Learning to compose Music with a DAW?

PixelHeart

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I want to learn to compose/play music... one of the big problems with that however is I dont have and cant afford an instrument. I am however studying music thoery in the meantime, but I would like to have some way to practice and use what I learn as I go...so, I thought about maybe using a DAW to make digital music with as I study, but I think Im having trouble translating things to that medium... I was wondering if any of you music makers out there with experience using a DAW could offer me some advice or point me in the direction of some educational material? Or is learning music with a DAW even the best place to start? Ive watches some vids and tuts on youtube, but so far the "beginner stuff" all feels like its starting way over my head :( . Anyway, thank you for your time.
 

Soulrender

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I'm not a musician, and I never wrote a single song, or composed music, so I cannot point you in right direction, however I'd like to refer to your first sentence - "I want to learn to compose music", you can't learn it, you must feel it, selecting proper instruments, tune them is one of many elements of good music, there are also mood, tempo, notes, atmosphere, and many other things, believe me I tried to make some music in FL studio, but it all was just piece of ... you know.
 

Rubescen

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There are a lot of DAWs with varying complexity/costs. In terms of getting started, it would help to pick a program and then watch tutorials for that.

I'm a fan of Cakewalk by Bandcamp, which is free, and fairly intuitive. It also comes with several virtual instruments, so you can start making digital compositions easily.

If you are trying it out for the first time, I'd suggest opening a blank project, inserting an instrument (TTS-1 us a good midi controller to start with). Once you have that, you can right click on the track and click "view piano roll." Using the piano roll, you can visually/audibly place notes as a means of composing.

There is a lot of other stuff on the screen when you use most DAWs, but really for getting started, that's all you need to get comfortable with.

Here's a screenshot to help clarify the spaces i'm talking about.
1597179049950.png

Other options I've played around with are FLstudio (free demo), Reaper (free trial), Sony Acid (I don't think there is a free version), but I think Cakewalk is the best point for starting.

As to the actual theory of writing and composing music -- well that's a different question. Edit( continuing, accidently posted). The theory of music then applies the same as it would with a real instrument. You're just writing it out in a piano roll, so anything that applies to music can be produced with the DAW. So, starting maybe just draw out scales on the piano roll, to get a feel for how it works. You can adjust the length of notes, you can add different types of instruments, and such. Depending on what instrument you're playing with, the structure of composition will vary (e.g. a stringed instrument like a violin typically plays one note at a time, where as a guitar or piano often play in chords). The DAW piano roll let's you draw the notes as you like, whether you want single or chords, so it's just about getting used to the interface.
 
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Soulrender

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Then I say FL Studio, but look for version at least 9 and don't take higher than 13.
 

lianderson

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Evening mortal, learning the musics yourself is a very scary but enlightening journey. Stab all the letters and free yourself from traditions! Much practice shall be needed, but musics of higher quality shall be obtained. This method is how this one learned to musics.

Good luck human!
 

PixelHeart

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@Rubescen - OMG, that pic of your layout looks sooooo much less intimidating XD ! I actually installed Cakewalk not to long ago, but when I launched it already had all these windows and knobs and sliders and buttons and OH GAWD *X's out* XD ! All I wanted was.... well, that pic you posted X3 . Anyway, thank you very much, I will look into doing scales now :) .

@Soulrender - Thank you very much for your input, though I must respectfully go against it. I shall oppose the shackles of my lack of musical aptitude OwO ! I shall weave swaying rhymes and rhythms unto the masses, changing hearts and minds, uniting all in a soaring song!... or, you know... give it the college try anyway. :3

@lianderson - Yus, I learn the musics now. Stabby stabby! :3
 

Vanilla Cheesecake

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I've been composing music for 15 or so years (that makes me sound old...)

I taught myself to compose music purely through experimentation and refinement with a DAW. I didn't have much music theory knowledge when I started at all, but it certainly helped once I had some.

A lot of what you're currently overwhelmed with is probably mostly going to be how to use the DAW. Using a DAW and making music are two different things, but as you get experience with them, they combine into one. It's important to understand the tools you're working with, but at the end of the day, they all do the same thing: make doots.

Additionally speaking from a personal perspective, music theory is quite important, but not integral. As long as you understand the basics, like what a chord is, you can start throwing some ideas into a DAW. It's all about experimentation nowadays because quite frankly, DAW technology has become so powerful, it's very hard to distinguish between a real instrument recorded in a studio, and a digital one, alongside a plethora of information (both free and paid), it's really the best time for anyone looking to get into digital composition I'd say.

