I posted a question earlier, which a number of people pointed out was coming off too broad to make for a good post, and it was suggested I boil it down to a smaller bite, so here goes.
I have been a music nut for my whole life, more passionate about music than probably even some musicians - but always only as an obsessive consumer, never a creator. Over and over throughout my life, I've come at creating my own music from various angles, and I never succeed, always hitting the same wall.
That wall is notes.
Background: I have a good amount of experience with DJing/controllerism, an absolutely extreme 14+ year rhythm game hobby, have taken lessons for piano/guitar/bass (1yr ea. back in high school), have played with and extensively studied the use of various DAWs and VSTs, and took part of a music theory course at community college before life circumstances forced me to move - I've also watched tens of hours of music theory lectures and tutorials. From all this, I'd like to think I have a pretty good understanding of how music 'works' and is structured. Not the kind of innate understanding one gains through practice, but I know the vocabulary and basic concepts.
Whenever I've pursued an instrument, the best I could ever do was play other peoples' music by rote memorization - and while I'm good at DJing/controllerism, that's, again, other peoples' music.
The Problem: When I try and compose my own tracks, I never even begin to feel as though I have traction. I come from a motion graphic design and programming background, so I'm used to having a pretty concrete and clear methodology for accomplishing certain things.
I'll use one specific inspiration as an example here: Let's say I'm inspired by this track, and trying to make something similar in feel: Djunya - Ites (Picks up around 1 minute in)
The best I can manage is laying down some basic, fittingly sparse rhythm, with a similar structure - slap some dub delay on there, etc. - whatever isn't right about it, I'd tune later. Then, I hit the wall - notes.
That inspiration track has a few layers of notes to consider - the bassline, the dub guitar in the middle, and the higher pitched flourishes of melody. When I listen to it, even just one little flourish of six or so notes can punch me in the heartstrings and fill me with euphoria - even the hyper-simple dub guitar ticking away behind it transports me to a whole new place...
...but when I try to do that in my own projects, nothing. I screw around on the keys, and if I manage a sequence that sounds okay, it usually clashes with the mood I want to create, and doesn't lead me into ideas for the other layers - and the notes I play sound like the stuff I was playing in my early piano lessons - all the impact and depth of Hot Cross Buns, no matter how I process, voice or tweak them. They feel like a random selection of tones, not a coherent musical phrase.
The Question: So I have the desire to create something in that vein, roughly. I have a DAW I know how to operate (Maschine Mk2) loaded to the gills with quick-access sketch tools (almost every Maschine expansion) and oodles of more complex stuff should I want it (Komplete 9 + a few other NI products). I'm staring at a blank project file, or maybe I've created a pattern or two of basic percussion.
How would you proceed from this point? How would you find a collection of notes that worked, that didn't just sound like a kid poking a piano? How do you get that initial sketch down that can be fleshed out into more?
In short: How do I notes?