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Please Repeat Yourself

Mar 09, 2024

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Several of you who read this newsletter pointed out that my most recent YouTube video seemed a bit familiar.

It was about the concept of "originality" and the effects that chasing it can have on an artist.

It's something I had talked about here a few weeks ago.... Yes, you caught me, I've been experimenting with video ideas here in this very newsletter ;)

But going further back, it was the same premise of a video I made about a year ago.

There were a couple of comments like, "YouTubers just make the same things over and over..." This isn't an unfair assessment. From a creator's perspective it makes a lot of sense because only some of our subscribers see certain videos.

But there's another benefit to repetition that goes beyond growing on a social media platform.

We all need to be reminded of important concepts from time to time.




Given my background in the classical world, I'm no stranger to repetition as a reinforcement technique. That's the only way to learn an instrument.

I've discovered the same to be true in writing these emails and making my videos.

It has helped me more than anyone to remind myself of these concepts and ideas I talk about most often.

Yesterday I sat down in my computer to work on a composition that I'm really excited about. I came up with some great melodic ideas at my piano downstairs, but would like to orchestrate it and flesh it out a bit.

So I sat here at this very desk and opened Cubase. I was immediately distracted by trying out different samples and textures. I got no meaningful work done on the development of the piece itself.

Then I remembered a video I made a while back. In it, I had talked about the benefits of limitations - of working out ideas in black and white first when writing that style of music.

I knew what to do. I just needed to be reminded.


Repetition in Music


This isn't only a technique that works with philosophical concepts. Repetition is a powerful tool in our music as well.

When I wrote the initial melodic idea for the piece I mentioned above, I knew it was special. I kept humming it to myself long after I had left the piano.

Not only could it tolerate repetition, it begged for it.

I talked a bit about how to make melodic ideas more memorable in THIS VIDEO if you missed it.

Maybe you've experienced a piece of music that used repetition the perfect amount. There's always temptation to overuse a great idea - pop music often falls into this. But when we find the right balance of when to bring it back, I can't think of anything more emotionally powerful.




So my challenge for this composition-in-progress is to use that melodic idea as many ways as possible. I want to see if I can disguise it well enough that the listener doesn't always recognize it, but still feels connected to it.

Maybe I could have it go in reverse (Retrograde).

Maybe I could play it upside down (Inversion).

Maybe I could play it backwards AND upside down (Retrograde Inversion).

Maybe I could overlap it with itself (Canon).

As you can see, there are many ways we can repeat the same melodic idea and create enough variation that it isn't immediately recognizable.

Then, when we bring it back in its initial state for the climax or finale, it carries so much weight because the listener has been waiting to hear it again.

Because it BEGS to be repeated.

Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:

1. Composition Concepts for Artists - an in-depth look at the process of composition with step-by-step examples SHOWING how and WHY I make decisions. You'll learn to take an initial idea and DEVELOP it into a finished project.

2. Understanding Synthesis - learn to design your own sounds starting with the basics of subtractive synthesis and progressing to more advanced sound design  with semi-modular and various forms of digital synthesis.

3. YouTube Membership - monthly livestreams featuring music making and sound design in real time. Q&As and exclusive videos only available to channel members.

4. One to One Coaching (coming soon) - work with me on YOUR own music. I'll help you take your track from idea to finished product, so you'll come out with a polished track or EP and any knowledge gained from walking through the process with me.