Musical quilting? or something worse?

catdaddy

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As a long time songwriter I've become something of a studio rat, having spent so much time recording and arranging demos for my songs. Since I'm not a prolific writer and have lots of downtime between songs, I often amuse myself by noodling and experimenting in my studio with all of the technology built into my DAW. A few years ago I discovered the loops that come with Logic Pro, and created a musical "composition" by editing, layering and recombining a few dozen various instrument loops. Since Logic Pro contains literally thousands of loops in more than a dozen different genres, the possibilities for creating music with them is practically unlimited. I've found it quite entertaining and instructive to experiment by combining different genres and instruments in various and sundry combinations.

Some of these sound experiment recordings have actually turned into something listenable, and recently my wife told me she really liked one that I'd just completed. She asked me how I recorded it, and when I explained how it was done her words to me were: "Isn't that cheating?" Well, I admitted that the technology involved made the process pretty easy, and it certainly isn't anything like the labor and creatively intensive process of actually writing a song.

The Mommacat suggested to me that the way I create a "loop song" is much like her process for quilting (she's an avid and accomplished quilter) but without the hard work (since everything I do is in the digital realm). She purchases pieces of fabric, which she carefully selects for color, texture and pattern that will comprise the basis for her quilt. She then creatively arranges those pieces into a unique design that is aesthetically pleasing, and finally begins the process of stitching, adding a border and quilting to put the whole thing together. She explained that my musical 'fabric' is the loops which I select. Next, I take those loop pieces and cut and arrange them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Finally, I add EQ/reverb/compression/whatever, and that is like the final quilting step for her where she borders, washes, massages and finalizes her work. I had to admit that the analogy sounded pretty accurate.

My question to you fellow songwriters and musicians is this: How would you define what I'm creating? I freely admit assembling loops is not songwriting. Songwriting is much more difficult. To apply the quilting analogy to songwriting, it's like being a quilter who must create their own fabric from scratch. However, I know through experimentation that there is some legitimate creativity involved in assembling a bunch of loops that result in something that's not just noise. So, where on the creativity spectrum is loop music? Is it cheating? Is it legit? Is it listenable? For that last question I'll leave you with my most recent loop creation (below) that the Mommacat liked. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on this question of creativity.

 

chulaivet1966

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My question to you fellow songwriters and musicians is this: How would you define what I'm creating? I freely admit assembling loops is not songwriting. Songwriting is much more difficult. To apply the quilting analogy to songwriting, it's like being a quilter who must create their own fabric from scratch. However, I know through experimentation that there is some legitimate creativity involved in assembling a bunch of loops that result in something that's not just noise. So, where on the creativity spectrum is loop music? Is it cheating? Is it legit? Is it listenable? For that last question I'll leave you with my most recent loop creation (below) that the Mommacat liked. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on this question of creativity.


Howdy catdaddy....
I'll chime in with my subjective take, generally speaking.

First....your creation sounds fine.
I would call your "creation" a soundscape and it does sound quite African.
Loops work great for this genre including movie sound tracks.

"Is it cheating? Is it legit? Is it listenable?"
Well, years ago before we had the tools of today many did characterize it as 'cheating'.
I don't see as cheating....just another tool in the recording arsenal for those that haven't learned an instrument but have musical ideas.
The pedestrian listener wouldn't care or even have a clue if there were 'loops' used in the song they're listening to.
If they like it....that's all that matters.

In the song writing context?
Personally, on my songs, I've never used a loop.
Before I got Band In A Box (2013) I recorded all my instrument tracks by actually playing them. (I was in live bands for many years)
I have no inclination or desire to use them on my songs....that process just doesn't work for me.
To my ears, loops are frequently easy to discern when used in a song.
I perceive many of them to sound sterile, stilted or too perfect and not having the nuance of a human feel.
That's not to diminish how good they sound or well crafted they are.

So....loops are like puzzle music....lots of choices to use to sculpt a song.
Having good ears and knowing how to massage the loops so they don't sound as I perceive them is where the real talent comes in for the song writer.

