GUEST BLOGGER – Aaron Robertson.
Hey this is Aaron. I’ve been composing & leasing music for Elevation for over a couple of years now. (Announcement loops, sermon soundtracks, live elements, music for various videos). Chris posted a few months ago about the use of soundtracks that Elevation uses behind Pastor Steven’s sermons. So I wanted to post some info about what I use when I’m composing. Honestly my list is short and sweet: an iMac, Reason 4.0 and a midi controller (M-Audio Axiom or Akai MPK). Every now and then I also use Pro Tools and some external devices such as my keyboards (Motif ES and XS, Nord 2x , Fantom XR) when making music for the church, but the need for lots of material in pretty short amounts of time usually keep me working in Reason. Since my gear list isn’t much to talk about, at least for more than a few lines, I’ll discuss sounds.
When a certain mood or theme is needing to be expressed in the music, such as in sermon soundtracks, it can become pretty tedious trying to search through and find patches that sound like you need them to and also fit with what you’re working on. A benefit I’ve at least gotten out of using a program like Reason is the ability to change and manipulate sounds to make them become what you need them to be. A simple string sound may be great for a piece. But then again, a string sound with reverb, some filter cutoff to make it less bright, and a hint of distortion may just be even better to help convey the feelings you want in your music.
A cool thing to think about is this: A guitar can sound completely different and can express all sorts of emotions due to tone knobs, effects pedals and tweaking settings. When it comes to composing, these same effects are available to you, except you aren’t stuck with the initial tone of a guitar. You have ENDLESS possibilities because you can begin with any sound you want and then tweak it in almost any way. It’s really cool to realize the freedom you have in composing when you begin to not only create your own music, but create/manipulate sounds into what you want/need them to be.
So when it comes down to it, you don’t have to stick to a simple piano and string patch to make “emotional” music. You can start with something completely off the wall and shift and mold it into something awesome that fits perfectly. If you are working on something pretty, slow paced, and emotional, try not to completely shun vocal samples, synths, weird fx, and rhythmic patches. Some of them could be used by making different tweaks and using certain effects. Even in other music, such as upbeat fun electronic tracks, try new things. You aren’t limited to an arpeggiated sound, a techno drum pattern and a really bright lead synth. Experiment. Step away from the comfort of scrolling through and finding a cookie cutter patch that “fits”. Turn knobs, move faders, see how sounds can be changed. Make your music even more of your own by starting to create and make tweaks before you even come up with melodies. It really broadens what you can do, what you come up with, and most importantly, your end result.
And here’s some screen shots of what I do looks like….