Live instrumentation is lovely, but some creators don't always have the talent or the luxury to use it for their performances, recordings, and general songwriting. If you don't have a guitar or piano handy, you can still make good music in this day and age.
Not only can you write music without instruments, but you can record your creation and create a high-quality product without ever touching an instrument.
Do note that my five methods below may technically include some instrumentation if you include your voice itself, which many forget is considered an instrument!
The easiest way to make a song without live instrumentation is to create a song with only vocals, also called an acapella track.
Singing acapella can be a challenge if you plan to do a hard melody or include harmonies, so make sure you have a strong musical ear and can stay in key.
Keeping a steady beat acapella will also be a challenge, so these types of music sessions often include other bodily instrumentation, including snaps and beatboxing.
Singing live will often require multiple voices if you want to pull off a great performance, but you can also use voice recording programs or DAWs (digital audio workstations) to record yourself in layers.
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Many DAWs like Protools and Garageband have built-in digital instruments that you can use in live performances and recordings.
MIDI, which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, allows you to replicate the sound of instruments like a piano, guitar, drum, saxophone, vibraphone, organ, and much more.
MIDI instruments can be hard to put emotion into, but it can be done well if you have a talented enough producer/engineer who knows how to mimic live instrumentation well.
MIDI instruments are often used in pop genres like hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music.
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Many pop genres often have loops in their recordings, which can be recordings of live or MIDI instruments that can be distorted in any way you'd like digitally.
For example, a sample can be a loop of a piano solo or a vocal soloist, and a music creator can speed up or change the key of the loop to fit the song they are making.
When it comes to creating music with loops, make sure that you are using royalty-free loops, or that you have the legal rights if you plan to publish the loop as a part of your own musical work.
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As an example, I used a combination of loops and virtual instruments to create the song above with a very simple DAW, Garageband. With loops and virtual instruments, I made a full song without an instrument in my home studio!
Sometimes, it's fun to make music with improvised things that are in your surroundings, like a table or a wall.
Your improvised instrument will often be percussive and not melodic, but you can get more creative depending on where you are and use something like a glass cup to give you melodic sounds.
Using this type of creativity in your performance or songwriting process can really put out some innovative ideas from you if you make sure to have fun and get lost in the process in a good way!
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Many composers make beautiful music in their heads without having direct access to the instruments that will be involved in the final performance.
If you have training in music theory, you can consider writing your music with sheet music and using a visual approach instead of an audio approach to making your music.
Your songwriting can be recorded with physical composition books, or you can use a digital program like Sibelius to create your music without having the live instruments with you.
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There are several advantages to not using real instruments in music and opting for virtual or synthesized alternatives. Here are some of the main benefits!
Real instruments can be expensive to purchase and maintain, especially if you want a wide variety of sounds.
Virtual instruments, on the other hand, can be obtained at a fraction of the cost or even for free in some cases. This accessibility allows musicians with limited budgets to experiment with various sounds.
Virtual instruments offer immense flexibility in terms of sound manipulation and customization. You can easily modify parameters like pitch, tone, and effects to achieve the desired sound. This versatility allows musicians to explore new sonic territories and create unique compositions.
Virtual instruments are often software-based, which means they can be installed on a computer or mobile device.
This accessibility and portability allow musicians to create music anywhere, without the need to carry around heavy or bulky instruments. It also facilitates collaboration and sharing of projects with others.
Virtual instruments and loops can emulate or encompass many instruments and sounds that may be challenging or impossible to access in the real world.
From orchestral instruments to rare vintage synthesizers, virtual instruments and loops offer an extensive palette of sounds to choose from, expanding the creative possibilities for musicians.
Creating music with virtual instruments can be faster compared to recording with real instruments.
Virtual instruments eliminate the need for physical setup, tuning, and mic placement, allowing musicians to focus on composing, arranging, and producing their music more efficiently.
Virtual instruments seamlessly integrate with modern digital audio workstations (DAWs) and production software.
This integration enables musicians to combine virtual instruments with other digital effects, plugins, and samples, enhancing the overall production quality and creative potential.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page.