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How I Make Music with Lily Pond and Ableton Live

I know people who make art, and they try to keep it a secret how they ply their trade. I guess they figure that if someone else knows how they make music, then they'll be able to make music that competes with their music.

That sort of thinking is irrational.

How I make music may seem completely ridiculous to someone else. And even if someone totally vibes with my music making process, they still would not be able to create the music. They're not me.

I believe knowledge deserves to be free. When information is freely shared, we all can learn from one another and create new art.

Sure, this post could lead some people to make weird music that sounds just like the weird music that I make. Why do I care? Music existing that sounds like my music does not matter to me.

Here's how I use Lily Pond and Ableton Live Compose New Music

I start the composition process with Lily Pond.

If you don't know about Lily Pond, you should check it out. It gives you the power to use a simple text file to build out elaborate compositions that generate standard music notation and midi.

For an example, I'll show you how I might compose the melody for Sweet Dreams if I were Annie Lennox and David Stewart.

I use an IDE called Eclipse that has a Lily Pond extension, which makes it easy to write Lily Pond files and compile them to create standard notation as a PDF and a midi file.

I like Lily Pond because I can't really play the piano. That means that when I compose directly on a keyboard, my compositions lack complexity. I also find composing in a midi editor to be tedious and the user interface presentation of midi notes gets in the way of my creativity. With Lily Pond, I create a simple text file that automatically generates standard notation, which I can iterate on until it looks like I want. Once it's good, I plop the midi file the Eclipse Lily Pond created into Ableton Live. I'm making music.

If I were talented composers, like Lennox and Stewart, I'd create a file that looks like this in Lily Pond.


View actual text file of the Lily Pad for Sweet Dreams.

Using Eclipse, a PDF of standard music notation is created and a midi file.

While having the musical notation is vital for me to be able to effectively compose music.

As I am building out the Lily Pond text file, I'm constantly regenerated the standard notation PDF.

This isn't the only way I compose music. I have several music making modes, one of them is grip it and rip it. That means that I just sit down with a piano or a guitar and I compose. But there are times when I need to be more cerebral while making a song. In this case, I start and Lily Pond and work music into my daw.

While it makes sense to keep that Lily Pond text file as the moment of truth, and all midi touches and things should be added to the Lily Pond text file. The midi file and pdf would get recreated. I don't do it that way though, once I get the composition to where I want it rhythmically and note-wise, I'll just work on it in my daw.

My daw is Ablenton Live. Before I can import the Lily Pond midi file, I have to rename it to the .midi file to a .mid file. I haven't figured out how to make the Eclipse plugin output a .mid file instead of .midi. Live won't take it without the extension getting changed to .mid.