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#3083140 02/05/21 03:14 AM
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I was tempted to take a different thread into yet another direction, but thought this might deserve its own thread.

I'm a decent real-time player, but only on guitar and blues harp. On keyboards, I'm acceptable. For everything else, I'm a composer. I can decide what needs to be played, but I can't play it fluidly. I'll never be a brass section smile

It seems to me that DAWs empowered composers, whereas tape (due to the lack of editing) empowered players. Of course, not all composers are going to be fabulous. But people with musical ideas have a chance to implement those ideas to a degree that was never before possible.

Beethoven and Bach were players, but they were also composers, who needed other musicians to implement their ideas.

Are we entering an era where composers are more important than players?

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For a while I did think that slick, tightly produced music was dominant - obviously favoring composers.

Then I realized there's whis whole young generation of musos who built up a following by showing off their playing skills on Instagram - which would seem to indicate players are favored.

Plini, who himself looks like a young man to me, mentions even younger players who do the Instagram thing to promote their ability to play stuff fast, without attention to expression. But what's more interesting to me is that he developed his musicianship by composing first, then learning to play his own compositions, which is actually on the "composer" side of the fence


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First I'm a player. I can handle almost any gig on sax or wind synthesizer. On bass, and guitar I can do rock/pop/country gigs but not jazz. Drums are fine too, but I'd have to build up my stamina to take a gig. Singing is good except I'm a good but not a great singer. I can do what I do well, but can't do everything. I wouldn't take a job playing flute or piano/organ/synth, but I get around.

I've been playing live gigs since I was in junior high school. I've played just about any venue a musician in the USA can play, from dive bars to the opening act for the stars in concert. It's what I love to do, it's what I live to do, and it's where I feel most comfortable.

I've done some studio work, and I liked it, but I like playing in front of an audience better.

Second I'm an arranger. I've had music theory, arranging and associated classes. I play wind, string, and percussion instruments, so I have a good understanding of the roles these instruments fill in the ensemble and how they should work with others in the same ensemble. This helps my Band-in-a-Box aftermarket style writing a lot. Plus I've played in rock, jazz, country, Latin American, pop, blues and Caribbean bands. It's all fun.

Composer I'm not. I've tried writing songs and the first thing I fail at is lyrics. Everything I write sounds corny to me. Any instrumental songs I've written sound OK but nothing special.

Whether it's lead, background parts, or improvising a solo (especially improvising a solo) when I'm on stage gigging, I'm doing my second favorite thing in the world (can't tell you what's first) wink

Insights and incites by Notes


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While Notes lists "songwriter" under "composer", I think it might be a third category. And then there is "arranger" so that makes 4. Producer? 5?

DAW provides an effective platform for any combination of Player/Composer/Songwriter/Arranger/Producer...

For me, I would list them as Player/Songwriter/Composer/Arranger/Producer, bearing in mind that my "compositions" exist either in my tiny brain or as recorded since I don't read or write music (and have no interest in learning).

I've been playing gigs for 45 years in bands that were all-originals, all-covers and various mixtures of both. When I write a song, the lyrics come first then I put them to music. While the player in me can toss up a usable set of chords and sometimes signature licks, after the song has lived with me for a while I start to feel an arrangement for it. This may involve changing chords, adding passing chords, composing an intro, bridge, ending, all that fun stuffs.

I probably overthink a fair amount of it but it has to pass the casual listening test too. I focus on making a groove happen, it's just part of who I am and what I love. Esoteric bits and dabs usually get tossed if I can't fit them into the groove.
That said, as a player one of my favorite things to do is "break" the music by playing over the groove in another time that eventually comes back to the one. My drummer has learned to ignore me or he will get lost. I don't count or think verbally when I am a Player but somehow I get right back to where we started. It's a fun way to create tension and release, people look at you funny too - which is good.

I do agree that the DAW allows for a much more free approach to expression than tape. That can be a blessing and a curse depending since one might never commit to a rendition, where with tape you do the tracks and that's usually more or less that. A brilliant studio band like The Funk Brothers could probably track an album in a couple of days. They were mostly players, certainly the percussion and bass were.


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I practice my player skills all the time because 1) I play too many instruments so I'm rusty on most of them most of the time, and 2)I like watching sports but have to have a guitar to play while the game's on to keep the music part of my brain from getting bored. Yes - I watch sports alone!

But I'm primarily a songwriter/composer. That's my musical highest high, and, although I can't speak as to the quality of my output, I can write songs and put down ideas at almost any time. I'm never totally dry - playing a variety of instruments helps with that, I think.

So yeah - DAWS are where I live - although I don't think any DAW meets all the needs of the words-with-music pure songwriter. I'd so love to have a DAW where you hit a key-combo and pop up a big banner-like lyrics working area where you can write and edit and mark the syllables as to where they land beat-wise. And wouldn't having big lyrics scrolling by be great for recording?

And I've love to have a pop-up chord analyzer and progression display - also that scrolls and shows exactly where the chord changes happen in the measure. And highlight arpeggios so you see they are a chord, not a sort of confusing "melody" or riff or something. And where you can type in the chord you want the DAW will comp it with the instrument of your choice - just as a way to keep moving fast while composing and trying stuff out.

