• Register
  • Help
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 22

Topic: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer's signat

  1. #1

    Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    So, I started a new piece last night, got nearly a minute of it finished. I played it for my girlfriend and she stated that it \"sounded like me,\" that my music always has some kind of quality to it.

    What exactly is going on here? Maybe it\'s the way the samples sound that she\'s picking up on? The point at which she pointed it out is when GOS came into the piece. Or was it the way in which I brought in the strings (fading them from p to mf as the next measure approaches)? I\'m just trying to pinpoint if it\'s more of a composer\'s signature thing, or the signature of the samples. Anyone else ever have this problem? What happens when your stuff starts to sound the same, but you can\'t just shoot off on some crazy tangent and write some style that\'s not you.

    What is my style? Well, obviously I have a heavy focus on RPGs. And when I approach companies for work, I always first hit up the companies who have worked on RPGs. I\'m not sure why, but I just have a huge preference towards it. And it\'s not that I can\'t do other styles, but I just get the most enjoyment from writing for RPGs. While writing music for Maximo vs Army of Zin was fun as a work experience, it didn\'t quite deliver the satisfaction that writing for a more serious-toned game does. Now that I think about it, I think adventure games (like Syberia) would be really enjoyable for me to write for too. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    My point is, there are composers who tend to compose more for a certain genre.. and I suppose sometimes you can pick out their style and say \"hey, that\'s Jeremy Soule.\" I can almost always identify Jeremy Soule\'s music when I hear it. I can\'t pinpoint what it is, but his works kind of \"sound the same,\" sonically, and sometimes compositionally. Now, there are VERY different and distinguishable themes there, and I could easily recall the themes for Neverwinter Nights and Morrowind, but there\'s a commonality among his works.

    I\'m probably just overreacting and it\'s no big deal. Maybe someone\'s music sounds the same to someone who hears it all the time, but to potential clients, and game-players, maybe it goes unnoticed.

    Thoughts on this?

  2. #2

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    Your poor girlfriend! She\'s sunk no matter what she says. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

  3. #3

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    Haha [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] Her input is pretty valid most of the time (not always), and always valuable. There are some things I have to ignore..for instance, she hates vocals, so whenever I use Diva or VOTA, she never thinks it sounds good in a mix...and usually covers her ears when I\'m using one of those libraries. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img] I think her hearing is supersensitive and she can\'t handle it. I swear, if there\'s the tiniest beep in a crowded area, no one will hear it but her.

  4. #4

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    The fact that you tend to sound self-similar can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you\'re a good composer, then it is probably good. It means you\'re mature enough to have developed certain vocabulary in your melodic, harmonic and timbral senses - tend to use the same orchestral voicings for certain styles, and the same tendencies in harmonic motion.

    I forget who said this, but one of the 50s-60s jazz musicians made a statement in an interview that he basically played the same inner song over and over; with each new composition, that subtext and theme were still part of it.

    Take heart - buy your lover a nice dinner and thank her, that kind of input is valuable (and makes you work harder on the voices!)


  5. #5

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    Very good indeed - You should start worry when she says it sounds like somebody else...

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    Hey Sam,

    Did she say this as if it were a good thing? Or did she say it in a tone that indicated a critique?

    I always adhere to the idea that things in your life are always happening for a positive reason--that anything that comes onto your radar screen brings opportunity for growth.

    Some random comments:

    John Williams does OK, and you can identify his work in about ten seconds. In his case, that signature sound has gotten him a pile of work. Or take Dave Matthews as an example. He and his band have a definite signature sound.

    The question to ask yourself about your signature sound: Is my signature based on a compelling enough musical personality that it will shine through any style? For that example, take Miles Davis--who reinvented his musical world (and the totality of Jazz) four or five times in his career. Yet, the earliest Miles albums and the latest Miles albums are so commonly based upon his core musical personality that it shines through essentially unaltered.

    Or, on the other hand, is your \"signature sound\" actually a stylistic rut?

    Do you feel as if you\'re musically stale? It\'s OK to ask yourself that question, since it is an easy state to fall into, and one which is easy enough to overcome.

    What I recommend, if you feel stuck:

    Listen to, and analyze, music which you\'ve never studied--and which is totally foreign to your own.

    If you have not completed a course of study in theory, counterpoint, harmony, orchestration, etc., then DO IT. Nothing cures staleness like a larger palette of tools from which to draw ideas.

    Try composing for completely different ensemble settings.

    Erase your ten favorite \"go to\" samples from your hard drive, and force yourself to use others.

    I would go as far as to say that one cannot know his musical personality if he doesn\'t reinvent himself constantly. How can one know what is habit, unless one defies anything which appears to BE a habit? That\'s the examining table, if you will.

