This is my first attempt to reverse-engineer the past 30 years of learning, so don't judge me (too much). My greatest wish is to guide computer music beginners through a set of hoops that makes learning this complex science manageable.
Hoop1: Get rid of the fear to explore software
If you're going to learn computer music, you WILL have to press buttons, turn knobs and explore software windows whose job you have no clue about. That's ok. Develop the faculty of touching everything without the fear of breaking something. It will happen. And it's part of the process. Every time you download a new DAW, software instrument or plugin, you will have to go through this essential step of fearless exploration.
Hoop 2: Understand DAW basic principles and how it relates to conventional music
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is the brain of the computer music operation. It is the single most important piece of software you will use, as it allows you to play instruments, record what you play, change the notes, move patterns around, use multiple software instruments, organize tracks, mix tracks, master the music and export it in multiple digital file formats. It's the four track cassette recorder. You can produce sounds without it, but you won't be able to record and share your own songs without this vital piece of software.
Hoop 3: Develop your self-teaching skills
Unless you have unlimited funds and time, you WILL have to be able to learn on your own if you want to progress at a decent pace. Information and concepts evolve rapidly with technology, and computer music is no different. Just like the fear of playing with software and "breaking something" is irrational, needing someone else to teach us is not going to push away the fear of learning altogether. All it takes is patience. The most up-to-date information and techniques will never be found in a book or a classroom. It is found in blogs and YouTube videos and like the saying goes in French, appetite is found in eating.
Hoop 4: The journey lies in making a LOT of crap
We all wish there were less buttons to press and more gratifying results to magically come our way. Technology sometimes fools us into thinking that this is how it happens for some people nowadays. Do not drink this filthy Kool-Aid. Every so-called genius has put in the hours, trust me. Behind every well rehearsed stunts, there are countless hours of practice, injuries and tales of exhaustion. The journey into computer music mastery is one of passion, razor-sharp focus and endurance. You might not have everything it takes right now, but an openness to learn these survival skills will get you there.
Hoop 5: The divine geometry of music
Spoiler alert: you can make decent music on a computer without ever learning any music theory. There is an IF to that statement. A big IF. You can only achieve this given that you have an innate gift, a superpower bestowed upon you at birth. AND the three fundamental survival skills mentioned in the previous section. For the rest of us mortals, it is essential to learn basic music theory. Music is math. Beauty is nothing more than a certain set of mathematical and geometrical relationships. Building anything solid relies on a strong understanding of geometry. And how to fluently speak this language.
Boring, complex and fuzzy right? Just print these concepts in your psyche and forget about them for now.
Open Ableton Live, load up a virtual instrument and start lining up MIDI notes. Every single day.
Then one day, something truly magical will happen.
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