All sorts of things could help with composition. And with playing, too - right? An analyzer that lets you know how far off your average attack is in milliseconds - where your intonation is off the rails - that converts your playing to midi - etc etc etc.

I really have no serious complaints about my current DAW - Reaper. Oh plently of quibbles - but if I can't make my music with that program, I should trade music for painting bad Bob paintings with the back of a spoon.

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Originally Posted by Nowarezman
And I've love to have a pop-up chord analyzer and progression display - also that scrolls and shows exactly where the chord changes happen in the measure. And highlight arpeggios so you see they are a chord, not a sort of confusing "melody" or riff or something. And where you can type in the chord you want the DAW will comp it with the instrument of your choice - just as a way to keep moving fast while composing and trying stuff out.

What sold me on Studio One is when I played a fairly sloppy but promising chord progression on rhythm guitar, and dragged the audio up to the Chord Track. This parsed the chords, like a chord chart, and displayed them in the track. But you can also have other instruments follow the "chord chart," regardless of what you played. For example you could hold down a C chord on a pad, and the chord would change based on what the chord track told it to do. There's a choice of voicings, like whether you want a more compact or wider-range distribution of notes, as well as different chord shapes.

You can edit the chord track and type in a new chord. For example, supposes there's a C that holds for two measures. I can split it and say "go to Em7 for the last two beats." Now all the instruments will follow it.

The fact that it works polyphonically kind of blows my mind, but it also has a few tricks up its sleeve, like having drum overheads or reverb follow the chord track. The fidelity is reasonably good, all things considered, and I often don't find it necessary to re-record a part "for real." Of course when using it for MIDI notes instead of audio, fidelity isn't an issue. So, sometimes I drag the analyzed audio into a MIDI track, and use the notes I played on the guitar to trigger synths instead. The MIDI track will still follow any subsequent edits made to the chord track.

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Good thread. I played my own works live for a while and Got Across, so I know it resonates fairly well with a crowd. Applause, foot stomping and laughs are good coin of the realm. I don't have the requisite focus for it as a central module. I'm too nervous. Do you feel lucky, punk?? Yeah, but not enough to lean on workstation multitrack playback that hard! HA! I had big enough balls to do as I did, but serious solo piano, for example? Not a strength for me.

Playing with others has been sporadic and spasmodic when it did occur. Each road is different. Mine included just a few people who were ultimately into it for the girls, some even for the mutant grils. That's not the road to the next "Octavarium." I hit it off with a monster bassist who mainly had death metal dreams and a drummer who only wanted to be a 78 rpm Harry Partch. My first big Korg meant I could leave such swing-&-miss moments behind and just write.

Composing, I can do. I've used Logic for years. Its a mass of riches that makes it easy for my fevered brain to stay in gear. I've learned enough not to have to think about it much when I'm in motion. I grok the Ableton love easily, though.

A young theater major heard a new piece I'd finished and she said "If you play that for a dance group and they can't come up with a dance for it, they're in the wrong place." That kind of comment lets you know that you're mostly hitting the right marks. Craig says he can't act as a brass section. I can, more than not. I've seen a blizzard of concerts live and learned at the feet of my elders. One example: holding an oboe note beyond a lung's capacity turns it into an organ and you into a doofus. I also admit to a touch of Progitis, as I love the Venn between classical, acoustic and synth madness.

Its always interesting to hear what people do and then wrestle with the envy or horror at the path they took, or were forced to take. Its never quite the same twice, as it probably should be! cheers


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I do both...play and compose. cool


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I'm a piano player in the traditional sense. I grew up in the piano lessons and practice tradition. In my 20's and 30's (I'm 67 now) I played gigs, often as a pickup sideman. The skills that were valued in that time - a good ear for chord changes (mostly things like I IV V , I vi ii V and such), good chops for solos and so on. There was a time I played a lot of conventions here in Orlando. Having a familiarity with standard tunes from the Real Book (a fake book) was also a necessary skill. During the years I worked a day job, I struggled to make time to get in an hour or so daily to keep those chops maintained. My goal was keep in shape - good playing form.

Fast forward to my retirement 5 years ago. I now have an abundance of time and I'm able to indulge myself. I probably spend 3-5 hours at the piano most days. And I've transitioned into composing - in the traditional sense, on paper. Except now my iPad Pro has become my "paper". My process of composing typically starts by improvising at the piano. When I get and idea I like, I notate it. Then I play with the idea, improvising and trying things out. It's a distillation process for me and a song may be worked on for a week or more - interspersed with my regular piano practice. And with the iPad, I can change and revise things and NOT have to recopy a whole sheet of music by hand. I'm not thrilled with myself as a lyricist, but I get by. And like I said, I keep revising and changing to something I like better.

The iPad has liberated me. Where I fall down on the job is in crafting a multitrack recording. I think I'd benefit from a collaborator for the recording process. There was an early song by Cream, I think it was "N.S.U." on Fresh Cream. I've always remembered a line "driving in my car / smoking a cigar / the only time I'm happy's when I play my guitar". Kind of a silly line, but I think it applies to me.

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