    You mention a very specific musical product, for a specific kind of computer game. I personally don\'t compose for that medium, but just as a general comment (and having composed for enough different mediums that I feel comfortable making it)...

    IF you\'re saying that a particular kind of music MUST go with RPGs, then I think that\'s an artistic cop-out to a degree. I think you may want to examine that presumption. Not that I\'m necessarily saying you\'re in the wrong--I don\'t know. Maybe the market expectation is that RPGs all sound alike. But, I can\'t imagine that is true; any more than I could imagine that all action films must necessarily sound alike. While music may perform certain similar functions from film to film, or game to game; it is the composer who can reinvent himself, yet simultaneously project an identifiable personality, who will be most truly successful.

    I guess to put it another way, I\'d look at actor careers as something of a parallel. There is always the risk of becoming typecast. As a musician, you have to walk that same path, projecting enough common personality across your body of work that people recognize you--yet reinventing the work enough that you don\'t get pegged.

  7. #7

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    To expand on your thought about being able to identify certain composers, it seems you can do that with so many. I know when I hear Mozart, Bach, Rachmaninov, Vivaldi, Beethoven. In that sense, who cares? You\'re in good company.

    I feel the same way sometimes. Maybe it\'s an inspiration issue. If a certain style doesn\'t appeal to you then it\'s a lot harder to get inspired about it. Maybe when the time arises again you could try and find an angle that does motivate you. Incorporate an idea that inspires you.

  8. #8

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    Wow, thanks for the awesome response, Bruce.

    I think the way in which she said it was not a positive thing. The first couple times she mentioned it to me, I kinda took it as somewhat of a silly statement. Like, \"well yeah, of course it sounds like me.. it IS me.\" But now I hear it again, and I\'m starting to look at this more seriously and question it. Am I in a stylistic rut, as you said? I might be. Or maybe what she\'s picking out is how the samples sound. Some samples have a very definite signature to them. I can almost always pick out GOS when someone else uses it. SAM Horns is another...especially when people use the swells..that\'s a dead ringer. I\'ll have to ask her to clarify, but it\'s really tough to ask someone \"pretend it\'s the same composition but using different sounds\" and ask for a reevaluation to see if it still sounds like me.

    You\'re right, it\'s not really correct of me to say that a certain style of music fits all RPGs. I guess it boils down to personal opinion. I\'m playing Divine Divinity and the music is pretty good, but other tracks just don\'t fit that well IMO. Others might disagree. But it seems to me, for a lot of the newest RPGs out there (Champions of Norrath, Baldur\'s Gate Dark Alliance I & II, Icewind Dale II, Neverwinter Nights, etc.), that \"sweeping epic orchestral score\" style works well for the genre, and apparently is in demand.

    In short, it seems the only way I\'m able to sound different is to switch genres. Here\'s a good example. Have a listen:


    The first is old. The 2nd is the new piece I started..it\'s very a rough draft (dynamics problems mostly--composing w/ headphones screws me up). I challenge you to find any similarities between the two above pieces.

    Now listen to this:


    and compare it to The High Seas. Obviously the compositions are very different, but I\'ll bet you can find more similarities between those two than the Wind Piece. Is it because of some habit or style of mine? Or is it because they\'re for similar genres and it can\'t be helped? Actually, I composed The High Seas while looking at imagery of sailing pirate ships, which isn\'t quite what I\'d consider \"fantasy,\" which is what Lands would fall under.

    At any rate, thanks for the advice. I think what I have to do is think outside the box, which can be a challenge. I could, as you said, force myself to use different instruments. Plus, I know I have certain orchestration habits that I can try avoiding.

  9. #9

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    [ QUOTE ]
    I feel the same way sometimes. Maybe it\'s an inspiration issue. If a certain style doesn\'t appeal to you then it\'s a lot harder to get inspired about it. Maybe when the time arises again you could try and find an angle that does motivate you. Incorporate an idea that inspires you.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Well, if a style/genre doesn\'t appeal to me, sometimes it\'s easier because I have to try something new that I\'m not used to. With RPGs, it\'s easy to get inspired, but somehow after a while, it starts to sound the same. Or maybe it doesn\'t. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

  10. #10

    Re: Avoiding sounding like yourself--composer\'s signat

    try concentrating on takign a different musical approach to the syles you like. Instead of oing with what you \"think is right\" for the particular style. If you think RPG, dont follow YOUR trends for the style (whether it be moving string lines, or celtic influence or thick swells). Try writing with folk guitar, then arrange it for woodwinds and tremolo strings or arpegiating dulcimer/prepared piano

    it might open up new worlds and add to your composing toolset, and also might allow you to come up with someting truly unique for yourself.

Go Back to forum


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts