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General Music Theory and Ambient Music

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  • #16
    Yeah, I agree TDP

    But to backtrack a bit on what I said earlier; something I did years ago - and still use sometimes - was to write out a chart with the 12 possible (in standard western music) major keys down one side (C, C#, D, Eb, etc) and the chords formed from the notes of the relevant major scales alongside them (for C you get C major from the 1,3,5; Dm from the 2,4,6; Em from the 3,5,7; F from the 4,6,8; G from the 5,7,9; Am from the 6,8,10; Bdim from the 7,9,11).

    Choosing some or all of the chords formed from any one key and arranging them in any order gives a chord progression. If you wanna be weird, take a chord that doesn't fit to that key.

    Sorry if that's too simple. Thought it might be better if I said something constructive for a change!
    Bandcamp / Soundcloud / Website

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    • #17
      Good topic. Lots of good stuff happens by accident, at whatever level.
      Yello - The Eye
      https://youtu.be/XAWFWYjx38Q

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      • #18
        Some good info YNotB!
        Soundcloud | YouTube | Bandcamp

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        • #19
          I've been playing around with doing long sets (like 2 hours+). I've mentioned elsewhere here that I've been taking piano lessons and we've been doing a LOT of theory work. I'm at the point now where I can sit down and pull out basic chords without much thought so I've really been trying to use that in what I've been doing. What I've been doing recently is sitting down at the keyboard, picking out a good sounding patch, and laying down a long droney chord into a loop pedal. Then I'll switch voices and play around with the notes from the original chord. When something sounds good, it gets added to the loop and I go to the next voice. Since I'm using the same three or four notes for everything it's easy to get it to all sound good together. Once it's been a "song's length" (which could be anywhere from 3 minutes to 15 minutes depending on my mood) I select the next chord, start playing it, and fade out the loop pedal to transition to the next song. The memory gets cleared and I record that next base chord into the looper. Rinse, lather, repeat. I think of it as really long and extended chord changes, and it lets me play for hours at a time without things getting too repetitive....if it gets boring I can just move on to the next chord change!

          The challenging part is figuring out WHERE to go for each chord change and I have a great trick for that. There is a copy of the circle of fifths that I have printed out and taped to the wall behind my keyboard. If you move to the right, you go to fifth of your starting position and if you move to the left you go to the fourth. For instance, if you are playing a C chord and go to a G chord that's five "scale notes" about G. If you go to F it's four "scale notes". Lots of music moves in fourths and fifths so it sounds like a natural progression!

          2bfdf7f761ee8bbd63ecbb55cf8bd393.jpg
          soundcloud | facebook | bandcamp

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          • #20
            Great idea taking piano lessons and I really should do the same.

            Some good ideas there, moving in fourths and fifths...


            Here are links to two sites that I use for some help on music theory:-

            https://www.basicmusictheory.com/

            and for chord progression stuff,

            http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/57
            I may not post anything useful, but at least I do it often

            Bandcamp // SoundCloud // YouTube

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            • #21
              From the DJ side of things, trying to mix in key is very important to me. Makes sense it would be the same for chord progression in producing. Here is a link to the camelot wheel I use for making my monthly mixes.

              http://blog.dubspot.com/harmonic-mix...j-endo-part-1/



              https://soundcloud.com/ancientrealms

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              • #22
                In terms of music theory, I have to say the thing that has brought me the most benefit is understanding and applying modes - A real breakthrough in terms of understanding music and composition, and opens up enormous potential for experimentation.
                Bandcamp / Soundcloud / Website

