photo by Paweł Kadysz
I’ve been experimenting with MIDI software and DAWs since the mid-1990s. I can still remember my first experiments with MIDISoft when I was around 12 years old and how I was absolutely amazed and captivated. Of course I’ve moved on to more contemporary software since then, but the DAW still remains the number one place where I write complete pieces of music.
I resisted this for many years. Every once in a while I would “force” myself to write something in pure notation, either by hand or in Sibelius. I was somehow convinced that this was the only “right” way to compose, and that my method (the one that was actually working for me) wasn’t good enough. “Real” composers use notation, and therefore if I wasn’t using notation I was not a real composer.
But inevitably I would hit a wall. I can obviously read and write music (I do have a degree from Berklee College of Music after all), but working on a computer is so natural for me that it is embedded in how I think and how I create. Somehow I would always get stuck or unhappy with what I was working on, and give up. It was never a positive experience but only one of disappointment and frustration.
Eventually I came to the realization that there is no “right” way to compose. Whatever has to be done to create the end result is fine. So what if I prefer to work in Logic?
(This mindset is also why I’m not particularly interested in music that is focused on the method of creating it. I am really only interested in what it sounds like, not that you rolled a 27-sided die to decide every dynamic marking. If your music doesn’t stand on it’s own without a fifteen paragraph explanation, it’s probably not going to connect with me.)
Don’t get me wrong, experimenting with different writing methods is a great way to stretch your creative muscles and branch out in new directions. There are drawbacks to writing in a DAW, in particular the tendency to copy/paste and loop sections because it’s so easy to do. If trying a different way of writing can help you with problems you’re having with your usual way, then go for it.
But writing a certain way because you “should” or because you think it’s “better” is not the right call. It’s about the music, and whether or not you are pleased with the end result. So don’t force yourself to be unhappy with the creative process, this is supposed to be fun.