BIAB tracks are all played by real musicians which sets it apart from the generic 'loop' definition.
My last 15 songs or so I employed Band In A Box for my bass/drum rhythm tracks.
If I couldn't find (within BIAB, that is) a keyboard/rhythm guitar track that fit the song I'd record my own keys/rhythm guitar. (which occurred much of the time)

Well....that's my novelette for today. :)
Did I ever mention...."this song writing stuff isn't easy".
Hope that helps.

Carry on....hope all is well.
 
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fretWalkr

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Soundscape works for me. I think your piece turned out good. I could hear this as a sound track for a documentary. I like the quilting analogy, your wife is spot on.

Loops are another tool for creating music. If it works and makes music go for it.

People have been using loops to build tracks for decades and I'm used to hearing this kind of stuff on tv ads, movies, EDM, rap/hip hop. Is it legit...yeah if it works.
 

catdaddy

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Howdy catdaddy....
I'll chime in with my subjective take, generally speaking.

First....your creation sounds fine.
I would call your "creation" a soundscape and it does sound quite African.
Loops work great for this genre including movie sound tracks.

"Is it cheating? Is it legit? Is it listenable?"
Well, years ago before we had the tools of today many did characterize it as 'cheating'.
I don't see as cheating....just another tool in the recording arsenal for those that haven't learned an instrument but have musical ideas.
The pedestrian listener wouldn't care or even have a clue if there were 'loops' used in the song they're listening to.
If they like it....that's all that matters.

In the song writing context?
Personally, on my songs, I've never used a loop.
Before I got Band In A Box (2013) I recorded all my instrument tracks by actually playing them. (I was in live bands for many years)
I have no inclination or desire to use them on my songs....that process just doesn't work for me.
To my ears, loops are frequently easy to discern when used in a song.
I perceive many of them to sound sterile, stilted or too perfect and not having the nuance of a human feel.
That's not to diminish how good they sound or well crafted they are.

So....loops are like puzzle music....lots of choices to use to sculpt a song.
Having good ears and knowing how to massage the loops so they don't sound as I perceive them is where the real talent comes in for the song writer.

BIAB tracks are all played by real musicians which sets it apart from the generic 'loop' definition.
My last 15 songs or so I employed Band In A Box for my bass/drum rhythm tracks.
If I couldn't find (within BIAB, that is) a keyboard/rhythm guitar track that fit the song I'd record my own keys/rhythm guitar. (which occurred much of the time)

Well....that's my novelette for today. :)
Did I ever mention...."this song writing stuff isn't easy".
Hope that helps.

Carry on....hope all is well.
I really enjoy getting your takes on the creative process, always so thoughtful and insightful. Thanks!
BTW- I love your term "puzzle music" for this musical form. With your permission, I'm going to adopt it immediately into my lexicon.
 

chulaivet1966

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I really enjoy getting your takes on the creative process, always so thoughtful and insightful. Thanks!
BTW- I love your term "puzzle music" for this musical form. With your permission, I'm going to adopt it immediately into my lexicon.
Ha....feel free to 'adopt' it for your purposes. :)

I'm pleased my takes on things, in this context, are received as intended.
Respectful and honest.

Thanks for the kind words.....
 

Dukex

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As long as you are open/honest about how you arrange/create any musical piece, there is no cheating. Cheating requires deception.

It may not qualify as a song or a composition that you wrote, but it is still a musical creative endeavor that has merit.
 

woodman

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When I first got Garageband, before I ever learned the first whit about laying down tracks, I gleefully spent hours patching together loops into coherent if quirky mini-tunes. It helped rekindle my compositional frame of mind and gave me a glimpse of the vast rainbow of the Apple loop library.

Nowadays, I'll occasionally use a loop for a "sweetener," like a percussion part in a bridge or something, but much more often I'll drag in a loop I like the sound of, trash the MIDI data, and write my own part based on that sound. Anything from kalimba to cellos to gospel choir. Loops have their uses, but as Chu Lai says, tread lightly because they are easily identifiable if you ride them too hard.
 

clayville

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I used to do this a lot in GarageBand. I called it Musical Legos, and even got my kids hooked for a while. They made some astoundingly good stuff as 11 and 8 year olds. But they were more used to listening to rap music made out of beats than I was.