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by YnotB View Post
                  IMHO, in many ways music theory should be viewed in the same way as grammar - they are both descriptive, not prescriptive.
                  As someone who works as a language teacher I'd say there is both prescriptive and descriptive grammar - that's why we can communicate with each other, and yet our languages can still change and develop.
                  In music (as in language) we can of course decide not to follow the rules of theory, up to a point when our music (or our language) isn't recognized as Ambient (or English) by our listeners. I think that's basically was TDP was saying (so why am I repeating it here? Dunno...), right?
                  To stay in that music/language comparison (which is brilliant imho!): in both environments it's good practise to incorporate elements of other styles/languages into our own, with marvellous results (and the obvious result of some people claiming "That's not proper English/Ambient!"). For example: I like to give my Ambient performances a kind of song-like structure, even if they drift into experimental/noise country. That's something I sadly miss from much music in these genres. Many will say that song structure is for pop music and sissies in general, I beg to differ.
                  So maybe the quintessence of all this is that looking into other regions of music, experimenting with chords, sounds, structures, voices and melodies, keeps Ambient music (as well as other genres as well) alive.
                  Rhythm? Why not?
                  Vocals? Why not?
                  Will it still be Ambient? Who cares?
                  Just my two cents...

                  Cheers,
                  Bert

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                  • #24
                    Does anyone have any recommendations for any music theory books that would be of interest for making ambient music?

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by AtlasKnelt View Post
                      If you move to the right, you go to fifth of your starting position and if you move to the left you go to the fourth. For instance, if you are playing a C chord and go to a G chord that's five "scale notes" about G. If you go to F it's four "scale notes". Lots of music moves in fourths and fifths so it sounds like a natural progression!

                      [ATTACH=CONFIG]1697[/ATTACH]
                      This might have to do with this mysterious tonic-subdominat-dominant-thing?
                      argyre planitia: The Atomic Age - Soundcloud - Youtube - Petroglyph Music - Bandcamp

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by synkrotron View Post
                        Great idea taking piano lessons and I really should do the same.
                        One year later - did you do it?

                        My impression is, that learning piano is a bit like painting by numbers. Yes, I can play the Gymnopedie No. 1 or some easier JS Bach pieces, but it doesn't help me making my own music. It is just playing other's peoples music, and It trains your fingers and your brain, no question, but not "How to find a chord progession" (*) or things like that.

                        This is interesting, because for authors, there are courses in "creative writing", but learning piano is not "creating melodies". Perhaps I should direct my teacher more into this direction...

                        (*) harmony... well... of course, one could follow the I-IV-V scheme, but I was surprised, how dissonant e.g. the Gymnopedie No. 1 is. I never realized this for years, when I was just listening to it, but when I learned to play it, I was surprised how dissonat the piece sometimes is. This is something, that no-one can teach: how to put dissonant notes into a harmonic pice to make it sound more interesting. Or is this just the equilvalent of the aforementioned "creative writing" for musicians???
                        argyre planitia: The Atomic Age - Soundcloud - Youtube - Petroglyph Music - Bandcamp

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by betadecay View Post

                          My impression is, that learning piano is a bit like painting by numbers. Yes, I can play the Gymnopedie No. 1 or some easier JS Bach pieces, but it doesn't help me making my own music. It is just playing other's peoples music, and It trains your fingers and your brain, no question, but not "How to find a chord progession" (*) or things like that.

                          This is interesting, because for authors, there are courses in "creative writing", but learning piano is not "creating melodies". Perhaps I should direct my teacher more into this direction...
                          Like others here I had piano lessons and band classes in my elementary school years. I agree completely with betadecay about this - it was very much a paint-by-numbers type of thing, the only real music theory I learned was to identify notes on the staff and learn a few scales. Only my very last teacher when I was 12 or 13 years old began to show me how to identify the chords in a piece of classical music. Sadly, I didn't keep up my lessons...

                          I learned nothing about how combining the notes in a particular scale into different chords constitutes harmony. I have only discovered that in my reading and experimentation in recent years. And, I certainly do not have anything resembling a complete grasp of it now! But, I just have myself to blame for not keeping up my studies. What would the music I create today be like if I had gained an in depth understanding of harmony? I would probably never have created some of the pieces I think are my best...because they are no doubt lacking in traditional harmony!

