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I am 18 years old. I love music and I would love to make it and maybe become a music composer. However I do not know anything about music theory or anything. I can't play any instrument or so. When I was about 16 I started messing with FL Studio, but I got discouraged a lot by how hard it was to use it. Now I can use it very easily but the problem is that I have no idea how to compose a song or how to make a happy sounding melody...

How can I learn to make nice melodies? I cannot make even simple ones. I want to make genre like Big Room House or Drum and Bass. Is it possible for everyone to learn to make nice melodies? How can I achieve that? Please help me. Thanks!

No matter how hard I try it always sounds like this: https://soundcloud.com/dedomra5

I want to make something more like this:

It always sounds in my melodies like they are not in sync with other instruments and no matter what I do, even if I occasionally create a kinda good sounding melody, I cannot make any upcoming sequence or next sequence for it so it always sounds the same.

  • 1
    I posted a full answer below, but as to your mixes in particular, you should pay more attention to moving in and out of different sections, doing drops, rises, etc. A great house/DnB track usually has its 8-bar loop which is the peak, and for the rest of the track different parts just come in and out. This is one place where EQ/effects come in handy, to really tweak these transitions. Watch more videos like the one you posted and keep practicing- you'll get it. Notice in the track you posted: two peaks at 5:05 and 7:05, the rest of the song is mostly just those parts coming in and out. – Charles Oct 12 '14 at 17:25
  • I have been around the world more than often performing my music and have released more than 40 tracks and remixes under big recordlabels. I started at my 16th aswell with Fruityloops. So don't lose hope :) Just work your **s off and have fun. As for melodies. In the beginning I spent whole evenings trying to replicate melodies I liked. That way you learn to understand how a melody you think is good, is constructed. Try that. Good luck – user14818 Oct 12 '14 at 19:55
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    Producing music is really really hard. It's a full-blown hobby or career, on par with learning to program or becoming a successful novelist. Don't be discouraged if you take a long time - years, even - to start making good music! – Kevin Oct 12 '14 at 21:59
  • If you can find melodies you like in readable form (either paper or MIDI files which you can open with your sequencer), then you can benefit from studying them, changing them a little bit and hearing how your modifications shift what the melody is about and what it says to the listener. Keep in mind that there is no single way to create melodies, but there are many techniques depending on what you're going for. See also my answer here music.stackexchange.com/questions/20395/… – T. C. Oct 13 '14 at 9:05
  • Related: music.stackexchange.com/questions/13795/… – Kevin Oct 13 '14 at 13:31
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Learning production is like learning any musical instrument in a lot of ways. You first need to practice a lot to become very familiar with your software. The software is your instrument, you need to know it inside and out to become proficient at creating songs. For instruments, daily practice is the fastest way to improve, and the same goes with digital production. I try to write/produce something every day.. even if it doesn't turn into a song it helps to just sit down and play with sounds for a bit. You need to get to a point where you know the software and everything it can and can't do. This way, when an idea strikes, you don't have to fumble around finding a synth patch or learning how to use the piano roll, you already know the software so the ideas can flow freely. There are tons of websites and YouTube videos out there dedicated to production and electronic music, and plenty of good ones focused on FL Studio.

After practice, you are going to need to learn some music theory. There are a lot of good resources out there to learn music theory (see YouTube, free websites, or books like Theory for Computer Musicians. That book is very useful for beginners, but there is also Harmony For Computer Musicians if you know some theory already so it goes a little deeper into chords and the things you need for a full song). This all depends on how much music theory you already know.. you don't actually need a whole lot to be a successful music producer, but you do need a foundation of major/minor scales, harmonizing scales, melodies, rhythm, and obviously chords. I find a lot of DJs or non-musicians get into production and without any background in music theory and they can make some okay mixes but usually nothing exceptional until they get a better grasp of how music works.

Edit (more on melody): Theory is also where solid melodies come from. Some people can pull melodies out of thin air just by listening to a chord progression, but for the rest of us it helps to have a basic understanding of the chords and what scale they relate to. Without theory, you can still come up with melodies, it just takes more trial and error. Start by building up the skeleton of a track: drums, bassline, maybe some chords.. then just start playing notes to see which ones fit. Once you find the "scale" or notes that work within the song, just mess around with them while you play the rest of the track until you find something interesting. Then repeat it, alter it slightly for variation, and you've got a melody.

Finally, after theory and practice, you should start analyzing songs you like. This is a time-honored tradition among musicians, especially guitarists, we like to sit down and learn to play songs by ear. This accomplishes a number of things: we improve our ears and how quickly we can hear intervals/chords and identify them (ear training), we learn how our favorite musicians structure their songs and where the chords/melody comes from (theory), and we also get a chance to practice the physical techniques behind certain sounds (practice). All of this can transfer over to production as well. Take some of your favorite songs, and throw them on a track in FL Studio and try to recreate it layer by layer on your own. This is actually a pretty important skill, because as a musician you will often hear things in your head- ideas for melodies or whole songs- but if you can't translate what's in your head to what comes out of your computer you might lose those ideas before you get a chance to make use of them. So this is where hearing someone else's song and figuring out how to recreate it can help. If you can hear something and copy it well, chances are the text time you hear some magical symphony in your head you will be better able to reproduce it in your DAW.

