How did you learn how to make music?


#1

What up.

I’m interested to hear how y’all learned to make music. Give me your music life story. What got you into the idea of making it early (or later!) on in life? If you were forced as a child to practice a musical instrument, at what point did that turn around into being inspired to continue it voluntarily? Who taught/tutored you/instructed you along your path? If no one taught you, how did you learn and practice? If you learned yourself, tell us about what drove you.? At what point in your story did you go “I think I’m going to produce electronic music”? No matter what genre it is, why do you make the music you make? It’s sometimes interesting to connect the dots. Lastly, does this path you chose in music make you happy? Also as a bonus I’m interested to hear what genre of music and artists you grew up on via your parents, guardians, or mentors.


#2

inb4


#3

Long story short…

To push musical boundaries and to translate what was in my head into real life…but objectively speaking what was in my head wasnt that great… maybe it was only decent…

Friends taught me somethings i taught myself the rest…via experimentation…music was more productive than world of warcraft…so i chose music. Went into electronic cause more possibilities and less environmentally loud than a musical instrument.

I grew up on mtv alterna rock…and non gansta hip hop…

I stopped cause i reached my goal of translating my head music into real life…the whole being an influence on music id could take it or leave it…cause tbh im just average at music.


#4

I started in the 6th grade with my school’s band program, voluntarily. I wanted to play trumpet, but they told me I’d be better at tuba (mouth shape or something), so tuba I played. I picked up the bass guitar when I was a teenager, and then electric guitar a bit, dabbled a lot, was in a band on bass which was fun. Got into electronic music and read a now-defunct website called Tweakheadz (the owner passed away, his nephew halfway kept it alive for a while but it’s completely gone, now, I believe) that talked about audio interfaces, plugins, music computers, DAWs, mixing, etc.

I almost never have a song in my head I want to “bring out” which I guess is kinda odd compared to some people that always talk about this ephemeral sound in their head. I just like cool sounds, which I guess in the end costs me more money :rofl:

For bass and guitar, more metal styles but on bass especially I like most other genres except country. For synths, I gravitate toward ambient, darksynth/cyberpunk/synthwave, house, hip hop occasionally, just electronica in genera. It depends on my mood lol. Synths are versatile like that.

I think I want a tuba again. The tone of an acoustic wind instrument is shaped yes, by the horn, but also by your own physicality, which is really cool to me. There’s even a volunteer wind symphony in the neighboring city conducted by one of my old band directors. How cool/weird would that be? lol…


#5

I’ve been into listening to music for about as long as I could remember. Apparently the first time I heard Aerosmith at about 3 I stripped naked and started dancing to the music. I listened and listened and listened as much as I could. My parents eventually got me my own albums, one of the first was a tape of “Just Push Play” which was Aerosmith’s new album at the time. I played that thing so much I wore it out, and then when I went to exchange it the music shop had to give me a CD because they didn’t have anymore tapes (this was '02 or '03). And then because I had a CD now my parents had to get me a CD player.

I stayed into rock, punk, metal, and country (my dad likes the old stuff so I heard a lot of it) up until highschool, adding the occasional CD along the way. Not a ton, just found what I really liked and zoned in on it super hard. Then in highschool I finally got my first Ipod (bear in mind this was only like 10 years ago, I was super late to the game) and for the first time I could get music for way way cheaper than on a CD (by pirating the hell out of it). I got a bunch of stuff from my friends, and that was the first time I really heard electronic music. One of my close friends gave me the Daft Punk discography and Cross by Justice (which at the time was their discography).

I listened to Discovery and Cross every day for months before I decided I wanted to be a DJ. I could hear in my head how I would remix these songs and I was going to remake them in my image. Only, I didn’t realize that DJ software wouldn’t let me do that, I needed full blown production software. And that meant I wanted to be a producer, not a DJ. After toying around with it for a week and doing a “remix” of one track (which was just that track played out of time with itself) I quit. Everyone I’d shown it to had said it sucked ballz and I knew that song wasn’t where I’d wanted it to be. I was a few months from graduating highschool and I had a lot of other stuff going on.

Then I got to college, got my first real pair of headphones, and I started to be an audiophile. Got really into listening again, but more detailed than ever before. This went on for about another 6 months. Then in my second semester, I was idly talking with someone between classes about how I wanted to do these remixes but I didn’t know how, and she said her brother used Fruity Loops. And that name got my attention, so I looked it up. My music buddy got me a cracked copy of it. And this, this was what I had been missing. Now that I had the right tools, I didn’t feel like there was any reason I couldn’t figure this music business out.