                          One thing I have learned is that by recombining notes of a scale into different combinations I was inadvertently committing harmony! In my twenties I tried playing in a rock band. I had no idea what I was doing. I only watched the guitar players making chords on the fret board (luckily I had learned a few guitar chords...) and attempted to transcribe that to simple chord triads on my synth keyboard. I stumbled upon the technique of using chord inversions to make it easier for me to change chords to try and keep up with the band. But I didn't even know that what I did was called inversions! That was about as far as ever got with anything near music theory back then.

                          These days I am looking to expand my playing and composing skills by modulating to different keys in addition to discovering pleasant relationships between the notes of a single key (scale). One thing I can say though is that I have not found any one source for reading or watching videos that is specific to ambient music. while there are a plethora of informative videos and texts available with a simple web search, most of them seem to be specific to other genres. So, one has to pick through and find the crumbs that resonate with one's own musical muse.

                          Something that I have done a few years ago, and I mentioned this elsewhere, is to stretch a field recording drastically. and then to use a spectrum analyzer to identify the spectral peaks that are present in the stretched sample and round them to the nearest standard note. Then construct a 'scale' with only those notes and use that for a melodic/harmonic composition on top of the drone created by stretching the original sample. It's certainly possible to create some dissonance this way!! But some harmonious stuff as well

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by betadecay View Post

                            One year later - did you do it?

                            Blimey! Doesn't time fly!?

                            Short answer is, no, I am disappointed to say, although not surprised. I kind of like my "winging it" approach...
                            I may not post anything useful, but at least I do it often

                            Bandcamp // SoundCloud // YouTube

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                            • #29
                              Interesting post!
                              In my opinion and experience, learning different aspects of music theory and technique is a little like the writing process. What I mean is; in the writing process there´s a time for writing and being in the flow and there´s a time for editing and structuring. These should not overlap as they most often cancel each other out. Especially editing while being creative is extremely ineffective.

                              From what I´m reading it seems you are starting to feel a need to break the mould of what you´ve been doing for some time, music theory might be one such step "outside the box" (entering a new box, but let´s not go there for now). I´d separate the two, have some time learning new stuff and also work on projects in a way that you know well. When you are comfortable with your new skills and they have become close to second nature; introduce the new knowledge into your music projects. Tools should always be tools, creating possibilities and solving tasks.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by AtlasKnelt View Post
                                I've been playing around with doing long sets (like 2 hours+). I've mentioned elsewhere here that I've been taking piano lessons and we've been doing a LOT of theory work. I'm at the point now where I can sit down and pull out basic chords without much thought so I've really been trying to use that in what I've been doing. What I've been doing recently is sitting down at the keyboard, picking out a good sounding patch, and laying down a long droney chord into a loop pedal. Then I'll switch voices and play around with the notes from the original chord. When something sounds good, it gets added to the loop and I go to the next voice. Since I'm using the same three or four notes for everything it's easy to get it to all sound good together. Once it's been a "song's length" (which could be anywhere from 3 minutes to 15 minutes depending on my mood) I select the next chord, start playing it, and fade out the loop pedal to transition to the next song. The memory gets cleared and I record that next base chord into the looper. Rinse, lather, repeat. I think of it as really long and extended chord changes, and it lets me play for hours at a time without things getting too repetitive....if it gets boring I can just move on to the next chord change!

                                The challenging part is figuring out WHERE to go for each chord change and I have a great trick for that. There is a copy of the circle of fifths that I have printed out and taped to the wall behind my keyboard. If you move to the right, you go to fifth of your starting position and if you move to the left you go to the fourth. For instance, if you are playing a C chord and go to a G chord that's five "scale notes" about G. If you go to F it's four "scale notes". Lots of music moves in fourths and fifths so it sounds like a natural progression!

                                [ATTACH=CONFIG]1697[/ATTACH]
                                I have one of these for guitar.
                                https://metapop.com/sonic-bodhi
                                https://www.youtube.com/user/SonicBodhi1
                                https://sonicbodhi.bandcamp.com/
                                https://hearthis.at/sonic-bodhi-iw/

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