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Creating Ambient Music
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azurepancake



Joined: Jul 10, 2006
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Location: Coconut Creek, FL

PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:22 pm    Post subject: Creating Ambient Music
Subject description: Advice please :)
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Hello folks,

Over the years I have developed a strong love for ambient music and I have came to the decision that I would really enjoy to make this kind of music for a hobby. I feel it is an excellent way to express and I enjoy how it gives one room to think and relaxes the mind. I find it brings tranquility as well as many other things which I could full this entire post up with! But I won't do that cyclops

I'm wondering if there are any musicians here (particulary those who are creating ambient music) who could offer me some advice and most importantly perhaps share where they get there inspiration from.
I'd like to create synthy ambient with minimal beats and grooves with some droning. As of now I have a midi keyboard as well as some synth software (Reaktor). If anyone could explain some techniques to me or has any links that I could view it would be great. I am also wondering how much one normally needs to know about synth equipment to create this kind of music. I'm willing to learn, but i'm not sure what I should begin to cover first. I am kind of overwhelmed by all the stuff there is out there to discover and learn. Right now I'm experimenting with the synthesizers Reaktor offers and trying to get a good grasp on oscillators, filters, envelopes and such.

I really enjoy Aphex Twins ambient works. I'd like my music to have somewhat the same structure but still keep my own flavor into it.
I would really appreciate any advice. Feel free to share your thoughts!

Thank you Smile
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Alexander



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I wouldn't know how to advise someone at creating music in a certain genre, but I do like pads when it comes to the examples you mention.

Try creating some pads and maybe do some extreme timestretching to obtain some useful slow 'droning' sounds. And listnen carefully to what makes a song ambient to you, work from there. I like background noise from tv or movies as an ingredient for ambient works as well, but I think it's different for everybody.

David Toop wrote two very nice books on his definition of 'ambient music'

haunted weather

ocean of sound

http://www.davidtoop.com/

Good luck!

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Mohoyoho



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I love ambient music. I was inspired by Steve Roach and Vir Unis. They have several CDs they did together as well as solos. Other inspiring ambient artists are John Serrie and Robert Rich.

I think one of the hardest aspects of ambient is keeping things minimal, and at the same time keeping it interesting. Many first timers throw everything into the mix and the track becomes a hodge podge. Or they will go the opposite and just have a single evolving pad that goes nowhere and gets to be pretty boring. I like it when the artist subtly evolves the piece into different, well thought out themes.

I think you have a great start for creating ambient. Reaktor can cover all the basics very well: subtractive synths, samplers, step sequencers, drum modules, effects. You just need some kind of sequencing software like Sonar, Cubase or Logic. Another piece of software that recently intrigued me is Reason. That also gives you all the elements one would need to create ambient music.

As far as learning the methods of synthesis, well that takes time and study. Avoid using presets and make your own. Try and understand what you are doing when you change the controls. A great soft synth to learn the basics of subtractive synthesis would be Arturia's Moog Modular V. It has a great manual, and it is easy to see the audio path. There are no menus where your modulations are hidden. By learning that synth, Reaktor will become easier to understand and work.

Good luck, and post some music.

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azurepancake



Joined: Jul 10, 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Excellent advice all! Smile

This forum is great! I have been looking for a online community like this for quite awhile now. This is just what I was searching for. There is so much knowledge laying about these forums you could learn so much just by browsing the posts.

Please, keep the advice coming! I could use all the advice I can get. Both my ears and mind are open for ideas. .

PS: I plan to upload some music as soon as I can, once I get some kind of sequencer or recorder.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

welcome

If you update your location with something a little more specific then you increase the odds of meeting someone with similar interestes. We don't force this, but I think it there is a possibility it will enhance your experience here.

I personally don't like the term ambient because it implies background. I don't know if there is much of an alternate term though...

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elektro80
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Mohoyoho wrote:
A great soft synth to learn the basics of subtractive synthesis would be Arturia's Moog Modular V. It has a great manual, and it is easy to see the audio path. There are no menus where your modulations are hidden. By learning that synth, Reaktor will become easier to understand and work.


Mark is giving some really good advice here. This product is awsome and it even sounds great. Learning this one is probably the best investment you can make at this stage. If you learn to master the Arturia Moog Modular V, you will be able to handle any synth out there.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

another pay-to-play soft synth good for ambient, ethereal, space, and other meditative and altered state music, is NI's Absynth. Some of the presets are just waiting for a good sit under the stars.

