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Make Better Music 18: ADSR!

Make Better Music 18: ADSR! Lessons in music composition, song writing, artistic motivation and making better music from David Graham.

make better music. Trebuchet magazine

Twist your structures with a different kind of ADSR!

Anyone who ever had a Casio VL-1 (and those who use soft synths, or even real synths!) will be familiar with the fateful abbreviation ADSR, which was applied to the synthesised sounds “envelope”.

In the spirit of this blog, which isn’t a geeky tech number, I will be asking you to use those same parameters in a different way.

Try using them to structure your music!

After all a track evolves around events – the pivotal moments where the listener will be engaged or lose interest. They are the focal moments where something changes and an idea is stated that (hopefully) has meaning to the listener. These moments can be hard to manage as it’s quite

hard to actually think about them as entities in themselves…they often just appear during the process of making music.

Taking control of these moments is a vital part of “growing up” as a creative musician.
I’m asking you to try to think about which moments in your piece will engage the listener…and then to think about the:
Attack: the time leading up to the musical event in question
Decay: What the “shape” of the event is
Sustain: How long the event lasts
Release: How you move on to something else.

The “event” in question can be whatever you want – as long as it’s something the listener will notice as an important bit in your track…it could be the introduction of a monster riff, a melodic chorus, or something completely different.
Taking a different viewpoint on how you are writing allows you to do things you couldn’t do before….think different! Modulate your envelope, like a perverted postman!

About Dave.
David Learnt composition (harmony, counterpoint and orchestration) to degree level through studying Schoenbergs Fundamentals of Musical Composition, the classic text on twentieth century harmony by Vincent Persichetti, Henry Mancini’s Sounds and Scores, Rimsky-Korsakov’s excellent books on orchestration as well as studying any scores that intrigued me. He is a founder member of two bands, avant pop duo Cnut, and orchestral doombience outfit Regolith, and have performed across Europe with them.
Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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