Biggest problem for me was crafting a bridge or a chorus that worked - that, and straying too far from the original key when I manipulated a found loop to fit what I was doing or wanted (bass lines in particular).
 

loopfinding

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eh, i mean it's writing and arranging like anything else. i make lots of beat oriented music. constantly re-pitching stuff, adjusting timing, augmenting parts of samples by doubling up with other instruments, chopping stuff up inside the measure/loop to make more harmonic or rhythmic sense, etc. you need musical knowledge for that (formal or informal), it’s not really just slapping things together.

when you write (at least functional harmony music) you have stock harmonic and melodic ideas in your head, you're not making something out of nothing. it doesn't matter who executes it as long as you are making the editorial decisions to realize your specific idea. i don’t see writing and performance as one in the same. writing is a very “by any means necessary” process.

but i will say there is a difference between going crate digging (or whatever virtual version) and flipping/chopping samples vs. using pre-recorded loops. sort of like the difference between writing an earth wind and fire song vs a green day song. i'd even argue a sample-heavy producer like madlib is "writing" more than some dude mashing stock combos of power/cowboy chords together.
 
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woodman

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On second listening, I'm struck with the instinctive African vibe you're evoking.

If you use these as bed tracks and overdub your original concepts over them, you can have some actual music goin' on. The beauty is, most of your loops are MIDI so you can contort them to your own purpose! Crank up the Tele and go crazy on 3 or 4 tracks! Kill the ugly takes, comp the fundamental idea several times, and develop your promising themes. Then define your form and tie it all together. Presto, you've got a skeleton form to work on for a month! 😼
 

catdaddy

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On second listening, I'm struck with the instinctive African vibe you're evoking.

If you use these as bed tracks and overdub your original concepts over them, you can have some actual music goin' on. The beauty is, most of your loops are MIDI so you can contort them to your own purpose! Crank up the Tele and go crazy on 3 or 4 tracks! Kill the ugly takes, comp the fundamental idea several times, and develop your promising themes. Then define your form and tie it all together. Presto, you've got a skeleton form to work on for a month! 😼
Great suggestions woodman! The only problem is that it sounds like actual work 😄

I may be reading more into what you've written than you intended, but it sounds like you've got a plan that you might be interested in enacting. If you'd like to try to convert this particular piece of puzzle music into "actual music" yourself, I'd be more than happy to send you the track to work with. It's all yours...just say the word.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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My question to you fellow songwriters and musicians is this: How would you define what I'm creating?
Music.
. . . where on the creativity spectrum is loop music?
It's as creative as you are.
. . . Is it cheating? Is it legit? . . .
If you're not infringing on a copyright, it's legit.
. . . Is it listenable? . . .
Yes. Nice job!
. . . I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on this question of creativity.
Creativity isn't a question, so I'm not sure what "this question" is. Are you asking whether you're being creative? Come on. Of course you are.
 

catdaddy

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Creativity isn't a question, so I'm not sure what "this question" is. Are you asking whether you're being creative? Come on. Of course you are.
No, I wasn't asking if I was being creative. I was referring to the question of where along the relative spectrum of creative endeavor that this activity falls, which I'd previously asked. It was a qualitative inquiry, not a yes/no question.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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No, I wasn't asking if I was being creative. I was referring to the question of where along the relative spectrum of creative endeavor that this activity falls, which I'd previously asked. It was a qualitative inquiry, not a yes/no question.
Oh! The dread create-o-meter! It has no needle. Which forces us to use our imaginations.
 

catdaddy

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Oh! The dread create-o-meter! It has no needle. Which forces us to use our imaginations.
You must be thinking of the digital version. You can still get the analog version with the needle- no need for imagination.
create-o-meter.jpg
 

swarfrat

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When I bought a used ZOOM R24 a few years ago (wish I had kept it. I loved the ability to do standalone)., I went through the loops and it was intriguing but ... The kicker for me is I can't really search for "you know the JB horn hit that goes doo doo doot" and listening to them one by one is a creativity killer and time suck. It ends up being like the eye test where you're really not sure if they're bored and messing with you or what...

I found loops to be a Mad Libs of musical cliches. Those that can use them and actually figure out how to find what they need good luck and have fun storming the castle.
 




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