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How do you start an ambient piece?

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  • How do you start an ambient piece?

    I've been experimenting with different ways of starting ambient tracks and coming up with different ways to generate ideas. I've tried a number of different things from sounds of nature, cityscapes, etc. but I always end up throwing those out and sticking to the etherial sounds of pads which is why I love ambient music in the first place. ;)

    I most always start with a sound texture and build upon that in layers until I'm happy with something. I let the track decide if it wants percussion or not and then start modulating parameters on my synths until I feel like my sound is interesting and listenable. Only until the composition is 75% completed do I start adding effects.

    What's your preferred method of starting a track?
    Synphaera Records
    Space | Time | Matter

  • #2
    I don't really have a technique yet. Sometimes I just noodle for a while and retro-record what I've played, edit, and go from there. Sometimes I come up with a progression, sequence that in, and add to it. Sometimes I find a sound that I really want to use and play around with that for a while.

    Basically, whatever works, it seems.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Dax IX View Post
      Basically, whatever works, it seems.
      :tu:
      Synphaera Records
      Space | Time | Matter

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      • #4
        Right now I seem to be ending up doing pads with strange little LORAN C band shortwave radio things. A lot of odd duck things show up on shortwave nowadays....:eek:

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        • #5
          I've never heard any of your pieces. I'd love it if you could share.

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          • #6
            This may sound facile but I always start an ambient piece with the title. The inspiration may be a picture, or a passage from a book, or a vague concept, whatever - but I find that getting the title 'crystallises' the concept in my mind. From there I can start working on sound choice, composition, arrangement etc in the normal way.
            My new album is available now, here: http://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.com/album/resonance
            Check out my SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment
            I'm also a member of Sonic Federation, this is our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sonicfederation
            and this is mine: https://www.facebook.com/Mike.ThoughtExperiment.Hobson

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            • #7
              That's really interesting.

              The title usually comes after I start working on a piece, but once I did start with a title (Red Wall).

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              • #8
                WOW!!! Such amazing responses so far. As our community grows, I'm sure others will share more ideas as well. Really interesting stuff!!! Thank you all for sharing. :D
                Synphaera Records
                Space | Time | Matter

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by mikusan View Post
                  This may sound facile but I always start an ambient piece with the title. The inspiration may be a picture, or a passage from a book, or a vague concept, whatever - but I find that getting the title 'crystallises' the concept in my mind. From there I can start working on sound choice, composition, arrangement etc in the normal way.
                  Not at all.

                  I think the music will always 'find it's own way', I'm no trained musician so it's more about sound with my pieces. I'll play with various devices to come up with interesting sounds then see about layering them, tweaking as I go.

                  BUT: I'm very aware that they'll be 'things' in my head (ideas, images, news stories, maybe just a feeling...) that definitely influence me. I'll find myself thinking about, say, rogue planets (to give a recent example) and that my sound experiments will be kind of held up against that idea. Are they appropriate, have any connection with the idea etc.
                  Latest release: never to be repeated

                  Hearthis | Soundcloud

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                  • #10
                    In my hardware days, I used to just sit and turn knobs for hours until something sounded intriguing. Now it's a lot of clicking and dragging.

                    I'll layer it until I kill it with too much, then start subtracting until it's too bare, then start covering it again and back and forth until its time to leave it alone. I'll listen to the piece endlessly doing remixes and praying a title occurs to me.

                    As far as inspiration, I'd have to say clouds. Always the same, always different. Always worth study. My favorite colors are just before sunset with creamy oranges and the sky turns a paler blue. Makes me run inside and start work.

                    It's encouraging to hear others work in fairly loose ways as well. I am always hesitant to talk about process and such in forums as I tend to be a bit sensitive or shy about the way I work.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ontol View Post
                      I am always hesitant to talk about process and such in forums as I tend to be a bit sensitive or shy about the way I work.
                      Well first of all, welcome to the forum!!! I am really glad you decided to share part of your creative process with us. Seriously, I think this forum is an amazing new outlet...an oasis for ambient producers to open up and talk openly about the thing we feel most passionate about.
                      Synphaera Records
                      Space | Time | Matter

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                      • #12
                        I made a few ep's with the use of Noatikl. I let it create midi sequences for me and than I start playing with subtractive synthesis until it sounds interesting.

                        You have to goolge for noatikl since I can't post links yet.
                        http://silentfrill.bandcamp.com/

                        https://manducator.bandcamp.com/

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dax IX View Post
                          I've never heard any of your pieces. I'd love it if you could share.
                          Most of my pieces tend to be really short things...I'm planning on getting some of them up on soundcloud though....

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by trimph1 View Post
                            Most of my pieces tend to be really short things...I'm planning on getting some of them up on soundcloud though....
                            That'd be great! Let us know when you do!

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                            • #15
                              One of the things I used to do was play a nice sounding chord progression on a synth for about 8 bars using my midi controller. I then Stretch that 8 bar piece into something way way longer! Once this was stretched into a 10 minute piece I would start applying FX to it and using Sends to add some depth to it. Lots of times I will just use one melodic piece and apply about 10 send effects @ 100% with complex sounding modifications to it. One of my favourite things to do is put Permut8 on my sends, because it literally messes up the original audio in strange beautiful ways. I make sure the audio is set to *Send to sends only* when I use my sends on these tracks. It's surprisingly simple to do it this way, but you can get some very pleasing results that will inspire you! Once I got my melodic piece going, i would supplement this with a variety of noises & sounds etc and then go automation crazy!

                              This is just one of many ways i start making my tracks..

                              Other times I have ideas of exactly what sound I want to hear and build it by using a variety of synthesizers, samples and effects. I never really have one tried and true workflow apart from the one I described above.

                              I think lots of good ambient is all about experimentation!
                              Last edited by V0RT3X; 11-29-2012, 03:06 PM.
                              -=| (Youtube)|(Bandcamp)|(Ambient Online Forums)|=-

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