So, you'd like to create your own music because you're tired of hearing the same old stuff, right? I know just how you feel! Well, you can, and it's not that hard. But you need to know something about music. That is, it's helpful to know about chords and scales and rhythm and all that, then you can use the following tips to create your own amazing music tracks. Specifically, I recommend learning about the difference between 4/4 time and 3/4 time, treble clef, bass clef, notes on the staff, major scale, minor scale, major chord, minor chord, I, IV, V chord progressions, a melody, eighth notes, quarter notes, rests and basic rhythm. I've include some links to basic music-learning sites below.
Start with a music notation program. Music notation software, like Finale, allows you to create and print sheet music and also hear the different instruments play back. You can get the full version for big bucks, or a low or no-cost version. I've been using Finale Notepad (it's free) to write music for different instruments. For example, you could have a piano, bass and drum combo. Here's where it helps to know a bit about music theory (again, you'll have to do your own research). Here's an image of Final Notepad in action - it's a simple drum beat:
Once you've written out the notes and it sounds the way you want (oh, and save it as a Finale file, also, so you can edit the notes later if you want), you can save it as a MIDI file (.mid extension), that's a sound file that only computers and MIDI equipment (like MIDI keyboards and sound modules) can understand. MIDI tells the computer how to play the notes, what rhythm (how long or short), how fast (tempo), what sound (trumpet, cymbal or bells) and what pitch ( like E-flat or C-sharp). MIDI can also tell the computer how loud or soft to play the notes. The only trouble is, it's hard to edit the MIDI file once it's been created (like if you want to make changes, or combine it with other instruments and sounds later). That's why you'll want to convert it to MP3, more on that later.
Here's what a MIDI file sounds like - this is one I created using Finale Notepad (FN); it's the drum beat shown above:
Ok, but what if I want to add more instruments or make it longer? That's where a sound editing software comes in. I like Audacity because you can edit the sound and also multitrack different instruments and sounds together (oh, and it's free). Multi-tracking is putting different layers of sound on top of one another. So, for example, you might take a drum beat (that you just created in FN) then add a nice bass line on top of that (also created in FN), then a piano on top of that, then put it all together. But you can also edit it, take a part out that you don't like or, if you want to repeat a part, just copy and paste, and lots of other things.
Here's a screen shot of Audacity in action. You can see three tracks I imported: one for drums, one for bass, and one for synthesizer. All three were created in FN as separate files, then imported into Audacity:
Now, you really want to be able to edit all the sound files you're using. So let's back up; that MIDI file you created? You'll want to import that into Audacity so you can use it in your great project. Ok, you can import the MIDI file but then it'll be hard to edit, so before you import it, it's better first to convert it to MP3 format. Once the file is an MP3, you can import to Audacity and edit and layer to your heart's content.
To convert a file from MIDI to MP3 presented something of a challenge, though I found a program that will do it. The only catch is, since I don't want to purchase the software in its entirety, I'll be using the trial version. Now that limits me to 60 seconds for each MIDI file. But that's no problem, because when I get that sound file into Audacity I can copy and paste to make it longer; I can also bring in other sound files, as many as I want. Here's the software I used: MIDI to MP3 Converter. So far it's working fine but do exercise caution when downloading software; make sure it's from a source that you trust. This one was reviewed on CNet.com which is where I get most of my software recommendations.
Now, Audacity can do a lot, and it will take a while to get familiar with even the basic editing features. But anything is possible: you could have five pianos, three bass guitars, a sousaphone and a bass clarinet. Of course, you have to get those sounds first, and those come from the notation software (FN).
By the way, you can also use Audacity to record your own sound (like your own voice or guitar), but you'll need a microphone. The mic on your laptop is Ok, but you'll get much better results if you buy a real one. You might also need a pre-amp or audio interface. A pre-amp is a small amplifier that takes the sound signal from your mic and makes it bigger so your computer software can pick it up and work with it in all its glory. Or, you might find a special mic that can be plugged directly into your computer, called a USB mic. You can find some great deals on audio recording gear here. So, if you want to sing or play the guitar or use chopsticks as drum sticks and play the tupperware set, you can record yourself and save it in Audacity, then add more tracks later, like the MIDI tracks you created.
Once you've got all your tracks lined up and sounding great in Audacity, then it's time to export an MP3 of your music. This is called "mixing down" because you're taking the multiple tracks (the drums, piano and bass or whatever) and combining them into 1 stereo track. (That's why some songs say "Remix" because they've taken the original tracks and made some changes then mixed them again for the 2nd time). Then save that file and maybe make an iTunes playlist of your wonderful tracks. Of course, once your masterpiece is in MP3 format you can upload it to any music site or wherever you wanna share it or just keep to yourself(!).
So there are limitless possibilities but it does help if you can actually play an instrument, or sing, or if you know something about music theory and composition. Of course, there's a wealth of information for that stuff online. But sorting through it all can be daunting. Here are a few helpful links I found:
Of course, you can also check out some books on music theory at your local library..
I've been having fun creating "mini-tracks" using these softwares. Here are a few of them:
And here are some others I did: