Helloo, first post, I hope this hasn't been asked too much before...
For a longg now I've wanted to make some electronic music, not heavily electronic, but more like Metronomy, Hot Chip, stuff like that. I'm very motivated and ready to put in lots of effort and quite a lot of time into learning, but the thing is I'm a bit overwhelmed because I only play drums, which obviously requires no knowledge of melody or ability to songwrite.
I've read around a bit and it seems pretty essential for me to learn some piano, which I'm completely prepared to do. After that, if I can make a decent melody, I plan to learn subtractive synthesis so I can make my own sounds. My problem is that I have no idea how much and what aspects of piano are necessary for me to learn to be an!e to basically make catchy 1-handed riffs (e.g. I'd love to come up with TEED's 'Tapes and Money', or Metronomy's 'Corinne')
Any advice MUCH appreciated! Really want to get into this.
Subjective question. Maybe if we change the whole idea we can reach some kind of answer. The problem i see with your dilemma is that your question implies a very pragmatic need: "i only want too learn the absolutely necessary to fill my needs". I don't think it works this way.
Instead, i offer you a different line of thought. It is obvious the more you learn a instrument, the more capable you turn into many different capacities - and in piano playing, you have a lot of required skills. But the way you grow in a instrument and the way you get along with what you learn, what you conquest, is quite unpredictable. It does not have a clear calculation of how and what you need to fill your compositional needs. What i am trying to say is: just learn it. The benefits alone are immense if you can cope with the hard and long learning curve that characterizes the piano. You'll know when it is enough, when you can stop and simply do your music.
And, if you're lucky, you'll never feel this need to stop. It may change perspectives. Don't look to musical education as a tool. Just do it. Those are my 5 cents.
Basically, piano is the better instrument to acquire what I think is more important then notes: synesthesy, it means colors for sounds. But yeah you can learn on a synthesizer some piece for fun and practice those colors of yours, everyone have a different way to "see" sounds. You'll need to learn that and go deep into music, whatever you're learning.
I'm a pianist since 6 years old so I can figure out what effect I'm searching for, but yet, do not take music as something mathematical, it's really because I have piano experience that I say that, I recommend you to feel and see sounds.
As someone who took piano lessons for about 10 years I'd say,
Learn the musical intervals AND
Learn the rhythmic notations AND how to count.
Other than that, a lot of the education is building on those with the exception of IMPROVISATION.
Go to a special teacher to learn improvisation and you will be set. Learning improve is one of the
most advanced ways to learn how to play, but not very many people teach it. Likewise, not very
many people know how to do it well even though all reliably good performance relies upon it somewhat if not a lot.
Learning to improve helps people learn how to take any riff or even a mistake and make it seem intentionally good.
For a lot of electronic music it's probably 'enough' to learn just how to form chords (left hand) and write melodies (right hand) while at the keyboard to get the idea out and then just use MIDI editor afterwards to refine.
Depends on your style of composing. Do what works for you. If you don't know what works for you, experiment and review.
These days I actually spend most writing time using the mouse and PC keyboard. I somehow manage to write things differently. Think is has to do with keyboard playing habits I've developed. Things I write at the keyboard have a similar feel to them whereas with mouse and PC keyboard I manage to break out of that mindset come up with more original stuff.
I u don't want to spend a lot of time in becoming a pianist.. I recommend following Youtube piano tutorials of music you like. You will start to see patterns after a time and you will get some more insight into the brain of the your favorite composers at the time they were producing the track.. Very educating in a way . Same goes for any other instruments.
Its clearly understandable if you don't want to put 100 days studying 1 instrument in depth as a composer that wants to use a variety of instruments.
I recommend you to learn easy pieces, like Chopin's Nocturne, not Mozart trough too simple for my taste but you can give it a try. Listen to symphonies for the colors like Rachmaninov's or even his Preludes or Etudes-Tableaux which you can listen on youtube, they are little compacted piece, really worth the try.
Learn enough to write melodies and chords slowly. That's probably the most useful skill for a producer. Learning how to actually play piano in real time with both hands is only important if you plan on performing (or recording yourself). I used to be able to actually play piano, but now I just stab out melodies and chords because I've lost most of my coordination... but I can place well enough to compose, which is what matters to me personally.
Learning basic music theory and basic piano will go hand in hand. You probably want both.
Okay...I thought I should add a serious response as I have taught piano lessons before. Go to your local music store/online and pick up an adult learning piano book. They usually are divided into 2 books. If you go through both of these and practice each exercise you should have a good grounding in theory and basic piano skills. You won't be Chopin or Beethoven by any means but these books are fairly good in that they cover the basics. Here is an example of one that is good. Get the spiral bound edition- easier to deal with.