Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
rsaulo
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Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by rsaulo » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:24 pm

It´s not a question about midi controllers, but about music composition.

I´m reading a lot about music theory and I know very basic about piano, and when I see many tutorials about music production in the net, I realize that many people just "draw" notes, beats, bass lines, melodies, etc

My question is, IF you doesn´t know any instrument, but have an good undestanding of music theory like scales, chords, progressions, etc, you think that you can really produce quality music?

Just using the Live´s piano roll is a choice?

Of course that for musicians that know and have experience with an instrument, this is much more "natural", but how about the new ones?

I had an opinion when started that I need to learn some instrument to produce music, but now I´m changing my mind and considering softwares like Live a type of "instrument" that if I know music theory can "replace" a "real" instument...

I´m talking here about producing only, not live performing.

What do you think?

n8tron
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by n8tron » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:41 pm

I know good music that has been made from people who "know" very little about music, ironically. That being said, it is a crutch IMO, and the more you know the better off you are to produce quality music.

In other words, don't be lazy and make excuses for not pushing yourself to learn as much as you can about music and everything about it. Because knowledge is NEVER a crutch.

cacti
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by cacti » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:50 pm

TO be good and original you do. IMO.

how are you gonna play that synth line? download a loop pack? yea right.

rsaulo
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by rsaulo » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:54 pm

I´m not trying to be lazy, it´s just an opinion based in what I saw today.

I´m studying a lot music theory and learning on piano, so I´m learning an instrument, and I think that you can create music more easily if you know an instrument, but my point is that you doesn´t need to know one, maybe you can create better music as an instrument player or you cannot, it´s about each one capabilities.

IMHO

tigali
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by tigali » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:54 pm

I'm with the Future Sound Of London on this one: To be a musician today, you just need to be able to work the technology.
(Btw, I play guitar and piano and have a good foundation level of theory too, I just know you don't need any of that stuff to produce)

Angstrom
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by Angstrom » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:12 pm

Although it's possible to get by this way, it is needlessly limiting. Who wants to work with a tiny palette of potential?

rsaulo
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by rsaulo » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:12 pm

tigali wrote:I'm with the Future Sound Of London on this one: To be a musician today, you just need to be able to work the technology.
(Btw, I play guitar and piano and have a good foundation level of theory too, I just know you don't need any of that stuff to produce)
That´s the point....

oddstep
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by oddstep » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:22 pm

I don't think you need to be able to play an instrument. Its important to be able to listen closely to what you do and understand how the spaces between sounds count just as much as the difference between sounds.
The computer is an instrument and you don't have to play it in real time. Anyone who thinks that instrumental skill is critical simply hasn't engaged with the new laws of electronic music.
On the other hand, global culture has generated a lot of ideas about how to organise sound and whilst some it can be grasped just by listening, there is value in learning some theory, so your craft can develop and so you can avoid cliches.
I think the most important trait is taste and aesthetic sensitivity. If you are imaginative and passionate about music you will make music to match. You'll probably pick up an instrument along the way... editing notes with a mouse or just searching for loops gets really time consuming once you've found an interface that works.

artworks
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by artworks » Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:20 pm

I concur with oddstep:

This question is similar to that asked by Alex Martin in the 'Sounding Off' page of SOS, Dec 2012, 'Is music meaningless in isolation?' While Alex Martin's article seems to be mainly concerned with the benefits of creating and performing music with others in realtime, Rsaulo's question asks whether one can legitimately compose/make music if one can't play much at all.

I can imagine Mr Martin, as a musician, being a bit rattled by all the 'music' making that is going on by 'imposters' who can neither play an instrument, read music, and yet, by using technology, can reproduce all the required ingredients into a plausible whole. A sort of Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver dogs dinner of a process. Put like that, it does seem a bit . . lacking. It breaks faith with many traditions and practices and threatens, on the face of it, to undermine everything vital, dare I say, sacred, about music making. But, of course, it does not. I wouldn't want to cast Mr Martin as Pope Paul V to my Galileo, I understand and recognise his angst about the virtualisation of musicianship. But his article is about the meaning or lack of meaning of music created through the virtualisation of 'music making', where shared performance is secondary or non existent, and not about musicianship. All music is essentially about ideas, ideas experienced as music. How these ideas are expressed or not is secondary to having them and making them audible, whether in isolation or not.

