Questions to musicians, what do I need to learn in order to "know music" ?

Discussion in 'General Production Forum' started by Rabbitfrog, May 5, 2019.

  1. Rabbitfrog

    Rabbitfrog NI Product Owner

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    Sorry for the confusing title. My question is this: I am an amateur music producer. I use software and hardware to make techno music, I copy others and follow tutorials. I experiment with presets and synthesizers until something sounds cool. This is not my job, it's a hobby.

    I do not know music, I do no play any instruments so I rely on samples and presets. I am ok with this (was ok with this). I know many producers and DJs also have no musical education, and it's awesome that they are able to do what they love just like that.

    But now I want to actually know how music works. As a child I learned to play piano for about a year. So I know notes and what chords are, I know the layout of the piano and that's about it. Through much learning and reading when I first touched a DAW, I know what a key is and I usually let the software do the work and stay in key and pick the chords for me.

    So yes it's very minimal knowledge and I wouldn't even call it that, it's just knowing that music exists. But I want to learn more. I want to hear a track and know what key it's in, I want to to be able to write musc and stay in that key, I want to know how to make chords progress so that they are all in key. I know it takes a long time to learn, but I think if I suppliment what I know about software with new music knowledge I can have a ton of fun.

    The question is, where do I start, do I go back to learning the piano? Will it teach me everything I need to know? Or do I simply study music theory without learning any particular instrument?

    I am an adult and my work is not related to music, so the most I can do is some sort of classes, so obviously full blown music education is out of the question, but I am kind of at a loss as to what to hit. Music isn't the type of thing that one can learn by reading so I am looking for any resources on that.
     
  2. Simchris

    Simchris NI Product Owner

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    Funnily enough, a friend asked me similar question, there are some really great piano learning tools now fpr pc or ipad.. i think quincy jones did one? Shows you notes to play along with so you get a sense of what c sounds like vs g, and visually... eye and ear training. I used to also have a neat little lcd chord finder, but now apps for that...
     
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  3. Paule

    Paule NI Product Owner

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    http://www.midimaster.de/indexe.htm
    software form Midimaster is educational software for improving the score reading skills. The program displays exercises the pupile has to solve - relating to pitch and/or rhythm. The course of each lesson depends on the rightness of the answers.
     
  4. Simchris

    Simchris NI Product Owner

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    875
  5. von Klamke

    von Klamke NI Product Owner

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    Michael New's youtube videos are a good place to start learning music theory.
     
  6. StarSMASH

    StarSMASH NI Product Owner

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    this guys videos took me from clueless about music theory to being able to improvise chords almost overnight

     
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  7. fuenteslara

    fuenteslara New Member

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  8. nikita79

    nikita79 New Member

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    I concur with what Simchris said, Playground Sessions is amazing to learn piano. I've been using it for more than 2 years now everyday and my piano skills improved tremendously, as well as my music theory knowledge. I can also recommend the two e-books from http://hooktheory.com, which will teach you practical ways to use chords and melody. I also practice scales and arpeggios everyday with The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences from Alfred's Basic Piano Library.

    I know there are many producers who don't have music theory knowledge or can't play any instrument, and depending on the music genre, it can be perfectly fine. My best friend, who introduced me to electronic music production, can't play any instrument, uses only loops and has only rudimentary music theory knowledge but has some releases on small labels. His music is okay, but I find it a bit dull sometimes as it hasn't evolved much over the years. I'm more into melody, chords, I love testing different modes, moving through the circle of fifths and just being able to sit on the piano and come up with something that sounds cool is incredibly rewarding.

    The second part of my music education was learning how to use synths. I learned with Ableton stock synths, and after three years, I can create any sound I have in mind. To complement my use of stock plugins and Push 2, I recently purchased Komplete Ultimate and a KK keyboard and it's a joy to use. There are so many great sounding VSTs and presets, it changed the way I approach music creation, as nowadays I will usually find a preset that is close to what I have in mind, record, and then come back to tweak the preset or sometimes change it completely to match what I want. It's a great way to stay in the creative flow.
     
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  9. skinswashdc

    skinswashdc Well-Known Member

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    I would check out skoove.com for learning the piano or take some lessons at a local community college.
     
  10. Rabbitfrog

    Rabbitfrog NI Product Owner

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    oli@bass How were you able to determine it's in the wrong pitch?
     