Also, Mobius looper (see the thread on free windows software), and many of the other tape-loop emulations I find very helpful in draughing out sounds into pads, washes, and other soft-edged emotings. Glaceverb and SIR are two other free verbs that can give you the feeling of a larger space (than most typical headphones provide Very Happy ). If you stick with the computer route, you might also want to look for a doppler emulation, that can simulate movement of sounds...another trip outside the speaker's physical space.
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azurepancake



Joined: Jul 10, 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi again!

Thanks a lot for all the tips and recommended software. I'm going to try out the demos and see how they are. For now I plan to get more acquainted with Reaktor and try to learn all the gadgets. I'd like to master keeping a flow in my music and staying with some sort of rhythem or beat, which I am not very good at now. I think perhaps studying some music theory would help alot also, although I've heard people claim that one could do fine without it..

One thing i'm trying to get better at is expressing my thoughts and feelings into the music and keep the inspiration going. If anyone could perhaps share how they "cultivate" there ideas. When you sit down and decide to put together some music, what do you think of or reflect on to help make it flow easier? Sorry if I sound unclear or "amateurish".

Thanks again for all the help, I really do appreciate it Smile
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mosc
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

azurepancake wrote:
I'd like to master keeping a flow in my music and staying with some sort of rhythem or beat, which I am not very good at now.


Play to your strengths. Beat based music is quite common and rarely interesting. Lot's of people begin with it because it appears to be easy but that is just an illusion. If you can't keep a beat - don't keep a beat - it's a gift.

Get into Charles Ives' music - poly tonal and poly rhythmical.

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Alexander



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Use paper and a pencil.. draw, write down titles, pretty words, ideas, make graphs of what you want to do with reaktor. Read books and try entering every possible keyword you're interested in in the search engine (reaktor, ambient music, algoritmic, midi basics, beats, etcetera)

And post some of the stuff you're working on, see how people react to it and learn from their comments!

And most important, find a method of working that is both inspiring and fun!

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RFBB



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Great topic and already some great feedback. You will find with "Ambient" music there are many ways to approach sound design and primarily the sounds used in ambient composition. More importantly there are thousands of instruments that allow you to achieve this immediately both software based and hardware.

You cited Aphex Twin as an influence... me too. Who else would you referrence?

Don't ever assume that because it's "ambient" that people are not paying attention while listening-infact it's usually quite the opposite.
Dynamics, dynamics, dynamics. I can't stress it enough. There is nothing worse than listening to a nine minute piece that does not evolve or is so minimal that it sounds like one big washed out drone. However, there are legions of people that would argue that whole-heartedly.

Composition: Is there a right or wrong? Probably not. But some ways are better than others. Don't always start each song with a long fade over a pad. True, it's effective but overdone and often predictable. Am I guilty of the same? Sure. We all are.

I'm curious to hear what you've produced and invite you to check out some of my material online at the url below. But above all-HAVE FUN! You've stumbled onto a great community that will assist you in anyway possible.

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azurepancake



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Again, thanks a lot for the responses. I don't think I would have been able to find such detailed and helpful advice anywhere else on the net.

I feel right now that I am just getting used to making music, learning techniques and trying to learn what everything does. Also learning much about the ambient music genre as I go.

I've heard from many people (who haven't attempted making ambient music I might add) say that "ambient music is very simple to make and doesn't involve much skill or talent". I'd like to say that this is a very misguided thought. I find it takes much talent to create it and I have a whole new respect for all the ambient artist out there. Keep up the good work Smile
For me, there doesn't seem to be any other form of music that can express the artists feeling as much as ambient. Of course this is simply how it effects me and I am not putting down anyone elses music.

I listened to the work listed on the index of your page RFBB and I love it. The "spacey" feeling is amazing and is quite similar to the style of music I would like to create. I am interested in perhaps purchasing your latest album for both recreational listening and inspiration.
I adore groups like Shpongle which is more Down-tempo or "Psybient" I have heard once. Though for now at least I don't plan to create this particular style of music. I also love Autechre, Brain Eno, Steve Roach and many others.

I honestly can't wait to post some of my work. First I just want to create a track I am truly proud of and then I will post it on the board. I just like to move slow and pay as much attention as I can when I'm using an electronic instrument.

I'm going to take all this great information you all have supplied me and always keep mind of it when working with music as well as implementing my own knowledge and tastes into the work.

Thank you!

PS: RFBB, is the Wind and Wire where you are selling your albums? Hmm, it seems that the CD sales section is down at the moment and there is a mailto link to a Bill Binkelman. Should I e-mail him?
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ocp



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

azurepancake wrote:
When you sit down and decide to put together some music, what do you think of or reflect on to help make it flow easier?