Within minutes, I figured out rhythm. Within days, I was putting OK melodies together. I spent a month on my first track, which was a mess, but it was all my mess, not even a remix. It took about 6 months for me to realize what a chord was. One night, I sat down with virtual oscilloscope and just sat there playing every interval on the keyboard (well my computer keyboard, which does about 2.5 octaves of midi) and looking and listening to how the notes interacted with each other. I didn’t know what chords and intervals were, but I was figuring them out.

I started putting my tracks up on soundcloud and sharing them around. Found a few music reddits. They were not kind to me, but one of them did point me here. At the same time, I was getting messages on my soundcloud from “mastering services” (and I say that in airquotes for a reason) telling me how my tracks needed to be pumped up to compete. That wasn’t something I’d heard about before, so I looked it up and found the Izotope suite, as well as their comprehensive guides on mixing and mastering, in the olden days before they just had tutorials for everything. So for the first time (and this is about 18 months after I got FL), I started actually doing something that would be recognized as mixing - before I just did EQ on everything until it sounded like I had in my head - and there was a lot of my trying to fix bad sounds with way too much EQ because up until now, I didn’t know how synthesis worked.

Yep, for a year before I joined IDMf, I was making music by just guessing what everything would do when I touched it. I joined here and in a single night, I had the basics of subtractive synthesis down. Needless to say I was thrilled and I think my music took a significant step forward around that time. I still had a lot more to learn, but I had more or less figured out how to figure stuff out. I finally knew places I could go and get answers when I had questions ( and I more or less knew how to ask the questions). That much took about two years.

So I hung around here a lot, shared what I was working on, tackled issues/questions as they came up. That went on for about a year before A.M offered some pointers on something I was doing. He was super helpful and I am eternally grateful for him showing me around some EQ and reverb tricks that took my ambient stuff to the next level, enough that I really focused on the ambient side of my music for a few years after that as I thought it was my strong suit. Somewhere along the way, I picked up pointers from Metaside (who told me to get my stuff the hell off the grid, and that’s a challenge I only just now feel I have a satisfactory answer for) and MystaFX did a remix of one of my tracks and showed me the power of structure (which is something I feel I’ve only gotten competent at in the last two years or so).

After hanging around here for a while, the mods were getting ready to do 048 and needed a mastering engineer. Luckily, a few months prior to that, I had salvaged what was really a bad mix on my part into an OK master, which gave me the confidence to throw my hat into the ring. I was pleasantly surprised to get picked do that album. I think looking back I did a passable job, but I was saved by the fact that that album was dark techno, which is pretty hard to screw up. I learned a lot mastering that album though, and the mods reached out again when they needed 049 done. Then they reached out again for 050. I had to learn to hear gooder real fast, but I managed to do OK at that one (still wish I’d gone louder though). Anyways, the pattern was developing that I was passable at songwriting and mixing, but getting really good at mastering.

And in the… 4 years since then (time flies huh?) I’ve started to look a bit more often outside the forum for new answers and techniques and try to bring back more than I’ve been taking. 050 felt like I’d arrived to me, couldn’t get much higher on the totem pole from the technical side at least (creatively I know I’m not the best this place has to offer and that’s OK). I’ve been working on that creative side a bit more. Bought some hardware synths, do a lot of sound design and writing on them now. Finally figured out wavetable and FM synthesis in the last year. Still getting better at the mastering thing too. I feel like I’m mostly out of the learning phase and into the “practice makes perfect” phase. About time, it’s been a decade.

Oh, almost forgot, way back at the beginning I talked about how Daft Punk and Justice is what got me into electronic music in the first place, and last I’d talked about genre it was 6 years ago and I was doing ambient. About 3 years ago, I started listening to deep house playlists to pass the time at work, combination of new stuff like Harrison BDP and old stuff like Joe Smooth. I got into house again, which was what had started this whole journey. Did a deep house EP and most of my singles since then have been focused that way. Trying to get my stuff on the youtube channels where I discovered the new artists, but I’m just not on that level yet (or perhaps not focused enough on just the house sound and distracted by my ambient skills). Still working on that though I find my music is drifting away from the house sound again. Not sure where to go, but I would like to get this stuff in front of more people and genre definition is a big help in getting there.