It's difficult, but not impossible. It's a lot about having ideas, scrapping them, having more ideas, scrapping even more, and you repeat this process over and over until you come out with something you enjoy. Something that you feel is your style.

As someone else previously mentioned on this thread, Cakewalk is a fantastically powerful, free DAW that I would highly, highly recommend using. Currently I use Personus Studio One 4 after going through pretty much every DAW on the market. If I weren't using Studio One 4, I'd be using Cakewalk.
 

PixelHeart

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@Vanilla Cheesecake - Thank you very much, thats very incouraging to hear. I already have Cakewalk installed. I guess the next thing I need to do is figure out how to set it up like @Rubescen has in their pic. :[ I know the way its set up by default when I launch it has alot going on and looks nothing like theirs.
 

Vanilla Cheesecake

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That looks like the docked piano roll, I believe you can activate it with ALT+3 if memory serves right, and then you can lock it in place. Alternatively you can right click on a track and hit view > view piano roll

edit: oh... says so in the screenshot lol, I believe you can also drag the UI around a little and/or resize certain parts (like the piano roll) to make it a bit more easier on the eyes, Cakewalk uses a one-face interface for the most part, which imo is the best type of interface to be using when it comes to learning to use a DAW.
 

TheoAllen

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I will self-plug my tutorial here

Although this does not cover how to use DAW. However, you should have one in mind since it's a practical kind of tutorial. Which means, you could really use it when you already know how to use DAW and place notes.

EDIT:
Wait, Cakewalk is free?
 

PixelHeart

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@TheoAllen - Plug away, thanks very much will read :D ! Also, yup, Cakewalk sure seems pretty free to me! :D ... will probs have to find some new tracks/instruments though, not crazy about the default ones. :[
 

TheoAllen

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If it's free. I might want to try it (and see if I could write a beginner tutorial of it). As the current software I have is FL Studio (which is not free) and Anvil Studio (free, but create MIDI). And I don't think Anvil Studio tutorial would fit in today's standard.

Oh, I know LMMS. It just I never get used to it. The UI is a terrible mess, Granted, it's also free.
 

Vanilla Cheesecake

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If it's free. I might want to try it (and see if I could write a beginner tutorial of it).
Yep, free. You'd basically only be spending money on the standard stuff (VSTs, Kontakt libraries, etc. but this covers any DAW.)

Cakewalk's UI is incredible especially considering it's free. Definitely a brilliant DAW all-round. I hated FL Studio's UI with a passion, once I got Studio One's I never went back to any other, apart from Cakewalk, which I used fairly recently to collab with another artist.
 

PixelHeart

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@TheoAllen - Ive heard Midi is supposed to be an older format, but would you mind explaining why its considered under-standard for today?
 

Rubescen

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@TheoAllen - Ive heard Midi is supposed to be an older format, but would you mind explaining why its considered under-standard for today?
Not TheoAllen, but midis are an old format rarely used anymore. Midi basically tells the computer what notes to play, but the rendering of those notes was done by the local sound driver. Meaning they were great for keeping file sizes small, but bad for consistency as the sound differed from system to system.
 

Vanilla Cheesecake

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Rubescen basically put it perfectly. Unless you're installing soundfonts on your computer, MIDIs vary wildly by hardware to hardware. That can potentially kill the intended feeling your track is supposed to give.

The most common industry standard formats are: MP3, OGG, FLAC, AIFF, ACC, WAV. Each have their own distinct benefits and minor disadvantages, but my personal favourite is OGG because of its ability to attach metadata (such as audio looping so your songs don't "fade out" but loop forever)
 

PixelHeart

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@Rubescen, @Vanilla Cheesecake - Ok, thankss for enlightening me. Thats very good to know before I start anything. Another question though, suppose I made a piece using Anvil Studio, can it not be converted into OGG format later? Are there any draw backs or hurdles that would make that not worth the trouble? Im asking because (...I feel a little silly about this actually), I have this app on my 3ds called "KORG M01D" and I thought maybe I could use it as DAW when following along with tutorials and such, but it only exports to Midi ...so, dont know how useful that may be though. Has some great sound fonts though. Anyway, thank you all so much, you been so helpful :) !
 

Vanilla Cheesecake

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From what I can rememer, Anvil Studio only supports MIDI but can export as .WAV from what I remember. I haven't used it in a long time, but I remember downmixing to .WAV a few times in the past. You can then put that into Audacity (another DAW I would highly recommend, but it's more for audio manipulation than creation) and export it as an OGG if you so wish.
 

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