For Those Who Write Original Music...

László

Too Many Notes
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
Messages
34,842
Location
Michigan
I share your joy, original music composers, and I share your pain. Composing is NOT easy. It's a combination of insecurity, confidence, hubris and unmitigated fear to put your stuff out there into the world!

As everyone has heard from me, ad infinitum, I compose music for ads, some film and TV for a living, and do a crap ton of original orchestral music, because I got into it during COVID isolation.

This is my website, love it, or hate it, it's got a page of ads, a page of orchestral and a page of electronic music. There's even some guitar music (who cares, right? It's all about music in ANY form for me).


I'm out there trying my damndest to create original music. There are NO covers or 12 bar blues (which of course is a fave style anyway). Why the obviously unrelated variety of styles?

Because I am still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up!

Maybe you're in a good spot with your original work. Maybe your style is set in stone, I wish mine was. Whatever your thing, I want to hear it! The few, the Proud, the Composers! Let's hear some stuff, my friends. I'm 100% supportive of your work.

If we're about the music, and not merely the gear, let's commiserate...strike that...let's share. ;)
 
Last edited:
Les, I have a question for you. I've done a little writing in the past. Back when all I had was a cassette tape player (and not a multi-track one!) I had whole songs recorded that were instrumental. The problem of course was that it was all rhythm guitar. Oh, I had solos worked out and played the tracks often and solo'd over them, but had no way to record the solos.

Then I had a Tascam 4 track cassette multi-track recorder and as crude as it was, had a blast with that thing passing tapes back and forth with a guy I used to play with who had drums and bass.

Then I had a complete complete songs with programmed drums, rhythm, bass (recorded with a guitar through my rack unit set to detune an octave) and lead guitars. A couple whole songs done... lost in a hard drive crash when I later discovered the back up drive had also gone bad.

Anyway, only said all that to say this. Once you done this for a while, and done some more volume of it, how do you ever know for sure that you haven't accidentally copied a riff from the past... one you don't even recognize but subliminally or whatever, that riff was in your head and you thought you made it but discover later that it already existed.

I remember Eddie saying "there's only 12 notes. It's all in how you play them," and that makes me think there's also only so many note patterns you can come up with, and after hundreds of years of music, how can you ever be sure some riff wasn't done before. Or more importantly in this question, that you don't even remember it, but maybe have heard it before years ago... and since you have a pretty decent musical IQ, you don't remember or recognize the riff/pattern and think you made it up, but maybe it really is in that 90% of your brain that you can't remember... but it's still in there.

I've told this before, and it's what makes me so curious about this (in conjunction with some of my psychological studies). I had part of a song, that in my mind, always needed to be finished because I had this killer riff that drove most of the song and I had it in my head for years, recorded it multiple times (formats above) as a riff that was supposed to be made into a song later. I mean, this went on for 30 years... Then I got Ozzie's Boneyard on Sirius XM and heard the song, by a known band, and it was put out 40 years ago, that had "MY riff" in it. I've heard the song a hundred times since discovering this 10 years or so ago, but have still never resolved for sure, if I ever heard that song before. It's by a band in my wheelhouse, but I have never identified a friend that had that album, or a time when it was a hit on local radio or whatever. But that riff EXACTLY was the one I had in my mind for decades, and so long that it also wouldn't make sense to me that I had something that cool and didn't remember hearing it just a few years before "I came up with it."

Do you ever have deja vu moments where you realize something you think you came up with and then you hear something and go "oh wow, there that is" and it's from something you "may have" heard before, or even know that you have, but somehow it escapes your conscious memory and you think you created it?

Sorry for the long post, but it's kind of a deep question and one that has now bothered me for years. I was SO sure I came up with that riff, that now every time I think I come up with a new cool one, I question myself for weeks about where I may have heard it before.
 
That post was too long, so here's more. I think as musicians we hear and "absorb" music even when we don't realize that we do. Because music is in our blood, we hear something even when not listening critically, and somehow remember it later or file it away musically. When I was talking above about the psychology, it's said our brain is capable of remembering almost everything we've ever seen or experienced, but we may recall only 10% of it in normal circumstances.