The one thing that helps me make it flow easier is to empty my mind and concentrate on the music only.
You might want to check this 48 min. long track to get an impression of what I was up to: http://www.archive.org/details/sleeping_aid
It was done in realtime, with just a few loops in different tracks, long decay on reverbs and Ableton Live as the sequencing software.
Not much going on but the idea was to rediscover calm and slowness in today's fast-changing world, thus the name "sleeping aid".

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radiant thunder



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:27 pm    Post subject: on ambient music
Subject description: try these vst synths
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I have been doing ambient music and movie score stuff.My new cd project is called Movie Sound tracks to unseen movies David Loyuis is my stage name .OK a free vsti is crystal from greenoaks.com the presets a lone will blow your mind its free and I use it often along with my absynth.the presets on these will inspire you down load crystal now and see.Textures and spaceyness is what these two do well.I have used many high dollor sequencers, but I have found magix music studiop delux 2006 at 79.00 with its 32 bit engin is equal to all the others at a fraction of the cost.for 150.00 mackies put out T2 tracktion seq the most simple of all and has the mastering grade engine 24/192 the same as any studio if you have a sound card that can do it even the new 24/96 is studio grade.
there are a lot of good ambient sample CD's that will get you up and running.I use crystal and esp. absynth to make my own sounds.

I bought FL Pro XXL and the synth plugin sytris is unreal, the pads and textures are worth the 179.00 if you by it seperate.
One trick and it is simple is take a string or pad sound record it put it on two tracks and pan them both left and right this gives a full rich ambient fullness to it.
also try the old Pink Floyd trick take a sound reverse it add a big reverb effect and then reverse it again its insane and Floyd did this often for their odd sounds try it you will like it.
The biggest problem in a ambient song that has a lot of pads and effects ect is so much can get muddy EQ and useing proper sterio field placement will make it better.The ambient textures esp evoloving sounds get maked easy and you can not hear the darn thing you just recorded I find that this masking effect is hard to deal with sometimes.Make sure to not use to many sounds in the samr frequency or you'll be playing in the ambient mud.
so try this as mentioned
1.take a string patch copy it to say channle 1 and 2 pan track 1 far let and track 2 far right that alone is effective, place a piano in the middle and play around, use a sweeping pad sound that goes from left to right
this is basic stuff, but a good way to get inspired.
just let or make the sounds slowly evolve all over the place EQ and keep a good variety of frequencies so all can be heard oh and do try the Floyd trick I mentioned on almost any sound it is odd and pleasing.
Ambient music is known for having little melodie and a lot of spacy soothing stuff.
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crazyoval



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2007 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think it is important to create your own 'version' of ambient music, so , your own style and thus your own distinctive voice within the genre.

From where I sit, off the shelf synths provide a vast range of sounds, yet they are available to all and are not personal to one artist. Take these as a base to create new sounds by mixing and warping with other sounds and effects to create layers of sounds where the sum of the parts creates sounds you hear no where else.

I would also suggest not to forget melody. either as a repeating trance like pattern or something more independent yet not too complicated.

Lastly, I would suggest not forgetting percussion, use it sparingly and wisely to create space and a slow tempo.

Hope this helps :O)

P.S. you can check out my site, www.f4b.com to view a range of artist's who work within, and around the ambient genre today.

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bbinkovitz



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

i find the thing that makes me most productive creatively (especially in composition, both musical and literary) is finding examples of really freakin' weird music or whatever kind of art, really. for me, kafka's very short stories, such as "kleine fabel" (after which the ruori piece we did at EM06 and EM07 is named) represent an instance of a creator with very strange ideas doing very unconventional things that really follow their own rules of what is important within the piece. this is of utmost importance if you're going to attempt to create something that truly expresses the source and drive of your creativity.

put another way, you have to give yourself permission to do things that might not seem "artistic" enough at first, and don't be afraid to sound "amateurish" or whatever. don't be scared to do things that you want to do, whether it's their weirdness or their conventionality that scares you.

fear that what i'm creating doesn't really qualify as "art" is the single most paralyzing force for my creativity, personally. you have to give yourself permission to be yourself, every day, in new ways every time you create something.
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Pehr



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PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2008 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wow! This thread is really inspirational! Smile

I'm all eagered p to set myself in the studio Very Happy

I use an analog DIY-modular to make sounds. However, I find myself very often to make the 'bread and butter' VCO-VCF-VCA-sounds of a synth and make a nice 'on the run' sequence.

How do I avoid that? and make these wonderful soundscapes instead. How can I incorporate a sequcner into such a sound?

