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

BA in Psychology!! Summa Cum Laude!

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Hey party people!

I wanted to update you people on what’s been going on with me. I don’t post as often as maybe I should, but we’re all busy people! Anyways, as the title indicates, I graduated from San Jose State University this summer with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology with Summa Cum Laude (3.9 gpa), also with a minor in Special Education!

I’m not trying to brag with this post but rather celebrate. It’s been a long couple of years but I’ve finally achieved a notable level of education. It’s strange to be out of school for really the first time in my life and to be working full-time. I feel like an adult haha. So with my earned freedom I’ve chosen to work as a camp counselor this summer to help pay down school loans, as well as have a fun job to ease my way into the working world. I’m also still teaching drum lessons, though I’m always looking for more students!! (wink wink nudge nudge ;).

Other current aspects of my life include practicing guitar everyday, making and writing music, reading, pursuing Spanish fluency, meditation, and being with the people I love! On a musical note 🙂 I have secretly completed writing my second solo album a few months ago! As I have mentioned in previous posts, I create music using Tuxguitar (similar to Guitarpro) in which I program every single note from guitars to drums to other instruments (violin, piano, etc.). If you’re reading this then you’re in my inner circle of music because I have kept my personal music endeavors on the down low. In fact I’ve only played a rough version of my music to 2 people EVER. Why am I doing this? Well the answer lies somewhere in the first sentence of this paragraph. Think about it…

In regards to further education, as of now I don’t have any plans to pursue higher or other degrees simply because of the cost of those degrees. I absolutely LOVE learning, and I would go to school full-time as a job if someone paid me. No question! But it always comes down to money. So until I figure out my “calling,” I will not unnecessarily “waste” money that won’t be invested back into myself. Instead, I will continue to learn using book stores, libraries, people, and the internet. Regardless, I’m VERY grateful for my degree and hope it serves me well in the future.

Thanks for reading,

Ryan Clark

A Sweet Review for Worse

Here’s a cool review of my band (Worse)’s recently released album (To Be Alive Is To Be Alone) by NoCleanSinging.

Take a peek!

http://www.nocleansinging.com/2015/03/17/worse-to-be-alive-is-to-be-alone/

Ironically, it will probably take more time to read the article than to listen to the album.

And here’s the link to our album: To Be Alive Is To Be Alone

http://worsesf.bandcamp.com/album/to-be-alive-is-to-be-alone

-Ryan C

Christmas/New Years Update!

Hey peeps,

I’ve been pretty busy lately, as I’m sure most of you are around this time of the year, but I’m making some time to give ya’ll a quick update on what’s going on. While it’s been a little difficult to make time for drums, I’m still managing to do it; I’ve been mainly practicing double-bass speed, gospel chops, grooves, and coordination. I really want to make more drum videos, but my acoustic kit isn’t even setup and I’ll be moving soon so hopefully after that adventure I can. I’ve also been playing guitar quite a bit, getting lessons from my dad (whose page is linked at the top about guitar lessons). One day I’d like to be able to play guitar with my drum students, so that they can experience what it’s like to play with other musicians.

In addition to this, I’m constantly writing new music for my solo project (which is unnamed at this moment). This is another reason why I’m learning guitar. It’s a bit of a strange experience writing music that’s heavy on guitars when I can barely play, but I hope to change that soon.

On a totally unrelated topic, I fail to recall whether I’ve mentioned my volunteer work with autistic children and teenagers, but because I’ve been doing it for a while (6 months) I’ve been offered a job being an autism therapist! I’m very excited about this, and I’ve started doing my online training already, which consists of around 30 hours of Applied Behavior Analysis training. So partly because of this arena of my life, I’ve been quite busy. But this doesn’t mean I’ll stop giving drum lessons any time soon :-). I plan on managing both jobs at the same time, as I think it’ll create an interesting and rewarding challenge.

So that’s my quick update. I’ll try to see what I can do about making some more drum videos soon. Until then, happy drumming!

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

Check out my first song! (Tuxguitar)

Hey there people!

Well if you’ve been reading my posts, you’d know I was working on some music stuff right now. And about a couple weeks ago, I completed my first song! It’s a standard electric guitar, bass, and drums set-up, all of which I wrote, but I can (hopefully) assure you that you probably haven’t heard many songs that sound like this. Now, I swear I’m not trying to brag or anything. I’m not even sure if many people would like it because it’s quite strange (at least in some ways). It falls under the category of progressive metal, which can mean a lot of things, but it’s the closest thing I can think of for a genre.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve written any guitar parts or anything, but this was the first time I actually organized a legit song. It took quite a bit of effort to make, as you might be able to tell from the many quick changes, odd time signatures, and yes, the melodies! It was all programmed on Tuxguitar, which a cool program that you can download for free on their website (just google it). They’ve actually got an impressive amount of different sounds you can use for making songs with (piano, strings, brass, weird effects, etc.). The only downside is that, to my knowledge, you can’t effectively write music (at least drums) using standard sheet notation. Instead you have to tab out the drum hits with numbers that represent the sound. I would prefer to use regular notation for keeping up my practice of reading music, but oh well.

Anyways, my song, titled “Here…Eat This Mango”, is on my Soundcloud profile if you want to hear it. The song name is just a silly little thing that I made up. I don’t believe in always making serious music/lyrics, and hopefully you can hear the non-serious elements in my music. So, my Soundcloud name is “Foxshine”, at least right now. That’s sort of an inside joke between super smash bros players…well not really a joke but just something they would understand.

So go forth and listen! Tell me what you think! All constructive criticism is welcome, unless you disagree with me, just kidding 😀

Peace to you all!

-Ryan Clark

P.S. Please ignore the substandard rap music on my Soundcloud.