C A according to the chords Esus4, Dsus4, C5, Dmadd9 and Fsus2.

There! I have myself a paragraph. I have myself a groove. I have myself a main groove. Next is the remainder of the song – Introduction, Break, Hold and Ending.

This is the best time to start screwing things up. Yes! It is time to screw things up. Remember, things don’t have to be perfect and impressive. As this song is supposed to be as simple as possible, the structure is like this:

First Introduction to Main groove with fade in
Second Introduction to Main groove
The Main Groove
The First Break Groove
The Second Break Groove
The Main Groove
Second Introduction to Main groove
First Introduction to Main groove with slower fade away

Notice that, unlike writing stories, it is okay to have looping or redundancy or repeat in songs. I also decided to not change the chord progressions in the Introduction grooves but I played tricks in the instrument selection. I have done something like this before and this is somewhat my composing style.

I however have to come up with new chord progressions for the First and Second Break grooves. The methodology applied is the same as discussed.

There! I have myself a song! As this song is dedicated to a lady, this song is hers too.

So why do I like composing songs in the first place anyway?

The reasons are plenty. It’s a progressive hobby. It’s an adventure. Work-wise, there is not much difference between composing songs and writing algorithms. So writing songs is a good way to practice product development. It is also a self-fulfillment.

You see, just like any other hobby or whatever we do, it is about life itself. To start on something is very difficult. Not only on composing a song but on everything – to start a business, product marketing, political campaign (wuek!), a relationship, study, traveling, etc etc etc.

It is also a good way to give an impression. Though not much, this song still has its own way to express something as every chord has its own sound which gives its own feeling. I’m not telling what they really mean as I prefer things to be subjected to subjectivity.

So that’s it. This is how I do MIDI composition based on melody.

So try composing a song or have yourself a hobby. I’m just kidding. Individuals do what they want to do :-)

New Song Posted: Pink Ginger