  11. oli@bass

    oli@bass NI Product Owner

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    A melody playing wrong notes. Some notes (the whole lower register) of the mentioned instruments is two semitones too low, and therefore resulting in wrong notes.

    This is quite obvious, so I‘m not sure I properly understand your question.
     
  12. Rabbitfrog

    Rabbitfrog NI Product Owner

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    Well... I mean if you play some patch on let's say Massive, I would not be able to tell you if it's B2 or A2. But putting it on a scale and then playing chords yes, I would be able to hear it....maybe. I mean on a piano yes, but synths have a lot of frequencies and morphing, so maybe not? Not sure. I mean, yes there is a chance that if I play in scale then the chords might sound all wrong, sure.

    So I guess, what I mean is, if you were able to tell the difference between A2 and B2 because it scaled the frequencies wrong so it sounded wrong when playing in key then I guess I get it. If you you played one sample and were able to tell it's a semi-tone off then it's pretty impressive, in which case I would want to know how you did it. How you verified that the pitch was wrong I guess? If you did it by ear then it's even more impressive.

    But, if you used a device to detect pitch (or at least to verify it) then I wanted to know which one. I don't have a good ear, but I wanted to be able to pitch the samples I import properly so they can be played in key. My tone training is not that good and the only real piano I have is a Casio piano (an old one at that). I was thinking of using Traktor to detect the pitch maybe.

    Hope this wasn't more confusing.
     
  13. D-One

    D-One Moderator Moderator

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    It's pretty easy, if you have other instruments in your production and play something off-key it should stand out...
    Some of my bandmates often say stuff like "that sample is 15cent off-key", people who play instruments usually always have that skill, especially if they know their instrument is tuned correctly and things sound dissonant, anyone can do it with some ear training exercises as long as there is a reference you know is tuned... this is simpler tho, it's just noticing there a bigger gap between intervals then what it should be.

    I used Melodyne to quickly check, but could have also laid the same chromatic notes on a Piano at the same time.
    [​IMG]
     

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  14. oli@bass

    oli@bass NI Product Owner

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    Well, I made a pattern with a melody which kept playing in a loop and I flipped through different sounds. And with one of the sound, the lower notes of the melody were off pitch.

    Then I stopped the pattern and played a chromatic scale with that sound, and at one point, between two notes (pads), the step was different - it was not the expected semi tone but a larger interval.

    As D-One pointed out, this is a basic skill for someone who is playing an instrument for some time. Actually, it would be rather impossible to play an instrument if you can’t hear whether an interval or a note is the same or not.

    But it can be difficult, that’s true - especially with complex sounds and even more so if the sound by itself is very dissonant. Then it can be hard to determine the pitch or true root note of the sound. And with rich bass sounds it’s often misleading which octave they are in.

    So, if you are starting out, it might be easier to learn with „simple“ sounds with stable pitch (sine or triangle wave, piano, guitar, strings).
     
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  15. Rabbitfrog

    Rabbitfrog NI Product Owner

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    Ok, thanks oli@bass , D-One Yes, I am practicing piano, but like I said, the quality of my instrument is so so. But yeah will work on that.

    So would you suggest Melodyne to find the key/pitch of a sample? Let's say I sample a vinyl or some field sound and want to assign it to a proper key in Maschine. What's the best way to find the pitch? Would Traktor do the trick? If I record a bird singing then Traktor should detect the key? Although I know it works mostly as a general key of a song, I don't know if it can detect just one note.
     
  16. oli@bass

    oli@bass NI Product Owner

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    I don‘t have Melodyne or use any other similar tool, and in general don‘t do sampling myself. In fact I hardly ever try to determine the pitch of a sample upfront.

    I prefer to rely on my ears and tune samples (mostly drums, percussion, metallic hits, electronic noises) within the context of the track. Which means, I may have a bass or synth sequence or even all the instruments playing, and tune the kick/snare/jackhammer listening how it sounds more „in key“ with the rest. Hence, I‘m less interested in the absolute pitch than in matching or „glueing“ sounds together.

    When working with sampled chord stab or melodic phrases, and the sample sounds off or I just want to match with another sample, I try to figure out the notes of the phrase by playing them on an instrument (bass, guitar, synth). That’s a bit of a hit and miss sometimes. So it‘s of benefit to learn an instrument, even for creating beats with samples. Stick to the piano for a bit, practice every day, and your ears will develop after a while.

