OK, aspiring composers, if there is one book I recommend reading it is ‘Music Theory for Computer Musicians’. This excellent book gives you essential insights in music theory.
Personally, I started composing using my favourite DAW (which happens to be FL Studio, but that is beside the point) without much knowledge of music theory. Sure, I had heard of notes and chords and I also knew by experience that some notes, when combined, sound pleasant while other combinations seem to have descended from h*ll. Everytime I started to compose a new song I pseudo randomly places notes and started to move them around until I got something I liked. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing woring with composing music this way. I know some people who compose amazing music without any grasp of music theory.
Frustrated and curious as I was, I started to read bits and pieces of music theory and it really opened up my eyes (and ears for that matter!). With knowledge of music theory in my back pocket, I now understand why certain notes sound well together and why others don’t. Also, I now know how to create effective chord progressions and melodies that adhere to a specific mood that I want my songs to express. I know about scales, and keys and sharps and flats and triads and inversions and all those things that once kept me scratching my head. But believe me, it is worthwhile to learn some of the basics and it really isn’t all that difficult. If I can learn it, then you can too! By the way, I only know the basics (music theory is very broad and covers many different aspects of music) – but it has revolutionized the way I compose.
Also, when I now listen to the likes of Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Deadmau5, Ferry Corsten, Sander van Doorn – any trance song – I understand some of the simple rules they used to create that unique trance groove and atmosphere that I have come to love so much. Again, it isn’t all that difficult. Naturally, to become a top trance producer you need more skills. You need skills, talent, the right gear and tools and you need to work hard to constantly push your own bounderies. But somehow, understanding some aspects of music theory, gives me the confidence to continue and keep working on improving my music.
Back to the book, it really is a great source and reference. It starts with explaining the characteristics/properties of sound (what is sound?). It then introduces notes, scales (major, minor, etc,), rythm, tempo and note lengths, chords, melodies and motives and much much more. What is useful is that every chapter ends with a few exercises that can really help you remembering the things you’ve read.
If you are convinced and want to buy the book, you can do that on Amazon.com. Just click on the book cover shown below.
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