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.
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 that 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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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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As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
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