I already mentioned YouTube, but I want to mention it again as it is a really solid resource for this sort of thing. I don't use FL Studio, but I'm sure there are plenty of videos on how to produce house or drum and bass in FL. Also if you are very serious about this production thing you might want to look into a software upgrade. FL Studio is good software, but there are better DAWs out there (in my opinion). If you are going to be spending hours every day/week learning software, you need to make sure it's something that will be worth the investment in the long run. Ableton is my personal favorite, as its great for sketching out ideas and jamming with yourself, but there are other quality options out there. If you are happy with FL Studio, stick with it. I know a couple people that use it to get professional-sounding results. But try the other big DAWs if you get a chance, you might find something else that suits you better.

It takes a lot of time and practice to become a great music producer. But if you learn your software, learn some theory, and learn where your favorite songs came from, you should be off to a pretty good start.

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    +1 for fleshing it out better than I did & adding extra ideas. My personal pref is Cubase, but I rarely work with pattern-based material. If I do, I like to hook in Reason. I never learned Ableton [which is my loss, not the software's] – Tetsujin Oct 12 '14 at 17:45
  • Yeah, they are all pretty incredible pieces of software when you think about it. Each one has its own personality. I think beginners especially should try a few different DAWs to see what they like before deciding to invest 100s of hours on learning/mastering one program. – Charles Oct 12 '14 at 18:11
  • For sure - when I started, there was Pro-24 & Notator... times have changed since then ;-) [I actually at one point had a DX7 without Midi - a pre-production model] – Tetsujin Oct 12 '14 at 18:12
  • Listen, observe what you like and what sounds well-done to you, and then try to recreate it or something which feels similar. Focus on the process and enjoying that rather than some 'destination'. After a while you may realize that you've learned a lot and can achieve more of the results you seek. – Epanoui Oct 14 '14 at 19:05
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To help you out: I've been figuring out how to make good "EDM" for many years now, and some of the things I've realized about it might be helpful to you. "Normal" music is different than dance music in a number of ways, although they're starting to swap traits in the past few years.

1) Almost all dance music NEVER progresses. What I mean is that there is never really a chord progression like most songs, such as c --> D --> A. You'll find that if you listen, most dance music might SEEM like it's progressing because it's changing chords, but it's really just staying in one. Usually A. When a track DOES actually have a chord progression, it becomes Progressive- as in a House track with a chord progression in it would be called Progressive House. This is quite a different meaning than what progressive means in the rest of the music world, for example progressive rock, so don't get confused and remember that even though it may seem boring, etc, to make a proper dance "melody" it is necessary to stay centered on one key, and not change much.

2) The keys most tracks are in today are either C#, A or F. This doesn't mean there aren't tracks that are in different keys, but that they are usually these.

3) Drum n Bass OFFICIALLY is counted in 8/6 timing. You can get away with counting it in 4/4, but I THINK it sounds different and it drops at different times and places. Try counting 6 where you would usually count 4 in dnb. Then count 8 in that same time. If you dance at all, when dancing to dnb try moving your steps to the 6 count and your upperbody/arms and hands to the 8.

4) All of your sounds need something. The snare could be a better snare, or it could use some "fattening". Get sausage fattener VST, put a compressor on it, choose a new sample, layer some snare samples, whatever...

5) Delay almost ALWAYS makes stuff sound better. You just have to be patient enough to tweak it "just-so" and vigilant in NOT OVERDOING IT.

6) Just so, most melodies in dance are not made "human style", but are usually a combination of just a few actual notes being played, delay, appeggiators and gating. Try playing two notes in the bar you want your melody to cover. Then put an arpeggiator on the track and mess with that for a while. Then gate the track and tie it to the snare track, so that the gate only plays when the snare track hits a certain dB. Meddle with the knobs on the gate until you get something you like.

