Composition Technique

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While I was at Berklee, and for about a year afterward, I was very interested in using software like Reason to create compositions and sequence entire performances, using this as a showcase for my bass playing. There have been some interesting people doing this, and probably the best I’ve heard is Evan Marien. He’s a great bassist and an excellent composer. He makes extensive use of sequences and synths in his writing, and he does very well with this approach, creating unique and beautiful music.

I attempted to work those electronic sounds and influences into my own material, but I never felt as though I was fully expressing what I wanted. Everything I was writing ended up being a little too dry, and the sensitive dynamics that I love didn’t exist. I know that with time and patience these things can be achieved in software, but during the process of writing my first album, I finally found my ideal composition method. My influences have never been in the field of heavily electronic music, and so I decided finally to abandon it and focus on what I love: real world performances on real world instruments. I know what a piano can give me as far as sound and dynamics. Same with saxophones, guitars, drums, and anything else. Once the notes are on paper, it’s up to the musicians to interpret it and use their instruments to the best of their abilities. Software synths and sequences introduce huge unknowns to me. The possibilities as far as shaping and sculpting the sounds, changing them with effects, painstakingly altering the dynamics, are things that are unappealing to my workflow, as they are limitlessly customizable. The simpler I make my process, the more creative I tend to feel.

And so now, instead of tweaking virtual representations of knobs and sequencing bits and pieces of midi (not to take away from that method, as it is very effective and expressive for people with the patience for it!), I have a keyboard and some software that I can use to record piano for the purposes of light quantizing to order my thoughts. I can’t do too much as far as in-time performance on piano, so here is where I really do make use of software. Other than that, I may have my bass in my lap, and usually a pad of paper with scribbles and lots of eraser rubber. Within the next few months I should have a whole new batch of original material ready for recording! It’s going to take a while because I am part of a few groups that are building up to work and gig a lot, as well as a few other original projects for other people. Lots to do, and I’m excited for the future!