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michael.everett



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Heh, I may get some flack for offering an "easy out/shortcut" solution to writing some nice ambient pieces, but keep in mind I know how to and do program my own synth patches, and have mixed feelings about "out-of-the-box" solutions, but with that said here goes...

You might want to check out Spectrasonics' Atmosphere (http://www.spectrasonics.net/instruments/atmosphere.html). I picked it up a little while back based on some recommendations for a VST that was really nice for pads. It's a sample-based instrument which means you need several gigs to load the core sound library up, and some decent ram to use many instances of it. Ultimately though I've found for what it is the CPU overhead and memory usage are not that bad. Fortunately each patch lists the amount of ram it uses, and you can do things like disabling 32bit samples to cut down in size.

Besides pads, it's atmospherics (as you can imagine), are phenomenal. In my opinion the price tag is very reasonable based on the amount of time and effort the sound designers spent putting together the sounds for this instrument (there is a list of the sound sources they used here: http://www.spectrasonics.net/instruments/atmos_gear.html.

The sound quality, complexity, and number of patches out of the box is amazing. Honestly I was a bit overwhelmed with how many sounds there were from the start, but I'm finally starting to get a feel for the library (there's 1000 patches, each with 2 parts, and you can mix and match any of the 2 parts in your own custom patches).

I hate to say it but I almost feel like with some of the patches you could simply hold down a single key for 5 minutes, mess around with your keyboards mod wheel a few times, and write an entire ambient album! The amount some of the sounds evolve over time is quite impressive. Now I'm not saying you should do this, but the point is, as a beginners tool for ambient music I think this instrument is a great foundational piece.

It's setup in such a way that the quality of the dry patches "as-is", is amazing and you could be up and running just by using the presets (and there's a ton). It has a pretty rounded out library, including some vocal sounds, sound effects, vintage analog synths, basses, one of the best multisampled orchestral string patches I've heard, etc. So it's not just all about pads and atmospherics.

The idea is that each patch is made out of two layers (A and B) which can be programmed/tweaked/controlled individually or together. It doesn't have any synthesis options, but it has all of the classic sound shaping modules (filter, modulation LFO, envelopes, etc.) that you'd see on a synth, so once you're feeling braver you really can start to customize and tweak the sounds out.

Anyways that's enough of a rant, check it out. Hopefully I'm not sounding too much like a secret salesman, because I'm not. I just feel like this has been one of the best virtual instrument investments I've made. The quality is just amazing, and for atmospheric and ambient sound composition this is an invaluable tool.
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BananaPlug



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Enjoying this thread. Mark's right on when he says...
Quote:
I think one of the hardest aspects of ambient is keeping things minimal, and at the same time keeping it interesting. Many first timers throw everything into the mix and the track becomes a hodge podge. Or they will go the opposite and just have a single evolving pad that goes nowhere and gets to be pretty boring. I like it when the artist subtly evolves the piece into different, well thought out themes.


There's a track I like which comes to a very satisfying and surprising resolution by the addition of a sample of some kids singing in Moroccan. Until that point the melody they sing is not heard but when you get there you can see that it all fits together.

So, the trick to doing something like that might be to immerse yourself in the nice melodic nugget. Derive complementary, open, tracks from that, start with the most vague and formless stuff and gradually add focus so the rhythm is in place by the time you get to the nugget near the end, like adding the keystone to an arch.

A time honored technique in Jazz is to take a standard that everyone in the room knows and play around it rather than straight down the middle. The ambient track I liked was doing something like that but it's a very different game when the audience doesn't know the tune yet!
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james_alaska



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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 3:51 am    Post subject: Re:Ambient Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi there, I would definitely agree with the other posts. Striking a balance between minimalism and boredom is a definite issue. Ambient music is easy to do to a bad or average standard but just as hard as any kind of music to do really well.
Two key pieces of advice would be-
1) just start (again and again) - and
2)persevere!
Don't be too critical of your early attempts. You'll develop your own style and skills as time goes on - reaktor is an excellent piece of kit to start with , making your own field recordings and messing with them is always a good way to keep more ambient music interesting. If you like aphex twin also check out :zoviet*france: - aphex is a big fan of theirs and they are unsung heroes of the genre - particularly their later stuff is incredible.
Good luck and keep going no matter what!

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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 10:27 am    Post subject: Re:Ambient Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Great topic!
I would highly recommend reading this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Ambient-Century-Mahler-Evolution-Electronic/dp/1582341346

It really inspired a lot of different approaches and theories to ambient music, as well as a great historical outlook for me. I actually read it over and over.