And that’s where we are today - I’m pretty happy with the music I’m making. I’ve made some good friends thanks to music the last decade (here on IDMf and elsewhere). And my music has made some of them happy, improved a bad day, etc. On the one hand, I’m thrilled I’ve been able to improve lives, however little it may be, with my music. On the other, I do wish more people could hear this stuff since I do spend a lot of damn time on it. But overall, I’m happy. I feel like given my personality and life experiences outside of music, worldwide fame and festival headlines aren’t for me. But finally just understanding how all this stuff works and knowing what I was hearing in my head all those years ago, and being damn good at doing it, that’s satisfying for me. Don’t really know what to do next. Worked on music for the first time in a few days for hours today, feels good. Sitting on like 5 finished songs I need to start releasing, so I guess that’s next.

After that, IDK. Haven’t really had a plan most of the way this far, and it worked out OK.


#6

I picked up the guitar at about age 12. I learned to play the lick to the theme from “Peter Gun” and “The Twighlight Zone.” A friend of the family named “Mary Christmas” (for real!) taught me my first three chords. A, D and E and a folk song (maybe “On Top of Old Smoky” or something like that.)

From there I started learning other Folk Songs, mostly from the Folk Anthology by Burl Ives, which was a box set of maybe 6 albums that my Stepfather had. Also Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary. Learning “Green Sleeves” was a major breakthrough.

Once the family started to recognize that I was getting good at this, my Grandfather gave me one of his old Marine Band harmonicas and taught me to play a few tunes… “No Place Like Home” “Red River Valley” etc. (He was in a Bluegrass Band called “The Barnyard Seranaders” back in the ‘30s and ‘40s) He also showed me a couple finger picking styles but he was pretty rusty by then (mid to late ‘60s)

From there it was Beatles, Bob Dylan and some Country tunes… Johnny Cash, Hank Williams etc. (My Dad and Grandad were Country fans)

My Mom thought I should be an Artist, so I took Art in high school. I quickly realized there were some very talented artists in my class and I was not one of them. The Art department was next to the music department. One day, while leaving art class and playing my harmonica, the music teacher put his hand on my shoulder and said “you like music?” … “Sure”… “we need male voices in the chorus”… “hmmm I don’t think so”… “ Did you know that if you join the chorus you don’t have to take Gym?” … “Really! OK! I’m in!” (I hated the Gym teacher… little prick!)

Joining the Chorus changed my life… I didn’t play a band instrument but I was allowed to attend Band Class so that I could learn Theory, Arranging and Conducting. I composed, arranged and conducted a piece for the High School Band as part of my final Senior Project.

During this time bands like Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin were my new interests. I also started a serious study of Classical, Blues and Jazz and was introduced to Electronic music by the likes of Wendy Carlos, Morton Subotnick, Varese and some of the early Musique Concrete. Then came Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, Moody Blues and Jethro Tull. I picked up the flute and immediately lost all of my friends over the few months it took me to learn how to play it with a credible tone.

I started writing and playing in bands and bought a Fender Stratocaster. I was a fairly versatile musician at that point and knew way more Theory than any of my bandmates. Some of those guys were really great guitarists and could write pretty well. We did only original material. When there were “too many guitars” I would resort to Bass and I was the only flute player… so I became the “fill in guy”. If there was a gig I was generally invited to play. During this time I started fiddling with tape recorders, loops, slap back echo, reverse, speed changes… anything I could think of to come up with interesting sounds with whatever was in reach. People thought I was nuts… but they liked my songs and my flute playing.

Fast Forward to when Disco happened… I was disgusted and stopped listening to the radio or buying music. I went to college, majored in Theory and Composition with Guitar as my instrument and began a serious study of Music History that led me deeper into the roots of electronic music. I took an Electronic Music class that was mostly about studio techniques… but they also had a Serge Modular Synthesizer… I was the only person who liked the Serge so I got to use it for 2 to 3 hours three nights a week… I still miss that thing!

I got busy with life and music slowly crept away until one day I went to play my guitar … and I was very rusty… this was happening more and more and at about 2002 I told myself “I don’t ever want to be rusty again.” Since that time I’ve played music (or done something closely related) everyday… with few exceptions. In 2010 a friend gave me Sibelius and ImpOscar. I’ve written a lot of songs and I’ve composed some stuff on Sibelius and lots of recordings using GarageBand and in the last few years Reaper. ImpOscar is still my go-to Synth.

