5 Tips for Creating Original Music

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Have you ever heard the saying that “creativity is just the reorganization of old ideas into new things”? Or something along those lines…

Perhaps this is true in many ways, but I think there had to have been a first cause, or a the first person to actually create something new musically, artistically, etc. People who attempt to write fresh new music are often looking for that unique sound. And considering how many musicians there are now, as well as how many that have existed, this is no easy task!

I have been writing originals for many years now, and I can tell you it’s hard to continually create truly unique-sounding music. But I’ve devised some TIPS that anyone reading can use to help expand the boundaries of the musical world!

TIP #1:  Listen to LESS Music

This may sound strange, but as you write material you will often find that what you create sounds a lot like you’re favorite artists (strangely enough!). I always fascinate about what someone would create musically if they had never heard arranged “music” before. With no concept of keys, rhythm, time, or repetition, I doubt the person would come up with anything similar to what’s been done before (maybe besides primitive music). So listen less, or at least find a space where you can drop all notions of what music “should” sound like and who you wish you sounded like.

TIP #2: Listen to EVERY TYPE of Music Imaginable

Didn’t you just say to listen to less music? Yep! But if you’re going to listen to ANY music, it might as well be diverse. Go beyond your typical Rock, Blues, Jazz, Classical, Electronic, Rap, and Pop genres. Check out things from more Progressive and obscure areas (e.g. Math music, Drone, Avante-garde…). Since it’s almost impossible to remove ourselves from our preexisting notions of music, why not go the opposite direction and take it all in!? At least that way you’ll have a clearer understanding of where the boundaries lie, and where you need to go!

TIP #3: Be Ready when Inspiration Strikes

There’ve been countless times when out of nowhere a novel melody or intriguing rhythm pops into my head in unusual places. Whether it was on the bus, on a bike ride, sitting in class, driving, in the shower, in conversation, and anywhere but next to an instrument! Luckily for us though, most phones now have a recording device. So I will just turn this on and sing or tap out the idea into my phone, and it has been extremely helpful I must say. But if you’re not a comfortable place to do that, I recommend writing out the idea on paper or in your phone. Write the speed, feeling, and notes or pattern; I like to imagine one string on a guitar (e.g. 7–9-3-3–5 :I). However, this should only be a temporary storage place because it’s likely you’ll forget what it actually sounded like.

TIP #4: Improvise, Experiment, and Be Open-Minded

This is a very important tip to remember, as it directly involves the writing process. Practicing playing improvisational music is extremely beneficial for finding original ideas because of it’s free and flowing nature as you play whatever instinctually arises. Improvisation can also be original music in itself! But if you’re looking to write music, that is, formulate predetermined notes and combine into songs, it will take experimentation with different sounds, song structures, times, melodies, etc. to find a “new sound” you’re content with. And having an open mind will welcome all possibilities to come forth into your music.

TIP #5: Listen to the Sounds of Your Soul

If you’re focus is to get rich off your music, it’s unlikely to happen with truly original music. When I began writing my “original music,” I had to discover the feelings that really moved me. It took EXPERIMENTATION, but with continued searching I eventually found my sound, or musical feelings. You have to ask yourself, “What are the sounds that I gravitate towards when I play or write music?”  Look for underlying themes for a common denominator, then explore that! If you don’t know, start playing more to see what you come up with! Musicians tend to evolve over time, for better or for worse, but how much they deviate from their original sound varies a lot. It varies because the people playing the instruments change and become different people, though they probably have a lot in common with their past self. But the most important thing is to be true to yourself and drop all judgments!

 

I hope this article was helpful for some people. I use a combination of all of these tips to make my own music (which I have yet to record, but probably will within the next couple of years. I’ll be sure to post it here when I do!).

Happy Drumming….and Happy WRITING,

Ryan

Thanksgiving & Stick Tricks

Can you pass the drumsticks? (lol lame joke)

Well our bizarre holiday has come around once again. I hope everyone’s doing well and stays safe tonight. I know I will, as I’m just taking a break from a homework-filled holiday vacation. Anyways, here’s my most recent update for ya’ll:

I just turned 21 two weeks ago, which is pretty cool I suppose. I haven’t had the chance yet to use my age to get in to music clubs yet, but I know my dad wants to take me. And I can finally have Ins and Outs at the metal shows I attend, which is great to cool down from all the moshing, haha.

And this past week I’ve taken an interest in learning more stick tricks! I’ve never really been that interested in learning these, as all drummers who do them will tell you that the music comes first (which is what I focused on). I knew a few basic ones: the twirl, the forward and backward flip, and this one that I picked up from Thomas Lang (check him out). But I decided I’d start learning stick tricks more intensely, as they’re pretty entertaining to watch. With the help of Youtube, I’ve learned 4 more, and plan on learning even more. They’re pretty fun to do and can give you something to do during those simple parts of songs. I will be teaching these also to my students, when I feel they’ve learned enough about real drumming to take on these fun new challenges! You gotta walk before you cartwheel!

Well that’s all for now. Supper’s ready!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ryan Clark

I Gave a Speech on Drumming!