I believe now that I heard that riff, but maybe only once, and thought it was so cool I "filed it away" for later use. Then, never hearing it again, I never assigned an identity to it (Band, album, song name, etc.) but the riff stuck. But I KNOW I never had the album, none of my friends did that I might have heard at their house, etc. Must have been radio, because I have the riff wasn't a simple pattern of a few notes, and even the timing of it was dead on.
 
We have about 40 songs we've written over the last 18 years and have no idea how to copyright or take them to the studio. Quite the opposite of your situation Les!
 
Last edited:
Les, I have a question for you. I've done a little writing in the past. Back when all I had was a cassette tape player (and not a multi-track one!) I had whole songs recorded that were instrumental. The problem of course was that it was all rhythm guitar. Oh, I had solos worked out and played the tracks often and solo'd over them, but had no way to record the solos.

Then I had a Tascam 4 track cassette multi-track recorder and as crude as it was, had a blast with that thing passing tapes back and forth with a guy I used to play with who had drums and bass.

Then I had a complete complete songs with programmed drums, rhythm, bass (recorded with a guitar through my rack unit set to detune an octave) and lead guitars. A couple whole songs done... lost in a hard drive crash when I later discovered the back up drive had also gone bad.

Anyway, only said all that to say this. Once you done this for a while, and done some more volume of it, how do you ever know for sure that you haven't accidentally copied a riff from the past... one you don't even recognize but subliminally or whatever, that riff was in your head and you thought you made it but discover later that it already existed.

I remember Eddie saying "there's only 12 notes. It's all in how you play them," and that makes me think there's also only so many note patterns you can come up with, and after hundreds of years of music, how can you ever be sure some riff wasn't done before. Or more importantly in this question, that you don't even remember it, but maybe have heard it before years ago... and since you have a pretty decent musical IQ, you don't remember or recognize the riff/pattern and think you made it up, but maybe it really is in that 90% of your brain that you can't remember... but it's still in there.

I've told this before, and it's what makes me so curious about this (in conjunction with some of my psychological studies). I had part of a song, that in my mind, always needed to be finished because I had this killer riff that drove most of the song and I had it in my head for years, recorded it multiple times (formats above) as a riff that was supposed to be made into a song later. I mean, this went on for 30 years... Then I got Ozzie's Boneyard on Sirius XM and heard the song, by a known band, and it was put out 40 years ago, that had "MY riff" in it. I've heard the song a hundred times since discovering this 10 years or so ago, but have still never resolved for sure, if I ever heard that song before. It's by a band in my wheelhouse, but I have never identified a friend that had that album, or a time when it was a hit on local radio or whatever. But that riff EXACTLY was the one I had in my mind for decades, and so long that it also wouldn't make sense to me that I had something that cool and didn't remember hearing it just a few years before "I came up with it."

Do you ever have deja vu moments where you realize something you think you came up with and then you hear something and go "oh wow, there that is" and it's from something you "may have" heard before, or even know that you have, but somehow it escapes your conscious memory and you think you created it?

Sorry for the long post, but it's kind of a deep question and one that has now bothered me for years. I was SO sure I came up with that riff, that now every time I think I come up with a new cool one, I question myself for weeks about where I may have heard it before.
What a great topic for discussion!

I think it's entirely possible for two composers to come up with the same (or very similar) melody line independently, as in the case of your riff. I deliberately try not to repeat anything I've heard, but who even remembers what that is, and how can one divorce one's self from the subconscious?

So in the case of the ad work, where it's going to be broadcast on TV, everything gets vetted by professional musicologists.

In the case of my independent work, all I can do is try very hard to be original. Hopefully I am.

We have about 40 songs we've written over the last 18 years and have no idea how to copyright or take them I to the studio. Quite the opposite of your situation Les!
You automatically own the copyright to your original work once it's been committed to a 'tangible medium', like a hard drive, or score paper, etc. No registration is required to own it.

However, in the event of a dispute, registration creates a legal presumption that you are author of the work. It's more difficult for someone to dispute a registered copyright than an unregistered one. You're also barred from enforcing the copyright in federal court unless you've registered it.

Fortunately, it's easy to register a copyright (copyright.gov) and you can even register a compilation of songs with one registration to save on the cost.

If you have songs to record, the best way to take them into the studio is to book some studio time. Most engineers have been through the process many times, and can guide you. Later, you may or may not decide to record on your own.
 