I started releasing tracks on BandCamp and SoundCloud in 2019. In exploring how to increase my “following” I was introduced to the IDM forum and a few others. I’ve gotten an immense amount help with recording and mixing from many members here… and I sincerely appreciate it.

And… thank you for asking @Fidelium


#7

I downloaded a trial for Mixcraft in 2005, plugged the external out of my tiny practice amp straight into my PC’s mic jack and was pretty much hooked immediately.

The only thing I remember before that was years of MTV Music Generator consuming my life


#8

I graduated from a children’s music school in piano, maybe this influenced my mastery of music. But I’ve never been good. Barely passed the final exam. I know a lot of people who also graduated from music school but are not into music. I do music because I remember As a child, I gave up everything I started doing. . And then I decided to do rap and I decided not to leave it. This is how I make music. It’s not just rap though.

NER*D band inspired me.


#9

Tl:dr heard synth sounds in old sci films…pirated an early version of Cubase…discovered the Chemical Brothers, the Crystal Method, and Fatboy Slim in a record shop…went to first rave…started participating in the rave scene as more than a party person…today I am gear addict.


#10

I have always liked to create things. Runs in the family. When I was a kid, I always liked to build little objects like aeroplanes and boats from garbage material and paper. And I have always liked to draw, by hand, or with the help of digital tools.

Music came at the end of my teens, when I realised I could actually see the sounds in the music I was listening to. I listened to lots of different bands at the time, mostly taped them from the radio, and I had - still have - a great liking for Duran Duran. I remember seeing the notes in the bass lick to New Religion, and I was fascinated by it. So, I started with a sample keyboard, but I didn’t think the sounds were realistic enough and the ones I wanted to make could not be produced on it, so I also picked up the guitar when I was about 25. When I discovered that playing the bass was different in reality than from a keyboard, I also bought a bass guitar. What I’d learnt on the guitar, I used on the bass. I had also heard Mark King and Marcus Miller, and Vic Wooten.

I studied linguistics. Song composition is like grammar to me.

I first recorded on a little Yamaha 4-track, with all the inconveniences these things had - remember them? Now I use a mac and Reaper (mostly). Things have slowly progressed.

This linguistic background has also plunged me into a lot of poetry, and I have learnt to love it very much. So, I like to take great care of the lyrics I write.

Ten years ago, I also bought a tap guitar, because I saw Tony Levin play on one, and I thought that was great. And then I started thinking what could still be missing, and that was a standup bass. I now have an electric one here, because a genuine one would be too large to handle here in the studio. Yes, that was inspired by Tony Levin again.

7 years ago, I also started on the drums, because that was also missing. I hated having to drop midi-patterns into my compositions, because I felt that they were in actual fact somebody else’s. Now I could find out my own, and learn to play them if I didn’t know how to yet.

I have always felt that I still have a lot to learn, but I prefer my autodidactic approach for whatever instrument I learn to play. I like to discover and teach myself, challenge myself, ask people to play things for me, look up clips on the web. I absolutely love to learn new techniques on whatever instrument I play and I’m a bit like Nile Rodgers, who said that he could play and practice for hours in the bathroom until he got that lick the way he wanted. I think that is what they call grit, or stubbornness, or stupidity, or Quixotic, just give it a name…

I learn a lot from collabs and from what people tell me in their comments. I won’t always agree with what they say, but it is always interesting to hear them. There are in fact quite a number of collabs on my SoundCloud page, for instance with Oorlab and some with @_Mo.

I have been influenced by lots of artists. If I happen to copy anything from any one of them, it is because they secretly happened to sneak up from behind me. I never intend to. To name but a few: Japan/David Sylvian, Tower of Power, James Brown, Duran Duran, David Bowie, King Crimson, Steely Dan, Talking Heads, Jimi Hendrix, Trey Gunn, Weather Report, Black Midi, Paco Peña.

I think you can guess my age now…


#11

Post deleted (Doh!)


#12

It started with daft punks first album, homework. That laid the foundation of house, where I later branched off into trance, techno, jungle/D&B, then hardcore, breakcore or “drill & bass”…way down the rabbit hole into the obscure music. Eventually I picked up some turntables and eventually downloaded a daw and that was it. It’s been a hobby ever since.


#13

half tutorials, half self taught
none of the people in my family do/did anything serious with music that i know of
nobody that i know irl really knows anything about music production (especially the kind of music im into of course :confused:)
so i had to improvise


#14

Pretty sam here!
Plus the fact that it took me decades (to late) to realize that I could just start without any musical background or history.