Howdy folks,

I’ve been quite busy recently, due largely to school, so I haven’t had much time to update anything here or even practice on my own drums everyday! Ironically though, I got the chance in my Speech class to give a talk on anything I wanted to, so you know my first thought was “DRUMS!”. And that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately, the speech could only be 7 minutes long, which is hardly sufficient to inform a group of non-drummers on anything drum-related, but I think it turned out alright.

I ended up talking about the basics of how drums are played, the importance of drummers in music, and where the future of drums is headed in recorded music. All of these topics haven’t really been touched on within this blog, especially the last one. So I thought I’d just briefly sum up the main points of my talk for you guys, so you guys wouldn’t feel left out ;). Keep in mind this is very basic, as it was intended for a specific audience…

Well, today’s modern drums are played often times with sticks in either the matched or traditional grip. And with these sticks, we drummers use 3 basic motions to hit the drums: arm, wrist, and finger motions. Arm motion is used primarily for loud, slower hits like accents, whereas wrist and finger motions are conserved for faster notes, which are, by their nature, quieter. And since us drummers are typically sitting at a drum kit, this frees up our feet to participate in the musical process. For most drummers, the left foot occupies the hi hat pedal, which controls the hi hat, and the right foot occupies the bass drum pedal, which obviously hits the bass drum. Everything up until here has been a description of the physical aspects of drumming, so I will now discuss the mental side of things. Drumming requires a certain amount of coordination between limbs which, if you aren’t accustomed to doing, takes an enormous amount of mental effort to accomplish. But us drummers who have experience under our belts don’t have to think too hard about coordinations that may drive the beginner insane. This is not to say that we don’t struggle mental with anything; if anything, coordination challenges only get more difficult as you improve! So in essence, it depends upon what we’re doing at the time to tell you what exactly we’re thinking about, whether it be a complex time signature or what I want for dinner haha.

Fortunately, drummers are hardly under-appreciated inside and out of the musical circle, so we don’t struggle as bad as the bass player does in explaining the importance of our position. Although, I would guess that there are still many non-musicians who would question the importance of drums, to which I respond with (mainly) tempo and rhythm. Tempo, or speed, is largely associated with the mood of a song. If you’ve ever heard a recording, then listened to it at a different speed, it produces different feelings when you hear it, sometimes ruining the song. But how do drummers influence speed? Well the prime example I can provide is this: if you’ve ever seen a live band performance with a drummer, you’ll likely witness the drummer playing the first notes of the song (esp. those where multiple instruments begin at the same time). These notes they play are the ones that count off the song, usually in a “1, 2, 3, 4, GO” fashion. Now, however fast the drummer choses to play these notes in the moment are essentially how fast everyone else must now play them. And if you’ve ever played with a band live before you can probably testify to the fact that we don’t always play at the speed we practice at. Usually it’s faster, due to the nerves. NOW, moving onto rhythm, if you’ve ever listened to pop/rap/rock music, you already know that the drums usually hit on every single beat in a song. Because they do this, the other band members often rely on the drummer to keep the time (or if you’re a string player, it’s the bassist). Thus, if the drummer messes up the beat, it can throw everyone off, which demonstrates their importance in music.

Lastly, the future of drum sounds in music are on a trend right now, and yes, it has to do with technology. Drums are now being electronically sampled in almost every genre of music (at least it seems), including rap/rock/pop/r&b/electronic/metal/etc. This means that real drum sounds (from a recording) are being replaced by either fake/pre-recorded drum sounds. And there are a variety of reasons why sound engineers are conforming to this, but I won’t go into it now. The basic pros and cons of sampling drums, as I see it, are the following; PROS: it’s faster and easier, there’s a large soundbank to choose from, the sound is a lot clearer, and it allows for a perfect drum track. CONS: it gets rid of the need for a drummer, the sounds can often sound fake (despite being on purpose sometimes), and the drum track is too perfect. It’s basically like replacing the drummer with a robot that only knows perfection. And if you’re a drummer, you can probably tell, as I can, the difference between when a human is playing vs this robot. Ultimately, I think it creates an artificial sound, which as I said, can work for the music but it just depends.

WOW, ok that was a lot. I’m done now haha. Leave a comment if you liked/disliked my speech; it is most appreciated either way! Thanks

Ryan Clark

Summertime! Oh Yeah!!

Hey there drummers and non-drummers,

I’m very excited to be done with my semester at Las Positas College! It was easily one of my hardest semesters yet, although I managed to get high grades. I’ve decided to take this summer off and not take any summer classes. Instead what I’ve decided to do focus on teaching drums, my musical projects, and volunteering at CAST (an daycare for kids with autism). And of course, see all my lovely friends! haha

On a musical note (lol), I will be trying to expand my teaching career. If anyone happens to read this that wants to learn to play the drums or get better, I’m available to help teach you (be sure to look around my website for more info!). I think I will be making business cards with my name and occupation on them, as well as making this site look more professional. I think I might add some of my own music to this site to show what I can do.

