Creating your own songs

I assume that as a piano learner you have wondered how you can create your own songs? If you have, you’ll know how frustrating this can be, but don’t worry, it’s completely normal.

Getting creative and coming up with song ideas is not an easy thing. A lot of internal and also external factors are involved when creating your own songs: knowledge of your instrument, music theory, a good ear, creativity, music styles and so on…

I don’t want to bring you down, but knowledge of your instrument and basic theory IS A MUST, unless you are a natural born musical genius. Simply knowing your chords and how they go together will mean you can compose songs with very simple chords, very simple melodies and rhythms. It depends a little on what you’re into and what type of music you want to create.

I have heard some songs that are very basic and very simple yet beautiful; with only 3 chords you can create some magic, but that is when creativity comes into play. How can you put those 3 chords in such a way that they sound nice, non repetitive and with a lot of feeling?

So you’ve got a good enough knowledge of the piano, what’s next? I would say that inspiration is the next big thing to get. You can find inspiration in everyday life, what is happening around you, what is happening to people you know or how you feel about things. For me, the most powerful source of inspiration is music. While listening to someone else’s music I often come up with ideas to work on – I am not talking about ripping off someone’s idea, but rather being inspired by their ideas.

A VERY IMPORTANT thing is to keep an open mind. Don’t just listen to your favorite artist or music style, listen to lots of different styles of music – those you are drawn to as well as those you wouldn’t normally gravitate to. I can guarantee you will find lots of inspiration by doing this.

Another very important thing mentioned by Dan from the Rocket Piano team is to develop your musicianship. New skills are like doorways to new songs. Many times you will learn a new technique and a whole song can be built around that. For this reason, always be on the lookout for new skills and ideas. A great way to pick up the new skills is to learn from other musicians. When you see one of your musician friends playing something interesting try and learn it.

Again, becoming proficient with your instrument will make it a lot simpler to think of good ideas for your songs. Melodies come from within and they don’t have to be complex. When you are singing to yourself in the shower remember that even the simplest three note melody has the potential to become a great song.

We really hope this helps and be patient, creativity will flow sometime!

What’s a MIDI keyboard?

I wanted to introduce you to MIDI because of the sheer amount of possibilities they can bring to your playing and composing. I am sure you’ve probably heard this term or seen or heard a MIDI keyboard in action. If you do own a MIDI keyboard, good on ya´. MIDI keyboards or MIDI controllers are great to work with and they are very helpful when it comes to learning to play the piano, especially with all the software and applications that are becoming more and more available these days.

For those of you who have no clue about what a MIDI keyboard is, I think it’s very important to get involved with it, or at least to understand the basics of what you can do with one. We are living in a modern era, where everything is doable through little more than a computer and a controller.

MIDI is short for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”. A MIDI gadget basically allows you to connect to a computer and allow the two to interact with one another. Software or a device is needed to get whatever you are looking for. It could be a music training software, music production software or simply great quality sounds and samples to play or practice with.

I don’t want to get bogged down in terminology, but for those that are interested in the more technical aspects, check out Wikipedia’s wave.

A MIDI controller offers you a plethora of sound options, synthetic or analog, and even sounds you’ve never heard before. Are you after some nice Rhodes sound? You got it; or perhaps you are after some Organ sounds; No problem. Or maybe after some crazy soundscapes or modern synthesizer sounds? They’re all available if you have the time to search for them.

If you are into learning piano, and also exploring new sounds, getting creative with your music once you have a reasonable grasp on piano theory, is something you can do with a MIDI keyboard. There are plenty of options around, for all budgets and for all technical skills and needs too.

There are 3 things you need to get started:

1. A medium to high performance computer – to be able to support any software you need. 2GB RAM and 500GB Hard drive should do…
2. A music production software or learning software – depending what you are into.
3. A MIDI Keyboard – Plenty of options.

Now, I’m sure you already have a computer, maybe not the music production software but there are many brands doing amazing stuff. My favorites? Ableton and Reason, for two reasons: They are very simple and easy to use with great quality sounds.

What MIDI controller or keyboard to buy? Pfff… there’s a whole blog post in itself, however M-Audio, Akai, Korg and Alesis are brands that have many options available from $100 bucks upwards, cheap as + amazing quality!

If this is an unknown field for you, don’t worry and please don’t be scared. MIDI keyboards are super friendly, what could be more challenging is the software you use with the keyboard, but again, the Internet can sometimes save your life and there are many tutorials around for every possible software.

I highly recommend you have a look into MIDI keyboards and software, they really are something! I did it myself about a year or so ago and I am always surprised of how powerful these tools are. I am a drummer and my piano skills are less than a beginner, I know some basic chords and some progressions but let me tell you that I have made some good beats and atmospheres with my little knowledge… I need to get back to my Rocket Piano lessons though!

What do I have? I have a very old M-Audio Keystation Mini with 32 keys but I am after a Korg MicroKey. Software wise I use Reason for composing and Cubase for producing the finished product. Again, I highly recommend you to get into this, do some research online on MIDI keyboards you will be surprised how many options there are and how cheap can be.

I might have a deeper look into newer MIDI Keyboards and make a blog post about them in the coming weeks, what is good and what is not.

WARNING: having a MIDI keyboard with music production software is addictive as you are always coming up with something new and you won’t want to leave your room or even sleep. For those of you who live in the Southern Hemisphere it might be a good time to get into it now. It’s said that the brain works better when it’s cold…

All the best with your learning!