The issue of authenticity is important to both questions. Alex Martin postulates that music created through the shared, live performance of musicians legitimises music as something meaningful. Well, in popular music terms this, as a legitimising process, was found wanting in 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. That 'Revolver' track was the beginning of the end for The Beatles as a live, performing ensemble. And the beginning of a popular legitimisation of music making done entirely in the studio and not as a counterfoil to the live, ensemble performance. It was quickly obvious that works were being created that didn't have a hope of ever being 'performed'. And they were and are no less meaningful for being so. If one plays keyboard but not percussion and can't get or afford a session musician then why not employ the virtual equivalent? Many 'real musicians' do. What if one can't play any instrument very well or at all? This was initially true for many bands in the past and still is! What music technology does is help to release the musical ideas of many musicians and 'non-musicians' alike. Ask Brian Eno.

As oddstep says, the computer is an instrument not necessarily played in realtime.

Bagatell
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by Bagatell » Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:29 pm

rsaulo wrote:
My question is, IF you doesn´t know any instrument, but have an good undestanding of music theory like scales, chords, progressions, etc, you think that you can really produce quality music?

Just using the Live´s piano roll is a choice?
Possibly. But if you can play an instrument AND know some music theory it becomes hard not to make good music (if not good product).


What scares you about learning an instrument?

Angstrom
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by Angstrom » Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:40 pm

If quill and parchment is valid way to write a score, then a computer is a valid way for one lonely boffin to make music. Lets just move on from that nonsense. Using arguments of "authenticity" miss the point.

Is a hammer or a spanner more authentic?
If I can use a screwdriver, then do I need to learn how to use a drill?

I am a musician and I will use anything I can to make music, and the more tools the more capable I am. If that requires me to learn a bit of guitar or a bit of theory, then let's do it. Is it really so hard to grasp that having the facility to bust out a monster bassline on a guitar is good? And that it might be cool to be able to do that AS WELL as doing it on a synth?

False divisions between electronic and 'physical' music are outdated and show a poor grasp of what music is for. Clue : ears are involved

hacktheplanet
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by hacktheplanet » Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:40 pm

I've always subscribed to the idea that producing music these days is partially art and partially IT work. The myth of the ultra-cool producer is incorrect - We're all just a bunch of computer nerds.

I'm gonna say that yes, it is very important and beneficial to learn an instrument. You don't even need to go to formal training to do so, just pick up a used acoustic guitar for $100 and learn a few chords. You'd get a better understanding of how the instrument produces sound, which can only end up benefitting productions.
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smaucher
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by smaucher » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:01 pm

rumor has it that O.M.D weren't able to play any instrument when they created their world hit 'maid of orleans' - can't tell if this is true but imaginable IMO
you start bleeding - I start sceaming
propaganda 1985

artworks
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by artworks » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:08 pm

Angstrom wrote:If quill and parchment is valid way to write a score,
etc..

Indeed. I'm glad you agree that matters of authenticity miss the point. Any facility to make music is welcome. My favourite is the mind, which decides what music is, and for which ears are a means. And yes, playing instruments is gratifying, even good.

Tone Deft
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Re: Do we really need to learn an instrument to produce?

Post by Tone Deft » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:14 pm

IMO a life spent playing a real instrument would be much more interesting* than one where you learned how to use a compressor. the feeling of sitting down with an acoustic guitar (for example) and making music for hours on end is amazing.

(*ask Phil Spector 8O )

from the aspect of just wanting to be a producer
- you can make your own material to work with
- if you're working with other people that are providing the material you can guide them by saying what notes to play or even redoing the parts yourself (see Mixerman.)
- playing an instrument gives you empathy for the musicians
- it's gotta improve your sense of timing and pitch

/my coffee fueled rant...
In my life
Why do I smile
At people who I'd much rather kick in the eye?
-Moz

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