Speaking of music, I have just finished another two pieces (made on tuxguitar). One of them, called “Peterbutter n jam,” was made for my friend Peter, and it happens to be a jam song. The other, titled “Circular Green,” is more like my first song (“Here…Eat This Mango”), in which I wrote a pretty strange song with many odd meters and melodic melodies. All of these songs are on my soundcloud, which is named Foxshine, if you want to listen to it. But I think I’ll eventually move them to this website for easy access.

Also on my list of things to do this summer is learn how to play guitar! I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now but I just haven’t had the time. So I will now be taking lessons from my dad, who has been playing for around 40 years, so he knows what he’s talking about. If you by any chance want to learn guitar, my dad is also available to teach lessons. If you scan the top links of my website, the last one should say something about learning guitar; that link will provide you with my dad’s website and all the information about him that you need to know. So my goal with learning another instrument (guitar being much more based on melody, rather drums which are rhythm-based), is to further my understanding of music theory. This will in turn develop and enhance my teaching abilities because knowledge is power! And eventually I hope to be good enough to play my own songs that I write so I may record them with logic pro, which will be much more interesting to hear than tuxguitar sounds.

So that is the basic update with me right now. How are you guys and girls doing? Don’t be afraid to leave me a comment or two 😉

Happy Summer Drumming!

– Ryan Clark

Developing your “Left Hand” and Practicing

Hey drummers and non-drummers!

What I want to talk to you about today is a topic for mainly beginner drummers, but it does not exclude intermediate and even advanced drummers! Your “left hand”, or whatever hand you’re weaker with, is the hand that struggles more with learning techniques, speed, endurance, and becoming comfortable. This applies to just about everything you do with your hands on the drum set (singles, doubles, moeller, flams, buzzles, gravity blasts, etc.). Typically your weaker hand will require more practice than your stronger hand will to reach similar levels of ability.

Although this can be frustrating at times (trust me I’ve been there), it is a real test to push yourself and accomplish your goals, whatever they may be. The key is having determination, which means practice practice practice! Schedule practice times every day (preferably at the same time) for a specific amount. I usually recommend at least 30 minutes a day, and more if your schedule allows for it. Motivation plays an extremely large part in this as well because results are usually not guaranteed within a week. You need encouragement to keep pushing yourself mentally and physically. The source of this stimulation can be anything, so long as it’s positive; learning a song, your parents, an audition, or someone you look up to (drummer or not). Personally, when I watch drummer better than myself they motivate me to practice harder and longer. Without any drive your skills will likely flounder and never get much better.

Now, getting back to your left hand, it is important to note that your hands will never be exactly the same. My right hand is a bit stronger, faster, and has more endurance than my left hand. This appears to be the case with most peoples’ preferred hand. If you’re ambidextrous however, you might have an advantage over us one-handed people. The reason is because drumming is all about your dexterity, and striving to be ambidextrous will provide you with numerous advantages in your playing.

Well that’s all for now. Keep practicing and finding new motivations! Happy drumming!

-Ryan Clark

Acoustic drums vs Electric drums

Hey there!

Today I wanted to go over the basic pros and cons of owning an electric drum set, compared to the common acoustic drum set. Just incase you aren’t familiar with these terms, electric drums are pads that require an amp or headphones to hear the sounds, as they’re electric. Acoustic drums are the real deal, and they’re what electric drum sets attempt to mimic.

I own both types of drum sets (electric- Roland TD-6V acoustic- Ddrum and Meinl) and have played each for quite some time now. The main reason why people choose to buy an electric kit (which are quite expensive I might add) is because they are MUCH quieter. Although it’s still possible to disturb people with it, as I know from first hand experience living in an apartment. And this reason makes sense, considering acoustic drums can be extremely loud. In fact, this is the sole reason I play my electric drums more frequently (no noise curfew).

The large bank of sounds that you can utilize from your electric kit pretty much guarantees that you’ll find at least one drum kit sound you’ll like. Of course, your choices are limited depending on how much money you can spend on it. And although I think the electric kits sound better than my acoustic kit (I’m not that great of a tuner), the feel of an acoustic setup beats the electric kit almost always in my opinion. Acoustic drums just feel great when you hit them. Whatever material the electric kit is made of, it’s just not the same (though it is has a decent rebound). Plus the cymbals on electrics are rubber, which have poor rebound, and you can’t capture all the neat small noises you can get from a real cymbal.

The nice thing about electrics is you can customize a whole plethora of sounds and be playing with an orchestra or a band in no time. I don’t even need to get very technical with my electric kit to be satisfied. Another positive quality is that you can record drums waaay more easily onto a computer through electric kits than acoustic. Acoustics require special, expensive mics, that are positioned appropriately, as well as decent room dynamics to ensure you don’t record echoes. And I’m sure I’m leaving out other vital information about recording acoustic drums because I’m not an engineer. It’s much simpler just to use electric kits for recording drums (although I’m not saying it’s the best way).

These are what I see as being the basic pros and cons for both types of kits. Overall, I’d say nothing beats an acoustic kit. If the circumstances were right, I’d prefer to play my acoustic drums over my electric drums almost every day of the week. However, this is not to say that electric drums are necessarily worse. They can provide functions that acoustic drums cannot. Either way, you can’t really go wrong.