I would also say that a few things that I always try to employ in my approach to ambient music:

1. Dynamics - Volume, mixing, seguing, peaks and valleys
2. Spatialization - using the sound field to create depth
3. Improvisation - keep the music fresh by unsuring that every 4, 8, or 16 measures something new happens
4. Themes or motifs - Themes help me shape a composition better. Motifs help reiterate that this is a composition. Similar to Jazz, I like to state the motif at the beginning, diverge away or improvise around it, then restate it towards the end.
5. Have Fun with it!

I would also suggest coming in the Chatroom and consider doing some online streaming. Its great to get immediate feedback from people that are interested and listening to each others music!

cheers!

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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 11:59 am    Post subject: Re: Creating Ambient Music
Subject description: Advice please :)
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azurepancake wrote:
Hello folks,

Over the years I have developed a strong love for ambient music and I have came to the decision that I would really enjoy to make this kind of music for a hobby. I feel it is an excellent way to express and I enjoy how it gives one room to think and relaxes the mind. I find it brings tranquility as well as many other things which I could full this entire post up with! But I won't do that cyclops

I'm wondering if there are any musicians here (particulary those who are creating ambient music) who could offer me some advice and most importantly perhaps share where they get there inspiration from.
I'd like to create synthy ambient with minimal beats and grooves with some droning. As of now I have a midi keyboard as well as some synth software (Reaktor). If anyone could explain some techniques to me or has any links that I could view it would be great. I am also wondering how much one normally needs to know about synth equipment to create this kind of music. I'm willing to learn, but i'm not sure what I should begin to cover first. I am kind of overwhelmed by all the stuff there is out there to discover and learn. Right now I'm experimenting with the synthesizers Reaktor offers and trying to get a good grasp on oscillators, filters, envelopes and such.

I really enjoy Aphex Twins ambient works. I'd like my music to have somewhat the same structure but still keep my own flavor into it.
I would really appreciate any advice. Feel free to share your thoughts!

Thank you Smile


Well, I've been doing ambient, among other electronic styles, for a while now, myself, and one thing I offer to you is that it's more a recording-based music than performance-based, or at least, it has been for me, anyway. I know there are ambient musicians who perform live, of course, but most of the great ambient music, going back to Eno has been recorded music and, where that's concerned, we're talking multitrack recording, building sound on sound. Really, this is no different than any other musical genre, in that respect, but, for me, it's always a recording process. I want to get my ideas down in some permanent fashion so I can share them and performing live just doesn't interest me anymore.

Anyway, having said all that, I note that you don't mention having a software sequencer or any VST instruments. I would highly recommend adding these, as it will expand your sonic palette way beyond anything you have on Reaktor. Don't get me wrong; Reaktor's a fine software synth, but you will eventually tire of being limited to only those sounds you have on Reaktor.

So, get yourself a software sequencer for recording multitrack compositions - I recommend Acoustica Mixcraft 4.0, which is what I use ($69.95 for the download version). Mixcraft handles audio recording as well as MIDI and is a very good VST host, as well.

Once you have a software sequencer that is a VST host, you can find tons of free VSTi's (VST instruments) to download, enough to keep you making music for years without getting bored with the sounds.

Gary

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theambientbeyond



Joined: May 16, 2010
Posts: 1
Location: us

PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hello folks,

Another great on Soma FM Drone Zone: Max Corbacho. This is, as it appears on its website www.maxcorbacho.com, their gear :

* - Korg Triton Extreme
* - Korg Triton (classic)
* - Korg Z1 expanded
* - Novation Supernova
* - Soundcraft Mixer
* - Lexicon PCM 80 reverb

And this is what briefly comments on his gear, so I suspect that this style is heavily influenced by the use of hardware synths ...but not necessarily analog :

"And an assortment of software sequencers and plug-ins. Most of my music is based on my hardware synths. Although I've tried, I could not get comfortable with software synthesizers."
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shanemorris
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Joined: Sep 07, 2008
Posts: 1926
Location: dreamtime
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Indeed I love Max Corbacho's music! Interesting gear... thanks for sharing that. Very Happy
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Skrog Productions



Joined: Jan 07, 2009
Posts: 707
Location: Scottish Borders
Audio files: 80

PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi
Here's a block diagram of a patch i used on my modular on Saturday 15th to jam with Phobos (Off./pig.) it turned out a slow changing tones type of self generating sequence and i just added chords & single note Korg X5 Pad sounds over the main modular rhythm. Looking at this , even i understand my modular better Very Happy heh.

You don't need lots of music gear to start out , just use a common audio sequencer/ recorder , and layer up short wav's of nice sounds that have been recorded through delay & reverb effects.

having fun doing it is the main thing Smile

Dave


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