    It‘s really hard to explain. It‘s the same thing with mixing and producing. After spending a lot of time, you start „hearing things“. Like a frequency build up or an annoying resonance, or how a bass synth masks the rhythm guitars. Just keep doing it. Appreciate your own development. And have fun!
     
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  17. D-One

    D-One Moderator Moderator

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    Melodyne will tell what the notes are with very high precision and success rate usually without requiring much tweaking, it's rather expensive as it's primary goal is pitch correction. Detecting what the exact notes are and finding the actual Key are different things tho.

    Traktor won't find a bird's singing key unless it's a very talented bird that sings perfectly in key, some birds can do it if exposed to music but it's not super common. AFAIK it won't detect single notes, just general key with a limited success rate, no software is 100% accurate at detecting key, samples/songs might have key changes midway and this confuses the software, also lots of songs have notes that don't belong to the key/scale and this also leads to inaccurate results.

    Based on this (and other) articles https://www.digitaldjtips.com/2020/10/best-dj-key-detection-2020/ I bought MixedInKey a few years back to scan all the stuff I accumulate over the years, it's far from perfect but helps.

    You can also make a baby and train him to have perfect pitch like Rick did:
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2021
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  18. Rabbitfrog

    Rabbitfrog NI Product Owner

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    Yeah, I kind of screwed up when I said "key". What I meant is the piano key. I should have said note. But maybe not. I am not sure. The goal is to sample something but then assign it to a proper note in Maschine so that when I play in a certain key or play chords the frequencies scale properly.

    In regard to what you said, I am still very vague in regards to what a key is in a song, or when the song is played in a certain key. I get the scales just fine. But from what I understand a key of a song is more like guide, like "hello" by Adelle is a song that is supposed to be in Fm, but it uses Am scale. From what I saw every line of the chorus and verse starts with the Fm chord. So I guess that what makes the song in Fm. Frankly I find this needlessly confusing. The whole concept of a song being in a certain key, I find the scale information a lot more useful.
     
  19. D-One

    D-One Moderator Moderator

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    That won't always work, well depends... Say you sample an F Major piano chord, no matter how much you tune it will never fit in a project where the Key is F minor because there is no Fmaj in a Fmin Key. This "rule" can be bent tho, with more advanced knowledge than what I have.

    The Key is based on the Chord progression, a small progression (with low amount of Chords) might fit in different Keys.
    A Scale is a set of notes that fit the Key, an Fmin scale fits a Fmin (key) song since it has all of its 7 notes, so would Fmin pentatonic which only has 5 notes.
    I'm pretty sure Adele sings in Fmin in that Fmin song, here take a look at Maschine set to Fmin playing the song's Chords + Melody
    https://imgur.com/a/U7JgrSd (enable audio in the top right corner)
    Note how I have the Pads set to F Minor.

    No, the starting Chord does not define the Key it just so happens that it's common to use the first chord of the Key at the beginning of the Chord progression.
    Yes, Music Theory is confusing. Hum... A Scale can fit multiple Keys, so might not always tell you much.
    For example in that Adelle Fmin song, all these Scales technically fit:
    [​IMG]
    And the above are just Scales/Modes where all the 7 notes are the same as Fmin, so they will all fit perfectly.

    I added the Maschine project with the Piano in case you want to download and have a look, we going way offtopic tho...
     

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    Last edited: Mar 20, 2021
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  20. Rabbitfrog

    Rabbitfrog NI Product Owner

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    No, actually what I meant is, let's say I sample from something that has no keys, like that "toy" Korg Monotron synth. I sample one note or it could be a similar sound (like just a clap, or a sneeze, or a soda can opening....something that's not a melody) so now if I want to play chords with those sounds or to play them in key of a song I need to assign them to a proper note in Maschine so then. Because if a soda can opens in C and if I set it to F then the sounds of chords will be off....I think. Well I know that when I assign chords to pads, playing them in key mode or in a scale makes them sound completely off. I have old 80s synths sampled so when I put Am chord on any pad then play it in chords again (I know not supposed to) makes them off-key. So I am assuming that the chords made out of a one-shot that is placed on a wrong note will sound off in a similar way.

    Yes. I downloaded the project. Thank you for all your help. You got me a bit more confused, but that's fine, I will keep digging into scales and will eventually figure out how it all relates to the key of the song. I mean, at first scales and chords were confusing but now I totally get it so I will get this eventually.

    oli@bass I apologize for hijacking your topic, but your topic made me alert of some knowledge I am missing.
     
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