That's all I can think of for now but my main suggestion to you is to remember that your melodies can go anywhere they want so longs as it sounds good and you always remember to come back to the same key. I hope this helps; some of this stuff is really difficult to describe without you being able to hear me. :)

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    Great practical tips. I would add one more that is pretty vital to all forms of EDM: sidechain compression. Usually you put a compressor on the bassline, pads (chords), and/or other elements that might get in the way of the kick drum. This way every time the kick drum hits, the other elements duck out of the way. This is how they get the really hard hitting kicks you hear on quality tracks. FL Studio example: youtu.be/5mFu6UYTDhM?t=4m23s – Charles Oct 12 '14 at 19:21
  • yep, that's KEY. Can't believe I forgot it. :) – Ron Kyle Oct 12 '14 at 19:53
  • @RonKyle: "Drum n Bass OFFICIALLY is counted in 8/6 timing" - presumably that's 6/8. – No'am Newman Oct 13 '14 at 3:07
  • No, I really think it's 8/6. You might be right though; I've debated about this at length with people. 6/8 is what jazz is in and what gives it what they call the "shuffle", according to Winton Marsales (sp?) on the radio one time. In 8/6, where you would normally count four, you count 6. Anyone else have some input on the matter? – Ron Kyle Oct 15 '14 at 16:05
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    I disagree with many of the points in this answer. DnB is, in fact, in 4/4 - it just tends to be syncopated. And a lot of electronic music does have powerful chord changes - ambient, electro and progressive house, dnb besides jungle, world fusion, trance, and even some dubstep usually have chord changes in my experience. – Kevin Dec 26 '14 at 4:48
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The "Cruel but Fair" school of hard knocks would say...
Try, try, try again & if at first you don't succeed... try again... [or give up, the choice is yours.]
..& if, after another 10 years, you still get no takers - then either you have a) no talent whatsoever or b) no-one has yet recognised it.

It is almost impossible right now to say which that would end up being. Some people grasp it with almost no training, others have to hammer at the underlying theory for a decade & still never get there. There is no perfect method, nor guaranteed result.

I'm assuming you don't feel the need for a Bach-like knowledge of music theory, just an instinctual awareness of "what sounds good for a 'pop' record" [I use the word 'pop' very broadly, just to differentiate from 'classical']. Both approaches are 'acceptable' for a given audience.

Music is an art, but it is also a craft. To roll out the old cliché, "Practise makes perfect."

Study the songs & artists you like, do research on how they craft their work. Emulate their sound, then step outside that & make your own.
For non-classical music, there are no rules - or rather, there are rules, but you can follow them without even knowing at an educational level what they are.

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Good answers here. These are my two cents:

  • Know who your favorite producers are. Have a good sense for what you love and what you don't. Sometimes knowing what you don't want is more important than knowing what you do want.

  • Do your homework - read everything you can about your favorite producers. Through interviews, you will gain insight into their technical process, as well as their artistic process. For instance, Flume has stated for his first album, he only used Ableton stock plugins + sylenth (synth) and one compressor vst. He has also stated he spends hours digging for drum samples. So everything he makes is based on samples + ableton plugins + sylenth.

  • Learn how to sample. Learn how to sequence samples together to make a coherent musical sentence. Learn how to dig for good drum samples - some of the best people spend hours online doing this. Start listening to music with an ear for what to steal. You have the history of modern music at your fingertips, so stand on the shoulders of giants.

  • Learn how to sequence drum grooves. If your sound selection is A+, you can get away with quantized rhythms. Listen to your favorite producers, chances are their drums have a cool rhythm. Find similar sounds, emulate.

  • Learn how to layer sounds. If you want to thicken a sound, find something else which goes well on top of it, either a sample or a synth.

  • Whatever software you choose, learn the tools well, understand why you use sends, automation, etc.

  • Finally, be patient. Guys like Flying lotus, Flume, Baauer, Skrillex, Breakbot all took anywhere from 6-10 years to release something under their current incarnation, so don't worry if it takes time. As long as you love doing it, you'll be fine.

0

Funny you are 18, since this is exactly the same age I started getting to production. Prior to this I was into DJing. At age 19 (sophomore year), I realized that my music sucked, my music was not cohesive, and basically everything you just described as being your problem.

My solution? I enrolled in a Music Theory Fundamentals class at my college, which changed everything. Not only did it teach me the fundamental theory needed to actually make "good" music (rather than doing trial-and-error and "wasting" a LOT of time), but it exposed me to classical music. That semester I stopped producing and started composing for classical; never went back to production (although I have been thinking about it recently; deep house has become very enjoyable for passive listening). That was 10 years ago.

So, to answer your question: in order to get "better", you will need to put time and effort into learning music as a language. If you are prepared to do this (I think you are...) then find a theory book somewhere. And, yes, learning theory will require you to learn how to read music. It really isn't as difficult as you think.

One thing that is over the top but would be EXTREMELY beneficial to you is to buy a used digital piano (200-600 bucks) and take piano lessons for at least a few months since you never played an instrument before. This will expose you to what it is like to actually "play" an instrument, rather than program notes/sounds into your software. (Also, it is a lot faster to play notes into your software than having to click and type them in).

Hope this helps you.

EDIT: Oh and in case it hasn't already been stated, the obvious other piece of information is you will need to listen and analyze the music that you want to produce. You like DnB? Listen to a lot of it, and see if you can find samples and midi files or something so you can actually look at what other producers did.

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