ICYMI – What Does Botany Teach Us About Music?

Where’s Your Inspiration Coming From?

Brian Eno’s latest algorithmically looping album, Reflection, was inspired by the process of gardening. Sound artist Mileece “harvests” inspiration by giving voice to plants and organic matter in specialized environments. And then there’s Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, whose music was inspired by nature’s deep silences. As musicians, composers, and performers, our inspirations motivate and color the music we make, even when that inspiration comes from sources outside the realm of music itself.

As a professional pianist and coach, I’m constantly looking to other disciplines for inspiration to help make sense of a piece. It happened recently with a piece by Richard Strauss while struggling to put the finishing touches on an accompaniment I was rehearsing with a singer. The end made absolutely no sense to me, and quite frankly, sounded wrong. After spending a grueling afternoon transplanting bushes in our garden, I was struck with an answer that helped me embrace the crassness of those few problematic measures.

If we take a moment to examine what’s around us, we’re bound to expand our understanding of what we love and add depth to the music we make. This week, we challenge you to channel the sounds and essence of springtime into your music, whether it’s sampling crickets in your beats or mimicking birdsong with your melodies.

Share what you come up with! Or tell us about your musical goals, and we’ll help you find the right path to get there. Our Soundfly Mentors are standing by to help.

What surprising thing will inspire you this week?
Erica Sipes, pianist and educator

Making Sense of a Richard Strauss Song Through Botany
Pianist and educator Erica Sipes solves a harmonic mystery in a disorienting lied — a type of German song usually for voice and piano — by turning to concepts found in botany for answers.

Making Music with Plants
Sound artist Mileece uses plant biofeedback to make incredible worlds of sound and foster change in how people view our ecological responsibility.

Loud Silence & Quiet Sound: The Illuminating Music of Toru Takemitsu
How this Japanese composer took inspiration from Zen concepts like ma, or “powerful silence.”

It’s not only nature that inspires…
Is sports influenced by music, or music by sports? We all know about classic songs inspired by sports like “Eye of the Tiger,” but researchers have concluded that music can actually help make you a better athlete as well.

Breaking Down Beach House’s Shoegazey Single, “Dark Spring”
Okay, what is going on here? Victoria Legrand is singing falsetto, the music is epic and kinda stressing me out… Somebody please help me.

Mexico’s New Wave: 10 Artists Poised to Break Out This Year
Here’s a list of our favorite up-and-coming Mexican indie bands, all of whom we’re confident will be hitting the international stage soon.

What Is a Leading Tone?
Courtesy of our mentor-guided course, Unlocking the Emotional Power of Chords, here’s a video explaining the basics of tension and resolution via leading tones.

And the Award for Chord Progression of the Week goes to…

The Beach House song “Dark Spring” starts super basic with a I (D♭) to III- (F min) progression in the key of D♭, but then modulates for the chorus somewhere completely foreign. The chorus is AMaj7, DMaj7, GMaj7, and B7. Wait, what? Try jamming on this progression yourself and see whether you can come up with anything cool!

Random finds we love from around the web…

Before the MIDI piano roll, there was a literal paper roll that played piano…

On this day in 1900, Edwin S. Votey received US patent approval for a pneumatic player piano attachment, the first of its kind, which he called the “Pianola.” The Aeolian Company of New York produced the design in their “Weber” and “Pianola” player pianos. It used perforated paper rolls and foot-powered pedals. We’re considering requiring all new Soundfly Mentors to get these images tattooed on their bodies.

Channel the Stimuli of Spring!

It’s officially spring here on the Eastern Seaboard (took long enough)! And that means we’re surrounded by the blossoming sounds of all things coming back to life. Whether by sampling in a beat or building a meditative piece, challenge yourself to use the sounds of springtime in a track. Need inspiration? Here are some sounds for you:

Reply to this email and share with us what you come up with. As always, you could get a big discount on your next premium course, such as our advanced mixing course or advanced harmony course, all starting June 5.

Good luck, buds! (Get it?)
Jeremy Young, Editor-in-Chief, Flypaper

Steal a Step on Thunder with Your EQ

We often think about EQ as a tool for fixing or enhancing a sound, but it can also be used in a way to trigger a little bit of that “fight-or-flight” feeling.

High frequencies are more directional than low frequencies, so things in nature have to be close or very loud for you to hear a lot of high frequency content. Consider how thunder in the distance is just a dark, low rumble. It’s ominous, but doesn’t really freak you out and make you run for cover the way a nearby lightning striking does. Loudness certainly plays a role, but the brightness or high frequency content of the sound plays a big part, too.

This is why low-pass filter sweeps are so effective in dance build-ups. You can add a little more drama to your next production by EQing things a bit darker in the verses, and then make your choruses louder and brighter.

Get cracking,
John Hull, Head of Production

Listen: A Synthy Soundtrack & A New EP

Soundfly student Robin Baugh just wrapped up a weekend at the ASCAP Expo, where an A&R rep for Songtradr convinced her to publish her newest synth-driven track for licensing. Robin took our Beat Making in Ableton Live course last year.

Equally as exciting, here’s a premiere stream of Flypaper author Evan Zwisler’s new EP, Civil, from his band, The Values. Listen, like, follow, and share!

What Is Your Music Inspired By?

We’d love to know where you find your inspiration, and what influences the landscape of your sound. Share your music and your story with us by email at [email protected], or via social media by tagging us @learntosoundfly. Or tell us what you’re working on! We always love to hear from you.


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