Revised 19 Nov -98
fasttracker 2 tips & thoughts
Many people have asked me about composing and Fasttracker 2, so therefore I decided to put up a webpage covering some tips & thoughts. Keep in mind though that the stuff here is not how to work in FT2, but it's more generally about music and how I myself have developed my skills. If you want to learn how to use Fasttracker, then I suggest you visit one of the many good technical FT2- and composing tutorial websites out there, made by famous sceners.
Since I'm hardly a musical expert or professor in musical theory or composing, you have to understand that what I state here are my own opinions and thoughts. It's all about how I compose music myself, and then its up to you to decide what information you want to discard and what information you want to keep, and maybe even learn something from?
I have noticed that a certain way of approaching the process of composing helps me, and that is - "the less I think about what I do, and what I should accomplish by doing it, the easier it gets to do it."
Finally, if you read this, and if my thoughts has helped or stimulated you in any way, please tell me (check contact info on the "me" page.) . It is always so fun to know!
The most important thing about my tunes is the samples. It is essential for me that they're of the best possible quality (16bit, 44,1kHz). Of course, a good sample frequency doesn't guarantee a good sample, so I always try to acquire samples that inspire me to do something with them. For example, a bassdrum with a nasty kick might inspire me to do some techno, or an incredibly soft rhodes piano sample might make me want to compose a new ballad for Toni Braxton. As you understand, it's the samples that are the base of your song, and you should therefore choose carefully what sounds you are going to use in your masterpiece.
"I don't know where to get samples!", I hear you cry. Well, I was going to say "me neither", but calm down. First of all, you can get good sounds from many audio cd's. If you listen carefully, you can sometimes hear an instrument clearly or a bassdrum without any background noise; go ahead and sample it! That's how it works nowadays.
Secondly, there are many sites with good sample archives out there, try those. (Walk over to the links section of my website and have a look...) You can find all kinds of samples, from the standard TR909 drum package to very nice strings and pianos. And don't forget that you can get samples originally intended for other uses, like samples for the Kurzweil 2000, and just convert them to .wav or .xi. I recommend the fabulous application Awave by FMJ Software for this.
Analyzing is a very important part for me when creating music. I analyze almost everything, from good XMs I hear to commercial techno beats on the radio. All this helps me when I try to compose something of my own, or just when I try to achieve a good sound.
The important thing is to know what you like, and I know that sounds stupid, but it is in fact very important. When you hear a really nice song, memorize the parts of it that really stand out; listen to the bassline, think about the chord progression or if it's tracked, go and check how it was made! All this is essential for learning new things, and eventually for creating your own variations and styles of it. It's when you know the basics when you can move on creating your own pieces.
I won't go on telling you how many tracked songs I analyzed when I started out with tracking, I'll just tell you there were many. (And I believe you can guess the authors of the songs I've analyzed in my days... ;-)
There are many ways to arrange a song, and there is (probably) not a single "right way" of doing it. Nevertheless I try to stay within certain general guidelines and standards when building up a song structure. Why do I do that - isn't that boring, someone might ask? Well, a song that just follows some random ideas might be fun to listen to once or twice, if even that. At least my musical mind gets a kick out of well structured beats and catchy choruses...
So, what is a good song structure then? Intro / verse / chorus / verse / chorus / end? It might not always be good, but heck, you can be pretty sure to at least have an acceptable structure. The trick is to create a catchy chorus that people anticipate and wait for, and that my friends, ain't easy. Generally one could say: the simpler the chorus is, the better, since ít gets people hooked easier. (Why do you think Aqua is so popular, eh?)
The problem as I see it with many tracked songs out there, is that they lack choruses and "obvious" song elements to get you interested in listening to the whole song - they just play along with some never ending melodies. Ofcourse certain styles contain such elements and some might even require that, but that isn't my cup of tea, so just don't mind my rambling if you're into that kind of stuff.
The advice again is to listen and analyze published and commercial music; they all build upon those structures and elements. Think about that the next time you wonder why Aqua, Spice Girls or Sash! have had such chart topping beats...
(Believe me, I try, even though it might not shine through in my own music... *grin*)