No original compositions to share, but just want to say this: Les, you're my hero - making money out of music, out of your own studio in your own home, with your son helping out artistically on your web site. It doesn't get any better than that!
 
No original compositions to share, but just want to say this: Les, you're my hero - making money out of music, out of your own studio in your own home, with your son helping out artistically on your web site. It doesn't get any better than that!
Thanks for the kind words, Tom!

Actually I did the website. My son Jamie didn't work on it; my brother Robert let me use images taken from a couple of his paintings as the icons next to the orchestral and electronic tunes - the robots and the guys looking up are parts of larger pieces. It was pretty nice of him to let me use the art!

You can see his stellar work at www.robertschefman.com. He currently has a piece in the Smithsonian's Outwin portrait exhibition, and another piece won an award in a show in NYC about a week ago.
 
I don't like to learn covers anymore and just write my own music. I think I have some good songs but I guess I won't know until I put them out there. My biggest problem is I have a ton of half written tunes that I don't go back to because I keep coming up with new ideas. I wonder though if it's laziness or a fear I can't finish it. I've got the equipment to lay down tracks. it's just realizing its more work than I thought. Right now I am actually playing bass for the worship team at church ( we have a bunch of guitar players but only me and one other bass player). I'm playing every weekend in August so after I get some down time I'm going to go at it. Love this discussion!!
 
I don't like to learn covers anymore and just write my own music. I think I have some good songs but I guess I won't know until I put them out there. My biggest problem is I have a ton of half written tunes that I don't go back to because I keep coming up with new ideas. I wonder though if it's laziness or a fear I can't finish it. I've got the equipment to lay down tracks. it's just realizing its more work than I thought. Right now I am actually playing bass for the worship team at church ( we have a bunch of guitar players but only me and one other bass player). I'm playing every weekend in August so after I get some down time I'm going to go at it. Love this discussion!!
Steve, here's my thinking on this stuff:

If you're doing it for money, then obviously you have to please the powers that be. That's hard enough!

But if you're doing it for yourself, it's even HARDER!!! Because we are our own worst critics!

Trust your instincts. If you like it, other people will like it, and you won't find the sweet spot unless you release the music into the world. Of course, that doesn't guarantee success - nothing does, just ask the major labels who have one artist/band in a hundred hit - but pleasing yourself is pretty important.

On the other hand, I wish I pleased myself!!!!!

Yeah, I know. Life's like that. Damned if I can figure it out.
 
Thanks for the kind words, Tom!

Actually I did the website. My son Jamie didn't work on it; my brother Robert let me use images taken from a couple of his paintings as the icons next to the orchestral and electronic tunes - the robots and the guys looking up are parts of larger pieces. It was pretty nice of him to let me use the art!

You can see his stellar work at www.robertschefman.com. He currently has a piece in the Smithsonian's Outwin portrait exhibition, and another piece won an award in a show in NYC about a week ago.
Impressive
 
I share your joy, original music composers, and I share your pain. Composing is NOT easy. It's a combination of insecurity, confidence, hubris and unmitigated fear to put your stuff out there into the world!

As everyone has heard from me, ad infinitum, I compose music for ads, some film and TV for a living, and do a crap ton of original orchestral music, because I got into it during COVID isolation.

This is my website, love it, or hate it, it's got a page of ads, a page of orchestral and a page of electronic music. There's even some guitar music (who cares, right? It's all about music in ANY form for me).


I'm out there trying my damndest to create original music. There are NO covers or 12 bar blues (which of course is a fave style anyway). Why the obviously unrelated variety of styles?

Because I am still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up!

Maybe you're in a good spot with your original work. Maybe your style is set in stone, I wish mine was. Whatever your thing, I want to hear it! The few, the Proud, the Composers! Let's hear some stuff, my friends. I'm 100% supportive of your work.

If we're about the music, and not merely the gear, let's commiserate...strike that...let's share. ;)
Impressive stuff Les.
 
Which comes first, and which is harder?

Melody or lyrics?

Even though I was an English major, and consider myself a decent writer, I tend to struggle more with lyrics. I’ve let many melodies fade from memory because I gave up on creating acceptable lyrics.
My interesting lyrics always arrive with a melody.
Melodies I compose with an instrument in hand generally stay instrumental.
 
Back
Top